The Sound Of The Hound

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#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.

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.
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.
6/22/2021

#16 William Barry Owen

Season 2, Ep. 7
With these episodes focusing on the life and work of the mighty Fred Gaisberg, we may have given the impression that he was his own boss. That would be wrong. Working for The Gramophone Company in London, Fred was answerable to a man called William Barry Owen. In this episode we tell Owen’s story. It was his business acumen and vision that saw The Gramophone Company go from a pipe dream to a reality. We look at the Company through the prism of this fascinating man’s stewardship.Despite his Welsh-sounding name, William Barry was actually from Massachusetts. A lawyer, an opportunist and a gambler, he sailed for London in 1897 to raise investment funds for the European arm of The Gramophone Company on behalf of Emile Berliner. He was, in effect, rolling the pitch for the music industry’s arrival on this side of the world. When he arrived in London, William Barry hired one of the most opulent rooms at the Hotel Cecil on the Strand for business meetings, giving the impression that he meant business. It worked. Within a matter of weeks he had assembled a small syndicate of likely investors, chief among them being a London solicitor called Trevor Williams. The group acquired the European rights to Berliner’s gramophone but, in a move that would prove decisive for the future of recorded music, the investors forced William Barry to commit to a strategy of recording European musicians rather than simply import records from America, which was what he was proposing. It was this change in tack that led to the arrival in London from the States of a certain Mr Fred Gaisberg. As Fred was weaving his sonic magic in Maiden Lane, William Barry (Managing Director) and Trevor Williams (Chairman) took care of business. William Barry didn’t always get things right. When the gramophone initially failed to take off, he diversified the company into typewriters, a move that didn’t work. And by the time that the company had moved into larger premises on City Road in 1902, it had already grown too big for the building. But in William Barry, we have one of the original and most often overlooked recording pioneers. So who was this man? What made him tick? And what did he do after he left the company in 1906? Dave and James find out, and play some cracking tunes along the way.