1948 to 1951
ALL THE WAY FROM AMERICA VIA EUROPE
After the Second World War Britain was short of just about everything. The country may have looked black, well the buildings did anyway and the people were drably dressed and pale, but it was really red. Its pot of gold had been raided and the Taxman was taking everyone’s money to pay of £3.5 billion debt. In the end my future homeland went to a loan shark.
America was short of nothing. There, more wealthy teenagers were ready to drive custom made cars, if their parents allowed them. Meanwhile in Britain, a bicycle was the nearest thing a young hoodlum could get which would cause the slightest annoyance to anyone over 21. Or so it seemed too many. Even then they needed to ride it down a steep hill to get some speed up and the annoyance was only the concern of passes by, whom were worried over the safety of the rider. Smoking was also something that youths did a lot, but the trouble for adults was not that they were damaging their health, for it was only seen as course behaviour! The worst behaviour should be reserved for the loan shark. Since you probably be hard pressed to find loan sharks in worker states, so Britain had to go the king of none worker-states, although it was called the states. The King prided itself on being the bastion of capitalism. It could not stomach anything slightly Red. It viewed Labour’s victory as a great defeat to its pride. And boy was it loosing that. You see the problem was that the creation of capitalism wasn’t the product of millionaires; it was the product of education. Loads of professors and other enlightened individuals had come to conclusions about millionaires came about. They thus called it capitalism, their theory. Others jumped on the bandwagon with their theories and gave them names, such as communism and fascism. Only they didn’t just have theories about they came about, they also said that they would grow or collapse in the course of time. Change thus was scarring the pants of the Yanks. Communism appeared to be on the increase and money making was not. So when the election results came in on July 26 1945 officials in America began planning to end the Lend-Lease agreement, which had stopped the UK from going bust, as soon as Japan surrendered. They did on the 14 of August and US radio announced on the 19 August that it would end. President Truman confirmed it on the 21st. British politicians described the news as a V2 rocket hitting Whitehall. The Americans were cutting off the life-support machine and they knew it. One year later they offered Britain a Loan. It was £3.75 billion with the worst deal in history. Still the UK had no choice to except and in 1951 it started paying it back with two per-cent on top; it was due to paid back just before two planes hit the World Trade Centre. One of the conditions of the loan was that the US would get the largest motionless aircraft carrier in the world. Not in the conditions but a side effect, was a somewhat major problem for English culturists. US personal! Fortunately they were not treated like the immigrants to this country, though a lot wanted them to go back home later on. Still you could argue that they had a bigger cultural effect than any others that came here. But just after the war nobody was concerned what a few GIs would do.
Economists and the like pointed out that because America had a higher standard of living after the war, plus the fact that Britain’s was weak, would lead to turmoil. This led many politicians to panic, thinking that the American capitalist culture would cause the people to rebel. Over in Europe it was the other way round with strong communist parties in both Italy and France. Indeed the military thinkers were wondering about what the hell was going to happen next in the world and the Joint Intelligence Committee believed that the Soviets where thinking the West was going kaput! Whether the Soviets really believed this was true, doesn’t matter as the West assumed it was true and the build up of Russian forces was in preparation, not for war or invasion of the West, but as precaution for when the Western countries went belly up. Life’s ironies eh! Since communism is at odds with education and the USSR system used it; they did the belly flopping and ended up fighting. Still at the time it was the West up to its neck and if the Soviets did some poking in countries on the turn it might help. So they did. But Americans were in the business for money and leadership advice with loans and the Marshall Plan put a stop to the immediate takeover of France and Italy by the left without help from the USSR.
