Revealed: the secrets of Captain Scott’s playlist

New album is compiled from gramophone recordings explorer took on ill-fated journey to the Antarctic

This article was written by Adam Sherwin published by The Independant,  Thursday 10 May 2012

 Huddled together inside their hut while blizzards raged outside, Captain Scott and his men found solace in the gramophone records of comical music hall hits, operettas and stirring anthems which the doomed explorer transported with him to the South Pole.

A century on, the original recordings that lifted spirits and prompted moist-eyed thoughts of home during Robert Falcon Scott’s ill-fated expedition are being released on Monday on an EMI album, compiled using the journals left by the expeditionaries.

When Scott embarked upon the Terra Nova expedition in 1910, he took with him two HMV “monarch” gramophones, donated by The Gramophone Company, which later became EMI, together with several hundred 78rpm discs, chosen to boost the team’s morale.

The 25 men who shared the hut played discs ranging from celebrity classical recordings to the most popular musical hall performers and hits from the latest musical shows.

One of the gramophones was kept with Scott in the Cape Evans base-camp hut, which survives in Antarctica today, with the other moved to the Northern Party’s smaller hut at Cape Adare.

Scott noted: “Meares has become enamoured of the gramophone. We find we have a splendid selection of records.”

Scott and his final four companions perished during a desperate return journey, after reaching the Pole in January 1912 only to find that a rival team led by Norwegian Roald Amundsen had beaten them to it by 33 days. But Scott’s gramophone was rescued and returned to the Gramophone Company – it is currently on display at a major exhibition about the expedition at the Natural History Museum – and the diaries kept by his team of scientists record the vital role the recordings played in lifting spirits.

A team of archive experts at Abbey Road transferred and mastered the original recordings from the EMI archive to produce the double album, released in June, called Scott’s Music Box. Some have dubbed the eclectic 48-track selection, “Captain Scott’s iPod”.

The musical tastes reflect a class divide. Tony Locantro, who compiled the sleeve notes for the CD, wrote: “The serving men of the Terra Nova generally liked the songs from the musicals, dance tunes and musical hall items, especially comic songs and sketches.

“The officers apparently preferred something more cultured like stirring ballads and operatic arias.”

Tracks range from “The Dollar Princess Two-Step” by Black Diamonds Band and “Stop Your Tickling Jock!” by Harry Lauder, to “Trafalgar March” by the Band of the Coldstream Guards and Enrico Caruso’s “Mattinata”.

EMI hopes the album will demonstrate the inspirational role music can play in people’s lives.

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/news/revealed-the-secrets-of-captain-scotts-playlist-7729182.html

If your interested in learning more about Captain Scott’s Gramophone check out EMI Group Archive Trust website http://www.emiarchivetrust.org

To see Captain Scott’s Gramophone and learn more visit  The Natural History Museum exibition ‘Scott’s Last Expedition’ 20 January – 2 September 2012 

http://www.nhm.ac.uk/visit-us/whats-on/temporary-exhibitions/scott-last-expedition//index.html

Captain Scott’s Desert Island Discs. A flavour of what were the happening sounds in Antarctica 100 years ago

This article was written by and published on theartsdesk 11 April 2012

 
The gramophone on which Scott and his men listened to music hall and opera at the bottom of the world
 

Centenaries are sizeable business in 2012. It just so happens that the Olympics are coming to the United Kingdom for the third time in a year which finds us thinking very hard about if being British still means the same thing as it did 100 years when two momentous calamities singed themselves into the national psyche: the Titanic sank, and Captain Scott and his four companions never made it back from the South Pole.

