Centuries of Sound on Cambridge 105 Radio – Episode 29 (1921)

Time: 8pm GMT, Saturday 7th November 2020
Place: Cambridge 105 Radio

Audio curator James Errington is joined from New York by Michael Daddino to explore original recordings from 1921, including more classical female blues, novelty piano, melancholy Klezmer, the organised chaos of Dixieland jazz, and the most unintentionally sinister recording of the decade.

You can listen to the show on 105fm in Cambridge, on DAB digital, on the Cambridge 105 website here, or on any good radio apps.

…or as it’s too late to do any of these things, here is the Mixcloud player.

1921 in Art

Pablo Picasso – Three Musicians

Fernand Léger – Man and Woman

Pierre Bonnard – The Open Window

Edward Hopper – Girl at Sewing Machine

Dora Carrington – Farm at Watendlath

Willem Jan Pieter van der Does – Maanlicht over de Javaanse rijstvelden

Charles Demuth – Incense of a New Church

Max Ernst – The Elephant Celebes

Guy Pène du Bois – An American Oriental

Pablo Picasso – Reading the Letter

Duncan Grant – Bathers by the Pond

Han van Meegeren – Hertje

Francis Picabia -Optophone I

Sonia Delaunay or Robert Delaunay (or both), 1921-22, published in Der Sturm, Volume 13, Number 3, 5 March 1922

1921 in Film

The Kid


The Haunted Castle (Schloss Vogeloed)


The Haunted House


Destiny (Der müde Tod)


The Sheik


Buried Treasure


Journey into the Night (Der Gang in die Nacht)


The Playhouse


Never Weaken


Die Bergkatze (The Wild Cat)


The Goat


The Boat


A Sailor-Made Man


L’Atlantide (Missing Husbands)




Leaves from Satan’s Book (Blade af Satans bog)


Les Trois Mousquetaires (The Three Musketeers)


El Dorado


Little Lord Fauntleroy


Through the Back Door


The Idle Class


The Ace of Hearts


Miss Lulu Bett


The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse


The Phantom Carriage (Korkarlen)


The Mechanical Man (L’uomo meccanico)


Seven Years Bad Luck


The Affairs of Anatol


Tol’able David


The Lucky Dog


The Nut



Elsewhere in 1921

January 2 – The De Young Museum opens in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

January 20 – British K-class submarine HMS K5 sinks in the English Channel. All 56 on board die.

January 21 – The film The Kid, written, produced, directed by and starring Charlie Chaplin, with Jackie Coogan, is released in the United States.

February 12 – The Democratic Republic of Georgia is invaded by forces of Bolshevist Russia.

February 21 – Rezā Khan and Zia’eddin Tabatabaee stage a coup d’état in Iran.

February 28 – The Kronstadt rebellion is initiated by sailors of the Soviet Navy’s Baltic Fleet.

March 4 – Warren G. Harding is sworn in as the 29th President of the United States.

March 8 – Spanish Premier Eduardo Dato e Iradier is assassinated while exiting the parliament building in Madrid.

March 13 – The Russian White Army captures Mongolia from China. Roman von Ungern-Sternberg declares himself ruler.

April 11 – The Emirate of Transjordan is created, with Abdullah I as emir.

May 1–7 – Riots at Jaffa, Mandatory Palestine result in 47 Jewish and 48 Arab deaths.

May 25 – The Irish Republican Army occupies and burns The Custom House in Dublin. Five IRA men are killed, and over 80 are captured by the British Army.

May 31–June 1 – Mobs of white residents attack black residents and businesses in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Between 100 and 300 are killed.

June 28 – The Constitutional Assembly of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes passes the Vidovdan Constitution, despite a boycott of the vote by the communists, and Croat and Slovene parties.

July 1 – The Communist Party of China (CPC) is founded.

July 11 – The Red Army captures Mongolia from the White Army, and establishes the Mongolian People’s Republic.

July 21 – At The Battle of Annual, Spanish troops are dealt a crushing defeat, at the hands of Abd el-Krim.

July 29 – Adolf Hitler becomes Führer of the Nazi Party.

August 23 – King Faisal I of Iraq is crowned in Baghdad.

August 24 – R38-class airship ZR-2 explodes on her fourth test flight near Kingston upon Hull, England, killing 44 of the 49 Anglo-American crew on board.