Certainly the 1945 defeat of Winston Churchill and victory of the Labour Government, had led to speculation that the workers and the less well off in Britain would turn on the aristocracy and those with money. The victory wasn’t even considered by the winning party. Nobody seems to have been, in public, expressing views that the Prime Minister wasn’t popular after bringing Britain through the war, even though he hadn’t won the seat in an election. The real question was whether Churchill and his party were talking enough about rebuilding Britain. Or was he going to rest on his Laurel leaf? It seems he did, for that is the image that people and historians have of Churchill’s defeat. Actually he was still going on about the war and ran with the slogan ‘finish the job’. Churchill, during the election campaign, did however pick up on the ill feeling from the public very occasionally, he dismissed it. Yet under Labour was there to be a ‘New Jerusalem’, or a worker state or just a better place to live? Maybe all three! Transport, housing, health and education were crying out for reform. However most of the people thought these need to be upgraded at least to something that worked. It was obvious that with all the German bombing, housing needed to be built on a vast scale and the private market had demonstrated that in the past it could not deliver all the housing needed to meet the demand. The largely private companies had met any targets set in the past, yet demand had still grown, leaving a shortage of homes. The opinion polls also confirmed that housing was the top issue with those who voted. The railway companies during the war had been to all intent and purposes already been nationalised, since they were not very cooperative with the government,
plus only the Great Western was making money. Strangely it was a GWR worker who helped create and convince the Labour Party of the need for nationalisation. On the other hand the education reform had been passed by the wartime coalition and so was not seen as a working class threat. In essence it was a middle class revolution. And the armed forces had shown that private health care had just meant sick men. All of these issues flooded to the surface leading to a break in the consensus of power. Those holding the power needed someone to blame for the break, the US youth led culture was perfect. Even the BBC thought that playing music of the type oozing out of the States would be the forerunner to rebellion.
Was all this true? If the British people had known that the yanks were all better off then they were, would it have led to rebellions, the abolition of the monarchy? No, of course not, give the public some common sense. Quite simply they did know! The American soldiers had made it obvious that the yanks were better off. Anybody with the least common sense was using the Black Market to bypass the restrictions. Plus Hollywood films had shown great sections of America and were continuing to show America having a good time. It had been doing this since cinemas had opened in England. Those thinking that the changes that Britain had gone through since 1916 to the start of the war had something to do with the American culture are of course quite right. Yet these changes were nothing to do with either WW1, or American culture starting them, they were the sole result of the increased school leaving age of 1918! Unknown at the time, even now not really counted as the trigger, this rise interfered with the natural development of human beings in Britain. The Board of Education in 1926 in the Haddow Report defined it as “a tide” that “begins to rise in the veins of youth at age 12”. Apart from that the Board wasn’t much concerned about the effects of these out of control young people, as long as the ‘adolescent’ was guided. The real question was who was going to provide the direction the young needed. Although the effect on the development stage was small compared to the subsequent raises in age, it kept a lot of children in school at the starting of puberty. This led to another trigger effect that allowed America to cash in on the new UK teenage market. Most schools had typical class sizes of 30 to 40 pupils, although most working class kids left at around 14, their behaviour patterns were shaped (guided) by being stuck in schools with 40 kids. I doubt that this was the same guidance that the Education Board of 1926 wanted. But not all left at 14, for Grammar Schools kept some kids longer. Most didn’t charge fees, but even so the hidden expense put families off.
Grammars were not as common as other types of schools, so the bus or tram was needed. Even then it tended to be boys that were sent, as there were more places for them. Getting a place at one and having an education there would get a person a better job and a better social standing, but most working class parents were not to keen on jumping up the social ladder. This reflected in the children’s aspirations. Seeing how others live can change ideas though. Urban cinemas shot up all over the country and Saturday mourning picture shows soon filled up with entire school loads of kids, conforming to the behaviour linked patterns of their school life. Films were made to cater for these slots and Flash Gordon, The Lone Ranger, and Superman, all became cult classics. Yet watching films that were not far-fetched as such could show the young how wealthy people could live. Good food, wine, women and song were bound to rub off on some. The material world was also benefiting from the new market. So sweets became treats to get the children to school. Thus many brand name sweets came about because the market shot through the roof went children went to school till 14.
