collections

The Laughing Song (1904)

Henry Klauser

In this novelty recording by the Norwegian actor Henry Klauser, a mournful refrain gradually gives way to laughter. According to The Incredible Music Machine (1982), the record found a perhaps unlikely fan in the form of the fifth Qajar king of Persia, Mozaffar ad-Din Shah Qajar.

The Shah became a great fan of the gramophone. Later that year, he asked [Gramophone] Company representative E.W. Emmerson to bring some of the latest records to the Palace. One of them was the famous “Laughing Song” by Henry Klauser, and Emmerson reported that the Shah laughed out loud when it was played. He added: “The contortions on the faces of his people, who are not supposed to laugh in his presence, baffled description.”