September 7 – In Atlantic City, New Jersey, the first Miss America Pageant is held.

September 13 – White Castle hamburger restaurant opens in Wichita, Kansas, the foundation of the world’s first fast food chain.

September 21 – The Oppau explosion occurs at BASF’s nitrate factory in Oppau, Germany. 500–600 are killed.

October 13 – The Treaty of Kars is signed between Turkey and the Soviet Socialist Republics of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, establishing the boundaries of the south Caucasus.

October 19 – The ‘Bloody Night’ (Noite Sangrenta) massacre in Lisbon claims the lives of Portuguese Prime-Minister António Granjo and other politicians.

November 9 – The National Fascist Party (Partito Nazionale Fascista or PNF) is founded in Italy.

November 11 – During an Armistice Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is dedicated by Warren G. Harding, President of the United States.

November – Hyperinflation is rampant in Germany, where 263 marks are now needed to buy a single American dollar, more than 20 times greater than the 12 marks needed in April 1919.

December 6 – The Anglo-Irish Treaty establishing the Irish Free State is signed in London.

December 13 – In the Four-Power Treaty on Insular Possessions, Japan, the United States, United Kingdom, and France agree to recognize the status quo in the Pacific.

December 23 – Visva-Bharati College is founded by Rabindranath Tagore in Santiniketan, Bengal Presidency, British India.


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“The parties were bigger. The pace was faster, the shows were broader, the buildings were higher, the morals were looser, the liquor was cheaper.” F. Scott Fitzgerald

If you could chose any era to live in, the decades between 1910 and 1950 would probably not be the most immediately appealing. Aside from two world wars, a great depression, and the worst pandemic in history, the era was marked by civil unrest, often for good cause, but whose benefits would not be felt until the dust settled many years later. However, in the middle of this maelstrom, we have a period of peace and prosperity, a boomtime for the creative arts, in short “the twenties” – a decade which is shorthand for a cornucopia of culture in the way “the thirties” and “the forties” absolutely aren’t. “Golden times” like these are usually best treated with a pinch of salt – most people tend to be to some degree nostalgic about their youth, particularly writers – but perhaps this time we can take it a little more seriously. The shift which seems to have happened in this time seems if anything like the half-century was saving up its changes and released them all at once while the sun was shining and it wasn’t otherwise occupied.

The dawning of universal suffrage surely had a role here. Even more so, the population of the world shaking itself loose from the incredible suffering of the 1910s. But perhaps the greatest part was played by a series of innovations – some of them technological (as we will get to in a few years) and some the unintended consequences of an ill-thought-out law – prohibition.

From January 17th, 1920, when the Volstead Act went into effect, the USA saw a nationwide ban on the production, importation, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages. The sheer logistics of such a thing in a country with such a tradition of alcohol consumption when anyone with minimal expertise could make their own, well, it didn’t make any sense and it still doesn’t. Organised crime immediately began to take over the alcohol business, and consumption shifted from the old bars and hotels to speakeasies. The managers of these places had no stock in the entertainment establishment, and no interest in going through the process of booking well-known vaudeville acts, who probably wouldn’t want to be seen there anyway.

Instead, they hired jazz bands. Touring / recording groups from around the country had residencies in clubs in Chicago and New York where they could practice and innovate every night in front of an audience. The nascent genre, which had been coasting for a few years after its initial explosion, suddenly got a new lease of life. The likes of Armstrong, Ellington and Fats Waller developed their sound in front of sometimes multi-racial audiences. The often regressive instinct of proprietors to be “respectable” had dissipated – what role could censorship ever play in a place whose entire existence was already illegal, and paid for with bribes?

This isn’t to say that all of this has yet seeped through the cracks into recorded media. While (inspired by the success of “Crazy Blues”) Okeh were releasing their series of “race records,” they were still exclusively operating out of New York, and their competitor Paramount Records would not start releasing this sort of recording until the following year. The rest of the music industry was still firmly stuck in the 1900s, releasing the sort of sentimental ballads and d-grade operetta they had been since they’d formed, likely the same singers and the same management too. Occasionally they would put something out by a dance band, and occasionally they would strike gold, but such things do not seem to be generally part of the business plan.

So as far as the mix is concerned, we are still operating on the margins, but the margins are expanding, cracks are forming, soon this wonderful infection is going to be irresistible in its spread.