As for music, jazz becomes the first music to benefit by being adopted by the ‘young’ newly created industry. Getting older; these former youths were soon going to clubs like Club 11, which opened in 1948 to the jazz delights of Ronnie Scott and Johnny Dankworth. This same effect can be seen on some other 14-year-olds. Once forced together by school, they stay together after 14, though crucially not all, at this stage, the longer in school the more effect. Women also became more independent as a result of being at school longer. The famous flyer Amy Johnston was definably a product of school influenced behaviour. Coupled with a shortage of men, the school changes may have helped women get the vote. But that was on the largely positive side. The crime rate started to grow during the 1940’s, blamed on the breakdown of family life during the war. Most people didn’t notice it. But even before the war industrial Sheffield had a 50% crime rate on property caused by the young. And all this happened before the 1944 Education Act.
Butler’s BlunderIn 1941 the Conservative middle class politician R A Butler became president of the Board of Education. Yet the Board’s days were numbered. Boards were seen as not getting things done, or were squandering money that should have gone to those who needed it. With
education the Board was seen as wasting fees paid by middle class parents. Mass education had proved highly successful in teaching those without any problems to read and write before the First World War. The opinion of many before WW2 was that the leaving age could have been raised then, as was due to be, just as Hitler goosed-stepped his way into Poland. What else seemed to have stopped it are the costs and the Great Depression in the pre war years. Taking out loads of youths would have eased unemployment of course, but employing of youths has always been cheaper than adults, so employers were not that keen on the idea. It would also have no direct effect on the unemployment figures as; under-16 did not register and received no benefits. Nor did the bosses need well-educated workers arguing with them. Debates had raged in the 1930’s society, about the case for sterilisation as a cure for mass unemployment. Clearly the youth were being blamed for the lack of jobs. And when they got them resentment was bound to result. The National Insurance Benefit Rate for an unemployed man for example, was the same rate as a 14-year-old lad got working down the pit. Although trade unions controlled the apprenticeships schemes, long periods of getting to know working practices help stop revolutions in the workplace. Unskilled manual labour didn’t need more than the learning provided in primary school and skilled labour was done by on the job training as an apprentice. As many employers had needed to be big enterprises, competition wasn’t really around, like in the railway industry where only the LNER & LMS went to the same towns. The GWR and SR had virtual monopolies over the areas they ran trains. This meant that a skilled worker had a job for life. Once completing the seven years training, the employer didn’t need to worry if the person would leave for another employer in the same field, as there wasn’t one! Only small employers stole workers, yet they could not pay huge wages, so the large firms were not too concerned at the loss of workers from competitors.
The real competition for workers came not from those firms in the same field, but from new industries, which required a science based background. Old industries were losing the well-educated workers to them. They were left with the rest. Nobody was bothering to train anybody up. For when a firm’s productivity goes down the added extras are the first to go. The Tea Break was so widespread; in a popular song (that was used as a jingle for many years on Radio 2) it announced that the whole country stopped for tea at 3pm. The Board of Education had a branch that was known as the ’T’ and critics of the Board thought that it meant TEA., whereas in reality it stood for ‘Technical’. New qualifications introduced in the 1920’s, the HNC and ONC had yet despite these Technical Schools less than 4000 students had been able to
pass them by 1938. What employers did was to reduce the chances for apprentices to rebel, by making them wait in low-wage hell (about 8 shillings a week) for 2 years. This they did by rising the age for starting an apprenticeship to 16. Employers thus benefited in both outcomes for a 14-year-old. If they stayed on at school the employers got them more educated. Only they didn’t want them more educated. The school system was concentrating on giving them academic style of schooling. Employers really wanted their characters building, a sense of loyalty and to be able to socialise. Post 16 Education chiefs did not listen, though a lot of Universities did. Courses were tailored made to fit employers’ requirements, probably because the bosses sat on the governorships of them. Yet there wasn’t much chance of going to University for even middle class kids, never mind working ones.
