At 7am on the 30th September 1967, the words “… And, good morning everyone. Welcome to the exciting new sound of Radio 1” launched the BBC’s new popular music station. Created to compete with the successful offshore ‘pirate’ radio stations that had been outlawed by an Act of Parliament, Radio 1’s target demographic has continued to be the 15-29 year old age group, and so the music it broadcasts has continuously evolved throughout its history.  While “Flowers in the Rain”, a song by The Move, was the first to be played on the new station you would never hear it on Radio 1 now!

The first voice on the station – that of DJ Tony Blackburn – had first been heard on the pirate stations Radio Caroline and Radio London. Having moved to the BBC earlier in 1967 his cheery presenting style made him the perfect person to host the breakfast show, which he did until 1973. However, his own dislike of heavier rock music made him unpopular with some listeners who were disappointed that the BBC had managed to get the pirate stations banned but then didn’t fill the hole in the airwaves with anything equivalent.

Adding to the complaints from listeners, the existence of so-called ‘needle time’ meant that Radio 1 featured more DJ talk than the pirate stations. This legally imposed limit on the amount of commercial music the station could play was initially a problem for the station, but it led to a large number of live broadcasts and recordings being made that have – over time – become prized in their own right.

On the 14th September 1814, the poem that was to provide the lyrics for the United States’ national anthem was written by 35 year-old Francis Scott Key. Called “Defence of Fort M’Henry”, the poem provides an account of the British attack during the Battle of Baltimore.

The War of 1812 had already been raging for two years when the British launched a seaborne invasion of Baltimore. At the time of the invasion, Key was aboard one of the British Navy ships lying off the coast. He had sailed to the flagship HMS Tonnant the previous week in order to negotiate a prisoner exchange, and was present when the British officers discussed war plans. Consequently he was not permitted to return to his own boat since he would be able to pass intelligence to the American military.

When the British began their attack, Key was therefore only to watch as Fort McHenry was subjected to an enormous bombardment from the ships, including a number of Congreve rockets from HMS Erebus that provided the “rockets red glare” in the fifth line of the poem. However, bad weather combined with the poor accuracy of the British munitions being fired at their maximum range meant that little damage was done to the fort.

When dawn came and the skies cleared, Key could clearly see a large American flag flying above the fort, and felt inspired to write the poem. It was published a week later alongside a note instructing readers to sing it to the melody of “The Anacreontic Song”. Ironically, the song itself was English.

Elvis Presley appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, the USA’s most popular television show, for the first time.

Ed Sullivan was a former New York entertainment columnist who had once vowed never to have Elvis Presley appear on his variety show. He had previously turned down an opportunity to hire the singer for $5,000 but realised his mistake when his show ratings were crippled by Elvis’ appearance on a rival show hosted by Steve Allen.

Sullivan consequently agreed to pay the unprecedented sum of $50,000 for three appearances, the first of which took place on the new season premiere. Sullivan, however, was not able to host the show as he was recovering from a head-on collision that had almost killed him. British actor Charles Laughton was recruited as the stand-in host, and introduced the rock n roll star with the words “…and now, away to Hollywood to meet Elvis Presley!”

Elvis needed to perform at CBS Television City in Los Angeles, rather than the New York studio where The Ed Sullivan Show was based, because he was in the middle of filming his debut movie. Having opened with his recent hit ‘Don’t Be Cruel’, Elvis went on to perform the title song from the forthcoming film, ‘Love Me Tender’.

He appeared again later, performing Little Richard’s hit ‘Ready Teddy’ and a shortened version of ‘Hound Dog’. This segment included some full-body shots of Elvis, but when he began dancing the cameras tended to focus only from his waist upwards.

Sullivan’s decision to hire Elvis to appear on the show paid off. 60 million people tuned in to watch the show, a staggering 82.6% of the evening’s television audience. Knowing they would be unable to compete, Steve Allen’s network chose only to show a movie.

