Centuries of Sound on Cambridge 105 Radio – Episode 40 (1931)

Time: 6pm BST, Sunday 28th November
Place: Cambridge 105 Radio

James Errington presents an archaeological investigation into the year 1930. Wall Street has crashed, the great depression has arrived, record James Errington takes you on a journey to 1931, a year of sleazy pre-code speakeasy jazz, guitar blues from the Mississippi Delta, relentlessly inventive vocal groups, perhaps the first ever football song, and much more!

You can listen to the show on 105fm in Cambridge, on DAB digital across Cambridgeshire, on the Cambridge 105 website here, or on any good radio apps, or play the whole extended version on this mixcloud player.

The Early 30s: The Symphony

A two-hour immersive mix of classical / orchestral music recorded in the years 1930 to 1933, featuring solos from Yehudi Menuhin, Fritz Kreisler and Arthur Schnabel and orchestras conducted by Edward Elgar, Maurice Ravel and Leopold Stokowski.

0:00:00 The Philadelphia Orchestra, Conducted By Leopold Stokowski – Schoenberg’s Gurre-Lieder, 1st Section
0:15:13 Arthur Schnabel – Beethoven Sonata No 31 In A Flat Major, Op 110 Moderato Cantabile Molto Espressivo
0:21:33 London Symphony Orchestra With Yehudi Menuhin, Conducted By Edward Elgar – Elgar Violin Concerto
1:11:13 Yehudi Menuhin – Paganini Kreisler Caprice No. 24
1:17:57 Georg Kulenkampff – Tambourin Chinois (Kreisler)
1:21:30 Fritz Kreisler – Liebesleid (Kreisler)
1:25:02 Joseph Szigeti – Bach Solo Violin Sonata No.1- 2nd Mvt
1:30:11 Grigoras Dinicu – Ca Pe Lunca
1:33:04 Lamoureux Orchestra, Conducted by Maurice Ravel – Ravel’s Bolero
1:48:45 Alexander Mossolov – Zavod, Symphony Of Machines
1:51:36 Wanda Landowska, Harpsichord – Variations 16-20
1:58:27 The Philadelphia Orchestra, Conducted By Leopold Stokowski – 1812 Overture Op. 49

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Elsewhere in 1931

A photo journal of the events of 1931

January 2 – South Dakota native Ernest Lawrence invents the cyclotron, used to accelerate particles to study nuclear physics.
January 30 – The movie City Lights, starring Charlie Chaplin, has its premiere. Albert Einstein attends.
February 3 – Much of the New Zealand cities of Napier and Hastings are destroyed in an earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale, killing 256 people.
February 14 – The original film version of Dracula, with Bela Lugosi, is released in the United States.
March 3 – The Star-Spangled Banner is adopted as the United States’ National anthem.
March 5 – The British viceroy of India and Mohandas Gandhi sign the Gandhi–Irwin Pact.
March 23 – Indian revolutionary leaders Bhagat Singh, Shivaram Rajguru and Sukhdev Thapar are hanged for conspiracy to murder in the British Raj.
March 31 – An earthquake destroys Managua, Nicaragua, killing 2,000 people.
April 14 – The Second Spanish Republic is proclaimed in Madrid. Meanwhile, as a result of the victory of the Republican Left of Catalonia, Francesc Macià proclaims in Barcelona the Catalan Republic, as a state of the Iberian Federation.
April 15 – The Castellammarese War ends with the murder of Joe ”The Boss” Masseria, briefly leaving Salvatore Maranzano as capo dei capi of the American Mafia.
May 1 – Construction of the Empire State Building is completed in New York City.
June 5 – German Chancellor Dr. Heinrich Brüning visits London, where he warns the British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald that the collapse of the Austrian banking system has left the entire German economy on the brink of disaster.
June 14 – The overloaded pleasure craft Saint-Philibert, carrying trippers home to Nantes from the Île de Noirmoutier, sinks at the mouth of the River Loire in France. Over 450 drown.
June 19 – In an attempt to stop the banking crisis in Central Europe from causing a worldwide financial meltdown, U.S. President Herbert Hoover issues the Hoover Moratorium.
June 23–July 1 – Wiley Post and Harold Gatty accomplish the first round-the-world flight in a single-engine plane, flying eastabout from Roosevelt Field, New York, in 8 days, 15 hours, 51 minutes.
July – John Haven Emerson of Cambridge, Massachusetts perfects his negative pressure ventilator (iron lung), just in time for the growing polio epidemic.
July 9 – Irish racing driver Kaye Don breaks the world water speed record at Lake Garda, Italy.
July 16 – Emperor Haile Selassie signs the first Constitution of Ethiopia.
August 11 – A run on the British pound leads to a political and economic crisis in Britain..
August 24 – The Labour Government of Ramsay MacDonald resigns in Britain, replaced by a National Government of people drawn from all parties, also under MacDonald.
September 10 – The worst hurricane in British Honduras history kills an estimated 1,500.
September 18 – The Japanese military stage the Mukden Incident, an explosion blamed on Chinese dissidents and used as a pretext for the Japanese invasion of Manchuria.
September 20 – With a gun literally pointed to his head, the Chinese commander of Kirin province announces the annexation of that territory to Japan.
October 4 – Dick Tracy, the comic strip detective character created by cartoonist Chester Gould, makes his debut appearance in the Detroit Mirror newspaper.
October 17 – American gangster Al Capone is sentenced to 11 years in prison for tax evasion in Chicago.
October 24 – The George Washington Bridge across the Hudson River in the United States is dedicated; it opens to traffic the following day. At 3,500 feet (1,100 m), it nearly doubles the previous record for the longest main span in the world.
October 27 – The United Kingdom general election results in the victory of the National Government, and the defeat of Labour Party, in the country’s greatest ever electoral landslide.
November 7 – The Chinese Soviet Republic is proclaimed by Mao Zedong.
November 21 – James Whale’s film of Frankenstein is released in New York City.
December 5 – The original Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow is dynamited, by order of Joseph Stalin.


