Series 2, new episode: Fred heads east to India

Fred in fancy dress on board SS Coromandel

It’s late summer 1902. Fred heads to Tilbury Docks to board the steamer SS Coromandel and set sail for India. His objective? “To open up new markets, establish agencies, and acquire a catalogue of native records,” as he puts it in his diary. And what a trip it is. Accompanied by an assistant called George Dilnutt and a few others, Gaisberg engages in some of his most daring ever recordings and kick-starts the recorded music industry on the subcontinent.

The voyage itself takes weeks. On the last night, as the Coromandel lists on the mudflats of the great Hooghly River at the entrance to Calcutta (as Kolkata was then known), the boat’s guests hold a raucous fancy dress ball. As you do. But once he disembarks, Fred soon ditches the trappings of colonial life after he discovers that Brits in India might as well “be living on another planet for all the interest they took in Indian music”. They live in walled compounds, throw tea parties and play tennis, he finds. Not what he’s come to India for. So Fred goes renegade to find his own musicians.

Visiting the theatres on Calcutta’s notorious Harrison Road – the city’s equivalent of Covent Garden – he meets a wealthy businessman who invites him to a dinner party. It’s at this party where Fred encounters one of the most fascinating voices he’ll ever hear. Gauhar Jaan is a courtesan with a huge entourage and an even bigger voice. Fred is entranced. And he ends up recording her. She goes on to become one of India’s biggest stars. Using Fred’s diaries and other historical documents, Holley and Hall retell the story, playing some of Jaan’s recordings along the way.

Music included in this episode:

  1. Benodini Dassi – Khambaj (1905)
  2. Gauhar Jaan – Ras Ke Bhare Noore Nain (1902)
  3. Gauhar Jaan – Raga Jogia (1902)
  4. Gauhar Jaan – Phanki Diye Praner Pakhi (1903)

Links:

There are some pictures of SS Coromandel here & pictures of Calcutta and the Hooghly River from 100 years ago here

An error admitted:

It was indeed William Barry Owen who changed the name to The Gramophone and Typewriter Limited after deciding to diversify into typewriters.

Photos from the India trip:

This episode was edited by Andy Hetherington.

The Sound Of The Hound is powered by EMI Archives Trust.

You can subcribe to the podcast on all good podcast platforms including: Spotify  Apple and Acast.

We hope you enjoy listening as much as we’ve enjoyed recording them

New podcast series: Fred’s back and this time, he’s got a plaque. This episode is about the great unveiling with Queen’s Roger Taylor and our own James Hall.

James Hall and rock legend Roger Taylor unveil the plaque that now celebrates Fred Gaisberg’s achievements in the first recording studio at 31 Maiden Lane

Fred’s back! And he’s got a plaque! The first episode of Series Two of The Sound of the Hound covers the unveiling of a commemorative plaque on the wall of Europe’s first recording studio, opened by Fred Gaisberg in Covent Garden in 1898. The unveiling of the plaque, which is part of the Westminster Council Green Plaque scheme, followed a campaign by Sound of the Hound co-presenter James Hall.

This opening episode was recorded live at the unveiling ceremony in the building at 31 Maiden Lane on 4 December 2019. We hear an introduction by Caryn Tomlinson, the chair of the EMI Archive Trust, who backed the campaign, and a speech by James before legendary drummer Roger Taylor says a few words and pulls the chord to unveil the plaque. That’s right. Rock royalty. The previous Westminster Council commemorative plaque was unveiled on the old GCHQ building by the Queen. We went one better and got a member of Queen.

The words on the plaque are simple: “In August 1898 Fred Gaisberg and The Gramophone Company opened Europe’s first disc recording studio on this site.” But the stories in the building behind it are legion, as we hope we’re showing in this podcast series. The episode continues with co-presenter Dave Holley interviewing attendees of the ceremony with his roving microphone. Dave talks to members of the City of London Phonograph and Gramophone Society, who kindly set up a demonstration of old gramophone machines for guests. It’s the Antiques Roadshow meets Top of the Pops, and it’s fascinating stuff. Also present is animator Jim Le Fevre, who brought along a special Fred Gaisberg edition of his Phonotrope invention, designed specifically for the day. We’re thrilled that Fred’s achievement is now publicly acknowledged for all to see. We’re glad he’s hanging around.

Our special thanks go to the following:

City of London Phonograph and Gramophone Society (CLPGS) website

You will hear several voices from CLPGS including Christopher Proudfoot, Tom Stephenson and Peter Martland. The CLPGS brought along examples of gramophones from the 1890’s onwards which they displayed and demonstrated at the unveiling.

Jim Le Fevre

Jim makes amazing films. He also has invented Phonotrope, the technique of creating animation in a ‘live’ environment using the confluence of the frame rate of a live action camera and the revolutions of a constantly rotating disc, predominantly (but not exclusively) using a record player. His website has several examples of these animations. We particularly like this one he made with the Crafts Council.

