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FAIRY.

See Arthur Badrock, TMR 93, 1996; also Frank Andrews, HD 233. 2001. Two companies made these small childrens’ discs: The Aeolian Co., (better known as Vocalion), and J.E. Hough Ltd., (better known as Edison Bell). Both of these companies had already, in 1922, produced micro-discs. (Many years ago,the late Roger Carter coined the term ‘mini-disc’ for records from 9″ (23cm) down to 7″ (17.75cm) diameter, as opposed to the normal and almost totally ubiquitous 10″ (25cm) and 12″ (30cm) sizes. Roger is sadly missed, so we use, as a memorial to him, the complementary term ‘micro-disc’ for anything smaller than 7″.)  Edison Bell had produced their ‘The Bell’ records, of 5.375″ (13.5cm) for themselves; while Vocalion had made theirs, called ‘Little Marvel’, for Woolworths stores. They were, however, perfectly prepared to use these masters for other clients. One such client was the unknown vendor who had Fairy records made for them. It would seem that Vocalion might have been the first to make Fairys; a series which began at F-1 bore masters of 1922 vintage. However, when the Edison Bell Fairys appeared, their catalogue numbers ran from 350 upwards. Moreover, the first label above, undoubtedly a Vocalion product, is not in an F- series, but carries the number 307. Without making this entry unduly long, we conjecture that there might have been 50 Vocalions in the F- series to start with; but later, the F-series (or some of it) was renumbered to conform to the catalogue numbers of the Little Marvel discs from which they were derived. And in order to avoid clashing, the Edison Bell product was allocated 350 and above. In fact, the Little Marvel 307, of which Fairy 307 is a clone, was recorded circa May 1926.
To sum up, the Edison Bell Fairys seem all to be from 1922; the F- series from Vocalion are probably of similar vintage; but Vocalion Fairies – sorry – Fairys, with plain numbers may have been recorded up to 1926 or even later. In which case, they would be larger, at 6″ (15.25cm).  Grateful thanks are due to my friend Mike Thomas for advising us on these matters, in which his expertise far exceeds ours.

FAMOUS.

See Frank Andrews, HD 233. 2001. The proprietor of Famous records was J Blum & Co, who also had the Diploma, Stella and Victory labels. All (except early Diplomas) were pressed by Kalliope in Germany, from Blum’s own masters, which resided at the factory in Saxony. However, unlike the others, the Famous label did not show any connection with Blum & Co. Neither did Blum advertise them. They were factored by Lugton’s who were in Old Street, London, as was Blum & Co. They appeared in early 1913. After the outbreak of war, Famous records were pressed by the Disc Record Co., presumably from their variegated collection of masters. These have purple & gold labels. Famous 62 above is interesting; somebody has gone to the trouble of painting, with gold ink, a thicker frame at the foot of the label to obliterate the now-intolerable ‘Recorded in England, Pressed in Saxony’. This is quite often encountered. The public might keep their records, but gouge out or obliterate any German reference. Here, however, some little care has been taken, so this might have been done by a dealer, in order to shift some German-made records, which would otherwise be dead weight on his shelves – and on those of every other wholesaler and dealer too! Blum & Co. went to the wall in 1915 – as did the DRC. Famous records must have sold relatively well during their short life, as they turn up occasionally.

FAVORITE.

See Frank Andrews and Bill Dean-Myatt, “Favorite Records: A Discography”.  CLPGS Reference Series No.8, 2010.  This is one of the excellent ‘New Wave’ discographical publications. It is very modestly priced. Get it from the CLPGS bookshop at: www.clpgs.org.uk

The above 24 page A5 booklet contains a full history of the very important German company Favorite, and furthermore, has with it a CD-ROM which carries a 139-page listing of all the thousands of known masters that appeared here. They were recorded not only in London, but all over Europe. Details are also given of many of the client pressings that Favorite made for British firms. It is an invaluable publication. Favorite discs had a UK presence from 1906 – 1916. Their first issues are single sided, and these are very scarce. They bore an impressive design on the reverse, as you see in the first scan. Their numbering system is meticulous: it encodes record size, country of origin, type of repertoire, and even a suffix when issued in another country – which many of them were. A date often appears on the label, either in plain form, or often in Arabic numerals. Read more about this in the CLPGS booklet. In early 1914 they were absorbed (along with Dacapo and Lyraphon) into the ever-growing Carl Lindström A.G. This resolves the oddity of Favorite 741 above: a Favorite pressed from a Beka master. By October 1914 – when 741 was issued – they were but different wings of the same company. Still, it was rather ironic that a German-owned company was issuing patriotic war-time repertoire in the U.K! Our government increasingly though so too, and in 1916, the British branch of Lindström was taken over & its assets confiscated by the Board of Trade, including its factory in Hertford.  The last Favorite in this series (it got to about 960) came out in May 1916, but already, as you can see from the woefully off-centre label of 819, ‘things were not what they were’ – indeed, they never would be, ever again…

FESTIVAL.

