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Searching the Sound Archive catalogue for popular music

The Sound Archive catalogue provides access to details of nearly three-and-a-half million recordings. The following is a guide to searching for recordings of popular music.

Searching for a track

In pop music there are a number of songs with similar or identical titles. To distinguish between individual songs (and their various arrangements) we create a "work" field which is the title (or part of it) followed by /name of composer. You can consult the A-Z title index by selecting BEGINS WITH (browse) and TITLE to identify the song you need and then link on that title to make sure you are getting the track you want. Example:

BROWSING THE CATALOGUE

1) I JUST DONT KNOW CHAMBERS [2]
2) I JUST DONT KNOW DALBY [2]
3) I JUST DONT KNOW HICKS [2]
4) I JUST DONT KNOW HOOKER [4]
5) I JUST DONT KNOW HOW TO LET WOODS [1]
6) I JUST DONT KNOW IF I CAN BAYER [1]
7) I JUST DONT KNOW LOMAX [2]
8) I JUST DONT KNOW SHAMWELL TA [3]
9) I JUST DONT KNOW TYNER [5]
10) I JUST DONT KNOW WHAT TO D UNKNOWN [2]
11) I JUST DONT KNOW WHAT TO DO [1]
12) I JUST DONT KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH MYSELF/BACHARACH [49]

(Please note that many popular music titles contain words, such as "and", "with", "not" which the catalogue will interpret as search delimiters. Therefore, a search for the song "I'M NOT IN LOVE" will return records which contain the word "I'm" but not any with the words "In love". To get round this, either omit the word "not" in your search entry or include it in inverted commas).

Searching for an album

Most albums can be found by searching the product title field. However in some cases this field is missing. We are working on this. In the meantime you can find whether we have the album by searching the record label and catalogue number, if you have this information. To look at the individual tracks on the album you must link on the LIST RECORDINGS button. Example:

Search title = URBAN HYMNS

This will currently return one catalogue entry only, the entry for the album by The Verve. To find out what tracks were on the album, click on LIST RECORDINGS.

an artist/group?
Search under NAME. Some artists may be included both as individuals and as members of groups. Because we receive data from a number of sources, there may be slight variations in the name forms of some artists/groups which we are attempting to standardise, but you can check the A-Z index (BEGINS WITH and NAME) to be sure you are looking for the right name form.

Searching for a label

You can find labels by doing a NAME search . However there are many instances where people, places and labels have the same name. In these cases use the A-Z index to distinguish the group from the label. For historical reasons some labels appear under their former name or that of the company that owns them. Again, we are working on rectifying this so if you do not find the label you want do contact us and we may still be able to help you.

Searching for a track by a particular artist/group

Usually just searching the track will do the job, but some songs have been covered hundreds of times. In this case use the combinations option in ADVANCED SEARCH to specify the song and artist. Example: in September 2000 there were almost 450 versions of the song "Yesterday" in the catalogue. If you wanted a particular cover version, say by Tom Jones, you would search for YESTERDAY AND TOM JONES

Searching for a live performance

Try the combinations options using the artist/ group and "Live". Alternatively use "In concert". Another method is to use the event or venue, e.g. PLACE = Glastonbury or Hammersmith Odeon.

Searching for a session

Sessions by a band or artist are generally filed under the radio programme for which they were recorded. In some cases this is just the name of the presenter e.g John Peel. Try using ADVANCED SEARCH. Example:

General/Keyword or Title = John Peel
AND
Name = Undertones

Searching for an interview

You should be able to find these by searching under the name of the interviewee. However when that person is also a singer/guitarist /whatever there are many entries to sift through. The solution is to search that person as a speaker (which should eliminate other functions from the results). Do this under combinations or any words and numbers. Alternatively use "Search Limits" in ADVANCED SEARCH, broad classification - INTERVIEW

Searching for a documentary

For documentaries on groups, individuals or types of music, search under the chosen topic in the Subject field.

Searching for a genre

We do not categorise individual recordings by genre - there would be too many arguments and it would be too time-consuming (although some of our data from external sources is tagged by genre so there are some occurrences). You are likely to find some entries by using the genre as a search word in the subject field - this will bring up entries that others (record compilers, broadcasters) have decided fit into that particular category. If you are stuck for examples of a particular type of music you can contact us at the address below.

Searching for a date

For broadcasts you can search under the name of the programme and date (using the YYYYMMDD format as keyword search. For record release dates and recording dates you can search by year, or a range of years using Search Limits YEAR in ADVANCED SEARCH. However with data from external sources there can be some confusion, as year of original issue is often confused with year of re-issue. Again, we are working on this and you can mail us regarding any such instances.

The catalogue provides access to details of more than 900,000 popular music recordings. Not every scrap of data is perfectly typed or spelt - we are aware of this and put a high priority on our ongoing data cleansing operations. It is hoped that the value of access to this unique resource outweighs any rough edges in presentation. Should you notice any serious errors, however, please let us know.

Further information

Sound & Vision Reference Service
The British Library
96 Euston Road
London
NW1 2DB
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7831
Fax: +44 (0)20 7412 7691

E-mail: Ask the Reference Team