Norman enjoyed an extremely wide variety of occupations throughout his life from secretarial work in the City and sheep farming in Australia back in the 1920’s; deck chair attendant and manufacturing aeroplane parts before and during WW2 in the 30’s and 40’s and his longest occupations which was working for Decca records in New Malden from after the war right up until he retired in the 1970’s.
He was proud of everything he achieved, even the deck chair attendant in Bognor Regis, when he felt he was paid for being on a continuous summer holiday. It was his work for Decca though which I believe gave him his greatest sense of achievement. As I interviewed him Norman described in detail how records were made from back in the late 1940’s right up until they began to manufacture CD’s at the end of his working life.
Decca was one of the greatest employers in the area with a workforce of 700, making
up to 60,000 records a day but making radar during World War Two. Artists signed to
Decca in the 1930s and 1940s included Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, The Andrews
Sisters, Judy Garland, Billy Cotton and Guy Lombard amongst others.
Norman experienced the advancement of technology first hand as the company developed ever quicker production techniques and this he talks of in detail in his memoir.
Here is an extract:
“So I got this job at Decca in New Malden. It was a new career for me and I earned 2 shillings per hour plus two pence cost of living bonus; that’s what they called it.
At Decca I worked in the plating and finishing shop. We were making dies really; they called them a family. The bands recorded music up at the studio in North London somewhere, then it would come down on a disc to us. First we’d get a copy off of that disc. It was only a wax copy, or at least it was at first. From the disc from the studio we grew what we called the Master, a silver faced master, which took about 24 hours to grow in copper baths and so you got your Master. Next you grew your Positive. As a family they called the Positive the Mother. On the Master the lines were up but when you grew the Positive the lines were down, like grooves. From your Mother you started
producing children which went to the press.
Also, they didn’t want to use the Master again if possible, so that was all greased up and put away, but occasionally they had to go back to the original. We also grew a Copy Master to put in store, so that if you wanted any more Positives you grew them from the Copy. We were exporting Positives to other countries all over the world so that they could produce the records themselves.”
Norman saw Mono and the introduction of Stereo as well as singles produced to come out each week and in his own words, “There were improvements all the time I was there, so it was always interesting.”