Since nobody knew what really caused the economic decline of the pre war years, education became part of the plan to stop it ever happening again. However you can either look at the date the planned to up the age as one of the cornerstones, something that most politicians do, or perhaps a big joke. They certainly set the right day for the joke explanation. First it was April 1st 1945 and then, due to the war again, 1st April 1947. Both April fools day. George Tomlinson (minister of Education) argued that without teachers the world would degenerate in two generations. It still did with teachers! Economists argued that the cause was not having a planned economy. This they argued was also the cause of poverty. Sir William Beveridge had been able to introduce the National Insurance system and this accepted wisdom, would cause widespread hardship to disappear. With the flow of capitol under control, money spent to help the economy grow and insurance (both private and public) to help when slight bumps occur could see major decline NEVER happen again. The Liberal John Maynard Keynes suggested it first. Without any clear ideas of there own the new Labour Government adopted Keynesian economic polices and thus blueprinted into fiscals polices for many years. The current widespread poverty also needed special extra help to deal with it, till the magic potions worked. Yet what happened was that politicians argued over the levels of benefits to prevent barriers to work. Just because nobody could tell what the levels should be, having never got round to decide once and for all, what poverty was.
The first attempt to get these benefits right, while replacing the unpopular, unable to cope, Poor Law and was the National Assistance Act of 1948. This turned out to be another means-tested benefit, but with staff discretion, run by another Board. This act also created the Local Authority Social Services. These would have to deal with the problems that were to come. Next to be reformed was paying for medical treatments. The mass testing, of men and some women, for the forces, had shown how unfit much of the population was. A lot of the problems encountered by military doctors were treatable or caused by lack of money to treat complaints in the first place. Some unions had set up quite advanced medical facilities that were paid for by members. However must people paid for medical treatments. This is not as bad as you might think.
One of the effects of the new health service was to make some drugs widely available, to anyone, not just those who really needed them. So in effect the National Health Service has encouraged drug addiction. But the secondary school system has done more than just encourage it.
The Nationalisation process began in earnest, but even the flagship of it the coal industry had no planning work done prior to the 45 victory. Even after it the coal industry had only 6 million tons in reserve when the country went through 200 million a year. So the Bank of England, aviation, steel and of course the railways suffered the same fate. Because of the lack of planning all the flaws of private industries were transferred with them. Flaw number one has to be the management structure. This was apparent from the start in British Railways, who even kept the regional colours for many years and names of the big four. Unfortunately management can’t really take the blame as the entire railway system was knackered, due to the war and it was the same elsewhere.
To pay for this fell on the rich and middle class, though overall less than 15 million people paid tax in 1948. The top incomes fell by 64% during 1938 to 1949. For every pound they earned they could only spend ten pence. But they did earn big money. They couldn’t spend it much though and the middle class, who also lost 7%, couldn’t either. The winners for a change were the working classes. As there incomes went up by 9%! Not that they felt better off as everything was still rationed. Luxuries were being made, like cars, yet they went for export. In reality the car industry benefited from the military vehicle and aircraft plants made for the war. Even then they couldn’t make them as fast as the Germans and the Volkswagen Beetle (famous for the Disney car Herbie) was the top exported car in the US by 1950. There was plenty of jobs and a shortage of certain types of workers. Employers would often not pay a decent wage. The Government and Councils were often the worst offenders. A split occurred between the political people on both bodies and the others who watch the money supply. On the money side, the Treasurer or rate payers lobbyists, see the bills and realise the only way to keep costs low is to pay poor wages. These costs for Government only amounted to £4.6 billion for 1948. Yet it was growing. Civil servants lobby politicians for bigger budgets; in the councils, the departments lobby councillors, the result - low pay for workers. With full-employment, nobody wanted these low paid jobs, except those who didn’t know they were crap jobs! Parked in the Thames in June 1948 was an old troopship the Empire Windrush.
With British passports were 510 Jamaicans on board. The Government wasn’t sure to let them in. But there were streets to clean, factories to run and buses and trains to run! While the rest of
the country watched the newsreel pictures of them arriving, before watching the film they had gone to see. One of the few things they could spend their money on!
It was the movies thus had the biggest effect on popular taste. Max Bygraves recalls how he made a lot of cash impersonating Al Jolson following the 1947 movie The Jolson Story. Not surprising when surveys found that young people went often more than once a week to see a film. Ealing Studios made many classic British movies during this period. Scores of these movies where watched by 20 million people and still hold box office records. Many have since lost their appeal and wouldn’t be considered unforgettable. But still the flick makers were not the only British company making money.
