Honest Jon’s/EMI Archive

by

333from http://www.guardian.co.uk:

EMI starting building factories in Middlesex, England in 1906, when it was still called The Gramophone and Typewriter Company. In the 60s, its factories covered 150 acres and it employed 14,000 people. Today, however, the factories and recording studios are gone or in the process of being demolished. EMI’s Hayes workforce is in single figures, all of them employed in the company’s last remaining building, a vast archive.

From the outside, the archive looks as melancholy as the rest of Hayes. Inside, it’s just bizarre, an apparently endless steel vault containing not just records and master tapes, but aged recording equipment, gramophones, memorabilia and files of press clippings. “They’ve kept everything,” notes Mark Ainley, co-founder of Honest Jon’s, the acclaimed record label born out of the legendary Notting Hill record shop.

Ainley estimates he has spent around 20 months working in the archive’s temperature-controlled environs, sorting through shelf after shelf of forgotten 78s, recorded across the world in the early years of the 20th century. Honest Jon’s has become famous in recent years  for digging up and releasing impossibly recherché music. However, even Ainley seems slightly overwhelmed by what was lurking on the Hayes archive shelves.

He has found recordings of Tamils impersonating motorised transport in 1906, Bengali beggars singing and utterly chilling records from the first world war, intended to inform the British public of the different bells that would be rung in the event of a poison gas attack. “It’s basically a load of records on a shelf without very much other information. They’ve never been inventoried, they’re not even stored by artist or country, but catalogue prefix, so there’s nothing for it but to just go through all of them, just listen to everything.” He sighs. “It’s daft.”

 

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