The boisterous little fellow you see on your left is the mascot EMI used to herald the introduction of their range of blank unrecorded cassette tapes for the home in the late 60s.
Gramophone records, the staple format for the distribution of recorded music until the end of the 1940s, had several problems, all of which were related to the accumulation of physical defects; many of which were nigh-on impossible to completely avoid over time or during normal use. We know these all too well as scratches, crackle and distortion. In the early years of the gramophone industry, the actual master recordings themselves were made directly to disc with no tape involved - which naturally limited the number of takes it was possible to perform and made editing impossible - meaning many finished records still contained fluffs because very rarely would a single performance be perfect.
World War II showed Germany to be pioneers in the use of flexible magnetic tape (iron oxide particles applied to a paper base - which was later replaced with acetate for durability) which allowed them to timeshift radio broadcasts and speeches from the Führer! When the allies finally gained control of these facilities, companies were quick to seize upon this new technology as a way to improve the recording process.
For the select few members of the public who took to making recordings to tape, it stood to reason that eventually a demand would grow for record companies to make their product available on the new medium. This would give them an enhanced listening experience with better sound quality, and freedom from the risks of scratching, jumping or sticking.
A 78rpm record from the 1930s, on the Parlophone label (one of the companies that merged to form EMI). These were made from shellac, a brittle, slate-like substance. This material eventually gave way to vinyl (polyvinyl chloride) which was much improved but still far from perfect.
This picture, and more, can be found at payphone.moonfruit.com.
There are three main types of recorded tape format - those which proved to be commercially viable in the long-term. There are of course some of the more obscure tape formats which disappeared almost as quickly as they were launched. Hopefully though what you will see here will bring back happy memories if you were once a proud collector of these techo-marvels of the time, the only ways in which you could avail yourself of high-quality sound in the days before CDs were heard of.
Choose from one of the sections below...
Welcome to Soundhog - a compendium of EMI tape products from the 1960s to the present day.
The original way of making recording tape - wind it on a reel, put it on a machine, have it spool around from the reel its on, to another reel on the other side. Rewind it back onto the original reel after use!
A neat way of packaging two reels within a handy enclosure, removing the need to manually thread the tape from one to the other. Plus enables partly-spooled reels to be removed and replaced at any time.
Another type of tape enclosure, based on a continuous loop of tape and a single reel. The tape spools out the centre of the reel, through the playback machine, then back onto the outside of the same reel.
In his honour this site is named after him - long may his sound trumpet out with the proud intensity and dynamism that befits the world-renowned and long-lived recording organisation that begat him; an organisation with a combined pedigree and history that extends well beyond the boundaries of the two companies between whom the once-mighty EMI Group was disseminated.
Just as in 1931 EMI was created by merging several record companies together due to the financial strain being borne by them all individually at the time, the reverse ended up being done in 2011 for sadly, the same reasons.
It's complicated, and we won't go into all the details here, but in summary:
- EMI as a whole was sold to Universal Music Group in 2011;
- Universal sold EMI Publishing (that owns compositions, not recordings) to Sony in 2012
At the same time, all EMI Records UK's holdings in terms of recordings were spun off into a new division,
Parlophone Label Group (PLG) - EXCLUDING all recordings by The Beatles (as a group)*;
- Universal sold PLG to Warner Music Group in 2013, who renamed it Parlophone Records Ltd.
This means all former wholly-owned EMI labels now operate under the Parlophone banner (owned by Warner).
All other partially-owned, or distributor-only labels such as Capitol and Blue Note, and The Beatles' recordings*, remain under Universal's ownership, as does the EMI name and logo.
Abbey Road Studios were spun off into a division of Virgin Music which itself is owned by Universal Music Group.
* Universal, through part-ownership with Apple Corps Ltd. of spin-off company Calderstone Productions Ltd., were granted permission to use the Parlophone trade mark by Warner exclusively on re-issues of Beatles canon releases.