The Managing Director at Electrical Musical Industries Sir Ernest Fisk had negotiated a deal with M.G.M. film and Records to allow EMI to sell their products for fees on the open market. These fees are the lifeblood of the Music and Film industries and they call them licensing deals, as they are a licence to make money. At the time of this deal (1946) EMI’s after tax profit was only £165.000. By 1949 the pre-tax profit was £1.2 million! But Fisk was taking no chances of risking money in investing in the new 45 or 33rpm records that emerged that year, till one was a clear winner.
A Speeder War To End All WarsThis may seem a stupid argument in retrospect but a Cold War was going on and it had nothing to do with the Russians. It started in April 1948 when in America William S. Paley
|William S Paley|
Counter espionage was deployed by RCA as they went to work recreating the experiments they had done before with the intention of producing a rival to the Long Player. What they came up with was the mainstay of the youth market for many years. The 7 inch 45rpm was given the codename “Madame X” while RCA told everyone they were working on “Home Audiotape”. You’re probably not laughing at that because we now have it, yet at CBS in 1948 they were all laughing!
The compounds used to make both types of discs where made at Union Carbide and were called polyvinyl chloride and vinyl acetate, they replaced shellac which was too brittle for the records. RCA finally announced the new disc at the start of the New Year, but CBS quickly counter attacked with a 7 inch running at 33rpm. The general public was confused. Though the record player manufactures put an end to that argument, when they introduced the 3-speed changer. A simple enough device, with the electric motor maintaining a set speed and a rubber flywheel & cog system that gave the speed, just like the gears on a bike! Despite the fact that they did have to do a way with what the technical books of the period calls “a spring - wound motor”. A by-product of the technical training these men had. A clockwork one in other words! With that a new word entered English- the “Radiogram” a combination of radio and gramophone. They were big with six or more valves in them. Nor were they cheap, the Cossor Model 489RG was priced at over £66 plus tax.
But even a table receiver (radio) cost £10 plus and a portable with Ever Ready battery was £13. Though how very portable it was I would doubt (apart from the weight) with 4 valves, which would tend to fall out of the sockets if shook or turned upside down. Nevertheless the valves were easy to spot if they didn’t work (they didn’t light up) and were easy to refit a new one. Perhaps a good job really as you probably wouldn’t find a cheap repair shop, notwithstanding that the Ministry of Labour had put on courses for radio technicians, many still couldn’t get in with the training. Countless people made their own and young boys often built radio sets. This is how some radio engineers started in their careers, however most came form the forces. Yet the most valued and sort after where the Marconi trained type. Indeed the boss of RCA had done this training and was the chap who took the message from the Titanic at the New York department store. However for those unlucky to have the set break down, there was often someone in the street where you lived, who knew how the things worked. Some picked this knowledge up in the RAF, where radio communication was essential, but never wanted to follow it up after their service was up. Even so, when you got the thing working there weren’t much choice of what to listen to.
Hung By The DJ'sThe BBC radio service had split itself into two different camps during the war, merely to cater for the services and everybody else. This was done to combat the growing audiences to the German radio propaganda station. Only it wasn’t a German station it was Radio Luxembourg,
which was captured by them. The high powered station could reach most of Britain. Years later the group the Smiths wanted to hang the DJ, but after the war the British did hang Lord Haw-Haw, the Englishman who told the Nazi version of events on the station. When he wasn’t mouthing off the station put out music. For this reason only a lot of people tuned in and so the BBC had to do something about it.
