Speaking during a magazine interview in 1971 and not long after he and his band The Rolling Stones parted ways with ‘Decca,’ the music-label/company that had launched their hit recording career, Keith Richards said, “we found out, and it wasn’t years till we did, that all the bread we made for Decca was going into making little black boxes that go into America Air Force bombers to bomb fucking North Vietnam. They took the bread we made for them and put it into the radar section of their business. When we found that out, it blew our minds. That was it. Goddamn, you find out you’ve helped to kill God knows how many thousands of people without even knowing it.” Well, yes, this former label of theirs had indeed been deeply connected to the business of radar production for the US in Vietnam, and this “section of their business” had actually been interwoven into the British-born company since the pioneering days of radio navigation during the Second World War, credited with having played a pivotal role in the Normandy ‘D-Day’ landings in 1944 with its then all-new and ground-breaking ‘Decca Navigator System.’
The relationship between Decca and the military is by no means an oddity within the history of the music-industry – it might not surprise you to know. The following article is a glimpse into some of that, the record companies that, not only were there at the dawn of the Rock & Roll generation of the 1950s, from where came the explosion of youth-music culture that is now so established in the makeup of so-called ‘western’ society, but that were also deeply connected in the research, development and manufacturing of radar equipment for armed forces across the world and across the decades. There are also roots to the halls of Government.
Home at one point or another to David Bowie, as well as British Rock & Roll star Billy Fury, English pioneer of the ‘Skiffle’ sound of the 1950s Lonnie Donegan, the earlier-mentioned Rolling Stones, and fellow Sixties hit group The Small Faces, the ‘Decca Records’ label began putting out music in 1929, before then, dating back to just about a decade earlier, it was known as the ‘Decca Gramophone Company Limited.’ Its business wasn’t in making and recording songs then, but in the manufacture and supply of what would have been regarded as the modern audio-equipment of the day for them to be listened on, namely the ‘Decca Dulcephone’ gramophone player (a pre-cursor of the vinyl record-deck – for any younger readers here who might not know!). The credit for the company’s change from this into a hit-record maker is given to Edward Lewis, an English stockbroker who was involved in the financing of it in the late 1920s, becoming its owner and then founding its music-label. Throughout the 1930s and ‘40s some of the artists signed to it included Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Judy Garland, and Count Basie. Then with the Second World War came Decca’s move into the manufacture, research and supply of radar/tracking equipment for both the US and British military.
Although I’m led to understand that, officially, Decca hasn’t exactly been in the habit of presenting much, if any(?), of its military history to the public, there are, I’ve found, credible independent sources of information about it available online, and a lot of it from people who were actually there. For one, there’s Jerry Proc, an amateur radio-operator, retired computer and data-communications manager and technician, and the proprietor and content author of ‘jproc.ca,’ an informative selection of web pages about the company’s radar section and, apparently, published with input from a significant enough number of its former employees. It also features what it claims to be a quote from Edward Lewis recalling how Decca first got involved in navigation for the military after an American by the name of W.J. ‘Bill’ O’Brien had, on September 3rd 1939, the day Britain declared war on Germany, written a letter to Decca Records engineer and friend, Harvey F. Schwarz, “setting out a revolutionary idea in the use of radio for the purpose of navigating aeroplanes and ships. This new theory had been submitted to the American Navy and the Civil Aeronautics Authority in the USA, both of whom were doubtful as to its practicability. We put the idea up to the (British) Air Ministry, but it was considered to be too complicated and there were other promising navigational aids in embryo. We were disappointed but not deterred.” So, undeterred, O’Brien along with Schwarz, with the backing of Decca, carried out tests in California, and in 1941 (or ’42, depending which source you might believe), the British Admiralty (Royal Navy Command) was interested enough to carry out trials, and these ended in success; the ‘Decca Navigator System,’ as invented by Bill, and Harvey, was born, making its premiere in time for the D-Day landings of UK/US allied forces on the shores of Normandy, France in June ’44, providing radio navigation for the invading fleet and landing craft, so I’m led to be informed, in an event that is deemed the largest seaborne invasion in history and that’s regarded as marking the end of Nazi Germany’s occupation of Western Europe.
