EMI had always been a very international company with offices all over the world, but it had mostly been the company’s classical records that had sold overseas. The huge explosion in pop music led by The Beatles and the other British (mostly EMI-signed) bands who followed in their wake changed everything and gave the company an unprecedented global outlook.
In the late 1960s, a new kind of music began to emerge – ‘progressive’ rock. EMI established a dedicated label to cater specifically for this more left field, underground style of music: Harvest. By the early 1970s the Harvest roster was made up of the cream of progressive rock including Deep Purple, Roy Harper, the Edgar Broughton Band, the Electric Light Orchestra, and the most influential and popular of all, Pink Floyd.
Formed in 1965, Pink Floyd signed to EMI two years later and had two UK hit singles and a hit album in 1968: ‘Piper At The Gates of Dawn’. The same year there was a change of line-up as original member Syd Barrett left. New recruit David Gilmour joined the other three members of the band – Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Rick Wright – and the quartet went on to be one of the most successful bands of all time.
Pink Floyd’s 1973 album, the seminal ‘Dark Side of the Moon‘, was lauded by fans and critics at the time and still is today. The album remained on the UK charts for six years and spent more time on the Billboard album charts in the US than any other, before or since – 741 weeks. It has since taken up residence in the Billboard catalogue chart, where it remains to this day. ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ is nearly 40 years old, but it remains an incredibly influential album to musicians and fans all over the world, selling hundreds of thousands of copies every year, adding to a total so far of around 35 million.
As well as ‘Dark Side of the Moon’, Pink Floyd’s catalogue includes the massively successful ‘The Wall‘, ‘Wish You Were Here‘, ‘Animals’ and ‘A Momentary Lapse of Reason’. Four decades on and Pink Floyd remain as influential as ever and continue to innovate to reach music fans everywhere.
The year before ‘Dark Side of the Moon’, EMI signed its first deal with Queen. With the release of their debut album, ‘Sheer Heart Attack’, in 1974, it was instantly clear that Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon were not like other bands. With their intricately written songs and Mercury’s outrageous flamboyance, Queen sold millions of records and firmly established their reputation as one of the best live acts in the world.
Queen’s 1975 single, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody‘, was, and remains, one of the most extraordinary and exceptional number one records. It also jump-started the music video era. In the following decade, Queen’s performance at Live Aid in 1985 was considered by many to be the outstanding highlight of the 16-hour concert.
In 1977 EMI signed another great rock band, in fact the world’s greatest: the Rolling Stones. Stones albums released through EMI included ‘Some Girls’, ‘Emotional Rescue’ and ‘Tattoo You’. The band left EMI in the 1980s but in 1991 they signed up with Virgin Records which was subsequently acquired by EMI.
The 1970s saw EMI acquire the cream of UK music publishing. EMI already had a small publishing operation called Ardmore and Beechwood which began expanding with the acquisition of the Keith Prowse and Central Songs catalogues in 1969 and the Affiliated Music Publishers group in 1973. Renamed EMI Music Publishing in 1974, the division expanded further in 1976 with the purchase of the Screen Gems and Colgems libraries from Hollywood studio Columbia Pictures, giving EMI a major presence in film music.
In 1979, US record label Liberty/United Artists was acquired by EMI. The company included the storied Blue Note Records, the most famous and influential label name ever in jazz music. From its unrivalled roster to its photography and design, Blue Note is a musical icon. Established in 1939, the Blue Note catalogue includes jazz greats such as Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Sonny Rollins, Horace Silver, Art Blakey and Clifford Brown, all of whom made their most important recordings on the label.