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The man in the middle of this picture is my grandfather. Like most young British men in the year 1941, he was serving in the armed forces. In his case that meant the merchant navy, and the Atlantic convoys during the Battle of The Atlantic. The golden rule of the navy, he would later say, was never to volunteer, but breaking this rule to volunteer for “special work” turned out to be one of the best decisions he ever made. Sent on a goodwill trip to New York and New Jersey shortly after the Pearl Harbor attacks had drawn America into the war, the sailors were surprised to find themselves treated as heroes. Then one memorable night at Radio City Music Hall, they were invited on to the stage by the new singer with Tommy Dorsey’s band, a man so popular that teenage girls (“Bobby soxers” as they would then be called) in the audience screamed as he sang, one Francis Albert Sinatra.

Frank was at this point already, suddenly, the biggest singing star in the USA, topping polls in Billboard and DownBeat magazines, and selling huge amounts of records. Listening to his recordings from this time can instantly tell you why. As much as any singer embarking on an imperial phase, his performances seem not just to be technically and artistically brilliant, but to be utterly effortless, as if he just woke up one morning singing like that. Naturally there was more to his popularity than his voice though. Sinatra would later say that he represented “…the boy in every corner drugstore, the boy who’d gone off drafted to the war” to young women. To many young men, however, this jarred with the fact that he never served himself, despite being the right age. Rumours circulated that Sinatra or unnamed underworld connections had paid a bribe to keep him out of the army, but when files were eventually released it transpired that he was deemed unfit for service for being “not acceptable material from a psychiatric viewpoint” and “emotionally unstable” – quite a contrast to the self-assured artist we think we know.

Sinatra was not, of course, the most exciting musician working in 1941. Not by a long shot. The ridiculous running length of this mix isn’t (I hope) down to sloppiness on my part, it’s because there’s simply too much to fit in here, even after the hour-long Pearl Harbour montage was cut out. 1941 isn’t often held up as one of the best years for music, there aren’t that many hits here for example, but coming at it chronologically it’s obvious that a great bursting and unchaining of creativity is underway. Much of this is from the same people we’ve heard a great deal from in the last few years. Musicians from Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and Jay McShann’s bands would jam together through the night at Minton’s Playhouse in New York, playing around with complex harmonies, syncopation, chord substitutions. It was music by and for musicians, not intended for the public, and it’s only by the most amazing luck that a single recording, heavily excerpted here, survives. Charlie Christian, electric guitarist in the Benny Goodman Orchestra, here shows himself a good few decades ahead of the curve with solos that seem to invent new genres every minute. Sadly he would be dead before 1942 was out, at the age of 25, but the music he birthed would live on, as “bebop.” Also prefiguring rock and roll we have astonishing jump blues from Lucky Millinder, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Louis Jordan and Nat King Cole, and from the West coast we have that strange mix of cowboy country and swing jazz then called “Western Swing.” And let’s not even get started on the explosion of Samba music in Brasil. Even strike action helped out here (as it would very much not do in the following years) – ASCAP (The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) spent most of 1941 in a dispute with radio broadcasters over royalties. As their clients were almost exclusively the white songwriting establishment, the beneficiaries were those of a different race or class, who could now get their songs played on the radio, which then led to more demand for these records to be made.

Musicians in 1941 – no, people in 1941 – were not waiting around for the war to start. They were not putting their lives on hold for the duration. They were playing some of the most original and exciting music we’ve heard so far. In a half-decade of unimaginable horrors, the dampening down of this spark doesn’t rank very high on the list of crimes, but still, it will be a long few years before we can pick up where we left off.

Track list

0:00:00 Kunaisho Shikiburyô Gagakuka – Taishikichô Chôshi
(Clip from The Maltese Falcon)
0:01:00 Claude Thornhill & His Orchestra – Snowfall
(Clip from Ball of Fire)
0:04:01 Louis Jordan – The Green Grass Grows All Around
(Clip from Sullivan’s Travels)
0:06:50 Don Byas, Charlie Christian, et al. – Up on Teddy’s Hill
(Clip from Review of the Year 1941)
0:10:03 Jay Mcshann & His Orchestra – Swingmatism
(Clip from Review of the Year 1941)
0:13:22 Albert Ammons & Pete Johnson – Boogie Woogie Man
(Clip from Bulova – world’s first television advertisement)
0:16:03 Carmen Miranda – When I Love, I Love
(Clip from Never Give A Sucker An Even Break)
0:18:54 Dinning Sisters – Louisiana Hayride
(Clip from Never Give A Sucker An Even Break)
0:21:51 Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys – Twin Guitar Special
(Clip from Tea Making Tips)
0:24:36 Lucky Millinder – Big Fat Mama
0:26:55 Lucky Millinder with Sister Rosetta Tharpe – I Want A Tall Skinny Papa
(Clip of Winston Churchill – Give Us The Tools)