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It almost certainly goes without saying that the great depression was difficult time for many people around the world, but in any reshuffling a few unexpected cards will come to the top of the deck. In this darkest year of the period, a few artists were at the apex of their success, and for whatever reason the music and films they made seem to have fixed themselves in the popular consciousness better than anything from the previous few years.

In our just-passed golden age, Cab Calloway hadn’t been doing that well. After a few years of touring around the USA with his more successful band-leader sister Blanche, he’d set himself up in New York with his own group, but following a disastrous debut at the Savoy Ballroom, they split up. Forced to take a job as a singer in the musical Connie’s Hot Chocolates, he found a new band, and by 1930 they were the star attraction at The Cotton Club, and about to release the first million-selling single by an African-American artist.

Minnie The Moocher was not entirely an original piece, in the way that nothing really is. The bulk of it was sourced from a much earlier song called Willie the Weeper, and many of the adaptations had already been made in a 1927 version by Frankie “Half-Pint” Jaxon. Even the sleazy, funky style of Calloway’s band was lifted largely from his sister Blanche, who would also do scat singing not far from the “hi de hi de hi de ho” refrain. But there’s no denying that Cab himself is an electrifying presence, even ninety years later – where Louis Armstrong is warm and welcoming, he’s aggressive, preening and feline in a way we won’t really get again until the birth of rock & roll. The song is pretty shocking too – beneath the flimsiest of euphemistic slang terms it’s a story about cocaine and opium use and open displays of female sexuality, and you have to wonder how many listeners got that – I would wager the answer is “surprisingly many” – though perhaps not Al Bowlly, whose version I probably won’t be including in the 1932 mix.

1931 was a bumper year for this sort of thing in Hollywood too. Though the censorship regimen The Hays Code was officially adopted in 1930, it wouldn’t really be taken seriously until 1934, and it feels like producers were going as far as they could before someone stopped them. High profile movies this year include morally-ambiguous gangster pictures Little Caesar and The Public Enemy, stories about a secretary-turned-prostitute (Safe In Hell), lurid parties (Dance, Fools, Dance) and open mockery of religion (The Miracle Woman.) This was a massive year for horror movies too, with the release of the classic versions of Dracula, Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde and Frankenstein, the latter directed by James Whale, an openly-gay British man whose career would later be derailed by his open conflict with Hitler a few years before the rest of the western world joined in.

Hollywood might have been having a golden age, but the same cannot of course be said about the record business – in fact movie musicals were really the only growth area for musicians this year. While some companies had remained afloat in 1930, further economic shocks from Germany had now done for what was left of their business. Of course important bandleaders were still being recorded, but the expeditions to record across The South had mostly withered and died.

The vital exception to this is the guitar blues coming out of the Mississippi Delta. Skip James from Bentonia, Mississippi and Son House from Lyon, Mississippi both managed to make their way to Grafton, Wisconsin, to record for Paramount Records – the songs they recorded were some of the final echoes of the explosion of 1927, but they resonated more than almost any others, and after 30 years away from the microphone for both performers, their discovery by blues fans in the early 1960s would make them a vital piece in the development of music in the remainder of the century.


