Tuesday, April 28, 2020

NRR Project: The first transatlantic radio broadcast

First transatlantic radio broadcast
March 14, 1925

For one of the few times so far in this survey, I find myself stymied. Fortunately, no one could write a better explanatory essay on this entry than Cary O’Dell’s,which you can find here. The recording in question is not readily available, and most of it is of abysmal sound quality.

As O’Dell states, this was not the first transatlantic communication, but it was the first airing of a transatlantic broadcast intended for the public. It was a signal that was passed through a variety of long- and short-wave conduits on its way to home receivers, and that signal deteriorated with every step of the process. It’s not surprising that the end result was not much to brag about.

It was a necessary first stage, however. There was not much of a push from commercial interests to import foreign broadcasts. However the transmission of information, specifically news, from Europe would grow in importance as the Second World War loomed. This provided important perspective to millions of listeners from the first generation of broadcast journalists such as William L. Shirer, Edward R. Murrow, and Eric Sevareid.

Two years later, Lindbergh would be the first to fly across the Atlantic. The world was shrinking.

The National Recording Registry Project tracks one writer’s expedition through all the recordings in the National Recording Registry in chronological order. Up next: Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings.

Monday, April 20, 2020

NRR Project: ‘The Charleston’

‘The Charleston’
Performed by the Golden Gate Orchestra
Recorded April 2, 1925

There is little I can add to Robert Rawlins’ excellent essay concerning the iconic song and dance on the National Recording Registry website. In clear detail, he outlines its origin and the stories of its originators. He goes on to outline the multitude of talent found on the recording — including Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Red Nichols, and others.

Rawlins goes on to outline the advantages of the “Diamond Disc” recording approach utilized by the Edison Company. The technological advance allowed for better sound quality, as well as a longer recording time — four and one half minutes on a side as opposed to the standard three.

But what made the Charleston such a hit? If ever we think back to that era, we see that herky-jerky solo dance, usually executed by a flapper in a beaded, short-hemmed dress and headband. What WAS the Charleston, anyway?

It’s said to have evolved from competitive dancing among the dockworkers of Charleston, South Carolina. Physically, it’s simple. A step forward, tap, step back, tap, arms akimbo. Anyone could do it without the practice or the partner that was needed for ballroom dancing. It’s best remembered now as a solo dance, although a partnered version soon developed. Compared to the smooth, graceful, floating kind of dance done before, this was sharp, frantic, and emphatic. It also left plenty of room for individual variation.

It captured the energy of the day, the high-flying optimism of America in the afterglow of World War I. Hedonistic and heedless, wild. It meshed well with the hot jazz of the day, spread to night clubs and dancehalls across the country. Though its heyday lasted only from 1925 to 1930, it remained a vivid memory. Now its sits on the shelf of collective thinking about the Roaring Twenties, alongside Prohibition, jazz, radio, and gangsters.

The National Recording Registry Project tracks one writer’s expedition through all the recordings in the National Recording Registry in chronological order. Up next: the first transatlantic radio broadcast.

NRR Project: “Light’s Golden Jubilee Celebration”

  “Light’s Golden Jubilee Celebration” NBC Radio Oct. 21, 1929 In 1879, Thomas Edison invented the incandescent light bulb in Menlo Pa...