Adam Sweeting has already reported on the deluge of Titanica fanning across the television schedules from National Geographic docs to Drownton. The Scott industry is spreading itself more widely across the year. As well as three exhibitions – at the Natural History Museum, the Queen’s Gallery and the National Museum of Wales – you can also enjoy a musical flavour of what it was like to be a the bottom of the world with the Terra Nova expedition by investing in a new double-disc CD. On it is a selection of scratchy recordings Scott and co took south with them to remind them of home in the long polar night. In fact they had a library of hundreds of tunes to listen to, and the choice can do no more than suggest the range of musical tastes catered for, from Enrico Caruso to Nellie Melba, from Harry Lauder to Weber’s Concertino for horn. Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” was on hand to gird the loins as the men prepared to strap themselves into man-hauling harnesses. For many of the jauntier tunes some of the chaps will dressed up in drag and danced along.

The records were donated to the expedition by The Gramophone Company (nowadays known as EMI), along with two splendid old gramophones, one of which is on display at the Natural History Museum’s current exhibition. The main track listing concludes with “God Save the King”. Two additional tracks include Ernest Shackleton taking about his own unsuccessful attempt on the Pole three years earlier. There is a piquant irony to its inclusion. Scott and Shackleton had history, and were not friends, although that did not stop Scott using Shackleton’s expedition journal as a useful pathfinder. The full track listing of Scott’s Music Box is as follows.

CD 1:

  1. The Black Diamonds Band – Dollar Princess Two Step
  2. The Dollar Princess Operatic Party – Opening Chorus (The Dollar Princess)
  3. George Grossmith Jr – Yip-I-Addy-I-Ay (Our Miss Gibbs)
  4. Margaret Cooper – Love is meant to make us glad (Merrie England)
  5. R. Kennerley Rumford – Four Jolly Sailormen (The Princess of Kensington)
  6. Huntley & Carroll – The Golf Scene (Three Little Maids)
  7. Yvette Guilbert – I want yer ma honey
  8. Band of HM Coldstream Guards – Trafalgar March
  9. Walter Miller – We all walked into the shop
  10. Florrie Forde – Oh! Oh! Antonio!
  11. George Robey – The Prehistoric Man
  12. Harry Lauder – Stop your tickling, Jock!
  13. Harry Tate – Motoring
  14. Gus Elen – Wait till the work comes round
  15. Olly Oakley – Anona Two-Step
  16. John Coates – Take a pair of sparkling eyes (The Gondoliers)
  17. Eleanor Jones Hudson – The sun whose rays are all ablaze (The Mikado)
  18. The Sullivan Operatic Party – When Britain really ruled the waves (Iolanthe)
  19. HM Band of the Royal Artillery – The Blue Danube Waltz
  20. Stanley Kirkby – The Trumpeter
  21. Harry Dearth – A Sergeant of the Line
  22. Clara Butt & R. Kennerley Rumford – Night Hymn at Sea
  23. Edward Lloyd – The Holy City
  24. Elizabeth Dews – O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion (Messiah)
  25. A Church Choir – Hark, the Herald Angels Sing

CD 2

  1. Geraldine Farrar – Un bel dì vedremo (Madama Butterfly)
  2. Enrico Caruso – Recitar!…Vesti la giubba (Pagliacci)
  3. Nellie Melba – Waltz Song (Roméo et Juliette)
  4. Titta Ruffo – Largo al factotum (Il barbiere di Siviglia)
  5. Luisa Tetrazzini – Ombra leggera (Dinorah)
  6. Maurice Renaud – Serenade (Don Giovanni)
  7. Mattia Battistini · Emilia Corsi – Là ci darem la mano (Don Giovanni)
  8. Jan Kubelík – Chanson bohème (Carmen)
  9. Enrico Caruso – Mattinata
  10. Nellie Melba – Nymphes et sylvains
  11. Evan Williams – I’ll sing thee songs of Araby
  12. Edward Lloyd – Come into the garden, Maud
  13. Charles Draper – Weber: Concertino
  14. La Scala Theatre Orchestra – The Ride of the Valkyries (Die Walküre)
  15. Joseph Szigeti – Bach: Prelude (Partita No.3)
  16. Wilhelm Backhaus – The Harmonious Blacksmith
  17. Peter Dawson – Rule Britannia
  18. Ernest Pike – The Light of the World
  19. Robert Radford – Honour and Arms (Samson)
  20. Clara Butt – Abide with me
  21. Band of H. M. Coldstream Guards – God Save the King

