Joe Batten’s Book: The Story of Sound Recording

SOTH would like to thank our latest contributor Michael Lloyd-Davies for his insightful review on the memoirs of Joe Batten – pioneer recording manager.   

By Michael Lloyd-Davies

 

 In his foreward to Joe Batten’s memoirs, Joe is described by Sir Compton McKenzie as “that other great recorder” bracketed with Freddy Gaisberg. Joe Batten’s story is perhaps wider in its horizons. The core of the book is the excitement of pioneer recording from wax-cylinder to L.P., in which mechanical hazards and progress are described as an explorer could write of his adventures.

The period before the First World War saw sound recording grow from being a novelty toy to become an industry full of innovation and eventually accepted as a serious medium and art form by both artists and the public.

Joe was one of the pioneers who began as a pianist accompanying vocalists in recording rooms as early studios were known, to become the artistic manager for Edison Bell, and later, the Columbia Graphophone Company which merged in 1931 with The Gramophone Company to form Electric and Musical Industries Ltd (EMI).

At EMI he formed the Special Recording Department which was located at new studios at Abbey Road. This venture began making sponsored shows for the Commercial Radio companies which were springing up in the mid 1930’s. The department was almost immediately shut down at the outset of the Second World War but re-opened to make recordings for the troops through ENSA up to 1945.

In the last five years of his 50 year career in the music industry, Joe made some notable recordings including two historical events, the silver wedding of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth and the wedding of H.R.H. Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh.

Inevitably Joe Batten amassed a vast number of friends and memories in the musical concert and light opera fields and it is fitting that the book (out of print since the first edition in 1956) should close with select memories of the life and times at The Savage Club, London’s last bohemian rendezvous where Joe Batten concluded his life as he began it – accompanist to those spontaneous musical evenings which from the West End to the East were once such a feature of London Life.

Joe retired in 1950 but died five years later before his memoirs were published.

Joe Batten’s Book: The Story of Sound Recording is now available via Kindle Book Store: www. https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B007Q1U4RA

HARRY LAUDER (1870–1950)

By Tony Locantro

Harry Lauder (1870–1950), the great international Scottish entertainer, was born into a poor family in Portobello, near Edinburgh, and worked in Scottish coal mines during his youth. His fellow-mineworkers enjoyed his singing and encouraged him to perform in the local halls, which led to a full-time career as a singer.

He made his London music hall debut in 1900 under the Scots persona which became his hallmark, complete with a pastiche of highland dress, broad accent and a canny eye on his money.

From 1902, Lauder recorded extensively for The Gramophone Company, initially on G&T, and by the outbreak of war in 1914 much of his repertoire was on both HMV and Zonophone. The death of his only son on the Sommein 1916 prompted him to make a record appealing for £1 million to help disabled Scottish servicemen and he gave numerous fund-raising concerts at home and abroad. After the introduction of electrical recording in 1925, Lauder remade much of his earlier repertoire for HMV, Zonophone and Victor.

Harry Lauder – Don’t Let Us Sing About War Anymore.        If you’re a SOTH subscriber following by email please go to the actual blog to get the full posting.

Thank you to our friends at the EMI Archive Trust in providing these fine images.