chapter  1
28 Pages

Getting Back to Business

Many forces combine to make the present an exciting and promising moment in the history of English music. The nation is now conscious of the need for music as part of daily life and education and, with English composition at a level unknown since the end of the seventeenth century, the opportunities for making and enjoying music are fuller and more varied than ever before. (Political and Economic Planning (PEP) 1949: 211)

Most people’s musical pleasures are of the simplest and relatively few can raise their level of musical understanding very much … most youngsters to-day like jazz and little else; their elders fancy the old music hall songs best and a few sentimental parlour ballads, while beyond that their musical horizon is a desert. Some of this music is fun, some of it has charm, some of it is moving, but most of it is pretty low-level stuff and many of the dance lyrics are of an enervating ‘wishing-will-make-it-so-kind’ that is not much use to anybody; but, like it or not, it is the popular music of our time. (Workers Music Association 1945: 13)


British live music in 1950 was, in many ways, still adjusting to the impact of the Second World War, which had disrupted every aspect of British life. During wartime, the raw materials used to make musical commodities were in short supply: whether it was the shellac used in 78 rpm records (the dominant recording format of the era) or the brass used to make saxophones, resources that had previously been taken for granted were diverted to manufacture military and essential goods. And British nightlife had obviously been affected by the German air raids. Buildings where music was performed were damaged, whether landmarks such as St Paul’s Cathedral or specialist venues such as London’s Café Anglais, a popular nightspot for dancing and jazz bands. Buildings that were not damaged directly were affected regardless, as the chaos forced many venues to close temporarily and disrupted transport and the night-time economy. But the most severe impact was that a generation of professional and aspiring musicians, as well as concert promoters, agents and others involved in British musical culture, were forced to abandon their careers and serve their country in the armed and other services.