Columbia Graphophone Company

Columbia Graphophone Company
Columbia Records
Parent company EMI
Founded 1922
Status Catalogue and artist roster transferred to EMI Records, trademark and name sold to Sony Music Entertainment
Genre Various
Country of origin United Kingdom

The Columbia Graphophone Company was one of the earliest gramophone companies in the United Kingdom. Under EMI, as Columbia Records, it became a very successful label in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1972, it was renamed EMI Records to avoid confusion with the American Columbia Records.


Early history

In 1922, Columbia Phonograph, as it was then known, sold its UK subsidiary Columbia Graphophone. However, in 1925 Columbia Graphophone bought its former parent for $2.5 million. In 1926 Odeon Records and Parlophone Records were acquired. On April 21, 1931, the Gramophone Company and the Columbia Graphophone Company merged and formed a new company Electric and Musical Industries (EMI). American anti-trust laws forced EMI to sell its American Columbia operations.

As an EMI label

EMI continued to operate the Columbia record label in the UK until the early 1970s, and everywhere else except for the US, Canada, Mexico, Spain and Japan, until it sold its remaining interest in the Columbia trade mark to Sony Music Entertainment in 1990.

Under EMI, English Columbia's output was mainly licenced recordings from American Columbia until 1951 when American Columbia switched British distribution to Philips Records. English Columbia continued to distribute American Columbia sister labels Okeh and Epic until 1968 when American Columbia's then parent CBS moved distribution of all its labels to the then new CBS Records[1] created from the purchase of Oriole Records (UK) in late 1964. The loss of American Columbia product had forced English Columbia to groom its own talent such as Russ Conway, Acker Bilk, John Barry, Cliff Richard, The Shadows, Helen Shapiro, Frank Ifield, Rolf Harris, Freddie and the Dreamers, The Dave Clark Five, Shirley Bassey, Frankie Vaughan, Des O'Connor, Ken Dodd, The Animals, Herman's Hermits, Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Seekers, Pink Floyd (who have been on both Columbia UK and US), and The Yardbirds. Led by avuncular A&R man Norrie Paramor, the label was arguably the most successful in Britain in the rock era prior to the Beat Boom.

In the mid 1960s, English Columbia added an audiophile imprint called Studio 2 Stereo.

EMI has engaged in litigation with CBS regarding the importing of American records bearing the Columbia imprint into areas where EMI owned the Columbia name.[2]

Phaseout of label by EMI and trade mark transfer

EMI decided to reserve the HMV label for classical repertoire and had transferred HMV's remaining pop acts to Columbia by 1967. EMI replaced the Columbia label with the eponymous EMI Records on January 1973.[3] It sold its remaining interest in the Columbia name in 1990 to Sony Music Entertainment (formerly CBS Records), who already owned Columbia Records in the U.S. and Canada. The formal reassignment of British registered trade marks, including the "magic notes" logo, from EMI took place in 1993.[4]

Today, Sony Music prefer using the "walking eye" logo (previously used by the old CBS Records and based on the Columbia Records logo introduced in the US and Canada in 1955) for the Columbia Records trade mark in the UK[5] and elsewhere. However, the "magic notes" logo is occasionally used, usually to give a 'retro' feel (such as the 2008 MGMT singles that use the "magic notes" on the vinyl labels but the "walking eye" on the covers).

The Columbia name was still on some EMI releases between 1972 and 1990 (such as Baltimora's Tarzan Boy in 1985 as well as Kiki Dee albums)[citation needed] but it had ceased acting as a fully functioning label.

In Australia, EMI continued using the Columbia label throughout the 1970s, but added the EMI Records label in 1973.

Columbia outside the UK

The history of the Columbia record label outside the UK is dealt with in more detail in Columbia Records and Nippon Columbia.

See also


External links

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