On the 17th August 1982, the very first commercial compact disc was produced in the German town of Langenhagen. Although it was a number of months before the disc was actually available to purchase, the advent of the CD marked a seismic shift in the way people listened to music.

Having initially developed separate prototype digital audio discs, engineers at electronics giants Philips and Sony came together in 1979 to develop a standardised digital audio disc. Interestingly, this was happening while they sat on opposite sides of the VHS-Betamax war over home video formats.

In 1980 the engineers agreed on and published their ‘Red Book’ standard, which is still used – with some minor amendments – as the basis for all Compact Discs. Having agreed on the standard format, marketing could then begin. The first public demonstration was given on Tomorrow’s World, a BBC television program about new science and technology, in 1981 and saw presenter Kieran Prendiville smear strawberry jam on a CD of the Bee Gees’ album Living Eyes to demonstrate the supposedly indestructible nature of the new format.

A year later, the first CD was produced to be sold commercially. Chilean pianist Claudio Arrau’s recording of Chopin waltzes was pressed at Philips’ Polydor Pressing Operations plant, with the pianist himself starting the machine. Philips apparently believed that classical music fans were generally more affluent and therefore more likely to pay the hefty price tag for CDs and their players. However, the first ‘pop’ music CD to be produced was the The Visitors – the last album recorded by the Swedish super-group ABBA.

On the 30th July 1792, a group of volunteer soldiers from the city of Marseille were the first to introduce and sing “La Marseillaise” in Paris. Written by the French army officer Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle and originally called “Chant de guerre pour l’Armée du Rhin” or “War Song for the Army of the Rhine”, it was designed to rally soldiers in Strasbourg during the French Revolutionary Wars. However, the song was soon adopted as the marching song of the National Guard of Marseille after one of the volunteers sang it at a patriotic gathering in the city. The song became the official French National Anthem three years later, on the 14th July 1795.

The song was written when the French revolutionary army was facing significant military difficulties in the War of the First Coalition. Facing the combined forces of both Austria and Prussia, the disorganised and numerically inferior French army had suffered a number of defeats in the first weeks of the war. This helps to explain the militaristic lyrics of the song, since it was written at a time when France was facing the very real threat of invasion and defeat.

The song’s close ties with the French Revolution meant that it often suffered at the hands of those who were against the revolution. For example, when Louis XVIII – the deposed Louis XVI’s brother – was declared king of France after the defeat of Napoleon, he banned La Marseillaise outright. The song was restored to its position as the French national anthem in 1879.

On the 25th July 1965, American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan performed at the Newport Folk Festival with an electric band. His dramatic shift away from his traditional instruments of acoustic guitar and harmonica was said to have, “electrified one half of his audience, and electrocuted the other”.

Dylan came to prominence in the early years of the 1960s with songs that chronicled the social situation in the USA at the time. Labelled as the “spokesman of a generation” by the media he had released four acoustic albums in the first three years of his recording career. But, in March 1965, Bringing It All Back Home indicated a new direction for Dylan. While one side of the record maintained his acoustic roots, the other side featured an electric backing band.

Dylan’s appearances at the Newport Folk Festival reflected his album releases. In 1963 and 64 he had been the poster boy of acoustic folk alongside female musician and on-off romantic partner Joan Baez, but on the night before his appearance at the 1965 festival he decided to go electric. Gathering together a group of musicians from the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, he frantically rehearsed a short four-song set that was performed on the Sunday evening.

Accounts of the performance, and the crowd’s reaction to it, differ. While some claim that the crowd were hostile to Dylan appearing with an electric guitar, others say that the booing was a response to the short set and poor sound system. Whatever the case, Dylan going electric marked a watershed moment for both the folk and rock music scenes.

Today is World Fringe Day where people around the world are celebrating the 70th anniversary of the world famous Edinburgh Festival Fringe, which took place for the first time in 1947. HistoryPod is proud to be able to celebrate #WorldFringeDay, and the foundation of the Fringe movement, in this special live recording from the Buxton Festival Fringe in the wonderful English spa town of Buxton in Derbyshire. I’m recording today’s episode in front of a group of Buxton Fringe-goers, and we’re very lucky to be situated within a beautiful Victorian building that now serves as Scrivener’s Bookshop on the outskirts of the Peak District National Park in England.

