Tonight – People’s History of Pop

The first episode of the People’s History of Pop is to be broadcast on BBC Four at 9pm tonight, as part of the year-long My Generation season.


Photo courtesy of BBC People’s History of Pop
Episode one sees Twiggy unearth pop treasures including a recording of John Lennon’s first-ever recorded performance with his band The Quarrymen, at a fete in Liverpool on the day he met Paul McCartney for the first time – which viewers will see Twiggy with David Hughes – Chair of EMI Group Archive Trust – listening to at the legendary Abbey Road studios.

Quarrymen tape recorder courtesy of the EMI Group Archive Trust.

EMI are taking a trip down memory lane at Hayes Old Vinyl Factory

EMI are inviting former employees at the Old Vinyl Factory in Hayes, to come back and share their memories of the iconic site.

The factory was a major employer for the town and produced records by some of the world’s best-known artists, including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Cliff Richard.

The reunion will take place on Wednesday, February 3, from 10am-1pm and is hosted by the EMI Archive Trust in conjunction with the BBC for their People’s History of Pop project.

Back in the day: The Old Vinyl Factory in Hayes




If you would like to come along, send your RSVP details to 7Wonder, the production company working with BBC on the People’s History of Pop project, at: or telephone 0203 701 7615.

Read the full article by NE 25th January 2016

The Proms 2013

Today marks the start of one of the World’s biggest Classical music festivals. The BBC Proms begins with a concert at the Royal Albert Hall featuring Sally Matthews (soprano,) Roderick Williams (baritone,) Stephen Hough (piano,) BBC Proms Youth Choir, BBC Symphony Chorus, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Sakari Oramo (conductor) in a performances of Julian Anderson – Harmony (BBC Commission, World Premiere,)  Britten – Four Sea Interludes from ‘Peter Grimes,’  Rachmaninov – Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini,  Lutosławski – Variations on a Theme by Paganini and Vaughan Williams – A Sea Symphony.

Sir Henry Wood recording with the Queens Hall Orchestra for the Columbia Gramophone Company around 1912 © EMI Group Archive Trust

Sir Henry Wood recording with the Queens Hall Orchestra for the Columbia Gramophone Company around 1912  © EMI Group Archive Trust

This year the Proms will be broadcast to classical music enthusiasts all over the world. Many of the concerts and performances will be recorded and made available for purchase. It’s hard to imagine now but just 126 years ago a piece of music could only be heard when the audience was present, and as such was only available to those who could afford a ticket to see the best performers. At the end of the 19th century the Gramophone Company revolutionised this idea, making audio recordings available across the globe.

Tonight’s opening show which will be available via radio, TV or at the Royal Albert Hall itself is built upon the 126 year old legacy of Emile Berliner (inventor of the Gramophone) and the early Gramophone Company founders.   But for now relax and enjoy this clip of the God Father of the Proms Sir Henry Wood.


Frank Bates jazz legend commemorated

Last Sunday a plaque was unveiled in Southwark  in memory of one of Britain’s earliest black jazz musicians Frank Bates.

Frank Bates was a singer in the Southern Syncopated Orchestra which performed in London clubs after the First World War.

Frank Bates was a singer in the Southern Syncopated Orchestra which performed in London clubs after the First World War.

The Southern Syncopated Orchestra was formed by the American composer Will Marion Cook and comprised 27 musicians and 19 singers.  The musicians came from, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, Guyana, Barbados, Antigua and Ghana among other places.

The Southern Syncopated Orchestra

The Southern Syncopated Orchestra

The  orchestra had made a deep impression across Europe. It had very quickly become a staple on the London club circuit. So taken were revellers by this new style of syncopated music and the extraordinary talents in its midst that it wasn’t long before the Prince of Wales (future King Edward VIII) had invited them to perform on the 19th August 1919 at Buckingham Palace.

 Frank had lived in Hichisson Road in Peckham Rye where the plaque was unveiled.

Frank had lived in Hichisson Road in Peckham Rye where the plaque was unveiled.

Tragically Frank, and seven other members of the SSO, died in 1921 in a shipping disaster.

