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Polydor Records is a record label currently headquartered in the UKmarker, and is a subsidiary of Universal Music Group.

Company history


1920s vintage Polydor export label with its double-horn gramophone logo
Polydor was originally an independent branch of the Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft. Its name was first used, as an export label, in 1924, the British and German branches of the Gramophone Company having severed their ties during World War I. Deutsche Grammophon claimed the rights to the His Master's Voice trademark for Germany, where HMV recordings were released under the Electrola trademark. In turn, DGG records exported out of Germany were released on the Polydor label. Deutsche Grammophon lost its rights to the His Master's Voice trademark to EMI and its Electrola label as part of Germany's surrender terms at the end of World War II.

Polydor became a popular music label in 1946 while the famously yellow Deutsche Grammophon seal became a classical music label. Polydor remained Deutsche Grammophon's export label, including classical music, in France and the Spanish-speaking world for the remainder of the long-playing era, as a result of language and cultural concerns.
In 1954 Polydor Records introduced their distinctive orange label.
In the early 1960s orchestra leader Bert Kaempfert signed unknowns Tony Sheridan and the Beat Brothers - who would later become famous as The Beatles - to Polydor.

Popular German entertainers such as James Last, Bert Kaempfert, Kurt Edelhagen, Caterina Valente and the Kessler Twins appeared on the Polydor label, as well as many French, Spanish and Latin-American figures.


In 1972, Polydor merged with giant Philips-owned Phonogram Records to create PolyGram in the USmarker. The Polydor label continued to run as a subsidiary label under the new company. Polydor later took interest in the Sex Pistols in 1976, but lost to EMI. The name PolyGram is a hybrid of Polydor and PhonoGram.

Into the 1980s, Polydor continued to do respectable business, in spite of becoming increasingly overshadowed by its PolyGram sister label Mercury Records. Polydor took over management of British Decca's pop catalog. A&R manager Frank Neilson was able to score a major top ten hit in March 1981 for the label with "Do The Hucklebuck" by Coast to Coast as well as signing Ian Dury and Billy Fury to the company. In 1984, the company name was parodied in the rockumentary film This Is Spinal Tap (whose soundtrack album was distributed by Polydor), where "Polymer Records" was the band's record company. By the early 1990s, Polydor had begun to underperform. PolyGram subsequently trimmed most of Polydor's staff and roster, and shifted it to operate under the umbrella of PolyGram Label Group (PLG), a newly constructed 'super label' specifically designed to oversee the operations of PolyGram's lesser performing imprints (including Island Records, London Records, Atlas Records and Verve Records.)

In 1994, as Island Records recovered from its sales slump, PolyGram dissolved most of PLG into it. Meanwhile, Polydor Records and Atlas Records merged, briefly called "Polydor/Atlas," and was shifted over to operate under A&M Records, another PolyGram subsidiary. In 1995, Polydor/Atlas became simply Polydor Records again.

Twilight years

Over the next few years, Polydor tried to keep itself afloat with new artist signings, new releases, and reissues, while still becoming more and more dormant. In 1998, PolyGram was purchased by Seagrams and absorbed into its Universal Music Group. During the consolidation of these two music giants, Polydor's US operations were dismantled into Interscope Records, while its overseas branch remained intact with its records continuing to be distributed domestically through A&M and its new partner Interscope Records. However, North American re-issues of pre-1998 Polydor releases are handled through Universal Records and Mercury Records. Today, in America, the Polydor Records name and logo is mostly used on reissues of older material from its 1960s and 1970s heyday.

Polydor UK

In the 1970's, the main source of income for the label was probably the enormously successful UK band Slade. Though Polydor's Americanmarker branch is defunct, in the United Kingdom, however, Polydor continues to sign chart-topping acts. In 1993, current Universal chairman Lucien Grainge and A&R supremo Colin Barlow were drafted in from Polygram music to turn the ailing company's fortunes around. The response was almost instant. Grainge and Barlow were successful in creating a new model for the UK music industry, selling millions of copies of debut signings by acts such as Lighthouse Family.

Polydor remains one of the strongest labels in the country — with artists such as La Roux, Duffy, The Courteeners, Klaxons, Delphic, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, James Morrison, Take That, Girls Aloud, Kaiser Chiefs, Boyzone, Alphabeat, and Ellie Goulding. Polydor also has a strong indie roster through the Fiction imprint with acts such as Ian Brown, Elbow, White Lies, The Maccabees, Kate Nash, Snow Patrol, and Filthy Dukes. It also acts as the UK label for American-based acts under Interscope-Geffen-A&M like Eminem, Queens Of The Stone Age, Limp Bizkit, Timbaland, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Black Eyed Peas, Weezer, Marilyn Manson, Pussycat Dolls, Janet Jackson, Gwen Stefani, Mary J Blige, 50 Cent and Lady GaGa.

In Spring 2006, Polydor launched Fascination Records, a music label dedicated to pop music. Both Girls Aloud and Sophie Ellis-Bextor transferred to the new label.

In 2008, Polydor picked up distribution of The Rolling Stones' back catalogue as well as new releases.


See also

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