2 March 1960

Sound effects experts create a storm

The British Phonograph Company’s Sound Effects of Britain series was one of the outstanding success stories of the 1950s, with best-selling discs such as Song of the Hedgerows, Morning in the City, Sounds of the Sea, and Factories, Shipyards and Mines. On this day in 1960, however, the company became embroiled in a highly publicised controversy when it released the forty-first volume: School Days. This report from the Daily Telegraph describes the debate that ensued…

BPC discs replaced labour-intensive sound effects


Daily Telegraph, 2 March 1960

Sir Norman Phillips, chairman of the British Phonographic Company, has defended a gramophone record against accusations of encouraging cruelty to children.

The BPC is Britain’s oldest and most prestigious record company, and its distinguished spoken-word catalogue includes all the major poets, actors and public figures of the century. It also produces a series of high-quality sound effects discs, and it is the latest of these that has attracted criticism.

School Days consists of corporal punishment accompanied by a variety of background noises. Samples include: “Boy receiving six strokes of cane for stealing ten-shilling postal order – chaffinch at window”, “Boy receiving four strokes of cane for persistent lateness – passing locomotive with eight carriages,” and “Boy receiving four strokes of cane for insolence in headmaster’s study – cricket match in nearby playing field”.

Youth leaders and children’s charities have expressed concern that the disc may attract undesirable elements. “We are not imputing any sinister motive to Sir Norman or anyone involved in the recording,” said Mary Aston, a teacher and Girl Guide leader from Guildford, Surrey. “The disc is of excellent quality and will be a boon to amateur dramatics societies and other responsible groups. We are concerned, however, that it may fall into the wrong hands.”

Sir Norman said that he had the greatest respect for the critics, but insisted that their fears were misplaced. “There is nothing unwholesome about the record so I really don’t see a problem,” he said. “If some oddball misbehaves as a consequence of listening to it, then that would be unfortunate indeed. But he might just as likely find twisted inspiration in Just William or Swallows and Amazons, and nobody is calling for them to be banned.” Sir Norman added that his own son Terence was caned for all of the LP’s 51 tracks, some of which required mulitple “takes”. He suffered no ill effects.

Compiled with the help of the Barrett-Jameson Archive Picture: BBC

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