German in origin, Polydor was a branch of Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft; it made its debut in 1924, as a label for exported records.  From 1946 it became a Popular Music label, leaving DGG to concentrate upon Classical Music.  In Britain, it tasted success with European artists such as the orchestras of Bert Kaempfert and James Last; though its main claim to fame in some quarters is that it released the first records by the Beatles, in the guise of Tony Sheridan's 'Beat Brothers'.   1962 saw Siemens, the owners of DGG and Polydor, linking up with the Philips Electrical Company to form the Gramophon Philips Group; in 1972 GPG evolved into Polygram.  The Polydor and Philips (now 'Phonogram') departments kept separate management organisations in Britain until 1981.  Polydor's ratio of hits to releases wasn't especially impressive, but it found big sellers with some frequency: the Bee Gees were regular visitors to the Singles Charts throughout the latter half of the '60s and into the '70s; Slade and the New Seekers - an unlikely pairing - kept the hits coming through the middle of that decade, while Roxy Music, the Jam and Jean-Michel Jarre saw the company into the '80s.  All sorts of music appeared on the familiar red label, from the Glam Pop of the Rubettes to the Disco of the Fatback Band, by way of the Rock of Rainbow, and Polydor is still a popular and successful operator on the UK music scene today.   Polydor owned or handled a number of other labels in the '70s, including MGM, Mojo, RSO, Track, Pablo, Spring and Verve (q.v. all).  The Polydor labels were manufactured and distributed by Phonodisc, as were those of its partner, Phonogram.
In Britain, numbering in the Vinyl era appears to have started off in an NH-66000 series, c.1958.  There were variations, and there were large gaps in the numbers, which were presumably down to the 'missing' ones being used for overseas releases.  After NH-66999 c.1962, the numbers changed to NH-52000s; there were also a NH-59000 series.  Around 1965 a BM-56000 series was adopted, again with minor variations; this lasted into the first two months of the following decade.  For much of the '70s Polydor group labels issued singles in various seven-figure numerical series, the first number of which was always a '2'.  An exception was the CTI / Kudu pair, whose licensing agreement stipulated alphabetical prefixes.  Singles on Polydor appeared in several different series, the most common of which were 2058-000 and 2001-000; other prefixes were 2041, 2056, 2066, 2121, 2141, 2229 and 2230.  When the 2058 series reached 2058-999 it was replaced by a 2059-000 one.  At the start of 1978 a POSP-0 series was adopted alongside the numerical ones, initially as a three-month experiment (Billboard, 21st January 1978).   The experiment must have been successful, as it was continued beyond the three-month period and the letter prefixes replaced numerical ones in the early '80s.  The last year of the decade saw the introduction of a series of singles under the 'Steppin' Out' (q.v.) banner; they had their own numbering and sleeve, so I have given them a page of their own.  Singles licensed from E.G. Records (q.v.) also had a distictive appearance; I have treated them separately was well.
The actual Polydor labels didn't change much over the years: the '50s (1) and early '60s (2) orange one was replaced by a red one (3) c.1964; this continued, in a slightly changed form (5, 6) until the advent of injection-moulding.  The label with no white printing (4) appears to have been confined to a period in 1966, despite the '1963' on the example shown, which couples two old recordings.  The kind of dinking which results in three prongs (as shown in 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 above) appears to have been peculiar to the Polydor and Philips companies, as were the rather graceful triangular 'spiders' which were supplied with factory-dinked singles (6) - it was common in the early '70s for singles in the Polydor and Philips family labels to be dinked before they left the factory.  1971 saw a short-lived 'Action Replay' series of reissues on several of the company's labels; the labels of the singles involved were overprinted appropriately (12) - for the other records in the series see the 'Action Replay' page.  The first injection-moulded labels appeared c.1972, and could be found with the same trio of dinking perforations that the old paper label had had.  The first design resembled that of the paper labels (7); this was used for only a few singles (such as 2058-155, 2058-185, and 2058-195) which could also be found in paper-labelled form.  The second design, which first saw the light of day in 1972, saw the Polydor logo migrating to the left-hand side and turning 90 degrees (8).  In 1973 injection moulded singles became the norm.  They came either with solid centres (9) or with large spindle holes and three-pronged 'spiders' (10).  The injection-moulded labels enjoyed a long life, lasting into the early '80s with only minor changes to their design: the letter 'A' on the top right-hand side increased in size c.1976 (11).  In the last couple of years of the decade silver labels began to be used alongside the red ones (12) and they became increasingly common, while metallic blue ones (13) made infrequent appearances.
During the 1960s promotional records had white labels with a large red 'A' on them (17) but neither Polydor nor its subsidiaries appear to have had special labels for promos during the '70s - a sticker on the paper-labelled singles (18) did the job instead, while injection-moulded promos were generally identical with the issues.  The New Seekers single shown above (19), which has 'FOR PROMOTION ONLY' and 'NOT FOR RESALE' pressed into the vinyl, was an exception to that rule, and there may have been others.  Thanks to Bob Mayhead for the scans of that single.  From 1976 special editions of singles for promotional purposed were give their own PPSP-0 series; these included records on the other Polydor labels MGM, RSO and Spring.  Polydor's Special Products division supplied pressings of tracks from its vaults to firms which wanted to make singles to promote their products, the 'Yardleys' EPs shown above, which appear by courtesy of Sam Mauger (21) and Robert Bowes (22), being examples.   Occasionally other companies pressed singles for Polydor during this period, resulting in paper labels and four-pronged dinks (15, 16); the first looks like a Decca product, while the narrow perforations on the second suggest that it came from EMI or RCA.  I have compiled one of my usual gap-ridden discographies for Polydor, covering the years 1970-77; it is big, so I have given it a page of its own, here.

Copyright 2006 Robert Lyons.