In 1945, within the death throes of World War II and with the Decca Navigator System now a proven winner, the ‘Decca Navigator Company’ was formed as a subsidiary of Decca Records, and with its former engineer, Harvey Schwarz, taking a lead role in its running.
On the jproc.ca website, there’s a mini-article credited to a former decades-long serving employee of the navigation/radar section of the Decca company, Wilfred St. John White. He recalls how, from 1946 to the 1980s, the “remarkable spread” of “coverage” of his employers’ Decca Navigator System “had extended so that there were chains in all continents apart from South America and nearly all of the world’s shipping routes were covered.”
As well as military and defence, it supplied and devised radio/navigational systems for civilian clients too, perhaps most notably in coastal deep-sea oil-rig surveys. Also, he notes, it continued its relationship with Britain’s Royal Navy and the RAF (‘Royal Air Force’), it worked with the US Government on “an impressive underwater research testing ground” it had built. “Decca was the only system capable of providing the ranges and accuracies that were necessary to carry out the tests. Decca both built and operated the stations.” And as mentioned earlier of course, “another area where Decca was adopted by the US Government was Vietnam during the war.” According to Jproc.ca,
Decca Navigator Systems was under contract with the United States Government to train US helicopter pilots on Decca Navigator using civilians. Decca’s employees would travel from base to base… with the latest technology to assist and train US pilots. While these employees were not members of the military, they were an integral part of the war effort. ‘Decca Vietnam’ was based in Saigon at the entrance to the heliport at Tan Son Nhut air-base. The monitor site and control centre for both the Central and South Chains was in Qui Nhon, Platoon North HQ.
Ken Penman was a Decca instructor. He recalls, “I was in Vietnam from May 1965 until March 1966 and again in 1968 then left around March 1969. When I returned from ‘Nam in 1966, I was privileged to become an instructor in the ‘Decca Course,’ which was being taught by a British chap that was very new to the system. It was a case of “training the trainers.” We were to be the first group of military instructors who would teach the system to those who would man the sites in Vietnam.”
Dennis Buley, the web-master for ‘Special Electronic Mission Aircraft’ web-page provides some information about Decca Navigator in Vietnam. “Its use in a one-of-a-kind Caribou aircraft was for two purposes – one of which was for navigational purposes but that was the secondary purpose. The real reason was that this aircraft was equipped with one of the early Airborne Radio Direction Finding (ARDF) systems whose mission was to generate lines of bearings (LOB) to enemy radio transmitters so that their locations could be pin pointed and destroyed. In order to do that, the location of the aircraft had to be known, hence the reason why Decca was fitted on this Caribou.”
Below, what one might describe as a ‘promotional’ short film about Decca’s aircraft navigation system in use at Vietnam’s previously-mentioned Tan Son Nhut air-base…
Meanwhile, in 1965, over in the US, Decca Records enjoyed a Number One hit single with ‘Hello Vietnam,’ sung by American Country & Western singer, Johnny Wright. With lyrics such as, “goodbye my darling, Hello Vietnam, America has trouble to be stopped. We must stop communism in that land or freedom will start slipping through our hands,” is it any wonder it’s regarded by commentators as a pro Vietnam War song, a rarity in Western popular music of the 1960s.
In the 1950s, reportedly, the American branch of Decca Records was operating a hit-making recording-studio within the so-called ‘Pythian Temple’ building in New York City. Built in the 1920s, the hotel-like structure was a headquarters of the Knights of Pythia fraternal order, of which Decca label artist Louis Armstrong was a member as it goes.
The ‘Pythian’ building, which was created by Scottish-born architect Thomas Lamb, is Masonic in its themes. One reviewer of it I’ve come across describes it as “a blockbuster synthesis of Egyptian, Babylonian and Assyrian motifs”…
From what I can gather, the Knights of Pythia rented its auditorium (or “ballroom” as one description I’ve seen has it) at the ‘Temple’ building to Decca Records and from where came recordings from, amongst others, Buddy Holly and also Bill Haley and The Comets and their ‘Rock Around the Clock,’ a song defined as the birth-point in the mass popularity of Rock & Roll and the resulting emergence of modern Pop music (counter) culture.
