The Sound Of The Hound

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#10 Fred's plaque

Season 2, Ep. 1

Fred’s back! And he’s got a plaque! The first episode of Series Two of The Sound of the Hound covers the unveiling of a commemorative plaque on the wall of Europe’s first recording studio, opened by Fred Gaisberg in Covent Garden in 1898. The unveiling of the plaque, which is part of the Westminster Council Green Plaque scheme, followed a campaign by Sound of the Hound co-presenter James Hall.


This opening episode was recorded live at the unveiling ceremony in the building at 31 Maiden Lane on 4 December 2019. We hear an introduction by Caryn Tomlinson, the chair of the EMI Archive Trust, who backed the campaign, and a speech by James before legendary drummer Roger Taylor says a few words and pulls the chord to unveil the plaque. That’s right. Rock royalty. The previous Westminster Council commemorative plaque was unveiled on the old GCHQ building by the Queen. We went one better and got a member of Queen.


The words on the plaque are simple: “In August 1898 Fred Gaisberg and The Gramophone Company opened Europe’s first disc recording studio on this site.” But the stories in the building behind it are legion, as we hope we’re showing in this podcast series. The episode continues with co-presenter Dave Holley interviewing attendees of the ceremony with his roving microphone. Dave talks to members of the City of London Phonograph and Gramophone Society, who kindly set up a demonstration of old gramophone machines for guests. It’s the Antiques Roadshow meets Top of the Pops, and it’s fascinating stuff. Also present is animator Jim Le Fevre, who brought along a special Fred Gaisberg edition of his Phonotrope invention, designed specifically for the day. We’re thrilled that Fred’s achievement is now publicly acknowledged for all to see. We’re glad he’s hanging around.



More Episodes

7/20/2021

#19 Giles Martin

Season 2, Ep. 10
This series of The Sound of the Hound ends with an interview with Giles Martin, the Grammy-winning record producer and son of Beatles producer Sir George. With this episode it feels as though we’ve come full circle: Giles was there at the plaque unveiling that we featured in the first episode of the series. And his family has a direct connection to that Maiden Lane studio where it all began. Dave and James talk to Giles about his career to date, from the early days working with Britpop bands to his big breakthrough creating the music for the Beatles-themed Love show in Las Vegas (his inspired mash-up of Within You Without You and Tomorrow Never Knows sounds like The Chemical Brothers). They talk about how production techniques have changed over time and how technology continues to alter the way music is consumed and understood. The interview takes place in Giles’s state-of-the-art studio (and we’re talking incredible) and so it’s hard not to make comparisons between today’s recording kit and the cumbersome acoustic gear that Fred and his buddies lugged around the world just over 100 years ago. Which takes us to the Martin family link to The Gramophone Company and EMI, as it was later known. Talk about six degrees of separation. If it wasn’t for Fred, then the Maiden Lane studio wouldn’t have got off the ground. If it hadn’t got off the ground, then the City Road studio wouldn’t have followed, and neither would Abbey Road, which was opened in 1931. Without Abbey Road, Giles’s dad George wouldn’t have got a job out of the Guildhall School of Music, and without his father being in Abbey Road there probably wouldn’t have been The Beatles. So you can trace a direct line from the exploits of Fred to the greatest and most important group of all time. Without one, there wouldn’t have been the other. James, Dave and Giles talk a lot about The Beatles, inevitably. Not only about the 50th anniversary editions of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The White Album and Abbey Road that Giles remixed, but about how John, Paul, George and Ringo clicked. They talk about Beatles ‘what ifs…’ and try to get to the bottom of the mystery of the box of instruments that – we think – directly links Fred to Yellow Submarine. There’s so much more. Giles talks about working on the Rocketman film, on which he was music director. We discover just how you teach someone like Taron Egerton to sound like Elton John. We hear about The Rolling Stones. Giles recently remixed The Stones’ Goats Head Soup album: how did their approach to recording differ to the Fab Four’s? But, most memorably, Giles talks movingly about his father, his work and his great legacy. We hope you agree that this episode is a fitting end to the second series of The Sound of the Hound. If you’ve enjoyed it, please spread the word. See you soon.
7/6/2021

#18 Adelina Patti

Season 2, Ep. 9
Bonkers, basically. The story of opera singer Adelina Patti is one of the most eye-popping of all the tales we explore in this series. The saga starts in Madrid, where Patti was born in 1843, before it takes us to Clapham in South London, moves around the world and ends in a haunted castle in Wales. As well as being in possession of a stunning voice, Patti made an absolute fortune, was friends with Tchaikovsky, was a billiard champion, owned one of the world’s first ice-making machines, and built a theatre in her back garden decorated with images of herself and kitted out with a mechanical auditorium floor. She once threw a party where 450 bottles of Champagne were drunk. Who ever said that opera was boring? If it weren’t for the pandemic, Dave and James were planning to record this episode on location at Patti’s former pile in Wales. Instead, they’re relying on documents and diaries – and their brilliant regular guest Michael Volpe – to tell the story of Patti’s madcap 63-year career. A child prodigy, Patti remains one of the legends of opera. She made her professional debut in 1859 in New York when she was 16, before being invited to sing at Covent Garden two years later. She was a smash so she… bought a house in Clapham. She used it as a base to conquer Europe. Soon she was touring the world, singing for Presidents and royalty. So in demand was Patti, it is said, that she could demand to be paid $5,000 a night IN GOLD in advance. That’s the equivalent of $100,000 a night in today’s money. We don’t want to spoil the story but we can’t wait for you to hear this episode. Patti left her recording until the end of her career, when Fred and colleagues went to her Welsh castle with their gear to capture her voice. Their recollections of what went on there are recounted here in their incredible detail. Although her voice was not in its prime due to her age, the Patti recordings are things of beauty. You can almost hear the stories, and the scars and bumps of a life well lived, in the songs she committed to the gramophone. We hope you enjoy it all.
6/29/2021

#17 Nellie Melba

Season 2, Ep. 8
Melba toast. Peach Melba. Melba sauce. Why are we listing foodstuffs (and sounding a bit like Alan Partridge in the process)? Because they are all named after the subject of this episode of The Sound of the Hound, Nellie Melba. The soprano was one of the most famous singers of the era – and it was Fred who captured her voice for us to enjoy over 100 years later. Melba was born in Victoria, Australia, in 1861 and moved to Europe in the mid-1880s in search of a singing career. Nothing really happened in London so she went to Paris and found success there. Curious, romantic and demanding, Melba soon became a household name in opera houses around the world. Although she recorded some phonograph cylinders in New York in 1895, she hated them (a “scratching, screeching” noise, “never again,” she declared). It fell to Fred, his brother Will and their associate Landon Ronald to change her mind. “Melba was more than a prima donna. She was in the diva class, and well she knew it,” Fred wrote. But in early 1904, they captured her voice. The session was not without its problems. The biggest one was that she demanded the recording took place in her Great Cumberland Place flat in London – complete with a full orchestra. She was “dominant” and “harsh” and, despite all the work, refused to let The Gramophone Company release the recordings. It took all of Fred’s guile to persuade her to finally release them. Once out, they sold like hot cakes, increasing her fame. Her recording sessions then became events in themselves. Journalists were invited, and Melba even had her own coloured label on her discs. Indeed, the initially reluctant singer lapped it all up, becoming something of a recording pioneer; she did a live radio broadcast and her last appearance at Covent Garden in 1926 was recorded by His Master’s Voice and broadcast. She became a Dame. So famous was she that another Dame, Kiri Te Kanawa, played her in Downton Abbey. Michael Volpe joins us to discuss this memorable singer, her unique voice and her incredible legacy.