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Those long uneven lines
Standing as patiently
As if they were stretched outside
The Oval or Villa Park,
The crowns of hats, the sun
On moustached archaic faces
Grinning as if it were all
An August Bank Holiday lark;

And the shut shops, the bleached
Established names on the sunblinds,
The farthings and sovereigns,
And dark-clothed children at play
Called after kings and queens,
The tin advertisements
For cocoa and twist, and the pubs
Wide open all day;

And the countryside not caring:
The place-names all hazed over
With flowering grasses, and fields
Shadowing Domesday lines
Under wheat’s restless silence;
The differently-dressed servants
With tiny rooms in huge houses,
The dust behind limousines;

Never such innocence,
Never before or since,
As changed itself to past
Without a word – the men
Leaving the gardens tidy,
The thousands of marriages,
Lasting a little while longer:
Never such innocence again.

Philip Larkin – MCMXIV (1964)

When I make these mixes I am dealing with original sources, but with a very restricted selection, as representation was at this time anathema to the recording industry. This has been an advantage, on the whole, so far – the surviving audio has led me to make soundscapes of these years which seem to emerge organically, and which need very little agonising over inclusion criteria. If a year doesn’t sound the way I expected, then good! The new picture is always more rounded and interesting than the preconception (I would make no claims at all about it being more ‘accurate’ or ‘authentic’ – at least not so far.)

But then, here is 1914, and all of this is swept away. The horrors seen in this year, and in the next four, dominate any imagination of the early part of the 20th century. What does the slow evolution of ragtime and vaudeville have when put up against humanity deciding to destroy itself in ways so shocking that they were beyond all prior imagining?

This isn’t to say that there wasn’t a response. Germany, France and Russia understandably did not apparently have the time to record topical music, and for the USA it was still a foreign entanglement in a far-away place, but Britain did at least focus some of its energies onto responding to this existential threat, albeit in the buttoned-up-but-jolly spirit which was thought of as the best possible stance in the face of the horrors of the modern world.

‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary’ was written two years before the outbreak of war, but its theme of separation from loved ones in a foreign land alongside its simple march-ready rhythm made it an easy fit for soldiers heading towards the front. On the 18th of August the Connaught Rangers, an Irish regiment, were heard singing the song as they marched, and a dispatch along these lines in the Daily Mail led to it being picked up by other British Army units, as the war’s first theme song. How much input your average fighting Tommy had into this phenomenon is questionable – the keeping up of spirits is primarily something for the people left at home.

Another song requisitioned for the war effort is “Sister Susie’s Sewing Shirts for Soldiers” – a tongue twister intended to be repeated at increasing speeds by the inebriated, with humorous results. The song allows for a modicum of cynical levity such as “when we say her stitching will set all the soldiers itching / She says our soldiers fight best when their back’s against the wall.” – this is in contrast to straight-laced propaganda pieces like “Belgium Put the Kibosh on the Kaiser” which save their fire for jingoistic mockery of the enemy, and vaudeville sketches which are concerned only with painting the German leadership as arrogant buffoons.

I have restricted the war to the first 20 minutes of this mix – the rest takes place outside Europe, in the parts of the world so far not affected enough to put on hold their hot dance ragtime, foxtrots, tangos and other lighthearted entertainments. Personally, I find this a more enjoyable listen (and I’m fairly sure you’ll feel the same) but a slightly guilty one. I could have front-loaded the hot ragtime, but that would have been hiding what little we have to represent the history of the year. It’s a bit messy, and a bit of a compromise, but perhaps that’s what it needs to be.