Jim was kind enough to make a Phonotrope animation of Fred Gaisberg which he presented at the Plaque Unveiling and looked a little like this:

Fire & Stone pizza restaurant, Maiden Lane

Not only do they make great pizzas but they occupy 31 Maiden Lane and were kind enough to let us host the Plaque Unveiling ceremony on their premises.

More photos from the day:

The plaque arrives at 31 Maiden Lane

The gramophone display by the CLPGS:

The new plaque in situ

This episode was edited by Andy Hetherington.

The Sound Of The Hound was brought to you by the EMI Archive Trust.

You can subcribe to the podcast on all good podcast platforms including: Spotify  Apple and Acast.

We hope you enjoy listening as much as we’ve enjoyed recording them

Sound of the Hound: Series 1 Sampler

We have pulled together a sampler of some of the best bits from Series 1 of our Sound Of The Hound podcast about Fred Gaisberg and the very early days of the record business, presented by long time music exec Dave Holley & author and journalist James Hall.

In this sampler: Dave thinks signing & recording Caruso gave birth to the modern record industry. James describes how to make a castrato (not for the squeamish) and they tell the tale of how Fred and his sidekick Sinkler Darby had a misadventure with acid in a Polish hotel room.

Series 2 is coming soon.

#fredsback

If you’d like to subscribe to the podcasts they are on Spotify, Apple and most other podcast platforms. Search for “The Sound Of The Hound”

Fred Gaisberg records the Great Caruso and kickstarts the modern record business – our new podcast episode out today

It’s the spring of 1902. Italian tenor Enrico Caruso is due to sing in Covent Garden later in the year, and Fred and Will are still in Milan desperate to record him. Their plan – in what predates the now-ubiquitous music industry ‘360’ marketing deal by over 100 years – is to print the master discs onto shellac and release the records in London in time for Caruso’s Opera House appearance, thereby capitalising on his huge popularity. Fred wants to pay him £100 for ten records, but his bosses in London balk at the cost. But Fred does it anyway. It’s a huge gamble. But Fred’s risk is vindicated: his Caruso recordings kick-start the music industry in a way he could only have dreamed of. Overnight, the public are hooked. Finally, the record industry comes alive.

Links:

Enrico Caruso

https://www.operanews.com/Opera_News_Magazine/2013/7/Features/The_Great_Caruso.html

More on Caruso

https://www.myitalianfamily.com/resource-center/enrico-caruso-opera-singer-sketch-artist-collector-and-more

Caruso’s first ever recording, April 1902 – Studenti, udite

Caruso’s sketch (note the HMV logo in the background)

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https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Enrico_Caruso

You can subcribe to the podcast on all good podcast platforms including: Spotify  Apple and Acast.

We hope you enjoy listening as much as we’ve enjoyed recording them

James Hall finally tells all about his book The Industry Of Human Happiness – its the new episode of The Sound Of The Hound podcast!

This episode is a little bit different. Dave interviews co-host James about his novel on the early days of recorded sound, The Industry of Human Happiness. James tells how he chanced upon the adventures of Fred Gaisberg and William Sinkler Darby in the sleeve notes of a CD that he bought outside a concert, and how they inspired him to write a fictional account of those heady days of format wars, skulduggery and breath-taking invention. James also talks about his campaign to have a commemorative plaque erected on the Maiden Lane building where the industry started (a plaque that was unveiled by Queen drummer Roger Taylor in December 2019).

Links:

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/books/what-to-read/beatles-crushed-beetles-gramophones-changed-world-forever/

Blog on the BPI website about the birth of the record industry

https://www.bpi.co.uk/news-analysis/the-industry-of-human-happiness-james-hall-guest-blog/

James writes in the Telegraph about his Maiden Lane commemorative plaque campaign

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/music/news/fight-honour-britains-first-recording-studio/

The Industry of Human Happiness on Amazon

https://amzn.eu/cB1mSl1

You can subscribe to the podcast on all good podcast platforms including Spotify  Apple and Acast.

We hope you enjoy listening as much as we’ve enjoyed recording them

We interview legendary record producer Joe Boyd in the finale to our first series of The Sound Of The Hound podcasts

The first series of Sound of the Hound wraps up with something a bit different: an interview with legendary Pink Floyd and Nick Drake producer Joe Boyd. Just like Fred Gaisberg, Joe is an American who moved to London in his twenties to establish an overseas office for a record company. And just like Fred, he became a recording pioneer. Immersing himself in London life, Joe founded the famous UFO club in the 1960s. He talks about the music that shaped him, tells us about the recording industry in the 1960s, gives an overview of a career that has seen him working with everyone from The Incredible String Band to REM, and shares his thoughts on modern recording technology. This episode is effectively the history of recorded sound and production techniques in a one hour-long programme. We’re possibly a bit biased, but it’s an essential listen for music fans!

Links:

Joe Boyd

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Boyd

Joe Boyd discography

Joe Boyd’s top five albums of all time

https://classicalbumsundays.com/joe-boyds-top-five-albums-of-all-time/

Joe’s website

Joe’s book: White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s

You can subcribe to the podcast on all good podcast platforms including: Spotify  Apple and Acast.