What the public would have been getting from Decca songs that came out on record after the Second World War was a revolutionary advancement in audio-sound, the company’s experimentation with frequencies during WWII for the British military effort made their way in some shape or form onto the music-label’s releases afterwards thanks to Arthur Haddy, English-born onetime chief recording engineer for Decca Records who then became technical director of the ‘Decca Record Company Ltd.’ In an interview for the publication the ‘New Scientist’ in 1983, he recalled how, whilst working for the record-company during the war, he was also on call to the RAF, and one of his jobs for it was to help decode the transmissions of German fighter aircrafts that had been adapted for night missions, the so-called ‘night-fighters.’ He did this with the aid of recorded sound. He said,
“The RAF laid on raids specially to get the Germans talking about what was happening and when. That gave the code breakers their clues. All the fighter radios were voice-operated, they only transmitted when the pilot spoke. So we had to record everything on disc. We had two complete sets of equipment so recording never stopped. We would cut around 100 wax discs during a raid. They all had to be processed back at the studios, with filters to remove the whistles. Then it all went back to the RAF for decoding.”
Also, he went on,
“We did another recording job. All British fighter planes had a device called ‘IFF’ (‘Identification Friend or Foe’). It was a little black box that exploded when it was opened, in case the aeroplane was brought down in Germany. The pilots used to switch these things on when they came back across the coast so that our anti-aircraft guns could identify them.” Haddy said these boxes transmitted a noise that was designed “not to be copied. But we had to teach all the anti-aircraft gun-operators to recognise the noise. There wasn’t enough IFF equipment to do it live. So what we did was make high-quality disc recordings, and send them out to all the anti-aircraft gun stations. We made the recordings in the Decca West Hampstead studio (London). They had an armed guard on the place. One engineer was nearly shot when he ran to the pub for lunch and came in through the studio back door.”
It was after Haddy was asked by the RAF to record the noise of German submarine propellers that Decca Records got its revolutionary post-war sound. There was a particular high frequency that emanated from these subs that was different to the British ones and Arthur captured it so that Royal Air Force fighter-pilots flying in raids and who were also monitoring what was below the seas beneath them thanks to special underwater microphones and radio-receivers, could identify the enemy and bomb them instead of hitting one of their own by mistake, which is what had happened a few times before this. Haddy recalled that it was “the RAF” who’d “hit on the idea of recording the sound” so that it could then be used to train the RAF crews to recognise its distinctive frequency. “We had to build a disc-cutter that would handle the full range of human hearing. We built one that would go up to around 16 kHz. Then we recorded the propeller noise from a captured German sub. Also the noise of a British sub. On headphones you could clearly hear the difference.” After the war, Decca Records used the same disc-cutter head that Arthur employed for the submarine recordings to develop that revolutionary advancement in soundit introduced into the music-world, most notably under its imprint, ‘FFRR’ (‘Full Frequency Range Recordings’).
Another music recording giant that had been tinkering with frequencies during the Second World War was ‘EMI’ (‘Electric and Music Industries’), the UK-based company that took on and signed The Beatles to its ‘Parlophone’ record-label after Decca had auditioned and infamously rejected them. Actually, EMI had been involved in military-related pursuits prior to WWII, credited with, in the late 1930s, playing a pivotal role in the development of what’s reported to be Britain’s, if not the world’s, first airborne surveillance radar, named ‘RDF2.’ This was first launched, quite literally, on board a British aircraft bomber in a test exercise in 1937. The RDF2 used a television-receiver that the music-making company had created earlier that decade, at a time when TV entertainment in the UK was in its birthing phase, broadcasting to the country began in 1936. Essentially, and in a very simple nutshell, from the information I’ve gathered during my research, EMI’s device was the preferred choice for military development back then because it operated on a frequency that was easy for the developers to work with. By the end of 1939, with the Second World War in motion, the recording giant was deeply involved in negotiations with Britain’s Air Ministry for many manufacturing contracts for different forms of radar equipment, according to info I’ve come across. “Subsequently, EMI’s Central Research Laboratories and the Gramophone Company’s manufacturing capacity were associated with the design, development and production of radar systems which played crucial roles in the air offensive over Germany, the defeat of the German night bombers and the defeat of the U-boats,” states former employee of the Royal Naval Scientific Service, Professor Russell W. Burns in his book, ‘The Life and Times of A.D. Blumlein.’