0:30:12 Billie Holiday – Solitude
(Clip from Citizen Kane)
0:34:41 Lil Green – Why Don’t You Do Right
(Clip from The Lady Eve)
0:37:35 Ángel D’agostino & Ángel Vargas – El Choclo
0:40:02 Anibal Troilo – Milongeando En El
0:41:56 Ricardo Tanturi – Alberto Castillo – Noches De Colón
(Clip from One Foot in Heaven)
0:43:29 Roland Hayes – Xango
(Clip from Major Barbara)
0:45:21 Golden Gate Quartet – The Sun Did’nt Shine
(Clip from Major Barbara)
0:47:49 Marian Anderson – Crucifixion
(Clip from Major Barbara)
0:51:02 Heavenly Gospel Singers – When Was Jesus Born?
(Clip from Major Barbara)
0:53:07 The Delta Rhythm Boys – Dry Bones
(Clip from Suspicion)
0:56:19 Una Mae Carlisle – Oh I’m Evil
(Clip of The German Newsreel)
(Clip of 1941-04-27 BBC Winston Churchill – Westward Look The Land Is Bright)
0:58:57 Arthur Rubinstein, Emanuel Feuermann, Jascha Heifetz – Brahms Piano Trio No. 1, Op. 8
(Clips from Review of the Year 1941)

1:02:04 Arthur Askey – Thanks For Dropping In Mr Hess
(Clip from Never Give A Sucker An Even Break)
1:03:04 The Andrews Sisters – Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy
(Clip from Citizen Kane)
1:05:49 Metronome All-Stars – One O’clock Jump
(Clip from Meet John Doe)
1:09:14 Nat King Cole Trio – Hit That Jive, Jack
1:12:04 Bennie Carter Orchestra – Sunday
1:14:47 Charlie Christian, Kenny Clarke, Thelonious Monk et al. – Swing to Bop
(Clip from Ball of Fire)
1:20:35 Charlie Christian, Kenny Clarke, Thelonious Monk et al. – Stompin’ at the Savoy
(Clip from Never Give A Sucker An Even Break)
1:23:32 Don Byas, Charlie Christian, et al. – Down on Teddy’s Hill
(Clip from Never Give A Sucker An Even Break)
1:25:29 Don Byas, Thelonius Monk et al. – Indiana
(Clip from The Maltese Falcon)
1:27:35 Don Byas, Helen Humes, Thelonius Monk et al. – Stardust
(Clip from Here Comes Mr Jordan)

1:30:31 Duke Ellington – Take The ‘A’ Train
(Clip from That Hamilton Woman)
1:33:25 Brownie Mcghee – Death Of Blind Boy Fuller
(Clip from Sullivan’s Travels)
1:35:06 Mckinley Morganfield (Muddy Waters) – Country Blues
(Clip of The German Newsreel)
(Clip from Review of the Year 1941)
(Clip from “Interview With Madame X”)
1:38:43 Al Bowlly & Jimmy Messene – When That Man Is Dead And Gone
(Clip of Charles Lindbergh On US Non-Intervention)
1:41:58 Joshua White – Defense Factory Blues
(Clip from 1941-06-16 BBC Winston Churchill – Broadcast To America)
1:44:46 The Ink Spots – I Don’t Want To Set The World On Fire
(Clip from 1941-06-22 BBC Winston Churchill – Germany Invades Russia)
1:48:53 Una Mae Carlisle – Blitzkrieg Baby (You Can’t Bomb Me)
(Clip of 1941-07-03 PCPT Josef Stalin Addresses Nation)
1:51:23 Sydney Errington, Melville Cook – Eccles Sonata In G Adagio
(Clip of Dmitri Shostakovich – Radio Message Broadcast)
(Clip from Soviet Forces in Action)
(Clip from Dorothy Thompson Interview)
1:55:04 Wingie Manone & His Orchestra – Stop The War (The Cats Are Killin’ Themselves)
(Clip from Dorothy Thompson Interview)
1:57:36 Noel Coward & Orchestra – London Pride
(Clip from 1941-07-14 BBC Winston Churchill – Do Your Worst, We’ll Do Our Best)