BONUS TRACKS

  1. Major Sir Ernest Shackleton – The Dash for the South Pole
  2. Stanley Kirkby – ’Tis a story that shall live forever
  • Scott’s Music Box is released on 14 May

http://www.theartsdesk.com/classical-music/captain-scotts-desert-island-discs

If your interested in learning more about Captain Scott’s Gramophone check out EMI Group Archive Trust website.

http://www.emiarchivetrust.org/detail.aspx

 

Victor Ludorum. The Forgotten Man of Music History: Eldridge R.Johnson

By Carey Fleiner

Quick – show of hands – tell me everything you know about Eldridge R. Johnson….well, if you’re poking around this website, you probably have heard of him, but many people have not. If you’re one of the ‘nots’ — perhaps you’ve heard of his company The Victor Talking Machine Company which he founded 1901 (or at least its later incarnation as RCA-Victor). Perhaps you’ve heard of the Victrola, and in fact you might refer to every type of old-fashioned, wind-up record player as a Victrola. And surely you’ve seen Nipper the Dog, one of the first and most successful trademarks in business and advertising history. But this guy with the funny name and that – what’s he got to do with talking machines, fox terriers, and, for that matter, EMI?

Eldridge R Johnson around age 35

Eldridge Reeves Johnson (1867-1945) is an obscure figure in music history, and his name is certainly not as recognisable as Thomas Edison or Alexander Graham Bell. It’s a bit of his own fault, really, as Johnson, while promoting his company and its products vigorously, himself stayed in the background – unlike his contemporary Edison, or modern moguls such as Bill Gates or Richard Branston, whose names are as well-known as their products. Nevertheless, Johnson founded one of the ‘Big Three’ early record companies – The Victor Talking Machine Company (1901-1927) held its own against Edison Records (1888-1929) and Columbia Records (1888-present). The Victor Company was a sister-company with the Gramophone Company (independent from 1897-1931) in the UK; the Gramophone Company merged with the Columbia Graphophone Company in 1931 to become EMI, so Johnson and the Victor Talking Machine Company are part of EMI’s pedigree.

Over ten instalments, we shall present 10 Interesting Facts about Eldridge R. Johnson, one of the founders of the modern recording industry. Before Johnson Fact #1, however, here’s a little background on the man himself.

Johnson was born in 1867 in Wilmington, Delaware, USA, and grew up about 60 miles further south in Dover, Delaware, then a rural community. He went to high school at the Dover Academy in Dover, Delaware, now part of the grounds of Wesley College [http://www.wesley.edu/], and he hoped to go to university. It’s unknown which school or course of study he had in mind; when Johnson, then aged 15, approached his high school principal about going on to higher education, he was told he was ‘too stupid’ to attend university, and should go to trade school instead.

ERJ in the 1890s

Johnson was gutted, and this comment stuck with and influenced him the rest of his personal and professional life. He was put on a train and sent north to be apprenticed to a machine shop in Philadelphia, and, according to the biography written by his son, ERJ cried all the way to his destination.

Was Johnson ‘too stupid’? As a boy, he asked a lot of questions – at home and at school. Nowadays this is regarded as the sign of an inquisitive mind, praised, and encouraged, but in those days, asking so many questions was interpreted as being daft.

