Written by Frank Philips
(First published here with the expressed permission of the Estate of Mr. Phillips. No reproduction allowed whatsoever.)
Born out of a desire by the Lindstrom organization of Berlin to re-enter the British record market after the Great War, The Parlophone Company was founded in London, issuing its first records in October 1923.
The Lindstrom company’s precarious financial position allowed Columbia to take over Carl Lindstrom AG and its holding company, Trans-Oceanic Trading Company in October 1925, along with which came the fledgling Parlophone Record Company Ltd. In its new status, as a subsidiary of Columbia, Parlophone enjoyed the benevolence of its parent, no doubt facilitated by the close geographical proximity of both companies’ offices in London.
Initially, Parlophone records were pressed in the company’s own Hertford factory, but from 1928 production was transferred to the Columbia plant at Wandsworth (an arrangement which continued until after the formation of EMI, when subsequently the whole group’s British record output was moved to the Gramophone Company’s facility at Hayes, Middlesex).
Due to its unique ancestry, Parlophone was able to draw readily on a variety of sources for its recordings: from the USA came the pick of the Okeh catalogue; from Europe it had access to the Lindstrom group’s affiliated record companies’ masters, which included Odeon, Parlophon (early British, and German), Beka, etc. Then from October 1925, access was attained to recordings of the Societa Italiana di Fonotipia of Milan and Columbia in USA.
In spite of the social unrest in Britain during the 1920’s, the Columbia company continued to flourish, with rising record sales reaching a peak in 1929. The Parlophone Company also benefited from this prosperity, and although the company was a mere five years old, it was developing at a steady pace, sufficiently confident in its own future to enable it to embark in 1929, on a bold and novel venture – the New ‘Rhythm-Style’ Series.
Although a decade had passed since the Original Dixieland Band’s first recordings, in Britain, jazz was still regarded as novelty music, with limited public appeal. Just how much the “New ‘Rhythm-Style’ Series” contributed to the spread of that appeal is difficult to assess eighty years on, but even today, many of the records are still remembered with great affection.