When Sir Rudolf Bing, a controversial Austrian opera impresario, curated the first Edinburgh International Festival in the summer of 1947, he focused the programme on what he called the “highest and purest ideals of art in its many and varied forms”. This high-brow mission statement immediately drew criticism from many artistic groups who felt alienated by the festival’s exclusivity. The fact that approximately £60,000 was being spent on an elite cultural celebration just two years after the devastating effects of the Second World War also seemed to ignore the fragile state of Britain’s economy and social fabric.

Despite these concerns, companies including Glyndebourne Opera, the Halle Orchestra and Sadler’s Wells Ballet converged on Edinburgh for the inaugural festival. However, another eight theatre companies who had not been invited to perform took matters into their own hands. Although it is unlikely that they had conspired in advance to provide an alternative programme, the companies – who soon referred to themselves collectively as the ‘Festival Adjuncts’ – benefitted greatly from the audiences who had travelled to Edinburgh for the official festival. Consisting of six Scottish and two English theatre companies, this loose collection of like-minded groups caught the eye of many festival-goers with what was referred to by Alistair Moffatt in his 1978 book about the Edinburgh Fringe as their ‘missionary zeal’.

Since the major venues in Edinburgh were already in use for the official festival performances, these other companies were forced to find alternative spaces to stage their productions. These ranged from smaller theatres in the city to the innovative use of Dunfermline Abbey to stage a production of the medieval morality play Everyman. The Abbey’s location, about 20 miles outside Edinburgh, led to a critic lamenting its location ‘on the fringe of the Festival’.

This is the first recorded use of the term ‘fringe’ in the context of the Edinburgh Festival, although it’s important to note that it was written with a small letter F. This happened again the following year when the Scottish playwright and journalist, Robert Kemp, commented on the wealth of ‘private enterprise’ that was taking place ‘round the fringe of official Festival drama’. It wasn’t until 1958 that the Festival Fringe Society was created to coordinate what the Scotsman newspaper referred to as an ‘official unofficial festival’. In the wake of this more formal organisation, the Fringe finally acquired its all-important capital F twelve years after the first performers converged on Edinburgh, and the Fringe was recognised as a festival in its own right.

A key value of the Fringe is that it is an unjuried festival – meaning that there is no selection committee, and that anyone who can secure a venue is able to perform. This has led to some innovative uses of the available spaces, and where we’re recording this podcast at the Buxton Festival Fringe is no exception. Scrivener’s Books and Bookbinding shop is situated on the High Street of this ancient market town in a building that was originally a Victorian tobacconist’s shop. Consisting of five floors of rare and not-so-rare books, and even featuring a small Victorian museum in the cellar, I frankly couldn’t imagine a better place for a history fan like me to speak to history fans like you.

And Buxton itself has a fascinating history. The Romans established a settlement here, naming it in honour of the natural spa waters that have been a focal point for the town ever since. The spa water drew the Earl of Shrewsbury to the town in 1573 when he and his wife, Bess of Hardwick, brought the imprisoned Mary, Queen of Scots to stay at the Old Hall Hotel in the centre of the town. This hotel continues to stand on its original site next to the later 18th century Crescent, which was built by the Dukes of Devonshire when they transformed the town into a Georgian holiday resort similar to Bath in the South West of England. The popularity of the town continued throughout the Victorian era as the arrival of the railway allowed people to travel from all over the country to take advantage of the reputed healing properties of the waters. This period saw the landscaping of the Pavilion Gardens which are overlooked by the imposing cast iron Dome of the University of Derby, which is housed in what were originally the Great Stables of the Duke of Devonshire.