See Frank Andrews, HD 234, 2001. This very rare German-pressed label is a stencil of Globophone; indeed, the label design is identical apart from being in violet or blue rather than Globophone’s green. Naturally, they have the same 6000 master series suffixed ‘KV’. It is not known for whom they were produced; but they were made by Schallplattenfabrik Globophon GmbH of Hanover. The -KV suffix, it was pointed out by Dr Rainer Lotz, are almost certainly the initials of Karl Vogel, an early recording expert, and these 6000-KV masters were also used on Eclipse, one type of Apollo record, and one type of Playwell – Regent. I have seen about 10 or 12 of these masters and all are of British material. It may therefore be that this series was made by Vogel in London to the order of Globophon, at one of the several independent recording rooms that existed there.

FETHERFLEX.

A listing of various labels associated with the charismatic personality Nöel Pemberton Billing was published in 1992. It is still available. “World Records, Vocalion W, Fetherflex and Penny Phono Recordings’, by Frank Andrews, Arthur Badrock and Edward S Walker. 71pp A5 format. Spalding, Lincolnshire 1992. Just go to the bookshop at www.clpgs.org.uk to check it out. The bulk of the book is about World Records, but there are four crucial pages of information on Fetherflex. 

Fetherflex records appeared in November 1923. They were extremely thin (less than 1mm), lightweight, flexible, and were yet another brainchild of the restless enterprise of Noël Pemberton-Billing (1881-1948). Alas, they prospered not, and the company was in liquidation by May 1924. They are extremely scarce, but play tolerably well if in good condition. About 70 issues were made, though none between 6 and 50 has ever been seen. It has been said that some of the material was of German origin. On Fetherflex 56 is the overture to Adolphe Adam’s 1852 opera-comique ‘Si j’étais Roi’, in which a Turkish ‘splash’ cymbal is often heard. This is a quite reliable diagnostic feature of German bands, so that opinion is probably correct, though from what source such masters may have come is still unknown. There is a considerable resemblance between the Fetherflex label and the 1928 Piccadilly label. Piccadillys were all electrically recorded, and so outside the scope of these pages, but one is shown here to illustrate the similarity. The reason  for the resemblance is, as yet, quite unknown.

THE FLAG.

See Frank Andrews, HD 233. ‘The Flag’ records were made by Beka for an outlet as yet unknown even to Frank. Although several hundred issues may have been made, it remains a very rare label. Circa 1912. 12″ discs were also made; they have lilac and gold labels, like the Beka Meister records from which they were derived. Possibly a tallyman label – see John Bull for details.

FONOTIPIA.

See Frank Andrews: ‘A Fonotipia Fragmentia’ TMR 40, 41, 42, 44, 45. June 1976 – April 1977 . This is one of Frank Andrews’ early masterpieces of discography; an exhaustive history of the immensely prestigious Fonotipia concern, and its important affiliates, Odeon & Jumbo, &c. The whole venture was conceived in Italy as a high-class project, specializing in the finest operatic artistes and repertoire. Other material appeared as well, e.g. instrumental sides by the Band of the Royal Italian Navy (usually mis-translated as The Italian Marines Band), but opera predominated, by far. Everything about Fonotipia was imbued with class! The gorgeous label and splendid trade mark; the discs – which were naturally costly – were sent out with a small sticker over the centre hole, so that the purchaser would know they had never been played; there was a sumptuous illustrated catalogue, one of which, happily, has been re-printed in facsimile. They were exported all over the world. The first example illustrated has a Moscow dealer’s stamp in the wax. At one time, U.S. Columbia produced them under licence – see the right-hand label. The history of the companies was nevertheless very complex, and only study of Frank’s articles, can reveal the detail. The first disc above was listed in the 1906 catalogue. The discs were seldom to be found in junk shops, as they were in effect ‘collectors’ items’ right from the start, and so passed direct from hand to hand, or via postal auction. Indeed, it is only within the last 20 years or so that one has seen them at record bazaars. The heyday of Fonotipia in the U.K. was from 1905 to 1916. (Although the test pressing has been titled in ink ‘Municipal Band of Milan’, the master number is definitely by the Band of the Royal Italian Navy; its conductor, Mataceni, has autographed the wax.)

 FORTUNE.

See Frank Andrews, HD 233. Another label made for Leon Liebowich’s ‘Regent Fittings Company’. Others include Pickofall, Besttone &c. Very scarce. Ca. 1915-1916; masters from the Sound Recording Co., pressed by Crystalate.

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British disc records of the 'Acoustic' Era.