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One of the most jarring contrasts between imagined past and time as uncovered by these mixes is the feel of the First World War years. There are two very good reasons for this. Firstly, it shouldn’t be forgotten that our impressions of the wartime years, having dropped out of living memory, are based on a limited number of sources, most of which are second or third-hand reinterpretations. Even the most relevant cultural artifacts – written accounts of the war, contemporary films, photographs – do not contain any record of the sounds of the time, and even the best documentaries seem to focus on the images and either create their own audio or use recorded accounts from years later.

Secondly, and probably more importantly, we shouldn’t forget that the lens these mixes view the decade through are a very narrow one indeed. I cannot present recordings of the war because, to put it plainly, there are none. The last thing anyone, even a war journalist, was thinking of doing was taking a recording gramophone out into the trenches. In any case, the recording industry was still located mainly within New York, with a small number of people controlling what was put out. We don’t even have a decent view of the rest of the USA, let alone the rest of the world. European recordings are at this point few and far between.

Having made my excuses, this mix nevertheless probably presents the closest thing to an original-source First World War soundscape that has ever existed. The entrance of the USA into the war in 1917 may not have resulted in any actual recordings of the war, but at least it meant many more recordings about the war – and even if these were filtered through the cynical filter of the entertainment business, they still provide much more of a flavour of the times than anything else we’ve had so far. Naturally we have some more of the patriotic anthems intended to act as much as propaganda than as entertainment, including a wartime update of ‘Alexander’s Ragtime Band’ from Marion Harris and a jingoistic song from Al Jolson. These aren’t all we have though – there is a very measured speech from Theodore Roosevelt, wartime soundscapes from Henry Burr, and humourous wartime songs from Arthur Fields.

Fields is new to us, but he had been in the entertainment business for decades. touring in minstrel shows, writing songs and working in a trio with Jack and Irving Kaufman. His wartime songs, though still patriotic, look at the mundanity and inconvenience of wartime life through the eyes of the average soldier – a smart move, as they would be arriving back from Europe just about now. Arthur Fields would continue to record right into the next world war.

Meanwhile, Jazz has sort of taken a back seat, slightly. The explosion of 1917 was clearly unsustainable, especially as it consisted largely of a set of pros imitating the life out of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band without any real understanding of what they were starting. In 1918 jazz is still around, only the heat has been let out a little. Seasoned musicians are starting to return to what they know; the light dance music which had always paid their wages. This will be a theme for the next few years, jazz being swallowed up into the more rigid, un-blue world of professional dance bands.

The exception to this is from two bands – one of course the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, still going strong in 1918, though they would soon lose their original piano player to the Spanish flu. In even more of an imperial phase however are their erstwhile rivals, variously known as “The Novelty Orchestra” “The Celebrated Society Orchestra” and “Earl Fuller’s Combination Seven,” but captured here as “Earl Fuller’s Rector Novelty Orchestra.” Where the ODJB are raucous and comic, Earl Fuller’s band are anarchic in a more transgressive, darkly sexual way, and at times their music anticipates the dangerous speakeasy feeling of early Duke Ellington. It’s a welcome dash of colour in a musical world which is trending back to its default conservatism.

The jazz revolution is, on the whole, slowing down, becoming a little too safe, but there’s no need to worry – we will soon be in for quite the ride. If you thought 1917 was a massive shift then just wait – the decade between 1918 and 1928 sees more of a change in what we’ll hear than any other decade I can think of.  So I’m not sure anyone will particularly miss these sounds when we’ve moved on, but this is still a moment which deserves to be remembered.