0:00:23 Will Rogers – Bacon, Beans, and Limousines (Excerpt 1)
0:00:29 Cab Calloway and His Orchestra – Minnie The Moocher
0:03:36 James Cagney – The Public Enemy Piano Scene (Excerpt 1)
0:03:42 Harlem Footwarmers – Rockin’ in Rhythm
0:06:03 Colin Clive – Frankenstein (Excerpt 1)
0:06:31 The Boswell Sisters – It’s You
0:09:35 The Mills Brothers – Nobody’s Sweetheart Now
0:11:57 Isaac Pitman – Pitman’s Gramophone Course (Excerpt 1)
0:12:03 Jazz-Band Sam Libermann – Sandeman
0:14:26 Will Rogers – Bacon, Beans, and Limousines (Excerpt 2)
0:14:32 Hazekiah Jenkins – The Panic Is On
0:16:54 Will Rogers – Bacon, Beans, and Limousines (Excerpt 3)
0:17:13 Bessie Smith – Need A Little Sugar In My Bowl
0:18:40 Bessie Smith – Safety Mama
0:20:04 James Cagney – The Public Enemy Piano Scene (Excerpt 2)
0:20:10 Louis Armstrong & His Orchestra – Lazy River
0:23:14 Johnny Mack Brown – Berk Jarvis’ Inspirational Speech from The Great Meadow (Excerpt 1)
0:23:23 Skip James – Hard Time Killin’ Floor Blues
0:25:22 Johnny Mack Brown – Berk Jarvis’ Inspirational Speech from The Great Meadow (Excerpt 2)
0:25:38 Duke Ellington Orchestra – Creole Rhapsody
0:30:13 Chants Populaires Tahitiens – Chant D´Amour
0:31:03 Sol K. Bright – Tomi Tomi
0:33:08 Ronald Colman – Arrowsmith (Excerpt 1)
0:33:14 Fatma El Chameya Sudaneya – Gawadallah
0:34:30 DJelouwei Wenike Ahlanon – Pantanon
0:34:57 Fredric March – Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Excerpt 1)
0:35:38 Kju Pora – Ke Tre Urat Për Matanë (Across Three Bridges)
0:36:19 Peter Lorre – Kangaroo Court Scene from M
0:36:48 Alexander Mossolov – Zavod, Symphony Of Machines
0:38:09 Colin Clive – Frankenstein (Excerpt 2)
0:38:22 Albert Whelan – My Brother Makes the Noises for the Talkies
0:41:08 Groucho Marx – Monkey Business (Excerpt)
0:41:17 Toña La Negre – El Cacahuatero
0:43:05 Mahatma Gandhi – 1931 Oct 20 – English (Excerpt 1)
0:43:14 Paul Robeson – River Stay Away From My Door
0:44:57 Beans Hambone & El Morrow – Beans
0:46:43 Laurel and Hardy – One Good Turn (Excerpt 1)
0:46:50 Gene Autry – Do Right Daddy Blues
0:48:53 Will Rogers – Bacon, Beans, and Limousines (Excerpt 4)
0:48:59 Willie Brown – Future Blues
0:50:19 James Dunn – Scene from ‘Bad Girl’
0:50:29 Skip James – Cypress Grove Blues
0:52:24 Skip James – Devil Got My Woman
0:54:10 Rev. Emmet Dickenson – Hell and What It Is (Excerpt 1)
0:54:18 Bryant’s Jubilee Quartet – I’ll Be Satisfied
0:55:39 Mahatma Gandhi – 1931 Oct 20 – English (Excerpt 2)
0:55:52 Maddilla Satyamoorthy – Violin Instrumental- Parimala Rangapathey (Kambhoji)
0:57:04 Mahatma Gandhi – 1931 Oct 20 – English (Excerpt 3)
0:57:09 Jimmie Rodgers & The Carter Family – Jimmie Rodgers Visits The Carter Family
1:00:23 Jimmie Rodgers – Mississippi River Blues
1:01:49 Ramsay Macdonald – Speaks To The Nation (Excerpt 1)
1:01:54 Leroy Carr – Papa’s On The House Top
1:03:22 David Lloyd George – Speaks To The Nation (Excerpt 1)
1:03:24 The Baltimore Bell Hops – Hot And Anxious
1:04:21 Don Redman – Shakin’ The African
1:06:58 Claudette Colbert – The Smiling Lieutenant (Excerpt)
1:07:09 Mississippi Sheiks – Bed Spring Poker
1:08:51 Will Rogers – Bacon, Beans, and Limousines (Excerpt 5)
1:09:09 Slim Smith – Bread Line Blues
1:12:22 Arthur Henderson MP – General Election 1931
1:12:36 Al Bowlly accompanied by orchestra – I’d Rather Be A Beggar With You
1:14:23 Norma Shearer & Robert Montgomery – Private Lives (Excerpt)
1:14:29 Cab Calloway and His Orchestra – Kicking The Gong Around
1:16:57 James Cagney – The Public Enemy Piano Scene (Excerpt 3)
1:16:59 Noble Sissle and His Orchestra – The Basement Blues