On the 1st June 1967, the Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, their 8th studio album. It won four Grammy Awards following its release and is widely regarded as one of the most influential albums ever released having sold in excess of 30 million copies worldwide.

The Beatles had declared their retirement from touring on 29th August 1966, after having played to a crowd of 25,000 people at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.  The decision to stop performing live gave them the freedom to focus on creating music in the studio that would have been impossible to recreate on tour.

Consequently the album made use of a huge range of instruments and studio effects. Together with their producer, George Martin, and audio engineer, Geoff Emerick, they creatively applied audio compression, limiting, and reverb. The studio engineers also devised creative solutions to offset the limitations of the studio’s four-track recording equipment, enabling a 40-piece orchestra to be recorded after the band had already finished their tracks.

Sgt. Pepper’s was the first Beatles album to be released simultaneously worldwide, and it received almost universal praise. Just three days after its release, guitar legend Jimi Hendrix opened a live show in London by performing the title track – something that Paul McCartney regards as one of the greatest honours in his career.

As well as being famed for its musical impact, Sgt. Pepper’s is also highly regarded for its iconic cover art. Designed by pop artists Peter Blake and Jann Haworth, the elaborate cover alone cost £3,000 to produce.

On the 24th May 1956, the first Eurovision Song Contest took place in Lugano, Switzerland.  It has since grown to be one of the most watched non-sporting events in the world.

The idea for the contest came from Marcel Bezençon, chairman of the European Broadcasting Union, at a meeting of the in Monaco in 1955.  Founded in 1950, the EBU was looking for a way to bring the countries of Europe together after the devastation of the Second World War.  However, of the 23 member countries at the time only seven countries participated in the first Eurovision competition, with just three more broadcasting the show.

Highlighting just how far communication technology has come, it’s worth noting that the first Eurovision Song Contest took place over a year before Sputnik, the first artificial satellite, was put into orbit.  The first competitions were relayed across Europe using a terrestrial microwave network that linked the countries of Europe together like an invisible spider’s web.

Although the contest is now as much about geopolitics as music, the geography of Eurovision is fascinating.  Countries do not have to be within the continent of Europe to be eligible to enter, nor do they need to be members of the European Union.  Eligibility is actually based on the European Broadcasting Area which – even more confusingly – covers an area extending into North Africa and the Middle East.  This helps to explain the regular appearance of Israel, and also Morocco’s entry in 1980 that finished second-to-last with only 7 points.

SOURCES:

http://www.eurovision.tv/page/history/the-story

http://www.eurovision.tv/page/history/by-year/contest?event=273

http://www.ebu.ch/en/technical/trev/trev_262-editorial.html

 

On the 24th March 1721, German composer Johann Sebastian Bach dedicated what were to become known as the Brandenburg Concertos to Margrave Christian Ludwig of Brandenburg-Schwedt, the younger brother of King Frederick I of Prussia. The six works now rank among the world’s most famous pieces of orchestral music, and are widely considered to be some of the best compositions of the Baroque period.

Bach was born into a family of musicians and, from 1708, began to quickly earn a reputation as a talented organist and composer. It was while employed as the Kapellmeister, or director of music, for Leopold, Prince of Anhalt-Köthen that he sent the bound manuscript of six concertos to Margrave Christian Ludwig. Two years previously, in 1719, Bach had performed for him during a visit to Berlin after which he commissioned Bach to write him some music.

It’s unclear why Bach waited until 1721 to send the manuscript to the Margrave, especially as it’s generally accepted that the six pieces were drawn from compositions possibly dating back as far as 1708. What is clear, however, is that Bach never received any acknowledgement or pay from the Margrave. In fact the concertos may never have even been performed since Christian Ludwig didn’t have good enough musicians to perform the complex pieces.

The manuscript therefore languished in the Margrave’s library until his death in 1734 when it once again disappeared. It was finally rediscovered over a century later, in 1849. However, the pieces only became known as the ‘Brandenburg Concertos’ after the term was coined by Philipp Spitta in his later 19th Century biography of the composer.