0:00:17 Harry E. Humphrey – Santa Claus hides in your phonograph (Excerpt 1)
0:00:32 American Symphony Orchestra – Ride of the Valkyries
0:01:30 Harry E. Humphrey – Santa Claus hides in your phonograph (Excerpt 2)
0:01:41 Zez Confrey – Kitten On The Keys
0:04:42 Shelton Brooks & Co. – Darktown Court Room
0:04:50 The Jazz Hounds – Royal Garden Blues
0:07:47 Mamie Smith & Her Jazz Hounds – ‘U’ Need Some Lovin’ Blues
0:10:40 Justine Roberts – The Shop Girl (Excerpt 1)
0:10:50 Ladd’s Black Aces – Aunt Hagar’s Children’s Blues
0:14:01 Justine Roberts – The Shop Girl (Excerpt 2)
0:14:11 Lucille Hegamin – Wabash Blues
0:17:24 John Riley – Casey Departing to Congress
0:17:29 Fletcher Henderson – There Ain’t No Nothin’
0:20:39 Isham Jones – Wabash Blues
0:23:37 Yerkes’ Happy Six – Yokohama Lullaby
0:25:32 Carl Fenton with Rudy Wiedoeft – Biminy Bay
0:28:45 Sergei Esenin – Confessions Of A Hooligan (Excerpt 1)
0:29:16 Luigi Russolo – Serenata
0:31:14 Sergei Esenin – Confessions Of A Hooligan (Excerpt 2)
0:31:30 Jacob Gegna – A Tfileh fun Mendel Beilis
0:34:58 Claudia Muzio – Sei Forse L’angelo Fedele
0:37:42 Bucca-Perez Co. – Nofriu al Telefono
0:37:52 Agustín Barrios – Tarantella
0:40:10 Achilleas Poulos – Kamomatou
0:42:06 Bucca-Perez Co. – Nofriu Buscevicu
0:42:18 Doumoua Ellaini – Aicha
0:43:13 Grupo Pixinguinha – Domingo Eu Vou Lá
0:45:14 Grupo Do Moringa – No Rancho
0:47:41 Warren G. Harding – Opening of Limitation of Armaments Conference
0:47:55 Michael Coleman – Bag of Spuds
0:48:44 Ford Hanford – My Old Kentucky Home
0:49:20 Kandel’s Orchestra – Kandel’s Bulgar
0:51:21 Marcus Garvey – Objects of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (Excerpt 1)
0:51:36 Eubie Blake – Sounds Of Africa
0:53:07 Marcus Garvey – Objects of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (Excerpt 2)
0:53:32 Rudy Wiedoeft’s Californians – Jabberwocky
0:56:45 Gene Rodimichs Orchestra – Home Again Blues
0:58:45 Edgar A. Guest – Wait Till Your Pa Comes Home
0:59:26 Al Weston & Irene Young – At The Circus
1:01:34 Maurice Chevalier – Je N’ Ose Pas
1:04:10 Bert Williams – Unexpectedly
1:05:41 William Cahill – Dinnie Donohue on Prohibition
1:05:55 Sam Moore and Horace Davis – Laughing Rag
1:08:26 Empire Vaudeville Co. – Down At Finnegan’s
1:08:36 Ethel Waters’ Jazz Masters – Bugle Blues (introducing Old Miss Blues)
1:11:11 Original Dixieland Jazz Band – St Louis Blues
1:14:23 Lanin’s Southern Serenaders – Shake It & Break It
1:17:19 Fletcher Henderson – Unknown Blues
1:18:46 Paul Whiteman – Humming
1:21:11 Green Brothers – Moonbeams
1:23:51 Newport Society Orchestra – Yoo Hoo
1:25:43 Benson Orchestra Of Chicago – Ain’t We Got Fun
1:28:49 Brown and Terry Jazzola Boys – Saxophone Blues
1:30:45 James P Johnson – Keep Off The Grass
1:33:02 Sissle’s Sizzling Syncopators – Low Down Blues
1:35:34 Justine Roberts – The Shop Girl (Excerpt 3)
1:35:44 Mamie Smith – Lovin’ Sam From Alabam’
1:38:19 Harry E. Humphrey – Santa Claus hides in your phonograph (Excerpt 3)

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