Welcome to Norman Field’s Website.
It’s been around, off and on, for nearly 15 years, and all sorts of things have appeared here. Some have been deleted on purpose because they were redundant, or simply rather silly. Others have been accidentally lost. Still, most of it remains, just in case it holds a topic that might be of interest to you.
And what might those topics be? Well, for most of my life (I was born in 1944) I’ve been interested in the history & development of radio, and also of sound recording. So we got involved in the old 78 rpm gramophone records at an early age. Growing up in a musical family, we also got into performance, and I played clarinet, and later saxophone, in traditional jazz bands from around 1960. Indeed, from 1990 until retirement a couple of years ago, I was a professional jazz musician.
Thus, old time radio and old-time jazz & dance music have always been ‘core’ interests. But somehow, we must have inherited a gene which caused us ‘to become interested in anything interesting’. My father tried in vain to rid me of this ‘gad-fly’ approach to life. Alas for him, he never succeeded. Accordingly, you’ll find below a set of pages which cover wanderings along canals, visits to Historic Sites, photographs of butterflies & moths (mostly not very good!), how to mend a washing machine, and all sorts of other odds & ends.
But before we leave you to it, we must say that our Most Important Quest over the last four or five years has been an attempt to list and illustrate ALL the ‘78 rpm’ disc record labels that appeared in Great Britain between 1898 and about 1926. That is, the mechanical (so-called ‘acoustic’) era of sound recording. There are nearly 300 of them! I have worked on it, even if intermittently, with a resolve that has surprised even me. In fact, that project grew so important, that it has been given its very own website. So, if you have come here to do basic research on Early British Disc Records, we will detain you no longer, but provide you with the link:
There, we hope, you will find something of interest and of help to you.
As for the rest of this site, it’s still being re-arranged (as at 19th March 2015), but all the ramblings are still here; we just need to sort them out a bit.
A PHONO PRE-AMPLIFIER WITH 78 EQUALISATIONS.
23rd March 2015. Out latest project was to make a device to go between our pick-up cartridge and amplifier, so that we could apply the proper correction for 78 rpm records. Modern amplifiers are almost always set up just to play LPs, which makes 78s sound muffled.
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!)
N.B. The above link takes you to over seventy separate web-pages dealing with all sorts of various things. In fact, this section has grown far larger than the other links provided below. This is very much like the tail wagging the dog, and it will have to be sorted out somehow. I’m working on it. 8^)
CAN WE MAKE 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 this article. Click the picture to find out more.
VINTAGE RAILWAY LOCOMOTIVES, AND A FEW STATIONS.
We recently acquired a batch of old Railway postcards, which has made us go all Nostalgic for the era of Steam Locomotives!
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.
THE BRIGHTON REGENT ORCHESTRA.
The Brighton Regent Orchestra was formed to play in the new De Luxe Regent Cinema, which opened in 1921. It was conducted by Basil Cameron, a rising musical star at the time, destined to become a famous conductor. Happily, they made some records in 1923, most of which you can hear on this page.
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.
Four 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 Russia in 1904. Find out more, and hear the sides, on this page.
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 19th March 2015.