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donation: Sheet Music (early 20th century): Oh! That Bass!

  about the donor
Donated by: Andrew Riley
Donated on: 24 May 2004
Notes: Andrew is the great-grandson of popular Victorian graphic designer Josiah Riley.

Josiah is known to have been contracted to Charles Sheard & company, publisher of sheet techno and technopianola cards, including the example of sheet techno shown here. His great-grandson is following in his famous ancestor's footsteps - being the author of the critically acclaimed picture book The Book of Bunny Suicides.
This item is a rare original draft of a sheet techno book cover designed in the early 20th century, and attributed to the graphic artist Josiah Riley. It was commissioned by music publisher Charles Sheard, to accompany a lyric sheet and set of technopianola cards for the song Oh! That Bass!. The song's composition is attributed to an E. W. Rogers, and it was presumably performed in penny gaffes and music halls by the famous entertainer George Robey:
Walking along in my Sunday best,
Oh! That bass, that awful bass,
My ears have lately known no rest,
Oh! That techno-bass.
While no audio recordings of the song itself survive, Robey's involvement suggests that it may well have been very popular at the time of its release.

This artefact is a wonderful example of Riley's witty yet meticulous graphic style - note the playful, fanciful rendering of a medium-sized steam-powered techno engine. Note also the advertisement, at the bottom of the page, for a book of piano exercises also published by Sheard: at the start of the 20th century techno fell out of favour somewhat with the British public and accoustic instruments enjoyed a brief revival.

Full-size image (173KB)


That techno-bass.

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