2:01:01 Margaret Eaves With Joe Loss & His Orchestra – ”V” Stands For Victory
2:03:29 George Formby – Crazy Record (Part 1 & 2)
2:05:38 Peter Igelhoff Ensemble – Dieses Lied Hat Keinen Text (Vocal – Evelyn Künneke)
(Clip from George Formby – Crazy Record)
2:07:14 Jetty Paerl – Het Is Koninginnedag
2:08:38 Jacques Gerlagh Combo – In The Mood (Guitar – Eddy Christiani)
(Clip from 1941-07-14 BBC General DeGaulle Urges America To Join The Allies)
2:09:56 Jacques Pills – Avec Son Ukulele
2:12:28 Luiz Gonzaga – Vira E Mexe
2:15:20 Anjos Do Inferno – Por Que Será!
2:18:03 Carmen Miranda – Rebola A Bola
2:20:14 Francisco Alves – Canta Brasil
2:21:52 Herivelto Martins – Grande Otelo Praça Xi
(Clip from Never Give A Sucker An Even Break)
2:23:38 Glenn Miller And His Orchestra – A String Of Pearls
(Clip from The Maltese Falcon)
2:26:51 Tommy Dorsey (Vocal – Sinatra,Haines) – Oh! Look At Me Now
(Clip from Ball of Fire)
2:29:08 Xavier Cugat – La Cucaracha

2:32:13 Carl Stalling – Stalling Self-Parody
(Clip from Tea Making Tips)
2:32:50 Spike Jones – Red Wing
(Clip from The Devil & Daniel Webster)
2:33:35 Fred Lowery – Indian Love Call
2:36:01 Sama No Hosomichi Etc. – Zuizui Zukkorobashi, Tenjin
2:37:49 Fats Waller – Chant Of The Groove
(Clip from Ball of Fire)
2:45:29 Les Brown – Celery Stalks At Midnight (Vocal – Doris Day)
2:46:47 Count Basie – King Joe (Vocal – Paul Robeson)
2:50:06 Lena Horne – I Gotta Right To Sing The Blues
(Clip from Major Barbara)
2:53:11 Dinah Shore – Mocking Bird Lament
(Clip from Man Hunt)
2:55:22 Ella Fitzgerald – My Man (Mon Homme)
(Clip from Citizen Kane)
(Clip from 1941-08-29 BBC Winston Churchill – These Are Great Days)
2:58:39 Guangzhou Cantonese Opera Troupe – The Crow Flies Back To The Forest
(Clip from Review of the Year 1941)
(Clip from 1941-09-11 Lindbergh’s America First Committee Speech in Des Moines, Iowa)
2:59:47 Artie Shaw – Concerto For Clarinet (Part 2)
(Clip from 1941-10-03 RRG Adolf Hitler – Speech On Finland)
(Clip from Meet John Doe)

3:04:43 Xavier Cugat – Eco
3:06:19 Joseito Fernandez – Guantanamera
(Clip from The Maltese Falcon)
3:09:23 Sugii Kōichi – Jipushī Tango
(Clip from The Wolf Man)
3:11:06 Naftule Brandwein – Nifty’s Freilach
(Clip from 1941-11-11 – BBC – German Attack On British Convoy)
3:14:01 Sidney Bechet – Egyptian Fantasy
(Clip from 1941-11-07 BBC Winston Churchill – The Resolution Of The People)
3:15:44 Bert Ambrose – Oasis
(Clip from Citizen Kane)
3:18:21 Benny Goodman – Good Enough To Keep
3:20:24 Jay Mcshann – Confessin’ The Blues
(Clip from Meet John Doe)
3:23:13 Washboard Sam – Evil Blues
(Clip from The Little Foxes)
3:26:10 Sister Rosetta Tharpe With Lucky Millinder & His Orchestra – Shout, Sister, Shout
3:28:50 Louis Jordan – Pine Top’s Boogie Woogie