1:20:11 Bela Lugosi – Scene from Dracula (Excerpt 1)
1:20:14 Seger Ellis – Montana Call
1:23:31 Jean Renoir – La Chienne (Excerpt)
1:23:42 Les Freres Péguri – Enivrante
1:25:00 René Clair – À nous la liberté
1:25:12 Uncredited Pinpeat Ensemble – Teb Bantom (Cambodia)
1:26:01 Pierre Laval – Speech About His Forthcoming German Visit
1:26:10 Fujiyama Ichiro – Sake ha Namida ka Tameike ka
1:27:40 FT Marinetti – Sintesi Musicali Futuriste
1:28:14 D. Busuttil u il Cumpanija Musica V.Ciappara – Festa ta Rahal
1:29:11 Carlo Satariano – Maddalena
1:29:25 Adolfo Carabelli Y Su Orquesta Tipica – Me Vuelves Loco
1:31:08 Fredric March – Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Excerpt 2)
1:31:15 Washboard Rhythm Kings – Call Of The Freaks
1:33:59 Wallace Beery – The Champ 1931 (Ending scene) (Excerpt 1)
1:34:15 Ted Lewis and his Band – Dallas Blues
1:36:34 Glen Gray and his Orchestra – Casa Loma Stomp
1:39:25 Albert Whelan – Pass! Shoot!! Goal!!!
1:41:31 The Mills Brothers – Tiger Rag
1:43:23 Laurel and Hardy – One Good Turn (Excerpt 2)
1:43:35 Bing Crosby And The Mills Brothers – Dinah
1:45:11 Ronald Colman – Arrowsmith (Excerpt 2)
1:45:20 Wilmoth Houdini – I Need a Man
1:47:34 Edward, Price of Wales (future King Edward VIII) – Speech on trade with Argentine
1:47:40 Cuarteto Flores – Cecilia
1:49:40 Ramsay MacDonald – General Election 1931
1:49:55 Julio J. Martínez Oyanguren – Jota
1:52:27 Adolphe Menjou – The Front Page Ending scene (Excerpt 1)
1:52:32 G.Cefai – Imhabba fuk il bahar
1:54:24 Rev. Emmet Dickenson – Hell and What It Is (Excerpt 2)
1:54:46 Sam Collins – Lonesome Road Blues
1:55:58 Wallace Beery – The Champ 1931 (Ending scene) (Excerpt 2)
1:56:06 Sexteto Okeh – Estrella De Oriente
1:57:35 James Cagney – The Public Enemy Piano Scene (Excerpt 4)
1:57:41 Clyde McCoy & His Orchestra – Sugar Blues
2:00:32 Marlene Dietrich – Jonny
2:01:41 Comedian Harmonists – Mein Lieber Schatz Bist Du Aus Spanien
2:04:25 Ambrose And His Orchestra – Yes, Yes (‘My Baby Said Yes’)
2:05:30 James Cagney – The Public Enemy Piano Scene (Excerpt 5)
2:05:35 Jacques Renard & His Orchestra – As Time Goes By
2:07:01 Isaac Pitman – Pitman’s Gramophone Course (Excerpt 2)
2:07:18 Akropong Singing Band – Monyi Moho Adi
2:08:29 Marguerite and Razanatsoa – Dia Veloma I Said Omar
2:10:21 Rev. F. W. McGee – Fifty Miles Of Elbow Room
2:13:00 Silver Leaf Quartette of Norfolk – Daniel Saw the Stone
2:14:22 Rev. Emmet Dickenson – Hell and What It Is (Excerpt 3)
2:14:37 Willie Walker – Dupree Blues
2:16:21 Son House – My Black Mama – Part I
2:18:11 Ramsay Macdonald – Speaks To The Nation (Excerpt 2)
2:18:18 A. Kostis – I Filaki ine Scholio
2:19:21 Bela Lugosi and A Wolf – Scene from Dracula (Excerpt 2)
2:19:38 Josef Pizio – Pidkamecka Kolomyjka
2:20:15 Adolphe Menjou – The Front Page Ending scene (Excerpt 2)
2:20:29 Middle Georgia Singing Convention No. 1 – Bells of Love
2:21:48 Boswell Sisters – Shout, Sister, Shout
2:22:48 Clark Gable – Possessed (Excerpt)
2:22:49 Sato Chiyako – Kage o Shitaete
2:23:44 Winston Churchill – General Election 1931 (Excerpt)
2:23:51 Kyle Wooten – Choking Blues
2:25:37 Ted Lewis & His Band feat. Fats Waller – Royal Garden Blues
2:28:32 Mahatma Gandhi – 1931 Oct 20 – English (Excerpt 4)
2:28:46 Louis Armstrong – Stardust
2:32:18 The Charleston Chasers – Basin Street Blues
2:34:43 British Pathe – The Crisis! (1931)
2:34:46 Adolphe Menjou – The Front Page Ending scene (Excerpt 3)
2:34:48 Al Bowlly with Ray Noble & His Orchestra – Goodnight Sweetheart

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