The Home Service and the Forces programme was the solution. But the public at home listened to the Forces, as it had some dance music. One hour was allowed in factories, which was found to increase productivity. With the exception of certain songs that encouraged workers to clap! Nevertheless the increasing popularity of radio drove a need for more stations. The audience also split; by 1947 it was for the BBC three ways. Rather than except this, BBC stations and departments competed with one another for the highest listeners. The founder of the BBC Lord Reith saw the stations as class based. But if you had a stuck-up attitude like him, you needed to retune your set to the working class station the Light Programme, it was the only way to listen to classical music or the news as the Home was broadcasting lowbrow Tommy Handly. The BBC made even popular music shows play out with a classical record, to expose the ignorant to the culture. Well the culture of Oxford and Cambridge, where must of the elite came from. They failed and the light station got most of the listeners. The most popular was Housewives Choice, a request show along with Two-Way Family Favourites, Down Your Way. Even these kept secrets from the public. People sent in postcards and letters in such vast quantities that the producer of each show was the housewife choosing. And the producer was invariable male, however even if you requested a specific record to be played in your letter/card, it wasn’t or if it was it was still the producer choice. But even this man wasn’t above BBC law and they put stickers on certain records about when or if it could be played. In fact a lot of record companies were doing the deciding for the producer. As these were very busy men, all the label had to do was to send someone to see the man or more than likely his assistants, to plug records. Thereby getting them played. And sold! Don Black was a regular and got Doris Day’s Que Sera Sera a hit that way. Now as you may have heard this song many times, since that date, you may not have thought plugging that was an effort! But many producers had the same attitude to popular music as Lord Reith did. They all hated American accents and Doris was a typical Yank! But the BBC was at least topical with Dick Barton Special Agent. It was the start of the Cold War between East and West after all. But the BBC had a rival; Lord Haw-Haw’s station now back in commercial hands.
The up and coming youth and the war had made the Jazz movement from America grow. Club’s like (Birmingham’s) Second City Hot Club formed in 1947. And the Ink Spots went on tour the same year. It wasn’t the war itself that made Jazz popular as such, with the shortage in Britain of the raw materials to make the 78rpm discs.
Shellac was also used to insulate electrical equipment in radio equipment used by the military. And since it’s main ingredient was made by ants feeding on resin on islands that were now largely in Japanese hands, making popular music was not really a top priority with it. The BBC had to have all live music or play imported American records, all thanks to RCA. They made vinyl 78rpm records for the US armed forces only. Yet the BBC had no choice really, as the musicians were off killing the Germans! And thanks to the powerful Musicians Union the cost was expensive. Over in the states, musician’s unions had been on strike for more royalties since 1942. The BBC got round the problem of live music by transmitting from clubs or from the frontline concerts.
Nevertheless Bing Crosby, the Andrew Sisters and Frank Sinatra benefited greatly by having the records played on BBC radio. Still they were only on the fringe in Britain after the war; Dance Bands ruled the waves, well airwaves! In America it was the other way round. Even Glenn Miller would have found it tough, if the RAF hadn’t blown him up. Dance bands had found it was essential to have a vocalist to get them a ‘unique style’. Something that Miller had also searched for to create his music. But the ‘crooners’ found that they could make it without a band. Much cheaper session musicians would do, rather than the ego and fame grabbing band type. That could be the entire vocalist. And it should come as no surprise that many drank, such as Frank who took to his own grave a whiskey bottle.
But even when the new vinyl records came out in Britain few could afford them and so the Shellac 78, which still had crushed ants in it when being made, was king. The main argument which the record companies used to promote vinyl was saving space. Yet the older generation didn’t want to scrape their old 78’s for new 33rpm even if they had the new radiogram. It was a different for the young although it would take several more years to impact in England and even longer in Scotland due to little or no electricity, that being laid on while much later. In the USA it was not the same, as their young had been going to school longer for years. There parents bought them a record player for the bedroom and upstairs they went. RCA also marketed the 45rpm at the young, getting them early, by putting kids material on 45rpm. They also gave them coloured discs, but the Korean War in 1950 put an end to many of the colours. However it gave the 45rpm a boost in the states, over Columbia’s 33rpm. The war pushed up the price of the raw vinyl and so as more 45s (10) could be churned out than 33s (3) from one pound of the stuff, the market share grew for RCA. The problem in America was that the youth was not being catered for. Popular music was aimed at more mature people; the growing market (due to the baby boom) for youth music alone was too small to be met by mainstream companies. Black music from Chicago and New Orleans was popular only in those places. Three factors then enter into the story. First a radio station called WLAC with a powerful signal that covered the US and sometimes well beyond it, found out the black people didn’t think much of white music either. The station got hold of black records, playing them at night, to be on the safe side, with their larger white audience. The next factor was that due to the school culture, teenagers didn’t give two monkeys for Bing or Sinatra either! So the two sides came together on car radios or in bed under the sheets.