0:00:25 Pale K. Lua – The Rosary
0:03:17 General Nelson A. Miles – Visit of General Nelson A. Miles
0:03:23 Edison Concert Band – Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 (Part 1)
0:03:51 Kaiser Wilhelm II – Aufruf an Die Deutschen
0:04:13 Billy Murray & American Quartet – It’s a Long Long Way to Tipperary
0:05:48 Stanley Kirkby – It’s a Long Long Way to Tipperary
0:06:42 Princes Orchestra – Its a Long Long Way to Tipperary
0:07:59 Penrose and Whitlock – Potsdam (Part 1)
0:08:21 Billy Murray – Sister Susie’s Sewing Shirts for Soldiers
0:10:20 Jack Charman – Sister Susie’s Sewing Shirts
0:11:48 Penrose and Whitlock – Potsdam (Part 2)
0:12:33 Jack Sheridan – Belgium Put the Kibosh on the Kaiser
0:14:47 Jolly Jesters – The Battle That Wasn’t
0:15:27 Eugene Jaudas National Promenade Band – Meadowbrook Rag
0:17:18 Josephus Daniels – Sec. of Navy Daniels. Edison Lab
0:17:35 Folk and Liturgical Choir of Tbilisi – Chona
0:18:30 Arvid Paulson – Karolinas Tråkigheter
0:18:47 Tuskegee Institute Singers – Live A-Humble
0:20:08 Europe’s Society Orchestra – Castle Walk
0:22:34 Mrs. Josephus Daniels – Mrs. Jos. Daniels. Edison Lab (Part 1)
0:22:43 Van Eps Banjo Orchestra – Some Baby
0:25:40 Mrs. Josephus Daniels – Mrs. Jos. Daniels. Edison Lab (Part 2)
0:26:02 United States Marine Band – Crazy Bone Rag
0:28:33 National Promenade Band – Lu Lu
0:30:04 Victor Military Band – Music Box Rag
0:31:27 Six Brown Brothers – That Moanin’ Saxophone Rag
0:33:36 Europe’s Society Orchestra – Castle House Rag
0:36:39 Felix Arndt – From Soup to Nuts
0:38:57 Thomas A. Watson, Assistant to Alexander Graham Bell – the Birth of the Telephone
0:39:05 George Formby Snr – John Willie’s Ragtime Band
0:41:49 Ada Jones and Len Spencer – Si Perkins’ Barn Dance
0:42:11 Ada Jones & Peerless Quartet – Pussy Cat Rag
0:44:06 Fred Duprez – Happy Tho’ Married
0:45:14 Billy Murray – Ragtime Temple Bells
0:46:45 Olly Oakley & Alfred Cammeyer – Chinese Patrol
0:48:21 Pietro Deiro – Hungarian Rag
0:49:41 Aristide Bruant – Aupres De Ma Blonde
0:51:42 Van Eps Banjo Orchestra – Sans Souci
0:52:43 Chiquinha Gonzaga – Sultana
0:54:58 Joan Sawyer’s Persian Garden Orchestra – Bregeiro
0:56:39 Jules Sims – Bagai Sala Que Pochery Moin
0:59:05 Glacier Park Indians – White Dog Song
1:00:14 Geoffrey O’Hara – Navajo Indian Songs (With Drums)
1:00:53 Kitty Berger – Romance From Leclair
1:02:41 Henry Heidelberg & Eugene C Rose Piccolo Duet – Will O’ the Wisp
1:04:14 Cal Stewart – Moving Day at Pumpkin Centre
1:04:41 Helen Clark and Billy Murray – Mrs. Sippi, You’re a Grand Old Lady
1:06:21 Charles Daab – Fairest Rose
1:08:30 Dr. Clarence Penny – Indianola Patrol
1:10:47 Harry Houdini – Description of Stunt
1:11:24 Edison Concert Band – Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 (Part 2)
1:12:14 Enrico Caruso – Amor Mio (Ricciardi)
1:15:38 Andrew Carnegie – Speech
1:15:55 Charles G Widdén – Sockerdricka (Swedish Song)
1:16:53 Harry E. Humphrey – Night Before Christmas
1:17:00 Bert Williams – You Can’t Get Away From It
1:18:24 Rev. Madison Clinton Peters and the Edison Mixed Quartet – Rev. 21- 21 to 25;the Gate Ajar for Me
1:20:14 Afro-American Folk Song Singers – The Rain Song
1:23:18 George Formby Sr – Closing Monologue


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