History of record label EMI

Nostalgia just ain't what it used to be, I know. But we've just had a couple of fiftieth anniversaries that are worth remembering. The launch of the first James Bond movie and the release of the first Beatles hit on Parlophone records. Now making records here in the UK used to be a profitable business. Fabulously profitable. And EMI records were the business, with Parlophone as one of their most successful labels.

They had the Beatles, The Pet Shop Boys, Dusty Springfield, Duran Duran, Kylie Minogue and so many more artists all establishing that pound sterling sign as one of the best known logos in the music world. Odd for a record label that started in Germany. But when the days of the record store at the end of the street were numbered, and the internet became the way to get your music, EMI was sold to venture capitalists.

Then the old inevitable chipping away started, with a third of the staff being fired and a fair few bands, like The Rolling Stones and Radio Head, marching off in disgust. Now EMI has been sold off again, this time to Universal, which is owned by the French. It's ironic because Parlophone, that most British of record labels, was actually born in Germany in 1898. And now Parlophone will have to be offloaded to someone else to get the deal past the competition authorities.

But what about EMI's recording home, Abbey Road? That's right, the home of 'that' album and a centre of great music recording for what, eighty years? And a studio that hasn't made a profit in a long time. Andrew Lloyd Webber has said he might buy it. Venture Capitalists want to open a Beatles museum there. I was in studio one, Abbey Road, a few weeks ago recording with the John Wilson band. The guys in the white coats, collars and ties, who worked with the likes of George Martin have long gone, replaced by geeks with heavy glasses and intense stares and they've cleaned the canteen up a lot since the Beatles, but it's still a magical mysterious place in a suburban street and just down the road from that zebra crossing. Now the Government has put a stop on any major alterations being carried out there.

So, it'll never make money, but it'll be an active, fabulous place to work for the foreseeable future. And you can go up to North London and take that picture of yourselves crossing the zebra crossing like the Beatles did all those years ago, while unnoticed, the bands of tomorrow quietly make their way through the modest doors of the most famous studio in the world. This is Simon Bates for CBS News in London.

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