0:00:17 Charles Ross Taggart – Uncle Zed Buys a Graphophone (Excerpt 1)
0:00:30 Earl Fuller’s Rector Novelty Orchestra – Russian Rag
0:03:35 Charles Ross Taggart – Uncle Zed Buys a Graphophone (Excerpt 2)
0:04:12 Original Dixieland Jass Band – At the Jazz Band Ball
0:06:49 Wilbur Sweatman’s Original Jazz Band – Dallas Blues
0:09:56 Rector Novelty Orchestra – Singapore
0:13:16 Nora Bayes – Regretful Blues
0:14:50 J.J. Pershing – Address From France, April 1918
0:15:19 Arthur Fields – Yanks Started Yanking
0:16:19 Premier Quartet and Company – A Submarine Attack (Excerpt 1)
0:16:42 Al Jolson – Tell That To The Marines
0:18:06 Henry Burr & Peerless Quartet – Submarine Attack Somewhere At Sea (Excerpt 1)
0:18:20 Marion Harris – Goodbye Alexander
0:21:42 Henry Burr & Lt Gitz Rice – Life In A Trench In Belgium (Excerpt 1)
0:21:57 Arthur Collins – When Tony Goes Over The Top
0:23:26 Henry Burr & Lt Gitz Rice – Life In A Trench In Belgium (Excerpt 2)
0:23:56 Arthur Fields – Oh! How I Hate To Get Up In The Morning
0:26:35 Henry Burr & Peerless Quartet – Submarine Attack Somewhere At Sea (Excerpt 2)
0:27:03 Imperial Marimba Band – General Pershing March
0:27:33 Premier Quartet and Company – A Submarine Attack (Excerpt 2)
0:27:41 The Peerless Quartet – Au Revoir, But Not Goodbye Soldier Boy
0:29:50 Thomas Alva Edison – Let Us Not Forget – A Message to the American People (Excerpt 1)
0:30:20 Harry Lauder – Don’t Let Us Sing Anymore About War
0:32:24 Thomas Alva Edison – Let Us Not Forget – A Message to the American People (Excerpt 2
0:32:52 Courtland And Jeffries – Good-Bye-Ee
0:35:28 Metropolitan Military Band – Grand Peace Record
0:36:18 Honey Land Jazz Band – Steve
0:38:07 Monroe Silver – Cohen on his Honeymoon (Excerpt 1)
0:38:16 Wilbur Sweatman’s Original Jazz Band – Ev’rybody’s Crazy ‘Bout the Doggone Blues But I’m Happy
0:41:07 Monroe Silver – Cohen on his Honeymoon (Excerpt 2)
0:41:17 Joseph C Smith’s Orchestra – Rose Room
0:42:59 Eugene Jaudas Society Orchestra – Howdy One Step
0:44:42 Billy Murray – K-K-K Katy
0:47:25 Ethel C. Olson – A Norwegian Woman Using the Telephone
0:47:35 Bohumir Kryl – Where The River Shannon Flows
0:49:31 Marika Papagika – Smyrneiko Minore
0:52:13 Zabelle Panosian – Groung (Crane)
0:56:18 Amelita GalliCurci – Crepuscule
0:59:14 Roland Hayes – Arioso from ‘Pagliacci’ (‘Vesti la giubba’)
1:01:52 Theodore Roosevelt – Right Of The People To Rule (Excerpt 1)
1:02:32 Sexteto Habanero Godínez – Rosa, que linda eres
1:04:12 Pixinguinha – Os Oito Batutas
1:05:39 Fercor – La Commemorazione Di Cesare Battisti A Milano (Excerpt 1)
1:05:45 Orquesta De Enrique – El Biberon De Benitin
1:07:59 Yerkes’ Jazarimba Orchestra – Jazzie Addie
1:09:37 Theodore Roosevelt – Right Of The People To Rule (Excerpt 2)
1:09:50 Earl Fuller – Jazz De Luxe
1:13:52 Samuel Siegel & Marie Caveny – Ragtime Echoes
1:14:37 Pietro Frosini – New York Blues
1:16:16 Abe Schwartz Orchestra – Der Shtiller Bulgar
1:19:16 Harry Kandel’s Orchestra – Der Nicolaiver Bulgar
1:22:01 Eubie Blake Trio – Hungarian Rag
1:24:53 Bert Williams – Oh Death Where Is Thy Sting
1:27:32 Fercor – La Commemorazione Di Cesare Battisti A Milano (Excerpt 2)
1:27:55 Louisiana Five – Laughing Blues
1:30:35 Frisco Jazz Band – Johnson Jass Blues
1:34:47 Original Dixieland Jazz Band – Skeleton Jangle
1:37:39 Maude Powell – Poupee Valsante (Waltzing Doll)
1:39:44 Charles Harrison – I’m Always Chasing Rainbows

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