Thirdly racism in the States however also helps boost the 45 sales. Generally speaking most Black Americans bought 78s and they like to buy there own music which was called Rhythm and Blues. The ex slave population had to put up with abuse all the time and the logical cause for them was to take or smoke marijuana, which had been given to them as slaves to “calm them down” by the slave owners. In the southern states Hemp, from which it’s made, was the biggest crop. In white dominated areas R&B was called “race music” and this music was concentrated on small companies as the major labels couldn’t be bothered with something that appealed to less than six per cent of the population. But even these small labels put out all the material on 45 by 1951. Even so few blacks purchased them. Slowly but surely the sales of R&B 45s grew, still it wasn’t the coloured population that was buying new record players, as even MGM (in the US) was still releasing R&B on 78 as late as 1953. Instead it was the white youth learning how to be different, from their elders. Conversely the elders put it down to “nigger lovers” ignoring the simple truth that many youths were as race conscious as their elders.
Meanwhile back in Britain. For the middle-class, Alan Clayson comments that the only hint of frivolity was patterned lino. Fathers dressed like Val Doonican would on his BBC TV show much later. Meanwhile their sons as students had picked up on Traditional Jazz out of the states, though no longer popular there, so much so that most of these black musicians were now dead. They talked about it that much that they became known as ‘ravers’. Live performance of this style of music was catered for by the ‘Three Bs’. All white men called Chris Barber, Acker Bilk and Kenny Ball. Catering for the market and the fact that all three were from Britain, BBC radio had to broadcast it. So that when their fathers heard Jazz on the radio, it was switched off and the crossword was done instead. The movement grew and the middle fifties it was its height. The 78-rpm in a paper sleeve was still king. Purchase Tax on these
items was so excessive that if the record companies had put them in cardboard sleeves nobody could have afforded them!
Eden’s election in 1951 allowed the new Long Players to be put into card sleeves, due to the conservatives doing what they like, messing with tax. The conservatives didn’t like US culture, but they gave it one hell of a boost. But they were not the only ones who hated US culture. The enemy within also hated it. The British Communists, in the same year, attacked the comics, films and music of the States. They supported had pressed UK songwriters in their struggle to get songs in the charts, because three quarters of the Top Twenty were American tunes. However these UK songwriters were not just up against the US tunesmiths, they were arguing with the music publishers, biting the hand that feeds them, it was a big hand too!
Thanks to two radio services Jazz was bound to grow, with the young anyway. Had young people been separated from one another largely after they hit their teens, then cross communication between them would have probably never happened. In the UK schools, children were growing increasingly isolated from older people, so these communications networks purveyed any new or diverse ideas around. This probably happened in the USA as well. The first was someone who was given a radio as a present and discovered the stations that mum and dad didn’t listen to. A conversation about music in class by someone who thought the BBC was playing good stuff brings out this response “What you doing listening to the stiff upper lip BBC?” Our (radio present) youth would tell about Radio Luxembourg. Some also mentioned the American Forces Network that was broadcasting to loads of American servicemen based at bases around the UK. The second largest base outside the US was at Burtonwood, 25 miles from Manchester. These places were practically independent, with their own schools, cinemas and radio stations. Thus R&B grew more popular. The Yanks brought their culture with them and Black people brought R&B records to England. This station played all the latest music without the type of censorship the BBC did. Best reception came from being near a US base, but again the Cold War made sure that plenty of them could be found. I dare say, judging by US movies of war zones, they were more relaxed than a British base, allowing a laddish behaviour to infiltrate the camp. Presumably a well supplied base and a money cultured force and the petty thieving was huge. The consequence was enormous. Well just goes to prove that you can’t have any army based in large numbers and keep your culture intact. In Britain the ethnic hatred was not really as strong as in the US. Young people here were allowed in mixed race schools, unlike the states. There was also no perceived black culture by the white population. Apart from racial stereotypes, most of the population could at least be civil towards one another. Most people got