If you weren’t aware already, Alan Dower Blumlein is one of those lauded once-in-a-lifetime genius type of figures. Born in London in 1903, he’s hailed as having been an innovative, prolific, pioneering electronics/sound engineer and inventor, and who worked for EMI during the 1930s and ‘40s, and amongst one of his achievements was the invention of what we now call ‘stereo sound.’ At the time of its initial development in 1931, it was referred to as ‘binaural’ sound, and it played a pivotal role in the Second World War thanks to radar projects that were being undertaken by the music company. According to its official website, it was during a night out at the movies with his wife that Alan first envisioned what would become ‘stereo.’ What happened was, so we’re informed, “Blumlein was frustrated that the sound from a character on screen could only be heard from a speaker on the corresponding side of the room. To solve this problem, Blumlein began working on a binaural system which is still in use today. He started by abolishing the idea that the two loudspeakers represented the listeners’ two ears and instead sought to re-create the features of the sound field including directional information.” In other words, I guess, in that movie he’s reported to have seen with his wife, stereo would have enabled the voices of the actors in the film to travel from one speaker to the other in correspondence with the direction from where they were being spoken from on the screen. In 1934, this new development in sound was put into practise at EMI’s then recently-opened recording-studios at Abbey Road when Blumlein brought his ‘binaural’ equipment there and recorded the London Symphony Orchestra. This key event in the story of contemporary sound has since been immortalised with a commemorative plaque situated on the outside of the now-famous building, although it wasn’t until the 1950s that stereo began to make its presence known on music releases. Where its initial influence was felt, it would appear, was actually in a military setting, in the Second World War, in another Blumlein invention and labelled, ‘VIE,’ or in other words, Visual Indicating Equipment. An important “feature of the VIE was the incorporation of principles advanced to Blumlein during his 1931 work on binaural recording… these principles” were applied “to the sound location and to the radar location of aircraft…,” according to the earlier mentioned author, Professor Burns in The Life and Times of A.D. Blumlein. And pictured here, from that book, is a reported photo of an EMI-constructed “anti-aircraft sound locator. Many thousands” of these were built and all of them fitted with VIE.
Blumlein died in 1942 at the age of just 38 after the aircraft bomber he was aboard whilst testing the airborne radar system, the ‘H2S,’ crashed. Although officially declared to have been an accident, sabotage was, reportedly, suspected but never proved. This incident was regarded so sensitive an event at the time that then British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, it’s claimed, blocked it from becoming public knowledge so as to prevent the Germans from learning of the existence of the H2S as well as of the valued inventor’s death, a potential morale booster for Hitler this. Author and former ‘EMI Electronics’ employee, Professor Simon Watts, writes, “H2S was originally developed as a bomb-aiming radar, fitted to aircraft in RAF Bomber Command… H2S Mk9 was still in service with the RAF in 1982…” The earlier Mk3 incarnation of this radar was “a major contribution to the winning of the battle of the Atlantic” during the war. “After the war, during the 1950s, EMI developed the ‘ASV (Anti Surface Vessel) 21’ maritime surveillance radar,” which was fitted to RAF aircraft. “In the early 1970s it was fitted to the new Nimrod MR1 aircraft…”
Somewhat ironically (perhaps?), in 1979 EMI was bought by an Austrian who, it’s reported, fought for the Germans in his country’s army during the First World War. His name was Jules Thorn, then later, Sir Jules Thorn after he emigrated to England in the 1920s, where he formed and established ‘Thorn Electrical Industries,’ and that decades later became ‘Thorn EMI’ following his acquisition of the famous recording giant including its not-so-famous military/radar section, and all of it continued to operate and do business under this change of ownership. At the end of the 1980s and into the ‘90s, it purchased the British record-label, ‘Chrysalis,’ home to acts including, at one time or another, Blondie, Jethro Tull, Fun Lovin’ Criminals, and Billy Idol. This would’ve been happening in or around the same time-period as it was reported that Thorn EMI, which by this point is regarded to have been one of the biggest defence contractors of the United Kingdom, had hosted the arrival in the UK of six army officers of Saddam Hussein’s, in order that they be trained in the use of the company’s ‘Cymbeline’ radar. This is claimed to have occurred just a few months before the launch of the so-called ‘first Gulf War’ that pitted Britain and the US against Iraq which just a couple of years before this had been embroiled in a lengthy war with Iran and when, according to documents acquired by the British newspaper, ‘The Guardian,’ Iraqi military was pitched in “a contract” with Thorn EMI for “further supplies” of the Cymbeline, regardless of “Britain’s supposed neutrality” towards the conflict between the two Middle Eastern countries at the time. The then UK Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, “connived at ways” round this “neutrality” so that it could do business with Saddam.
