released November 21, 2014
Between 1930-1934 the inventor of “The Modern Singing Style,” Al Bowlly, recorded over 500 songs with the legendary Ray Noble and his Orchestra including such wonderful tracks as “Goodnight Sweetheart” and “Midnight, The Stars And You.”Together the pair brought the joy of the dancehall to the British masses, performing at cinemas and hotels across London and the UK.
In Europe, storm clouds were gathering. A disenchanted Germany spoke as one following the disastrous First World War, and elected Adolf Hitler to power, unwittingly paving the way to the Second World War. Throughout the mid 30’s, Al Bowlly performed in the halls of the USA, becoming a household name in New York and breaking into the charts. By 1938, following throat surgery, he was forced to return to London to find an audience that had deserted him.
Austria had become united with Germany, Czechoslovakia and The Sudetenland had been annexed. Poland lay vulnerable before Hitler’s gaze, with both Britain and France vouching for her safety.
On the 1st September 1939, the German military invaded Poland. Multiple airstrikes supported vast armies as they swept across the country in a “Blitzkreig” of which had never been witnessed before and by September the 3rd Britain was forced to act. Neville Chamberlain declared war on Germany.
By 1941, Al Bowlly was touring regional theatres with differing orchestras and resurrecting his recording career. The Battle of Britain had been lost, and Hitler, only ever half-hearted about his plans to invade Britain, instead turned his attention East, and invaded Russia. However he typically vowed to teach the British nation a lesson for their defiance. The Blitz followed, with indiscriminate nightly bombing of London and Britain’s other major cities and towns.
On the night of April 17, 1941, Al Bowlly had finished a performance at The Rex Theatre in High Wycombe. Offered an overnight stay, he opted instead to take the last train home to his flat in London. Later that night during a heavy air raid, a parachute mine from a Luftwaffe aircraft floated silently into the street and exploded. Al Bowlly was killed instantly.
“Afternoons At The Savoy” aims to document the first few terrible days of what became the worst catastrophe visited upon Europe in the 20th Century. As the continent descended into war, so the dancehalls of Britain echoed to the beautiful sounds of the dance bands.
Today it’s all gone. This is a lament for the tragedy of war, a lament for a forgotten genre of music.
Hope you enjoy…