We hope you enjoy listening as much as we’ve enjoyed recording them

And if you have enjoyed Series 1, Series 2 will be coming soon.

James Hall finally tells all about his book The Industry Of Human Happiness – its the new episode of The Sound Of The Hound podcast!

This episode is a little bit different. Dave interviews co-host James about his novel on the early days of recorded sound, The Industry of Human Happiness. James tells how he chanced upon the adventures of Fred Gaisberg and William Sinkler Darby in the sleeve notes of a CD that he bought outside a concert, and how they inspired him to write a fictional account of those heady days of format wars, skulduggery and breath-taking invention. James also talks about his campaign to have a commemorative plaque erected on the Maiden Lane building where the industry started (a plaque that was unveiled by Queen drummer Roger Taylor in December 2019).

Links:

How gramophones changed the world forever – James writes in the Telegraph

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/books/what-to-read/beatles-crushed-beetles-gramophones-changed-world-forever/

Blog on the BPI website about the birth of the record industry

https://www.bpi.co.uk/news-analysis/the-industry-of-human-happiness-james-hall-guest-blog/

James writes in the Telegraph about his Maiden Lane commemorative plaque campaign

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/music/news/fight-honour-britains-first-recording-studio/

The Industry of Human Happiness on Amazon

https://amzn.eu/cB1mSl1

You can subscribe to the podcast on all good podcast platforms including Spotify  Apple and Acast.

We hope you enjoy listening as much as we’ve enjoyed recording them

Fred Gaisberg records the Great Caruso and kickstarts the modern record business – our new podcast episode out today

It’s the spring of 1902. Italian tenor Enrico Caruso is due to sing in Covent Garden later in the year, and Fred and Will are still in Milan desperate to record him. Their plan – in what predates the now-ubiquitous music industry ‘360’ marketing deal by over 100 years – is to print the master discs onto shellac and release the records in London in time for Caruso’s Opera House appearance, thereby capitalising on his huge popularity. Fred wants to pay him £100 for ten records, but his bosses in London balk at the cost. But Fred does it anyway. It’s a huge gamble. But Fred’s risk is vindicated: his Caruso recordings kick-start the music industry in a way he could only have dreamed of. Overnight, the public are hooked. Finally, the record industry comes alive.

Links:

Enrico Caruso

https://www.operanews.com/Opera_News_Magazine/2013/7/Features/The_Great_Caruso.html

More on Caruso

https://www.myitalianfamily.com/resource-center/enrico-caruso-opera-singer-sketch-artist-collector-and-more

Caruso’s first ever recording, April 1902 – Studenti, udite

Caruso’s sketch (note the HMV logo in the background)

https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Enrico_Caruso

You can subcribe to the podcast on all good podcast platforms including: Spotify  Apple and Acast.

We hope you enjoy listening as much as we’ve enjoyed recording them

Our podcast has been recommended in today’s Observer newspaper!

Our unrelenting media promotion campaign continues apace!

After being selected by Fiona Sturges as one the Financial Times’ Top 10 podcasts to listen to in lockdown last week, we have now been recommended in Miranda Sawyer’s Pod-Doctor in today’s Observer.

You can subcribe to the podcast on all good podcast platforms including: Spotify  Apple and Acast.

We hope you enjoy listening as much as we’ve enjoyed recording them

When Fred Gaisberg set the Vatican on fire

Fred Gaisberg and his brother Will had been sebt to Milan in early 1902 to try to entice the superstar opera singer Enrico Caruso. When he was playing hard to get the brothers headed to Rome with the hope of recording the Pope. That proved impossible but they did get to record the last castrato singer in the Sistine Chapel Choir, one Alessandro Moreschi. In the featured picture you can see a photo taken by Fred at the Vatican. Moreschi is in the middle of the picture, flanked by the agent William Michelis (left) and Will Gaisberg.

The recording of Moreschi was a success & you can listen to the story of how the recording came about as well as some of the music they captured in our podcast, The Last Castrato. They were allowed to bring their crates of heavy recording equipment and vats of acid used in the recording process into an ornate room of the Vatican Palace, the walls of which were covered in great and valuable paintings of the old masters.

The sessions did not got completely to plan. As Fred remembers in his memoirs:

“During the last session an accident happened that might have proven serious. Suddenly a short circuit from the battery ignited the cotton wool used in packing. A flame shot up and over and above the hysterical cries of the panic-stricken choristers one heard the laments of the male sopranos. They rushed for the door, where I saw them jam. My brother and I and the two brothers Michelis used our overcoats to beat down the flames, and we worked despeartely. Will Michelis thoughtfully pulled the cases of completed and packed masters out of the way. We all received burns…but the records were saved no very great damage was done to the salon or masterpieces.

The pompieri (Fire Department) appeared with hose and axe in hand, and seemed gieved that we had mastered the flames without their aid…Reuter’s cabled the incident all over the world, featuring two Americans involved in the destruction of the Vatican by fire.”