For example, the British government provided “taxpayer-funded export insurance” to a number of private firms under the guise of it being only for ‘civil projects,’ such as a contract for a company called ‘Tripod Engineering’ which, in 1988 “succeeded in getting its £18 million deal classed as civil, even though it was for a fighter pilot training complex for the Iraqi air force.” That same year, Thorn EMI received this insurance, to secure the earlier-mentioned “contract to ship further supplies of Cymbeline mortar-locating radar to the Iraqi army” as well as “to train Iraqi officers.” Elsewhere, moving away from Iraq, there’s, reportedly, the company’s involvement in ‘Al-Yamamah.’ This was a series of arms deals between Britain’s government and Saudi Arabia’s ruling royalty that started in the 1980s and that have been plagued by allegations of corruption and bribery. Commissions, otherwise referred to as ‘bribes,’ had been paid by companies to win contracts. Sir Colin Southgate, a one-time chairman of Thorn EMI “admitted to paying huge commissions of 25% on a £40 million Saudi arms deal… in 1991,” according to a report attributed to The Guardian. Meanwhile, it was claimed that a former managing-director of the company’s defence systems division, an individual by the name of John Hoakes, had said, “commissions make the world go round. There is nothing illegal about them. I don’t know of a (Saudi) royal who’ll get out of bed for less than five per cent.”
Some idea as to the close proximity that there’s been between the music and military-related sections of EMI is to be found at its site in Hayes, London. It’s here, so my research informs me, that The Beatles’ ‘Revolver’ and ‘Sgt. Pepper’ vinyl albums were mastered, pressed and manufactured as well as records from The Rolling Stones, Queen, Pink Floyd and Deep Purple, as well as being the place for the production of defence-electronics and the previously-mentioned pioneering work on airborne radar in the 1930s. It’s also where Alan Blumlein developed his binaural (stereo) sound.
I’m intrigued – as I guess you might well be too – as to exactly just how close the relationship at EMI actually was between the recording of music and the research and development of military technology, especially with regards to the company’s work with frequencies in its radar-making years during WWII, and there’s an anecdote I’ve heard from Paul McCartney relating to Second World War-flavoured exploits and sound frequency that has had me intrigued for years and wanting to know more. It’s featured in the 2011 BBC TV documentary, ‘Produced by George Martin,’ which is a retrospective on the life and career of George Martin, the famed record-producer and one-time head at EMI’s Parlophone label and who, before making his living from music, had served in the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy as an aerial observer during WWII. In an all too brief and perhaps somewhat suggestive moment for those of us with a conspiratorial eye and ear, in this television-biography, McCartney mentions the subject of Hitler-era mind control tactics in the same breath as The Beatles and their experimental efforts in the studio during the 1960s with Martin, who we can see in the documentary sitting next to Paul who’s reminiscing on when they worked together at EMI’s studios at Abbey Road over four decades earlier, reminding him of one particular occasion back then when producer George gave a demonstration on the powerful effects of high and low sound-frequencies on the human body, with the aid of an oscillator. McCartney reminds him, “you’d do an experiment in the studio and take an oscillator, so you’d go, ‘…. Can you hear it?’ And us with young ears at the time, we would go, ‘yeah? Yeah. Can still hear it,’ and you’d take it up and up and then we go, ‘no. We just lost it.’ And you’d say, ‘pretty good hearing!’ You know… ‘n’ they said, ‘let’s do it the other way,’ you’d… take it down, and we’d go, ‘yeah. Can hear it. Ooh, got a funny feeling though…’ And you told this story that Hitler – Hitler’s people, his media-people – knew this effect, and before a rally, they would play a low frequency that nobody could hear – they’d put that out… everybody would be sitting there going, ‘… not feeling too great’… The minute before Hitler got there, they’d switch it off…,’” at which point, Paul says, the crowds at the rally would cheer enthusiastically for Hitler. “I love those little stories that would be mixed-in with sort of our recording-career,” he goes on.
