Morpheus on… The Hole In The Record

In 1939, Glenn Miller released a record with a hole in it. Oh sure, ALL records had holes in them – but THIS one had a MUSICAL hole. The tune was “In The Mood” – and the band’s arrangement had a repeated verse that slowly ramped DOWN – then STOPPED, leaving a SILENT BAR – then it ROARED back in for a final verse.

And it was that silent bar that DID it. Keeping the rhythm in their heads, the audience knew EXACTLY when the band would jump back in. Thus, it was a kind of TRIBUTE to the audience’s sense of rhythm – a COMPLIMENT, if you will. Glenn did it – and people LOVED him for it.

Thirteen years later, the “hole” in the arrangement was used to magnificent effect in “The Glenn Miller Story” (’54). In the movie, the band are playing the number at an open air concert in England, when a “doodlebug” flies over. Its jet engine sputters to a stop and with its characteristic WHEEEE, it begins to fall…

The audience does what ALL people did when they heard that sound, during WW2 – they throw themselves under the nearest cover, hoping they are not Ground Zero.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Stewart and his boys have reached the diminuendo section of the piece.


The audience pick themselves up, realising THE BAND HAD PLAYED ON – RIGHT THROUGH the scare (the bomb had landed nearby – but not near enough for either the blast or debris to nail Glenn and his boys) and the audience erupts with wild applause.

So did the cinema audiences of the time: it was a moment of high emotion – there was not a dry seat in the house (a great STORY – but if it ACTUALLY HAPPENED, I’ll eat my own foot).

Perhaps the success of that dramatic interlude in The Glenn Miller Story influenced Bill Haley’s arrangement of “Rock Around The Clock” – it was recorded just as the movie opened. There’s no diminuendo in the number, but it does feature that HOLE.

A session drummer was responsible for the timing of the famous ending – it is said he messed UP the first take and the record that eventually sold over TWENTY-FIVE MILLION copies is in fact take TWO. Other sources say the balance between the band and Bill was out… We’ll never know.

But what we DO know is that it too contains a silent bar, before that famous crashing drum finale.

Of course, Rock Around The Clock was far from being an immediate hit. Its use in “Blackboard Jungle” a year AFTER its initial release (as the “B” side!) triggered its phenomenal rise – and the rest is Rock history.

And it would be another year (’56, now) before the device was used in another chart-topper. Except, despite it easily being the best thing Ray Gonif (sorry – CONNIFF) his chorus and orchestra ever did, “’S Wonderful” was never released as a single. He and his guys were ALBUM artists.

However, typically, the Baron Of Bland CHICKENED OUT. Rather than credit his audience with a sense of rhythm (!) he put a CRASH cymbal right in the middle of the silent bar! The bum.

It was left to Warren Covington, leading the late Tommy Dorsey’s band (Tommy had choked – literally – a couple of years earlier: a heavy meal followed by a sleeping pill had knocked him off at just 51) to revive the device two years later, in 1958.

“Tea For Two Cha-Cha” was a massive hit and featured a THREE-bar silence. This was stretching the public’s sense of rhythm to breaking point. And a number of DJs were fooled into starting to speak during it – then, if they hadn’t been quick enough with their fader, they got drowned out when the band came BACK IN!

But this foot-tapper was the LAST time the device was successfully used. Okay, it was invoked many times on Pop records of the Sixties and Seventies – but it only ever REALLY worked with SWING music. And THAT died out as a popular form in the late Fifties.

You can find ALL of the above music on YouTube – here’s Glenn Miller’s In The Mood, to get you started…


3 responses to this post.

  1. Weirdly, my memory of hearing Rock Around The Clock first is on a Hancock’s Half Hour show. Tony was a teacher, and the students were rocking and rolling rather than whatever it was that they were asked to do. But I may have got it all wrong. Then, after the hit was still in the charts, I saw the movie. These days I prefer the Doo-Wop era. Chuck Berry numbers are OK. Brill Building is OK. Pointed Stick (up the bum causing sudden falsetto) is very good. Early Beatles, nah. Psychedelia including later Beatles, yes. But I am more and more enamored of stuff from before I was born, in the Big Band and inter-wars musical stage shows. Tops of all has to be Chicago Steel Guitar Blues. I never knew that quiet gimmick had a name. A silent bar, you say. I was in one of those a couple of weeks ago, the cellar of the Charlie Chaplin place in West Boscombe. I had a half a Guinness at midday. I always thought that, musically, a silent bar was just for effect. I never knew there was an associated tradition of V1 doodle bugging. I wonder if Professor Verner Fon Brown, of V2 fame, liked Glenn Miller Music. That is the end of this burble. There now follows [shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh]. I watched the link. Did those old mostly-dead-now guys look young or what…?! Odd how my brain expects them to look very old. Good idea to edit this, I think. Actually, the Chaplin visit was silent except for me yapping all the time to the poor bloke behind the bar.

  2. Posted by August L. Crissey on May 4, 2013 at 11:42 pm

    I am watching that in the mood utube by Glenn Miller “In the Mood 1941” That has to be the hottest version of them all and by the originator no less. I know that is from a movie I cannot remember the name of the movie. For the life of me.I cannot. If you chase the Amozon link on the utube page you get a unassociated piece of junk. I would buy the movie just to have that version of the song. any NTSB format vhs or DVD.

  3. Posted by Vincent on May 5, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    Miller and his band only made two movies. The first and BEST was “Sun Valley Serenade” – featuring Sonya Henie. The second was “Orchestra Wives” – which had some more great numbers – but was bogged down by an inane PLOT.

    I am pleased to report that “In The Mood” was in – SUN VALLEY SERENADE!

    Despite being set in a winter wonderland, it is a WARM movie. And you should easily be able to get it on an NTSC DVD (that’s “C” – it stands for National Television System Committee – although amongst TV engineers, it was often called “Never Twice The Same Colour” – given it was originally designed for black and white and, when modified for colour, tended to WAVER between blue and red!)

    One interesting note – I just discovered the reason why the transition to and from Dorothy Dandridge and the Nicholas Brothers’ section of “Chattanooga Choo-Choo” was so clumsy: it was so it could be REMOVED from the prints distributed in America’s DEEP SOUTH!

    However, I’m sure DD and the guys will be on the disk you buy today – no matter WHERE you are!

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