The years of the war

In those years, the production of shellac records turning at 78 rpm continued. In early January 1933, the Columbia Graphophone Company, SAE, under the management and majority ownership of Juan Inurrieta, introduced records at 33 1/3 rpm (1), featuring a variable groove density between 50 and 110 grooves per centimeter of radius. These records, commonly referred to as microgrooves or long plays, were a notable innovation. However, they had to revert to the production of wide groove records due to the failure of the microgroove launch.

The introduction of microgroove records by Columbia was met with such disappointment that they were compelled to discontinue their production. Consequently, on March 2nd, 1936, Juan Inurrieta acquired all the patents, trademarks, contracts, phonographic matrices, machinery, and manufacturing tools of the corporation, as confirmed by a notary.

By 1936, the factory catalog featured a limited selection of four records, identified by references from RGLD 10000 to 10003. These recordings primarily featured performances by the Columbia Band and Orchestra, showcasing fragments of zarzuela.

Juan Inurrieta contended that the raw materials employed for these microgroove records represented an innovative breakthrough. Nevertheless, he claimed that “the individuals associated with the red bloc had access to the formulas, procedures, and the entire inventory of raw materials used in production.” This unfortunate circumstance rendered him unable to resume the manufacture of these records “during the time of the glorious national movement.”

Following the coup d’etat of 1936, Columbia’s operations continued, albeit with significant alterations to its catalog. In the general catalog, published a few months prior to the outbreak of the war, there were five different renditions of the “Himno de Riego,” in addition to The International and other Republican anthems, which quickly vanished from the repertoire.

During the three years of the war, a substantial number of recordings featured the Band of Requeté from Navarra, either as a standalone ensemble or accompanied by the Orfeón Pamplones. These recordings encompassed hymns and marches, primarily arranged by their director, Silvano Cervantes. Among the titles were Carlist compositions such as Oriamendi, Himno de los Pelayos, Marcha triunfal del requeté, Boinas rojas, Capitán Imaz, Glorias de España, ¡Alto, quién vive!, Invicto, and Himno de las margaritas, featuring the Margaritas de Pamplona choir, among others. Furthermore, during this period, the Municipal Band of San Sebastian, under the baton of Regino Ariz, recorded marches like Laureles para Mola and pasodobles like ¡Arriba España! The repertoire also included contributions from the Orfeón Burgalés and Orfeón Donostiarra.

The Columbia Records factory was utilized by the Francoist regime as a powerful propaganda instrument. The Falange’s anthem, Cara al Sol, composed by the Basque musician Juan Tellería and arranged for recording by Ángel Cabanas, the brother of Juan Cabanas, who at the time oversaw printed publications for the Falange, was produced there. It bore a distinctive label for the occasion, featuring a red design with the emblem of the Falange.

Following the capture of San Sebastian in September 1936, Vicente Cadenas, the National Chief of Propaganda, chose San Sebastian as a strategic operational center for several reasons. Firstly, its proximity to the French border enabled a continuous influx of news. Second, San Sebastian possessed the necessary infrastructure for publishing magazines and publications, particularly considering the paper industry’s presence. Notably, the national Falange magazine, Vértice, the children’s weekly Pelayos, F.E. Falange Española, and the newspaper Unidad were all published in San Sebastian.

The proximity to France allowed the acquisition of essential raw materials that were in short supply in Franco’s controlled areas. Although they had the Falangist anthem at the Columbia factory since May 1937, they couldn’t manufacture it due to the lack of necessary materials. Vicente Cadenas personally arranged the purchase of the required “shellac” for its production in Bordeaux for the first edition. These hymns and marches were employed for radio broadcasts in Franco’s Spain. Extracts from the hymns, which were specially recorded on a record provided to broadcasting stations for this purpose, were played at the conclusion of all programs.

In 1938, the Propaganda Delegation of the Falange in Guipúzcoa initiated a series called “Archivo de la Voz Nacional Sindicalista” to archive the voices of politicians and prominent ministers of the regime. In May of that year, the first record in this series, featuring Raimundo Fernández Cuesta, the National Secretary of the party, addressing “the Spanish proletarians,” was released. These recordings were created at the Columbia Records factory, which received commendations for the recording quality.

In early 1939, Juan Inurrieta sought authorization for a “factory expansion.” This request, however, was not intended to enlarge his business but rather to secure permission for importing essential materials, including steel needles for gramophones, key components for creating talking machines, such as arms and diaphragms, and radio chassis that they also manufactured. For the record production, he requested the import of 12,000 kilos of raw material or bakelite. The factory had ceased production due to shortages of these items. Nevertheless, the industry delegation declined the request, deeming this import a significant drain on foreign currency for an industry that did not constitute an “urgent national necessity.”

(1) These records permitted uninterrupted sound output for ten to twelve minutes on each of their sides. In: Musicografía No. 1, 1933, p. 15.