Lockdown Moments

While our research facility is closed, each week I will be sharing one of my favourite EMI stories from our bank of published and unpublished short films, told by some new and some familiar faces.

I hope you enjoy watching them as much as I had in selecting them.

Stay safe


Joanna Hughes – Curator & Manager of the EMI Archive Trust 

Wherever you are in the world, you can still enjoy exploring our collection here on our website, and follow us on social media or contact me at joanna@emiarchivetrust.org

Part 16

‘Nipper runs amoke’ – 1900

This Mutoscope was commissioned by the German branch of the Gramophone Company and sent to the London branch in October 1900. It comprises 700 photographs mounted onto cards and attached to a drum wheel when the drum is turned in a ‘What The Butler Saw’ type of machine, it gives the impression of movement.

The film shows one gentleman preparing a gramophone while another watches. These gentlemen are said to be Theodore Birnbaum, then Manager of the Berlin Sales Branch and Sinkler Darby, one of the Gram Co.’s recording experts based in Germany. Soon Nipper appears and starts to howl at the sound coming out of the gramophone. The men watch on in amusement and then lift up the dog – with hilarious results!

This table model mutoscope machine complete with the Nipper film were still at the company’s office in the 1960’s, but disappeared when the record factory moved to Uxbridge Road. Happily, the mutoscope drum – albeit without the machine – has since been returned to the EMI Archive Trust. This mutoscope was carefully digitised to film and first shown as part of the EMI Centenary Exhibition in 1997.

‘Nipper runs amok’ Mutoscope for The Gramophone Compnay – 1900
Pictured L to R: Sinkler Darby, Theodore Birnbaum, and a ‘Nipper’ look-alike

Part 15

Alan Blumlein Stereo Model

Alan Blumlein’s large scale model showing how one pin in a specially cut groove on a record could give out two signals simultaneously resulting in a more stereophonic sound. Notice how the reading on the two dials are different representing different elements of the sound field.

On 14 December 1931, Blumlein filed a patent for a two-channel audio system, or stereo as we call it now. It included a “shuffling” circuit to preserve directional sound, an orthogonal “Blumlein Pair” of velocity microphones, the recording of two orthogonal channels in a single groove, stereo disc-cutting head, and hybrid transformer to mix directional signals. Blumlein brought his equipment to Abbey Road Studios in 1934 and recorded the London Philharmonic Orchestra, where he was honoured in 2015 with a commemorative plaque by the IEEE for his work in advancing technological innovation and excellence for the benefit of humanity.

Alan Blumlein proof of concept wooden ‘Stereo Model’
part of EMI Archive Trust Collection

Part 14

EMI China 1903-1948

EMI has a long history of supporting artists and music in China. Pioneering sound engineer Fred Gaisberg, one of the most influential figures in the development of the recording industry, visited Shanghai in 1903 and made a series of ground breaking recordings of Chinese artists of the day for The Gramophone Company, the business that was the foundation of EMI. These recordings were sold both within China and overseas. EMI itself was formed in 1931 through a merger of The Gramophone Company and Columbia Graphophone. In China Columbia controlled two Chinese labels, The China Record Company and Pathé Orient Ltd and in 1933 these two companies were merged to form EMI China. This first incarnation of EMI China remained in operation until the 1950s.

Images of Gramophone Company and Pathé Catalogues 1903-1948
Original recordings by Fred Gaisberg recorded during his visit to Shanghai in 1903 on behalf of the Gramophone Company
Chinese Mandarin Band: By special invitation to the most famous performers. Performed by the whole troupe. “The General’s Commands”. Shanghai. Catalogue No. GC10278

All usage to be cleared by EMI Archive Trust

Pictured: Chinese sales caltalogues 1903 to 1948. Recording
Chinese Mandarin Band: By special invitation to the most famous performers.
Performed by the whole troupe. “The General’s Commands”. Catalogue No. GC10278 recorded Shanghai.and issued by The Gramophone Company, UK – 1903.

Part 13

The First Mini Disc

In 1924 The Gramophone Company was commissioned by the royal household on behalf of Princess Marie Louise to make a bespoke and a miniature gramophone for Queen Mary’s Doll’s House. The Doll House was to be filled with an extensive collection of fully functioning miniature pieces carefully selected to showcase the very finest and most modern goods of the time.

The Dolls house was a gift for Princess Marie Louise’s younger cousin (Queen Mary) who knew of the Queen’s love for miniature objects. This tiny record measured just 3.4cm across and played “Men of Harlech” by the Coldstream Guards. The mini shellac records were played on a miniature replica of the HMV Cabinet Grand Gramophone which measured just 10cm and took four months to make. The miniature gramophone and records were complete in every way, including the labels on the records, the sleeve for the disc and even the iconic trademark under the lid of the gramophone.

