Tuesday, July 14, 2020

The older songs...

...can be a little difficult to find. In the article from April 14th, 2020 we have shown which sources we use most often for our research. Today we would like to show you where we search if we have to go a bit further into the past.

The 7" single with 45 rotations per minute was certainly the most important medium of the 50s and 60s. It was inexpensive, the kids could afford it and could also take it to their parties without any problems. Probably no other medium uplifted the triumphal march of Rock 'n' Roll as much as the small vinyl disc, also thanks to the jukebox. An excellent source for the 7" singles is 45cat, with over a million entries probably the largest collection that exists on the net especially for singles. But background information about artists and authors is rather underdeveloped. There is no separate database like there is on Discogs. But with 45cat you can usually better rely on the year information. For UK singles there are often exact dates, because often the data are printed on the label shown or additionally under the entry: "Release date from booklet 'New Singles No. xxx'. In such cases you have of course a higher security.

45cat is a part of the internet label 45world.com, where you can also find CDs, vinyl albums and much more – unfortunately not as extensive as on Discogs. But a very important part is the 78rpm section, where you can currently find over 110,000 shellac records. Since even today's artists like to bring very old songs to the market in a polished way, the time of the 78rpm records is very important for our search for the originals.

For the shellac records from the US market there is an excellent source in the Discography of American Historical Recordings. The site is operated by the library of the University of Santa Barbara in California and lists with scientific accuracy a wealth of recordings – mostly with the exact date of recording, matrix number, names of the contributors and the authors – and the resulting records. One source that very often offers extensive information on shellac records is the music archive of the German National Library. Unfortunately, there is hardly any information on the content and technical details of the sound carriers, such as the date of recording or the release date.

If you need to go back to the 19th century to find an original, there is the UCSB Cylinder Audio Archive, which contains wax and tinfoil cylinders from the period between 1880 and the early years of the 20th century. Mostly you can even listen to the complete song. This is also true for the shellac archive of archive.org. Here you can currently find over 170,000 shellac records with the complete songs and excellent label photos. Unfortunately the recordings published here are limited to the US market in most cases.

The French market is represented by the site encyclopedisque.fr, but the search on this site is a bit complicated and needs getting used to. There is a similar situation for Italian records with the Discografia Nazionale della Canzone Italiana. On both platforms you can find records from time to time that are missing on Discogs or 45cat. The site AllMusic has also developed in recent years. You can now also find vinyl from the 50s and 60s and the artist database has improved, with interesting biographies of the artists. A rather rarely used, but quite extensive site is fono.fi for editions from the Finnish market and thanks to Google Translate, if you don't know the Finnish language, you can also understand this site.

Since originals are not only found pressed on records, but often also performed for the first time in films or on stages all over the world, corresponding databases are of course very important for us. IMDb (Internet Movie Database) is, as far as we know, the largest film database on the net, it offers very accurate premiere data and when it comes to Broadway performances of musicals, there is no way around IBDB (Internet Broadway Database). IMDb also has a "Soundtrack" section for many films, which (usually) lists all the songs that were played and sung in the film. The German counterpart filmportal.de unfortunately doesn't have this section, but you can at least get some information about the persons involved and the dates. And then there is the operetta encyclopedia, in which one can find information about originals from time to time.

There are a lot of other sites on the net, which deal with special topics of music and sometimes contain useful information, like doo-wop.blogg.org, Rock'n'roll Schallplatten Forum, Phonopassion.de, Jazzdisco.org and much more. But with all these sites, what is true for every Wikipedia article also applies here: you can write a lot on the net when the day is long, and not everything has to be right. A good help to check information is for example Google Books. What you find here as a scanned excerpt from printed publications can usually be considered as really secure. You can have a look into the Billboard Journal, which is a good help to find out the release dates of songs.

That’s all for this part of the sources for our site. Soon there will be a sequel, because there are still some special fields of research to be done.