I can’t help wonder why Martin imparted knowledge to McCartney and The Beatles back then on the consequences of low and high sound-frequencies on the human body and mind. I mean, was he merely engaging in some innocent, friendly in-studio banter, or was he passing knowledge on to them that he figured could be applied to their music during the recording process, and if so, how, and for what purpose? What, if anything, did Paul and his band-mates at the time back there at Abbey Road pick up from George Martin’s said oscillator “experiment”?
The previously-mentioned site at Hayes had also played a role in the First World War, producing munitions, although at that time it wasn’t owned by EMI, well, not as such. Back then it belonged to the ‘Gramophone Company,’ which had been founded in 1897, ten years after an American inventor, Emile Berliner, invented the gramophone, which was – just in case for those reading this that don’t know – a flat wax disc containing recorded sound, the precursor to today’s vinyl records. In the early 1900s, the Gramophone Company was at the forefront of what was then the new and burgeoning business of music, but its fortunes came crashing with the Great Depression of the 1930s. Because of this, it went into a merger that saw the birth of EMI, and it might interest you to know that it’s claimed this was encouraged along by the notorious ‘J.P. Morgan’ bank, an alleged ‘Illuminati’ backer (as you’ll probably be aware), that at the time, reportedly, owned 80% shares in a recording company that became part of this merging, the ‘Columbia Graphophone Company,’ a relation of what we today would call, CBS/Sony Music, although the UK-born Columbia Graphophone Company’s origins aren’t rooted in music exactly. Just look to its parent company from which its reported to have stemmed from, the US-based ‘Columbia Phonograph Company.’ Formed in 1888, its beginnings are shown to be within the halls of Government, namely the US Congress. Founded by, according to a retrospective by ‘The Washington Post,’ “a group of former congressional stenographers,” the leader was a journalist, Edward D. Easton, “the official reporter for the United States Congress,” writes historian David Morton in his book, ‘Off the Record: The Technology and Culture of Sound Recording in America.’ The-then recent invention of the ‘graphophone’ recording device, as well as that of its counterpart, the phonograph, was, for reporters at the time who had to rely on shorthand, a welcome development. It was, essentially, the Dictaphone of its day. “Easton… became a convert to machine stenography almost immediately. Easton took notes in shorthand, but adopted the practise of reciting his notes to the graphophone immediately after a session, while they were still fresh in his mind. By early 1891, the Columbia Phonograph Company had about sixty machines leased to various companies in the Washington area.” The company was named, ‘Columbia,’ reportedly as a nod to its deep connection to the US capital, Washington D.C. (District of Columbia).