Extracts taken from Kurt Barling  original article for BBC London , to read more go to


The New Sound Of Music 1979

The New Sound of Music is a fascinating BBC historical documentary from the year 1979. It charts the development of recorded music from the first barrel organs, pianolas, the phonograph, the magnetic tape recorder and onto the concepts of musique concrete and electronic music development with voltage-controlled oscillators making up the analogue synthesizers of the day.


Electronic Music Studios (EMS) EMS Synthesizers and equipment are a heavily featured technology resource in this film, with the show’s host, Michael Rodd, demonstrating the EMS VCS3 synthesizer and it’s waveform output. Other EMS products include the incredible Synthi 100 modular console system, the EMS AKS, the Poly Synthi and the EMS Vocoder. Most of the location shots are filmed within the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop studios as they were in 1979.

The arrival of wire-less

By Roger Neil

I found this interview with Guglielmo Marconi in Leslie Baily’s BBC Scrapbooks. It was conducted in 1896 shortly after Marconi had installed a transmitter on the roof of the GPO and a receiver in a building on the Thames Embankment, 500 yards away.

“Was the message quite clearly received?” asked the American reporter.
“Quite clearly.”
“And do these waves really pass through things?”
“I am forced to believe the waves will penetrate anything and everything.”
“Won’t fog prevent them?”
“No, sir, nothing prevents them.”
“Do you mean to say, Mr Marconi, that I could send my report of this interview from London to New York?”
“Please remember wireless is a new field. With regard to the future, so far as I can see it does not present any impossibilities to signal to New York.”

Wire-less communication. One of the most important inventions of the past 100+ years?

Love this article and want to read more by Roger then go to

London 2012: The 1948 torch relay on a shoestring

By  Claire Heald for  BBC News, published 18 May 2011 

In 1948 two Olympic Torches were made by E.M.I Ltd, designed by Ralph Lavers and donated to the Organising Committee of the XIV Olympic Games. 

 John Mark runs in the Empire Stadium, Wembley, with the torch

Not the Duke of Edinburgh or athletics hero Sydney Wooderson, John Mark was the surprise last torchbearer in the ’48 Relay

Plans are under way for a 2012 Torch Relay spanning the UK. But what happened last time London staged one?

It was no 70-day extravaganza and it involved nothing like the 8,000 torchbearers that will carry the Olympic flame around the UK in 2012.

But the London 1948 Olympic Torch Relay was greeted with wild rejoicing and a mobbing of the torchbearer, even when he, (and they were all ‘he’) ran on by in the dead of night.

Ahead of London’s “Austerity Games”, organisers wanted to stage a relay to “capture the imagination of the public and the spirit of the Olympic torch”.

London 1948 Olympic Torch
1948 Olympic Torch (International Olympic Committee)
Torch was designed by EMI Ltd.

  • Made of aluminium
  • Designed by Ralph Lavers
  • 47cm long
  • 960g weight
  • 1,688 made for use across Europe and England
  • 1,416 runners
  • Covered 3,160km (1964 miles)
  • Last runner, John Mark, had a special stainless steel torch

The organising committee, led by Lord Burghley, decided to continue the pre-war tradition started by the Nazi regime at the 1936 Berlin Games to set up only the second torch relay of the modern Olympic Games.

It had to be delivered on a post-war budget. Britain was struggling in 1948, rationing would be in place for another six years.

“Things were pretty grim,”” says Terry Charman, senior historian at the Imperial War Museum. “Although the war had finished in 1945, Britain was still a very impoverished country in 1948.

“A lot of wartime conditions were still in place. Not just food rationing but clothes rationing, everything was in short supply.

“There were few cars, the petrol allowance was so small. It was a very grey time and a very bleak winter in 1947 set things back.

“People would have resented the Olympics if too much had been spent, with Britain in the fairly parlous state it was in.”

Britain could barely afford to stage the Games, let alone a torch relay, so its size, scope and the torch itself had to be affordable.

‘British craftsmanship’

Hold a 1948 Olympic torch and its simplicity is revealed – fairly hefty, a plain stem topped with a wide cup that held the burner. Forties-style capital letters spell out “With thanks to the bearer” and the Olympic rings are punched out on the bowl.

