British Disc Records of the Acoustic Era:
1898 – ca. 1926.
The ambition of this website is to document each and every ‘make’ of disc record marketed in the U.K. in the period stated. They are often referred to (loosely) as 78 rpm records, and we think that about 300 labels may have existed during this time period. The bulk of the research work on these has already been done by Frank Andrews, the doyen of British discographers. Just click on the label below to get to the alphabetical index, plus more background information. There are many other subsidiary pages on this site, which may be accessed by scrolling further down this Home Page.
START BY CLICKING THIS LABEL!
N.B. This is not – as yet – a ‘responsive’ website. That is, it will not rearrange text and images when you zoom in or out, or look at it on a different sized screen – e.g. a mobile phone. So credits & information below some labels will be displaced. We are getting more software to provide this facility, as soon as possible. After more than 10 years with this old format, we must finally move with the times! It was composed in MS Word, using 14pt Century Schoolbook. This is now a scarce type-face in computers, and will be replaced with the universally-available Times New Roman.
DIARY OF A RETIRED MUSICIAN.
Here are my jottings about things nothing to do with Jazz, 78s, or even music. They range from trolley ’buses in Walsall, via tumble dryers, to photographs of butterflies, moths, plants, canals &c. (All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!)
CAN WE MAKE OUR OWN 78 rpm RECORDS? We-e-ll… yes!
The first, and by far the biggest problem, is finding a record cutting machine. But it is quite possible to make one for yourself, given reasonable workshop facilities. True, we have not made one yet, but recently acquired an old one. Hence these articles. Click the picture to find out more.
A GREAT WAR ‘DESCRIPTIVE’ RECORD.
Here is a ‘Descriptive Record’ of late 1914 (or maybe early 1915), on the Diamond label, which seeks to portray the start of that early Great War battle. In my opinion, it does so very well, compared with most of these sort of discs.
MAURICE MICHEL LÉVY – dit BÉTOVE.
Maurice Michel Lévy (1885 – 1965) is probably only known, at least outside France, for a number of Odeon records he made in Paris in 1926. These are delightful, mordant pastiches and satires. Four of them can be heard here.
THE BIRTH OF RADIO.
‘The Birth of Radio’; or, The Romance of Marconiphone’. A 1934 Columbia advertising record, given away with their radiograms. Believed to be narrated by Ralph Richardson.
The recorded legacy of this superb musician who died in 1931, is still valuable to many of us. Here are gathered several pages from my old web-site that deal with matters Bixian.
EARLY BRASS BAND RECORDS.
I have spent 50 years dabbling with Jazz and Hot Dance 78 rpm records. But recently, an interest early brass band records has developed. Here are some early efforts in restoring this sort of 78 rpm discs.
OBSCURE BRITISH 1920s DANCE BANDS.
What of the ‘unsung’ dance bands? Those who played in the provinces, never travelled much, and above all, never made records? Many people have been researching them for years. Today we upload a few images of such bands.
It may seem strange to find a link to this noted Evangelist, singer and composer (1867-1920) on this site. Click the link to find out more!
STRANGE ‘CLOCKWORK’ DEVICE.
This old – probably circa 1930s/40s – device we saw on eBay attracted us because the seller stated unequivocally, that he did not know of any purpose it might have served. Having acquired it, neither do we! How about you? 8^)
THE CORRECT PITCHING OF ‘78 rpm’ RECORDS.
We all know that so-called ‘78 rpm’ records were recorded at many different speeds! Here are 2 pages that demonstrate a simple approach to get British and U.S. Dance band and Jazz records in the right keys.
HOMOPHON(E) & INVICTA DATE CODES.
Homophone was a German company which sold its own records in Britain in the ‘Boom Years’ of ~1908 – 1914. It also made records for British companies, above all early Invictas. They carry coded dates. Can we decipher them? What event(s) do they refer to?
DE-CRACKLING OLD 78 rpm RECORDS.
This is a particular problem for British 78 rpm enthusiasts, whose discs have apparently been affected by ‘acquired crackle’ more than most. A relatively simple computer-based de-crackling procedure is outlined in this article.
DOUBLE SIDED GRAMOPHONE RECORDS
It may sound as daft as patenting the idea of writing on both sides of a sheet of paper; but the double sided disc was granted a patent
in the U.S. in January 1904. Read about the subtleties of the patent application.
