The Sound Of The Hound
Interview with Joe Boyd
Season 1, Ep. 9
The first series of Sound of the Hound wraps up with something a bit different: an interview with legendary Pink Floyd and Nick Drake producer Joe Boyd. Just like Fred, Joe is an American who moved to London in his twenties to establish an overseas office for a record company. And just like Fred, he became a recording pioneer. Immersing himself in London life, Joe founded the famous UFO club in the 1960s. He talks about the music that shaped him, tells us about the recording industry in the 1960s, gives an overview of a career that has seen him working with everyone from The Incredible String Band to REM, and shares his thoughts on modern recording technology. This episode is effectively the history of recorded sound and production techniques in a one hour-long programme. We’re possibly a bit biased, but it’s an essential listen for music fans!
James Hall on The Industry of Human Happiness
Season 1, Ep. 8
Dave interviews James about his novel on the early days of recorded sound, The Industry of Human Happiness. James tells how he chanced upon the adventures of Fred Gaisberg and Sinkler Darby in the sleeve notes of a CD that he bought outside a concert, and how they inspired him to write a fictional account of those heady days of format wars, skulduggery and breath-taking invention. James also talks about his campaign to have a commemorative plaque erected on the Maiden Lane building where the industry started (a plaque that was unveiled by Queen drummer Roger Taylor in December 2019).
The Caruso breakthrough
Season 1, Ep. 7
It’s the spring of 1902. Italian tenor Enrico Caruso is due to sing in Covent Garden later in the year, and Fred and Will are still in Milan desperate to record him. Their plan – in what predates the now-ubiquitous music industry ‘360’ marketing deal by over 100 years – is to print the master discs onto shellac and release the records in London in time for Caruso’s Opera House appearance, thereby capitalising on his huge popularity. Fred wants to pay him £100 for ten records, but his bosses in London balk at the cost. But Fred does it anyway. It’s a huge gamble. But Fred’s risk is vindicated: his Caruso recordings kick-start the music industry in a way he could only have dreamed of. Overnight, the public are hooked. Finally, the record industry comes alive.
The last castrato
Season 1, Ep. 6
Fred and his brother William travel to Milan in 1902 with the aim of convincing opera superstar Enrico Caruso to record for them. However Caruso is busy and non-committal, so the men seek out other forms of sound to record while they wait for an answer. Aiming high, they approach the Pope to ask if he’d be up for recording something (as you would). The pontiff declines but invites them to record the Sistine Chapel Choir in the Vatican instead. And so, by lucky happenstance and perhaps unwittingly, the brothers find themselves capturing the extraordinary voice of Alessandro Moreschi, one of the last castratos ever to sing before a ban on the practice comes into force…
Russian revolutions (part two)
Season 1, Ep. 5
After the mixed success of the recording trip to Russia in 1900, it is a curious decision of Fred’s to return to the country the following year. But back he goes – twice – with a point to prove. Still waiting for that elusive breakthrough, The Gramophone Company has diversified into typewriters and Fred’s not happy. He needs good music, fast. He records opera stars and fine musicians before making one of the more curious decisions of his career. Finding himself dumped by letter by his London-based girlfriend, Fred heads inland to record music from the Russian steppes. He becomes obsessed with Tatar music, a decision that he comes to rue once he hears what the genre actually has to offer.
Russian revolutions (part one)
Season 1, Ep. 4
The first of two episodes following Fred on recording expeditions to Russia. In early 1900, with their bosses dissatisfied with what they’ve recorded to date, Fred and his colleague Sinker Darby are under pressure to find fascinating sounds. Their agents in St Petersburg, charged with finding singers and musicians, are useless and corrupt so Fred and Sinkler go it alone. They scour the city’s streets and theatres by sleigh, recording what they can. But their new-fangled gramophone invention piques the interest of the court of Tsar Nicholas II, and the men are summoned to his palace. Will they succeed in capturing the voice of the most famous man in Russia? And will they survive an equipment-related disaster that strikes on their way home?
The first propaganda record
Season 1, Ep. 3
In the early days of recorded sound, no one can quite figure out the purpose of gramophones. Are they serious bits of kit for replicating music or are they toys? Should gramophone discs play music or comedy or something else entirely? One man trying to work out this conundrum is an American actor called Russell Hunting. An eccentric hustler, Hunting invents an Irish comedy character called Michael Casey. He also puts out a series of lewd and obscene records populated by characters telling titillating stories, which become big in coin-slot booths in amusement arcades. But Hunting’s most meaningful contribution to the history of recorded sound comes when he travels to London in 1899 and makes a ‘descriptive record’ about the Boer War with Fred. The record, called The Departure of the Troopship, is a serious mini-drama and ranks as the first piece of recorded propaganda which, according to reports, “brought tears to the eyes of thousands”. The Departure of the Troopship suggests that despite Hunting’s more outrageous leanings he’s something of an accidental innovator.
Syria Lamonte, the world’s first female recording star
Season 1, Ep. 2
Just weeks after arriving in London, Fred makes the world’s first disc recording of a female singer outside of America. The lady’s name is Syria Lamonte and, according to Fred, she’s a barmaid in Rule’s restaurant, next to his studio on Maiden Lane. Lamonte – real name Sarah Cohen – is an Australian who arrived in London from Sydney in 1896. Her recordings, which include songs such as Comin’ Through The Rye, accompanied by a tinkling piano, are groundbreaking. But was Lamonte really the struggling waitress that Fred claims? Hall and Holley discover that Lamonte’s history is not quite as Fred described.
Fred Gaisberg arrives in London
Season 1, Ep. 1
Summer 1898. Fred Gaisberg arrives in London to set up The Gramophone Company at the behest of his American boss Emile Berliner, who invented the flat-disc gramophone. Before Berliner, music only lasted for as long as the notes hung in the air. Now, Fred is under orders to commit as many artists as possible to disc. The recording technology is rudimentary to say the least, but 25-year-old Fred has big dreams. Having sailed from New York to Liverpool with £10 in his pocket, a bicycle and an instruction manual, Fred travels to a sweltering and vice-ridden Covent Garden to open Europe’s first recording studio at 31 Maiden Lane. The delights and temptations of the buzzing city – and the challenges of starting an industry from scratch – soon become all too clear.