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EMI/Parlophone/Capitol history

Subject: Re: EMI - Parlophone - Capitol - Apple - Maclen...
From: "Alan V. Karr" 
Date: 22 Feb 1996 17:28:52 GMT

(as one Rosanne Rosannadanna used to say:)
Mr. Sean Penney of Memorial University of Newfoundland:
you sure ask a lotta questions! but theyre good ones, some a bit
obscure but important in the Beatles story.

I'll try to answer some:

EMI stands for Electric & Musical Industries, which at the time the
Beatles signed up with had about a 1/3 share of the British record
market and was arguably the largest company. (Prior to the early
1950s EMI & its largest competitor, The Decca Record Co. Ltd.,
controlled the UK market between them) 

EMI is now known as Thorn-EMI since its merger/buyout with Thorn
Electric a British firm. EMI was formed in Britain in 1931 when the
Gramophone Co. Ltd. & the Columbia Graphophone Co. Ltd (UK arm of
American-based Columbia Records) merged. Parlophone was a German
record firm that was purchased by OKeh Records, a US co c. WWI,
which in turn became part of US Columbia. When UK Columbia was spun
off to EMI, the Parlophone Co. w/ name and other trademarks went too
("Odeon"; the stylised "L") (The "L" is not for the British pound
but the founders' last name, "Lindstrom") 

Parlophone was a lesser division within the ranks of EMI, but by the
Beatles' time had increased its chart standing via comedy/novelty
records (P. Sellers, Temperance 7, Mike Sarne) & big hits by Adam
Faith-though Faith was not signed up by Martin but assigned to the
label by EMI. It did not have the artists & sales that its orporate
siblings HMV (His Master's Voice) and Columbia did and there was a
distinct possibility of its being shuttered as an EMI division prior
to the Beat Boom. Parlophone is often unfairly portrayed as a label
of poor quality, when in fact much of their output in the rock era
is outstanding-they were just unlucky. George Martin did err when he
rejected Tommy Steele, who was Britains first "rock" superstar who
recorded many hits for Decca. 

Capitol is/was a US company that EMI purchased in 1954, as its
reentry into the US market. It was the US label of the Beatles
starting with I Want To Hold Your Hand, but prior to late '63 refused
to release Love Me Do etc. (Its Canadian division did not refuse)

Apple was a company that the Beatles set up to handle their affairs
and became a "custom" label, one of the 1st-pressed by EMI.

Maclen Music was an American publishing imprint for Lennon &
McCartney's songs; 

Northern Songs was the publishing co. owning the rights to most
Beatles songs.

ATV Music Ltd, a division of British entertainment group ATV (at one
time ITC, Associated TV, Pye Records were among its divisions)
headed by Sir Lew Grade eventually acquired the music publishing
rights to the Beatles catalog

ATV in turn sold catalog to M. Jackson

Royalties are money paid out of profits of record sales to the
artist (performance) and writer(s). Performance royalties are
contractually arranged per artist by the record co; in all cases
they are some % of sales, gross or net 

Not all Beatles tracks are owned by EMI. The Beatles made recordings
for Polydor/Deutsche Grammophon in West Germany (which was founded
by the same man who founded Gramophone and Victor-Emile Berliner,
inventor of the flat disk) in 1961 (the Hamburg tapes); this company
eventually merged with the Dutch Philips record group, Phonogram, to
create Polygram. (Polygram acquired British Decca in 1979.) Polygram
through today has held onto ownership of the Hamburg tapes; I have
never seen an explanation that they *don't* also own the Beatles
audition tape from 1/1/62 for UK Decca. Polygram is the licensor of
the Hamburg tapes to EMI for Anthology I. Since The Beatles signed
with EMI in mid-'62 EMI has held an exclusive right to releasing
their recordings; Polydor released the Beatles from any further
obligations at that time.   

In America, US Decca, as licensee to Polydor/DG released Beatles
product stateside with no impact. Capitol, holding first right of
refusal to release UK EMI product, passed on the Beatles, who had
individual releases licensed by the smaller Vee-Jay, a Chicago indie
& Swan, a Philadelphia label. Vee-Jay also released some licensed
product on its Tollie label. After Beatlemania hit, EMI product was
on all manner of labels, and Polydor product relicensed by MGM &
Atco. Capitol after some time & litigation, asserted a right to the
Beatles EMI catalog & after 1965 retained sole right to EMI output.
Polydor gained a US presence after acquiring MGM c. 1971 and has
often reissued the Hamburg tapes worldwide.        

Media will deteriorate until digitized, and the condition of many
original session tapes vary. Some have been kept lovingly in
temperature controlled conditions and in vaults; others have been
lost, erased, or damaged. It all depends on the care the owner
has taken and quite frankly the entertainment industry never
historically attached a lot of permananence to its film & tape
libraries. Starting in the 50s & 60's many artists' tapes ownership
reverted to a management company or the performer and they didn't
keep the media stored properly, as most record companies might do-
but- many of the record companies have kept tapes in mislabeled
boxes in poor conditions (exposed to direct heat & sunlight).
Fortunately, EMI is one company that has tried to preserve its

Regards, Alan V. Karr (

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