Due to popular demand The Gramophone Company made replicas of “God Save The King” by Peter Dawson to sell to the public.

This rare recording is one of six preserved by the www.emiarchivetrust.

The 78 record pictured (top) was made specially for the Queen’s Doll’s House. It measures just 3.4cm across and plays ‘”Men of Harlech”’. 

Part 12

Trevor Lloyd Williams (1859-1946) – ‘The money behind the music

Williams was born to a wealthy Welsh land-owning family and trained as a lawyer. In 1897 American entrepreneur William Barry Owen approached him with his new business proposal ‘The Gramophone’ created by U.S. based inventor Emile Berliner.

By February 23rd 1898 Williams was hooked, registering a new venture with Owens called The Gramophone Company. Williams retained overall control and Owen acted as general manager. He knew that the American repertoire Berliner had recorded and issued would not be big sellers in the Victorian salons, so recording specific musicians that would be to the taste of Victorian Britain was essential.

“Williams put his foot down and insisted on selecting his own repertoire”-William Barry Owen

The Company set up its offices at 31 Maiden Lane, just off the Strand. It was a shabby old building, part of which served as a make-do hotel. However, it was close to many of London’s theatres and music halls, where London’s brightest and best singers could be found easily. At the time Williams and Owen had no way of conducting the recording sessions for themselves, however, Berliner was not prepared to share the details of his record-making process with the two businessmen. Instead, Berliner sent his trusted young sound engineer, Fred Gaisberg, to London to start making recordings for the European market.

But it wasn’t all work and no play for our lawyer, listen here to Trevor Williams party piece of farmyard animal sounds ‘Morning on The Farm’ recorded by The Gramophone Company first studio, The Cockburn Hotel, Maiden Lane, London, March 1899.

Pictured Trevor Lloyd Williams
Recording by Mr Williams ‘Morning on a farm, Imitations’ E9292
for The Gramophone Company, 31 Maiden Lane Studio
Recorded by Fred Gaisberg March 1899
Part of the EMI Archive Trust Collection

Part 11

This week we’d like to give big thanks to top music producer and manager Tris Penna for contributing this great memory about his time at EMI to our collection.

Tris worked for EMI for 10 years (1987 – 1997) as a producer, A&R and manager. In this film, he shares a short memory of his time at Abbey Road studios and the people he worked with.

Main Image, left to right: Martin Green, Tris Penna, Chris Blair,
Paddy Whitaker, Abbey Road mastering suite,
Courtesy of Tris Penna
Filmed by EMI Archive Trust 2014

What I’ve got here to remind myself of the brilliant time I had at EMI in the eighties and nineties is a picture of four people. They are; the most important of course is me here in middle, in about 1994 I think, and this is a lovely chap here called Christ Blair, who was always my preferred mastering engineer.

He was a real legend at Abbey Road because, in one of his first sessions, you see he joined Abbey Road as a teenager, and one of his first sessions was to work on the Beatles. He went into the session and cacked himself so much, thought “I cannot do this! I want to work in a recording studio, but I don’t want to be an engineer on live sessions, I want to work in music.” So he became a mastering engineer and so he mastered a lot of my favourite albums of all time.

And in 1994 me here and a guy called Martin Green who is a big DJ and a guy called Paddy Whitaker. Martin used to run a club called ‘Smashing’ and they used to play insane sort of records that were on the Studio Two label, which was EMI’s middle of the road sort of label that kind of had sort of Beatles with beats, middle of the road stuff and we decided to do an album called the Sound Gallery. We put it together for three and six pence, revived the studio 2 label for it, put it out and it sold over 100 000 copies in the UK alone that year. It kick-started the whole of the easy-listening revival as it then was, so really special memories.

Chris, God rest his soul, died a few years ago and was a brilliant bloke. This is in his mastering suite at Abbey Road, you know the most important, famous recording studio in the world. So that’s a little memory of my time at EMI in the nineties.

Photos courtesy of Tris Penna in order of appearance
Left to right: John Barrowman, Tris Penna, Janet Glass and Penny Ganz
Manchester Square balcony, London
Left to right Andrew Pryor, John Barrowman, Janet Glass, Tris Penna and Penny Ganz
Manchester Square boardroom, London

Part 10

Malcolm Addey on recording Cliff Richard’s “Move It!”

In the Spring of 2015, I had the great pleasure to chat with Abbey Road legend, producer and engineer Malcolm Addey. In this short video he shares a memory of how somehow opera got involved in the making of the hit record, “Move It!”, generally accepted as the first “all-British” rock’n’roll record.

