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Creator / EMI Columbia Records

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EMI Columbia's "Magic Notes" logo.

NOTE: This company's actual name was just Columbia. "EMI Columbia" is a Retronym meant to differentiate it from the US-based label Columbia Records and the Japanese label Nippon Columbia.

EMI Columbia Records, formally known as the Columbia Graphophone Company, began as the British division of America's Columbia Records, manufacturing both gramophones and the records that played on them. It existed for 73 years, and for much of that time it was one of the most successful record labels in Europe, Scandinavia and Southeast Asia.

The story began in 1917, when US Columbia created the firm as its European division. When American Columbia ran into financial trouble in 1922, the UK subsidiary was spun off into an independent company, retaining the Columbia name.note  Columbia expanded in 1926 by acquiring the Parlophone label. An even bigger deal took place in 1931; in response to The Great Depression, Columbia merged with The Gramophone Company Ltd., owner of His Master's Voice Records, to create the EMI conglomerate.

For decades, EMI Columbia was the English distributor for the American label it had taken its name from, but this deal ended in 1951, when US Columbia began licensing its recordings to Philips Records. (However, the two labels maintained a connection when EMI Columbia became the European licensee for US Columbia's sublabels Epic and Okeh for most of The '60s, before the rights finally went to European CBS.) However, the British label soldiered on, finding enduring success by signing Cliff Richard (and his band The Shadows, who became successful in their own right) in 1958. During The British Invasion, Columbia prospered further with The Animals, The Dave Clark Five, The Downliners Sect, Georgie Fame, Freddy and the Dreamers, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Herman's Hermits, Peter & Gordon, Pink Floyd, The Pretty Things and The Yardbirds (and later Jeff Beck's early solo records). Australian Folk Music band The Seekers also released their music on Columbia in most of the world.

The success didn't last, though. By the beginning of The '70s, most of Columbia's best-selling acts had either broken up, faded from popularity, or been transferred to EMI's new "underground" imprint Harvest Records. Columbia continued for a few years as an outlet for Easy Listening acts like Roger Whittaker, but in 1973 EMI shut it down following a corporate reorganization. The label was briefly revived in the mid-1980s, even managing a worldwide hit with Baltimora's "Tarzan Boy". However, the end of the story came in 1990, when Sony Music bought US Columbia; they also purchased the trademark from EMI for use throughout the world (except for Japan, where Nippon Columbia still owns the name). EMI Columbia's catalog is now owned by Parlophone.

Additional note: When US Columbia reissued Pink Floyd's The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, A Saucerful of Secrets and More in 2016, their acquisition of the UK Columbia trademarks allowed them to make their vinyl versions exact duplicates of the original British releases, down to the label designs. Pink Floyd also ended up on both the British and American Columbia labels when the band signed a U.S. deal with the latter in The '70s; American Columbia's parent company, Sony, distributes the band's catalog outside of Europe, while EMI's successor company, Parlophone Records, handles Europe.

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