Nevertheless, despite the low pay and long hours initially, Johnson applied himself to the work and his apprentice job, and to his displeasure (initially) he turned out to be quite mechanically apt. He worked in Philadelphia, then became attached to the Standard Machine Shop in Camden, New Jersey (where he filed his first patent to improve a bookbinding machine at the shop – Johnson seems to have been that guy who shows up in a place and quickly fixes all of the mechanical problems plaguing the company). At one point he went West to seek his fortune as the owner of this new shop planned to leave the business to his own son, but after a few adventures, Johnson realised there was more opportunity for work back on the East Coast. He returned to the little shop in Camden and inherited it after all, as the son had died suddenly and the owner was in financial peril. So Johnson took over the little shop and began to build a reputation for himself in the area as a mechanical engineer. Although he devoted himself to his work, he was also driven to educate himself in the classics and refined arts, and his diaries reveal later trips to the opera, visits to museums, and lists of literary texts to read. He never stopped asking questions, and turned his inquisitiveness into a business success – whether he was asking his workers about their lives and working conditions, or his customers about suggestions they had about or wanted from his products.

This same, small machine should would eventually be surrounded by the Victor Talking Machine factory complex.

Johnson’s shop in Camden in the 1890s

In 1896, a representative from Emile Berliner’s Gramophone Company brought to Johnson’s shop one of Berliner’s ‘egg-beater’ or hand-driven gramophones.

Berliner’s original eggbeater gramophone

Berliner had patented his gramophone in 1887, but he himself was no mechanic – he wanted a spring-loaded motor for the machine to make it fully automatic, more than just a toy, as this would give him the edge in the extremely competitive world of sound-recording. Learning of Johnson’s mechanical skills, he sent the machine to the workshop in Camden. Johnson gave the little gramophone a look over, and took on the job – adding a spring-loaded motor (of his own design) would be quite easy.

Berliner gramophone with Johnson’s spring-motor

Here are two clips of Berliner’s original gramophone in action: the egg-beater in action and Johnson’s added motor:


…and another short clip (in French) showing the eggbeater, then the improved gramophone, with a shot of Johnson’s clockwork motor with the cover off:

This invention alone would have sufficed to ensure Johnson’s role in the history of the recording industry: not only did this motor free the user from having to hand-crank the machine, but it also standardised the recording speed at about 78 rpm – instead of a toy, the gramophone could be regarded as a proper tool for recording and promoting both popular and classical music and artists.

Of course that was to come – Johnson’s initial impression of that first gramophone was less than enthusiastic; he famously said that the sounded like “a partially educated parrot with a sore throat and a cold in the head.”’ Nevertheless, Johnson was intrigued and went into a subcontractor partnership with Berliner, building gramophones and gramophone parts. He also improved the quality of the recording process on the gramophone by experimenting with electroplating wax disks to make more precise and sturdier master matrices – the wax of which, by the way, came from melted down wax cylinders made by rival Edison.

This partnership also meant that he also entered into association and later partnership with Berliner’s UK component, The Gramophone Company (headed at that time by William Owen).

William Owen, head of the Gramophone Company around 1900

Almost at once he was embroiled in the Byzantine politics of betrayal, backstabbing, and litigation involving Berliner’s company and a breakaway company called Zonophone (who were, in effect, attempting to pass a law forbidding Berliner to sell his own products.)

Long story short – Johnson won a successful lawsuit against Zonophone, saving Berliner, The Gramophone Company, and Johnson himself from financial ruin. Johnson’s original company, The Consolidated Talking Machine Company, became in 1901 The Victor Talking Machine Company, in cooperation and with the blessing of the Gramophone Company in England.

Between 1901 and 1927, Victor was one of the most successful businesses in the world. Johnson’s motto for the company was its ‘secret process,’ that is, ‘We seek to improve everything we do every day.’

Johnson’s motto serves as the mission statement at the Johnson Victrola Museum, Dover, Delaware, USA (author’s photo)

This motto reveals much about his own personality, drive for success, and care for his employees and customers. And because the company was his top priority, this motto provides a clue why we don’t associate Johnson with Victor as we might associate Nipper, the great singer Enrico Caruso, or the Victrola itself.

