Friday, 9 February 2018

Don't Write, Make a Record

A quick plug for a special event!

Introduced in the 1930s, the the automatic record booth allowed anyone at the end of a pier, at a railway station or in a department store to step up to the mic and record. 

Thousands of one-of-a-kind discs were produced and many still survive today, from joyous birthday greetings and spoken love letters, to wannabe Bob Dylan's strumming behind the booth's sliding-door.

Oral historian Alan Dein plays examples of unique audio that he’s discovered in the nation’s archives and from his personal collection.

Please come along!


Part of a ‘Season of Sound’, celebrating the British Library’s sound archive

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Radio Review - The Snappiest Thing in Broadcasting

In 1935, a rather beautiful collection of 'Silvered Photos of Broadcasting Stars' was issued by D. C. Thomson  & Co. Ltd. The famous Scottish publishing house offered readers of 'Radio Review' a unique opportunity to collect 36 self-adhesive gummed silver cards which could be affixed to a twelve page album.

Each Wednesday radio fans could snap up their copy of 'Radio Review', which was a supplement to 'Topical Times' - a hugely popular magazine during the Inter-War years. From its inception in 1919, 'Topical Times' regularly offered readers free gifts like trade cards and booklets, which must have made it a very popular choice. Within its cheap newspaper-style pages, 'Topical Times' was crammed with sporting stories, illustrations and crime capers. The magazine was wound-up by D.C. Thomson in 1940 as part of the nation's paper saving campaign, though the title itself was still used into the 1970s, especially on hardbound Football Annuals.

The high production quality of the 8 x 6 cms silvered photo cards isn't quite matched by the flimsy orange-tanned pages of the album itself, but this artefact offers up a wonderful opportunity to spot the big radio stars of their day.

Check the faces and the names - here are the voices that were so well-known to radio listeners of the 1930s. Eighty years on, perhaps rather less so. But it begs the question - which of our current radio personalities will be remembered some eight decades on...

The back of the Lew Stone card - which contained a more in-depth pen picture of the star than the caption printed in the Album

Back cover of the Album

Friday, 15 December 2017

Soviet 'Happy New Year' Postcards, 1957

To conclude my 'After You've Gone' posts for this year, here are three Russian postcards that were published exactly 60 years ago. 

During the Soviet years, formal Christmas celebrations were not allowed, so instead 'Happy New Year' greetings cards were posted to families and friends. The festivities were mainly for the young - and inevitably images of Santa Claus and his helpers were bypassed - so instead dolls, children and snow were the popular symbols on these kind of cards. However, Grandfather Frost and his snow maiden granddaughter were often also depicted.

I found this troika of examples at some point during the 1990s at the now defunct Bloomsbury Postcard Fair at the Royal National Hotel in London, WC1. This was the place to find the wonderful and the unexpected - and very often at little cost. All three cards were printed on very flimsy paper, with the photograph on the glossy side, and all were dated 1957. One of the cards was postally used, bearing a stamp showing Lenin talking with a soldier and a sailor that had been issued the same year to mark what would have been Lenin's 87th birthday (he'd died in 1924).

The wording on the front image is:
с новым годом

...pronounced "Sno-vim Go-dahm", which literally means "with New Year". 

Season's Greetings!

Friday, 1 December 2017

Moulded Music - the story of the making of a 78rpm gramophone record

"Take a mess of trego, carbon black, shellac, copal, and resin, put in a press, warm it, cool it, and serve when you will!"

That's the recipe for 'moulded music' as documented by The Gramophone Company in a photo story that was published in the Penguin Music Magazine, Issue No.4, from December 1947. Exactly 70 years ago...

It's a rare and fascinating glimpse behind the scenes study of the production of an HMV 78 rpm disc. The Gramophone Company, formed in 1898, was never officially known as 'His Master's Voice', even though the phrase became synonymous with its product. The company was renamed EMI Records in 1973.

The famous logo on the record label depicts 'Nipper' - most likely a Jack Russell terrier - which was painted by his owner Francis Barraud in 1899. The dog had in fact died four years before Barraud's painting was completed. Nipper was buried in Kingston-upon-Thames in Surrey. A local street, 'Nipper Alley', was recently named in his honour...

This is DB 1085, the record that is pictured being sleeved and boxed

Friday, 3 November 2017


It's the 1930s, and radio rules the airwaves...

And here's the 'Radio Queen' greeting the visitors at RADIOLYMPIA held in London's Earl's Court, an annual trade and consumer show for radio and television devotees. 

For today's collection of images I will focus solely on the original RADIO element of RADIOLYMPIA which had its first exhibition in 1922, the very same year as the inauguration of the BBC. Early receiving sets, booklets of wiring diagrams and assorted electronic technology were displayed beside the very latest in gramophone players. By the mid 1930s, RADIOLYMPIA played host to the thousands of keen radio listeners who represented the seven million radio set owners throughout the UK.

The event was popularised in the press and the newsreels as well as the trade journals - and it continued as a mainstay of the radio and television industry until the last ever RADIOLYMPIA in 1964.

Zap! That's Elmira Humphries, the Radio Queen c.1930s

 A page from the acclaimed 'Weekly Illustrated' picture magazine from August 1935
Theme Tune to RADIOLYMPIA 1934