February 11 – Victor loses, Massive Attack

1921

Judge Learned Hand decrees that Victor Records — defending Eldridge R. Johnson‘s US patent #896,059 — has not proved that Johnson invented lateral-cut (needle moves side-to-side) records.

Background

Victor and Edison Records were the giants of the industry for years. Edison had fewer patents, but it made vertical-cut records (needle moves up and down). They were not compatible with lateral players — which were less-expensive, more commonly owned. ▷Lateral vs. Vertical▹ ▷Format wars▹
 

Hundreds of hungry, new record companies sought the end of Victor’s claims to fees. In April 1919 Gennett Records of Richmond, Indiana (*) started the fight when it began selling lateral-cut records, refusing to pay Victor a fee. ▷Starr vs. Victor▹
 
Gennett’s battle was joined by other small labels like Okeh, Vocalian, and Canada’s Compo(*). Brunswick Records (founded in 1916) introduced a lateral-cut line in Jan. 1920 (as did many companies that year), and were sued by Victor on Nov. 1.
 

The judge’s decision opens the floodgates. On April 4, 1922, Johnson’s patent is ruled invalid on the basis of prior art (Jones, 1901). Lateral-cut records soon dominate the markets. So much so that in October, 1929 Edison throws in the towel. The stock market crashes the next day.
 
▷Recording tech history▹ ▷Yale:History of 78s▹ ▷NYU dead media archive▹

1991

Bristol, England trip hop trio Massive Attack release downbeat, soulful single Unfinished Sympathy (NL#2,UK#13).
 
It’s from debut album Blue Lines (AT#5,UK#13), said to typify the Bristol sound, ‘a joyful melancholy’. In 2000 Q magazine readers rated it #9 of 100 greatest British albums.
 
Four following albums all score in the top-10 across Europe — including 2003’s outstanding 100th Window, essentially a one-man effort by Robert Del Naja.
Teardrop (1993)  Protection (1995)  Live with Me (2006) 

See also: Portishead, Tricky, Roni Size, Smith & Mighty

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