Malcolm was hired in March 1958 as a trainee/assistant engineer and after an unprecedented short three months was promoted and invited to join the renowned “pop” recording team of Peter Bown and Stuart Eltham. By July he had already recorded Cliff Richard’s “Move It!” soon to be followed by many hits by Cliff, The Shadows, Helen Shapiro, Adam Faith, Johnny Kidd and many more. Malcolm experimented with and pioneered the use of such things as liberal amounts of equalisation and compression in addition to placing microphones much closer to instruments and vocalists than was considered prudent by his contemporaries. As a result his records tended to be louder, more “present” and attention-getting.

Main image – Malcolm Addey – Copyright: The Malcolm Addey Collection

Malcolm currently resides in New York City, where he continues his work recording and mastering mostly Jazz and Classical music in addition to re-mastering historic re-issue CD sets. He also enjoys recording live concerts for radio broadcast networks.

Photos: Michael Grafton Green – Courtesy of The EMI Archive Trust
About: Michael Grafton Green was Abbey Road’s top pop department cutting engineer of the late ’50s to mid-60s. This image is exactly as his room was when “Move It!” was recorded.

Part 9

It’s a dog’s life! BBC Bargain Hunts Eric Knowles learns about the life of one of the most famous pets in the world with EMI Archive Trust very own curator.

Here for the full clip https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p07m1p8z

Pictured: Presenter Eric Knowles and Joanna Hughes – curator for EMI Archive Trust. July 2019

Part 8

These three early experimental films from 1935, were produced by prolific engineer and innovator Alan Dower Blumlein, the inventor of stereo. While working at EMI Blumlein would develop many ground-breaking and hugely influential technologies including electrical television and airborne radar as well as stereo.

Alan Dower Blumlein – The Inventor of Stereo (1903-1942)
EMI experimental stereo films part of EMI Archive Trust Collection

Part 7

This week Tony Locantro talks to us about his collaboration with the EMI Archive Trust & EMI for the compilation ‘Scott’s Music Box’. Here he describes his method to curate a playlist of recordings played, and recording likely to have been played on Captains Scott’s fateful expedition to the South Pole, 1910-1913.

All original record discs part of the EMI Archive Trust collection, transferred by Abbey Road Studios for EMI.

Scott’s Music Box is available to stream on Amazon

Pictured: Tony Locantro interview for ‘Memories of EMI’ history project.
Recorded on location by EMI Archive Trust – 2014

Part 6

This week Nigel Bewley, a specialist sound engineer, regales us with his hilarious anecdote on a field recording made at the EMI record pressing factory in 1993.

Pictured: Nigel Bewley interview for ‘Memories of EMI’ history project.
Recorded by EMI Archive Trust, filmed on location at The Britsih Library – 2014

Part 5

In 2015 the EMI Archive Trust was privileged to host Isambard Brunel’s descendant, Isambard Thomas and Simon Blumlein, son of Alan Dower Blumlein the inventor of stereo. In this short film, Isambard talks to Simon about their respective ancestors’ historical link to Great Western Railways, EMI and Hayes Middlesex.


With thanks to Isambard Thomas and Simon Blumlein (pictured)
Film courtesy of Great Western Railways.
Film on location at the EMI Group Archive Trust, Hayes, Middlesex – November 2015

Part 4

Roy started as an apprentice for EMI during the swinging 60s, working his way up to Director of Manufacturing and Studios, including Abbey Road which he describes as the best job in the world!!

If you’re interested in the history of pop, then this is the one to watch!!

Roy Matthews interview for BBC’s People’s History of Pop,
Filmed on location at The Old Vinyl Factory, Hayes, 3rd February 2016.
Copyright: EMI Archive Trust, BBC and production company 7.

Part 3

Harry & Stan met while working as Pressmen for the EMI Pressing Plant in Hayes Middlesex – 1950s to 1990s. Here they talk about the changes they witnessed, from the early days of back-breaking hand-pressed records to full machine automation.

Harry Fox & Stan Paul interview for BBC’s People’s History of Pop,
Filmed on location at The Old Vinyl Factory, Hayes, 3rd February 2016.
Copyright: EMI Archive Trust, BBC and production company 7.

Part 2

Best friends Aileen & Kim met while working for EMI in the mid-1970s. Here they talk about work, DJaying, and meeting their idols Cockney Rebel Steve Harley and Hot Chocolate’s Errol Brown….plus much, much more!!

Aileen Denton nee Aileen McAdam & Kim Banker née Baker, 3rd February 2016. Interview for BBC’s People’s History of Pop,
filmed on location at The Old Vinyl Factory, Hayes, 3rd February 2016.
Copyright: EMI Archive Trust, BBC and production company 7.

Part 1

Patrick shares his memories on working for EMI in 1959, his love of Connie Francis, and a chance encounter in a lift that would change his life forever.

Patrick Devoy interview for BBC’s People’s History of Pop,
filmed on location at The Old Vinyl Factory, Hayes, 3rd February 2016.
Copyright: EMI Archive Trust, BBC and production company 7.

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