Its designer Ralph Lavers was tasked to create something “inexpensive and easy to make,” but still “of pleasing appearance and a good example of British craftmanship”.

The torches were made of aluminium, which was relatively cheap, and ran on solid fuel tablets, except the one for the final leg at the opening ceremony inside Wembley’s Empire Stadium.

It was stainless steel and housed a magnesium-fuelled flame designed to be easily visible by the watching crowds and cameras.

‘Thrilling’ role

On the A25, club runner Frank Verge, then 22, was waiting in the darkness to carry the torch on a two mile stretch between the Kent villages of Platt and Ightham.

His torch-bearing place was hard fought – he had taken on his older brother John in their club’s eight mile run and ignored his shouts of “ease up, you’ll burn out” as he broke away to win.

“They do say everybody has 15 minutes of fame in their life and I think that was mine,” he says of the 4.03am to 4.17am slot.

Frank Verge carrying the torch in 1948
Frank remembers hundreds of people lining the route…

“It was very exciting, the road was lined with what seemed like hundreds of people.”

“We had just gone through six years of war and I think the Olympic Games stood for more because it was a different kind of life – everyone was happy.

“I’ll never forget it, it was a great thrill.”

He handed over to the last runner in the stadium, relatively unknown quarter-miler John Mark, whose athletic good looks were controversially chosen over the favourite-but-bespectacled miler Sydney Wooderson or the widely-expected Duke of Edinburgh.

Frank Verge
…and says the memory is one he will keep for a lifetime
To read the whole article go to  BBC News

I am the (very first UK) DJ. And I broadcast 87 years ago today.

It’s a far cry from the histrionics of Chris Evans, the authority of Brian Matthew or the intensity of Whispering Bob Harris, but on July 7, 1924, Britain’s first disc-jockey began broadcasting… a dinner jacket.

As Wikipedia describes…

Christopher Stone was educated at Eton College and served in the Royal Fusiliers. He became the London editor of The Gramophone, a magazine started by his brother-in-law Compton Mackenzie.
Stone approached the BBC himself with the idea for a record programme, which the corporation initially dismissed. Stone managed to convince them though and on July 7, 1927 he started playing records on air. His relaxed, conversational style was exceptional at a time when most of the BBC’s presentation was extremely formal, and his programmes became highly popular as a result. He wore a dinner jacket and tie when he presented.
In 1934 Stone joined the commercial station Radio Luxembourg (for 5,000 pounds a year) and was barred by the BBC in consequence. Three years later, as “Uncle Chris”, he presented the first daily children’s programme on commercial radio, Kiddies Quarter Hour on Radio Lyons. Stone later rejoined the BBC and caused a major row in 1941.

On November 11 he wished King Victor Emmanuel of Italy a happy birthday on air, adding “I don’t think any of us wish him anything but good, poor soul.” This good wish towards the head of a state Britain was at war with at the time led to the sacking of the BBC’s Senior Controller of Programmes and tighter government control over all broadcasts.
Stone was an avid record collector; in the mid 1930s he already owned over 12,000. When he turned 75 in 1957 the magazine Melody Maker praised his pioneering work: “Everyone who has written, produced or compered a gramophone programme should salute the founder of his trade.”

Christopher Stone, The Sound of the Hound salutes you! Three Woofs!

Memoirs of a Musical Dog – Edison to The Beatles

As part of their Omnibus series, The BBC made a documentary about the history of recording in the late 1980’s which was called Memoirs of a Musical Dog. It aired on Friday May 27, 1988. It’s very good and thanks to the power of youtube, you can see it here:

Part One Early years of Edison and Berliner and Johnson including the origin of Nipper and His Masters Voice:

Part Two Fred Gaisberg recording Caruso recalled by his later assistant David Bicknell and Len Petts demonstrating a recording horn:

Part Three Electrical recording, Abbey Road, Menuhin remembering Elgar:

Part Four Gramophone accessories, Gracie Fields at the Hayes record factory, 1930’s picture discs, making 78 discs, recording messages home from the war:

Part Five The LP record, the 45 single, jukeboxes, The Beatles:

You would never guess this logo was designed in the 1980's