Last month, I indulged in some idle speculation about who might have originally bought some 78s that I have.
This month I have a curiosity, and am wondering who on earth had it made.
Well, the answer is on the label, one Uncle Arthur, though who he was is lost in the mists of time. This is a private recording, interesting because although I have seen numerous private issues from HMV, I have not seen one by Columbia.
The recording itself is of no intrinsic interest, but I would love to know who Arthur was? My guess is that he might have been an employee of the company, to have obtained this recording of himself with his niece.
The disc itself has no evident matrix marks, and the reverse is the familiar Magic Notes logo that appears on single sided Columbia records
The SONGS of BILLY WILLIAMS (1878-1915)
Why Can't We Have the Sea in London? One of the best songs produced by the collaboration of Fred Godfrey and Billy.
There were the following recordings:
Jumbo (c October 1911)
Columbia (c November 1911)
Homophon (c Nov 1911)
Zonophone (c Nov 1911)
Beka (c Feb 1912)
Pathe (c Feb 1912)
Favorite (c Mar 1912)
We will review each recording in chronolgical order, with the exception of the Homophon which wasn't reissued posthumously unlike so many on this label and which we don't have, and the Amberol Cylinder which we also haven't heard.
JUMBO- "I wish they'd had the seaside in London, don't you?" Billy begins in this entertaining fantasy about what London would be like if the sea invaded the metropolis. At the end his comments are in this vein- "Fancy the seashore outside the Tav eh? When you've finished your turn, you could come outside and have a bathe and then go back and have a drink and talk to the girls, the little devils. I tell you, I'm a gay old sport at the seaside. You ought to have seen me down there last season, when I was down at Brighton- no telling!...(?)... sit on the sands holding hands. We were throwing pebbles about and (laugh) I don't know mind (?). I'll tell you later on. Good bye."
Records from Hell
- John Bull
COLUMBIA- "Why Can't We Have the Sea in London, that's what I want to know," is his opening line. At the end he elaborates on the fantasy of the 'Tav' joke, which suggests this is a slightly later recording- "I wish we could have the seaside there eh? Fancy coming out of the Tav you know, and diving in the sea and going back in the Tav having a drink you know, and then swimming down Bond Street and round Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road and fancy all the policemen swimming there too you know, standing at the corner upholding the traffic and upsaying (?) Where Are You Going? You say I'm Just Going In For a Bathe, and you say Liar and I say I Believe you and (laugh) a lot of rot anyway isn't it? Never mind, it might happen one of these days. I shall be first there. You'll see me with a little bathing machine, a little bathing dress on!" Is this an amazing prediction of Global Warming??
ZONOPHONE- The start- "I wish they had the seaside in London mother, don't you?" Then to conclude he's briefer- "That's a pretty note isn't it? If they had the seaside in London you could come out of the Tav and walk into the water and have a bathe and go back and see the show." Perhaps time on this recording was short.
BEKA - the opening is like the Zono, but longer- "I wish they had the seaside in London mother, don't you? I bet your life I do, come on me lads." During verses he sings a snatch of I Do Like to be Beside the Seaside. To finish he remarks- "Fancy having the seaside outside of the Tav you know, you go in and see the show and come out and have a bathe and then go in again and see the girls, the jolly little devils, and off you go to Brighton and sit on the beach and throw pebbles at each other and a lot of you know tommy rot and (laugh). My word it's a great life, you know, our business. My god (?) it is, goodbye." A similar story to the Jumbo one, without a reference to "last season" perhaps as this was longer ago.
PATHE- Often Pathes have the most risque lines, but not this time! He commences- "I wish they'd had the seaside in London mother, don't you? Come on boys..." A different end is as follows- "I was singing about that song Let's All Go Down the Strand. I was down at Brighton last season, I was throwing pebbles at the girls and you know...(laugh)" Had he forgotten his Tav joke, or was time limited?
FAVORITE- "I wish they'd had the seaside in London mother, don't you? Come on me lads," is Billy's familiar opening line. The punchline at the end is a variation on the Tav joke- "Fancy coming out of the Tav at night time, walking out into Piccadilly and having a bathe and go back into the Tav and have a drink and see all the girls, the pretty little dears. I love them, curse them. All right, goodnight all. Thank you"
My very earliest internet mags featured something on this pre World War One label that was sold by door-to-door salesmen. A free gramophone in exchange for the purchase of just one John Bull record night have seemed an attractive proposition, but you had to buy one each week (for nearly a year!!).
No wonder people have dubbed these the Records from Hell! But they are still that today, as a discography of John Bull is never likely to be utterly complete. Why? Well the company had an awful habit of reissuing titles with recordings from different companies. Initially they had an arrangement with the Beka company, whose recordings were used on John Bull, the face numbers being the same as for Beka. However Favorite company records were later issued with catalogue numbers commencing in a series serial number B1 upwards. Pressings were also made from Dacapo records and from the Bel Canto company, as well as from another source. possibly their own even! Catalogues were non existent, as far as I am aware, and records were never advertised in the press, except for one special issue which was also the only John Bull record 'sold,' as opposed to being bought under the weekly contract basis. It was a celebration of the 1911 coronation with a picture on the label of King George V and Queen Mary.
Here as an example, are the details of H21, which had at least these three separate issues-
H21 Stanley Kirkby - Beautiful Garden of Roses (coupled with)
H22 Robert Carr - I wonder if you miss me Sometimes (H21 and H22 scratched under label in wax) "Recorded in London, Reproduced in Prussia"
H21 Stanley Kirkby - Beautiful Garden of Roses (coupled with)
H21b Harry Trevor - Do you miss me in the dear old Homeland (matrix5132) "Recorded in London, Reproduced in Prussia"
H21 Harry Thornton - Beautiful Garden of Roses (coupled with)
H22 Harry Thornton - Jack Briton. (NO MATRICES VISIBLE) "British Manufacture Throughout"
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