on well with the black American serviceman. Nevertheless the real audience and that meant mostly the young tuned to Luxembourg and the BBC knew it. The station was pure crass commercialism. By ignoring first of all, the musician’s union fees for payment of records played, then the script for shows and bribing listeners to tune in by offering big money prizes. In essence it was the forerunner of Independent Television, which when set up copied much of the entertainment shows, even down to the title and taking the staff, with the likes of Opportunity Knocks. Even the BBC copied it however, but it was the musical side of the station, that the BBC wasn’t interested in copying, that young people liked. And the HIT PARADE started late 1948 on a Sunday and was the one they liked the most. At this stage nobody was bothered about if people bought a million copies of a shellac 78 disc or not, simply because nobody could buy anyway near that number. Certainly no company could be bothered to go and ask record shops about how many of each record they had sold. Numbers were so low that if 100 people bought a record it would have been number one. The expense of collecting such information would have to be met by someone and so this chart show was based on paper sales. These bits of paper were song words and musical notes known as sheet music. The artist who sang the song would have their name on the sheet, but Luxembourg couldn’t broadcast that on radio and so the disc was played instead. The lack of Shellac played into the hands of the publishers of this sheet music and they sponsored the chart show. Unfortunately they'd lost the battle in the USA when the first chart there (1942) was based on radio and live performances. But Britain and Europe with its national radio stations couldn’t operate a chart like the states, with its individual stations. This set the format for the type of music which the population of the states could enjoy for years to come, until the Europeans could purchase records in their millions. These stations in the states also changed their music policy and one station switched from playing country music to black rhythm music, just as a young lad was changing (during his puberty) his personality, as he grew up. He lived in Memphis, Tennessee.
Thus the Music Publishers became the gods of the music industry. As far as they were concerned there was no British talent, most assumed it had died during the war and so the songs were American, although publishers all resided in Denmark Street London. The songwriters (highlighted by the Communists) went and hung around the offices. The legend goes that if the song was good the old woman cleaner, dressed in grey overalls, would start whistling it. Of course what it really required was a lot of work to make the song commercial, including Radio Luxembourg. Notwithstanding the BBC even made the catchphrase famous when it made it into the title of a rock show called The Old Grey Whistle Test.
If US troops were having effects on our people, ours were also doing their bit as well.
Kids did their bit as wellMost governments have tried to control the power of the youth, all tend to fail. Hitler was no exception. Many people think he did control the youth, so Hitler’s vision seems to come up tops, with visions of white shirted boys and braided girls doing salutes at mass rallies. But some of the German youth also objected to this, not for political reasons just that it wasn’t cool. Mostly middle-class, they were obsessed with Black American Music, with records made by Jewish record bosses. So the Nazi’s persecuted the ‘Swing Kids’ yet as the war dragged on Swing Kids had reached into France and were now hanging around with French Resistance fighters. In Paris a special club was formed with a hatch on the door. If you wanted to gain entry you would knock on the hatch and when it opened a password would let you in. The Resistance could meet there posing just as music lovers. The Nazi’s being to overworked to bother over Jazz lovers, by this stage. The club had a special name that will echo in time- ‘La Discotheque’.
After the war clubs like this spread and with many soldiers both British and American stationed in Europe, especially West Germany, they were very popular with those off duty. The Whisky A Go Go, opened in Paris and was named after the film Whisky Galore, it was even styled in a Scottish set up, but more importantly had the first juke box in France. It really shows how much market there was for in troopers pay, to style a club in Scottish fashion in France. Later the club went upmarket catering for singers and film stars.
Another form of entertainment that was cheap was to go and watch the football matches at the local stadiums. With nearly 42 million going by 1949 it was assured popularity for years to come. However the players then were never megastars like film and music ones.
This article is a work in progress and therefore is not complete.... More Chapters will be uploaded soon.
All images are only for illustrative means only.