3:31:43 Pete Johnson – Death Ray Boogie
3:34:38 Fats Waller – I Wanna Hear Swing Songs
3:35:34 Nat King Cole – I Like To Riff
3:38:19 Big Bill Broonzy – I Feel So Good
(Clip from The Little Foxes)
3:40:32 Leadbelly – You Can’t Lose Me, Cholly
(Clip from The Devil and Daniel Webster)
3:42:34 Adolph Hofner – Cotton-Eyed Joe
3:44:59 Johnny Lee Wills – Milk Cow Blues
3:47:47 The Almanac Singers – Song For Harry Bridges
3:49:52 Mills Brothers – Lazy River
3:52:30 Sons Of The Pioneers – Cool Water
3:53:26 Edmond Hall – Edmond Hall Blues
3:57:36 Donald Lambert – Elegie (Massenet)
(Clip from Citizen Kane)
3:59:55 Django Reinhardt Et Le Quintette Du Hot Club De France – Dinette
(Clip from The Little Foxes)

4:01:50 Artie Shaw And His Orchestra – Frenesi
4:03:06 Nat King Cole Trio – Hit The Ramp
4:06:17 Gus Viseur Et Son Orchestre – Swing 39
4:07:24 Sidney Bechet – 12th Street Rag
4:09:24 John Kirby And His Orchestra – St. Louis Blues
4:12:07 Glenn Miller – Chattanooga Choo Choo (Vocal – Modernaires)
4:15:30 Duke Ellington and his Orchestra – Soundtrack to Jam Session soundie
4:17:01 Festival Swing – Festival Swing
4:20:18 Roy Eldridge With The Gene Krupa Orchestra – After You’re Gone
(Clip of Sergeant York)
4:23:00 Hans J. Salter & Frank Skinner – The Wolf Man
4:23:15 CBS / NBC / BBC – News Broadcasts from December 7th 1941
4:25:59 Franklin Delano Roosevelt – Day Of Infamy Speech
4:27:54 Various Speakers – Interviews With People in New York City The Day After Pearl Harbor
(Clip of 1941-12-09 Adolf Hitler Declaration Of War Against USA)
(Clip of 1941-12-28 – RSH Lord Haw Haw (Wm Joyce) Germany Calling Hello North America)
4:31:02 Joshua White – Uncle Sam Says
(Clip of 1941-12-17 Japanese Victory Over Singapore)
(Clip of 1941-12-16 Fibber McGee & Molly Fibber cuts Xmas Tree)
4:34:27 The Ink Spots – That’s When Your Heartaches Begin
(Clip from How Green Was My Valley)
4:38:40 Rev. J.M. Gates – Gettin’ Ready For Christmas Day
(Clip from 1941-12-31 Amos & Andy Christmas Eve)
(Clip from 1941-12-24 BBC Winston Churchill – The White House Christmas Tree)
4:40:26 Tommy Dorsey, Frank Sinatra & Pied Pipers – Do I Worry?
4:43:13 Gene Krupa Chicagoans – Drumboogie
(Clip from The Devil and Daniel Webster)

December 7th 1941

At Centuries of Sound I am making mixes for every year of recorded sound – I make these on my own, in my spare time. To support my work and help the show survive, please consider signing up at patreon.com/centuriesofsound where you can also get full show downloads and a host of other bonus stuff for just $5 per month. This show would not be possible without my supporters on there, so please consider signing up or sharing this with someone who may be interested.

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At 7:48am on December 7th 1941, the US naval base at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii was attacked by 353 Japanese aircraft, launched from six aircraft carriers, precipitating the entrance of the United States into the Second World War.

Major news stories had been covered on the radio before, of course, and radio recordings had been made for more than a decade. Nevertheless, this is by far the most contemporary material available for a breaking news story. Edited down from nearly twenty hours of original recordings, this sound collage presents these events as they occurred from the perspective of a radio listener that day.

Generally I layer music over speech clips, but in this case I have included only music as it was broadcast on that day. The sound quality is therefore unavoidably a lot worse than you may be used to, and the audio is presented without a tracklist.

This episode was partially inspired by Awful Grace Podcast’s Again The Never Came, a sound collage from 9/11, an astonishing bit of audio which I would recommend, but with a warning that it includes phone calls from the Twin Towers, which frankly anyone will find distressing.

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