The Washington Post, in a quote attributed to an 1890 trade publication called ‘The Phonogram,’ reports that “Columbia boasted” in the Phonogram piece that “the phonograph has had more progress in Washington… than in any other city thus far. During the session of Congress, between 50 and 60 machines were used in the capital alone by senators, representatives; offices of every department of the Government are now supplied.” But this was not a successful venture for the fledgling Columbia Phonograph Company in the long run, and along came the threat of bankruptcy, and that was thwarted when it diversified into recorded music sometime in the late 1880s/early 1890s. Its offspring company in Britain, the earlier-mentioned Columbia Graphophone Company, was established in 1917 so I’m led to be informed and it was run by a Columbia employee, Louis Saul Sterling. Reportedly, in 1922, with him at the helm it branched off from its American parent that, then a few years later, he bought into and saved after its finances once again fell into the pits. But then came the earlier-mentioned Great Depression that forced the British offshoot that he presided over into the creation of ‘Electric and Musical Industries’ – EMI, of which he became managing director of as it happens. Also, another former Columbia employee who joined this newly-formed company was none other than Alan Blumlein. Meanwhile, over in the US, the Columbia Phonograph Company morphed into ‘CBS.’ The roots of this are in 1927, when the company invested in ‘UIB,’ the ‘United Independent Broadcasters,’ a then fledgling radio-broadcasting network that was then renamed, the ‘Columbia Phonograph Broadcasting System (‘CPBS’). A couple of months later however, following financial losses, the two went their separate ways, and before the year was out, reportedly, there was a change of moniker for CPBS to ‘Columbia Broadcast System’ (‘CBS’), and shortly following this, in a twist of fortunes, it was bought by William S. Paley who in the late 1930s, then acquired its former investor, referred to as ‘Columbia Records’ by this point. Under the ‘CBS’ umbrella, it was home throughout the following decades to well-known music-artists that included Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, AC/DC, the Beach Boys, Leonard Cohen, and Johnny Cash. In the late 1980s, so I’m led to be informed, the company was bought by the Japanese corporation with a speciality in electronics, ‘Sony,’ and from which came ‘Sony Music Entertainment.’
There’s certainly no lack of material within the public domain for anyone looking for anything suspicious, shady and conspiratorial in the history of Sony Music, especially with regards to one of its stars, Michael Jackson, and his untimely death in 2009. Same applies to the earlier-mentioned William S. Paley who, during WWII, is reported to have served as a colonel in London for the Psychological Warfare unit and who, in the years after the war, allegedly encouraged the employment of undercover CIA agents as news-reporters across his CBS TV network (with its infamous ‘eye’ logo).
However, as interesting as these avenues of information are to explore, they’re not for this particular article, the emphasis of which has been specifically focused on the roots of the early music industry that brought to millions of impressionable ears and minds across the world, the culture shakers and changers, such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Bill Haley, and Lonnie Donegan, the men who paved the way for a counter-cultural revolution. But, before signing off here, a few closing words that you might think to be relevant… The earlier-mentioned ‘Thorn’ and ‘EMI’ of ‘Thorn EMI’ demerged from each other in the late 1990s, and in 2012, EMI, which reportedly was by this point no longer attached to the radar/defence business, was eventually bought out by the ‘Universal Music Group,’ and where it currently resides to this day, along with Decca, and a collection of other record-companies it has acquired. Now, here’s the thing… Universal is, in its own words, according to its official website, “the world’s leading music-company,” and, more to the point, “we exist to shape culture through the power of artistry.” You might say, the culture shaping continues then, as in the decades that came before.
FaceBook ‘Decca Records’ About page
Decca 90.com podcast episode: Sir Edward Louis
The New York Times: ‘An Improbable Cradle of Rock Music.’
EMI Archive Trust.org: ‘Alan Blumlein, grandson of inventor and war hero Alan Dower Blumlein today honours his grandfather on his 114 birthday.’
EMI Archive Trust.org: ‘Alan Blumlein and the invention of Stereo.’
alanblumlein.com: ‘IEEE Milestone plaque for the invention of Stereo.’
Jewish Telegraphic Agency: ‘Sir Jules Thorn Dead at 82.’
centralresearchlaboratory.com: ‘Embedded with hardware history.’
BBC TV: ‘Produced by George Martin’ documentary (2011)
EMI Archive Trust.org: ‘History of EMI.’
nytimes.com: ‘Ex-CBS News Chief Tells of Sharing Information with CIA’
‘My Enquiry Into William Paley’s CBS Was the Strangest of My Career.’ by Daniel Schorr.