Johnson was a multi-millionaire very quickly with his company; when he finally sold Victor in 1927, he was worth close to $29 million. Problems with melancholia and depression had affected his relationship with his business over the years, and concerns that Victor was falling behind the competition with radio led him to sell his company 1927 (Victor was purchased by RCA in 1929), and he lived the rest of his life as a generous philanthropist while happily indulging his passion for his yacht and sailing. He died in 1945.

ERJ in his later years enjoying time on his yacht Caroline

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

The invention of the modern music star in a hotel bedroom in Milan

Caruso making a gramophone recording: a self caricature, 1902

Fred Gaisberg was one of the men who invented the recording industry. In 1893 he worked in the States as the assistant to Emile Berliner, who had just invented the gramophone disc, and then Gaisberg went on to open and run the world’s first recording studio. In 1898 Gaisberg moved to London to make the first European gramophone recordings. He had a great career going on to become a shareholder and senior executive at The Gramophone Company, that turned into EMI, where he personally sketched out the design for Abbey Road Studios, but his first love was the discovering and recording of world class artists. One of the first artists he recorded was Enrico Caruso who went on to become the world’s first recording superstar.

Gaisberg had what he called “portable”recording equipment that he took with him on his journeys around the world to record local artists. It was not really that portable as it took six crates to ship it with him but Gaisberg nevertheless used it to make some of the most significant recordings at the very dawn of the recording business.

In 1902 he was in Milan and after hearing a young Caruso singing at La Scala was determined to record the singer. Caruso, like many of the great stars of the day was reluctant to be recorded and demanded a huge fee of 100 pounds for ten songs (which was the standard Gramophone Company contract in those days). Gaisberg telegrammed his record company for permission to press ahead with the record, but quickly received back the negative response “FEE EXORBITANT FORBID YOU TO RECORD”. Believing Caruso to be an extremely special talent and backing his judgement to the hilt, Fred chose to ignore the order and underwrote the payment to Caruso out of his own pocket.

In the middle of the day on April 11th Caruso arrived at the Grande Hotel “dressed like a dandy, twirling a cane.” He was taken up to the room where Gaisberg had set up the recording equipment but the singer initially appeared impatient to get the job over as quickly as possible to earn his 100 pounds and proceed to lunch.

Once the young singer began to sing, however, he threw himself fully into the recording process. The songs were, according to Fred himself, “all about 2 and a half minutes long and one after another, as fast as we could put the waxes on the machine, Caruso poured the fresh gold of that beautiful voice on to them.”

As a souvenir of the occassion, Caruso who was a decent cartoonist, drew the picture of himself recording for Gaisberg that is at the top of this article. He even included his version of Barraud’s Dog and Trumpet picture which was a Gramophone Company logo. Caruso pocketed his 100 pound payment and left Gaisberg in the hotel room with the post euphoric realisation that The Gramophone Company would need to sell an unheard of 2,000 copies to recoup the cost of the 100 pound fee. At this time very very few people had gramophones and so the market for discs was tiny. This is the first of the recordings that Fred had paid for:

The ten sides of Caruso did become a huge success both for the Gramophone Company, who made a profit of 15,000 pounds on the recordings (which meant that had sold in excess of 300,000 copies; the first true world wide hit records!), and for Caruso who became famous and much sought after all over the world, these recordings acting as viral marketing for the Caruso brand.

He became hugely successful and made many more recordings; 290 in total, most for the American company that became RCA Victor. He sang to great and lucrative acclaim at all the major concert halls and great opera houses of the world, made a couple of (ironically silent, of course) movies and was the featured of the first ever public radio broadcast in America in 1910.

Fred Gaisberg had recognised a special talent in Caruso and by recording it and making it available to be listened to throughout the world, he helped move the gramophone business to a popular tipping point as people bought gramophones to be able to hear Caruso’s sensational voice and in doing so gave recording stars access to a level of worldwide audience that had been hitherto impossible to reach. Fred had in fact helped to create the blueprint for the modern music star.