EARLY ELECTRICAL PICK-UPS.
In early 1925, electrical recording came into its own. Almost immediately, people sought to play back records electrically too. Here are some notes on, & images of, early electrical pick-ups and pick-up arms.
FRANK TRUMBAUER – C-MELODY OR ALTO SAX.: WHERE & WHEN?
The great saxophone player and friend of Bix Beiderbecke is often listed as just playing C-melody saxophone. Did he play the alto. sax too? We believe he did, and this article gives some possible examples, with audio samples.
These are the old spring-driven machines that play discs by acoustic – i.e. mechanical – means. I have, alas, started to collect them in the last year or so. Join me in a brief look at some of the 6 basic & quite inexpensive machines acquired so far, and how we have been tinkering with them. It’s ‘conservation’ really, but is also fun!
GUARDSMAN (AND INVICTA) RECORDS, 1912 – 1928.
A listing of over 2,000 Invicta and Guardsman Records has been published in book form. The label existed from 1912 to 1914 as Invicta (latterly in two rival forms!), and from 1914 to 1928 as Guardsman.
HENRY JAMES METCALFE, 1835 – 1906.
He lived 1835 - 1906, and was one of my great-great grandfathers. Mostly based in Wolverhampton, he wrote & published lots of brass band music. We’re researching his life & times.
VARIETIES OF THE HMV ‘B’ SERIES LABEL, 1912-1958.
Some HMV labels are shown under the first link above. But HMV, in view of its importance, should surely have a whole web page devoted to its label? Han Enderman, Dr. Rainer Lotz & Mike Thomas have helped with this page, which shows around 29 different labels used on the British ‘B’ series, 1912 - ~1960.
HOW WERE 78 rpm RECORDS MADE?
The answer is by no means as simple as it ought to be. Several process routes were used. This page gives a very general & simple account of how I think many of them were made. But it gets more complicated too!
THE ‘IMPERIAL RUSSIAN ORCHESTRA’, 1915.
sides were recorded in London in late 1915 by this small orchestra. The leader
and arranger was Yasha Krein, who came to this country from
IN A MIST.
Bix Beiderbecke’s famous piano composition. A link to a most unusual version of it recorded in 1941 – but never issued.
LINKS TO OTHER SITES.
Here will be found links to items of interest to 78 enthusiasts. Do please check them out!
CORNET CHOP SUEY by LOUIS ARMSTRONG’S HOT FIVE: WHAT KEY IS IN?
A discussion of the correct key for the 1926 Louis Armstrong Hot Five recording of this tune. Did the band play it in E flat, or F?
MORSE CODE ON 78 rpm RECORDS.
By way of helping you learn the Morse code, many companies produced 78 records for this purpose. Here are notes, jottings & labels scans & audio examples of several sets from 1907 to around the 1940s.
MARKINGS ON 78 rpm RECORDS; WHAT DO THEY TELL US?
Besides the obvious catalogue number, other information is usually carried on the labels, pressed into the ‘wax’ and under the label of old records. What may these other numbers & letters mean? How do we try to interpret them?
SOME RECORDINGS OF RADIO JAMMING SIGNALS.
Here are 4 examples of the sorts of signals used by Germany and Italy to ‘jam’ radio broadcasts. They very likely date from World War 2, 1939-1945.
ODD 78 rpm SIDES – A MISCELLANY.
Here will be found a ‘grab-bag’ of odd sides we have transferred to mp3 for various reasons. It seems a shame just to delete them, so some will end up here. Who knows what you might hear? Click the link to find out!
THE WORKSOP RAGTIME BAND.
A postcard, possibly from ca. 1915-1918, of a fascinating & totally unknown ensemble.
GRAMOPHONE NEEDLE TINS.
A very few remarks on, er… gramophone needle tins!
GRAND DUKE CYRIL VLADIMIROVICH, 1876-1938.
While referring to our copy of Nicholas Sokolov’s 1924 report on the death of Tsar Nichols II and his immediate family, we found an interesting pamphlet bound in at the back of the book. Well, it’s interesting to me, and as far as I can tell, does not seem to be readily available on line; so here it is…
Page revised 5th September 2014.