100 Days To Go!…

There are now only 100 days to go until Dark Side is 40 years old in March 2013. From the release dates of the original vinyl LP:

US release: 10 March 1973, UK release: 24 March 1973

(So 114 days to go in the UK.)

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Happy 30th Birthday CDs! (The full but brief history of CDs)

30 years ago today, on October 1st 1982, the first commercial CD was released alongside the first CD player. The album with the distinction of being the first marked CD digital release was “52nd Street” by Billy Joel (35DP-1), the fourth was Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here (35DP-4) – though the first 50 were released simultaneously. The very first 50 CDs were chosen, somewhat arbitrarily, by the Japanese Sony team in charge of production. The first 100 CD titles were released, with special gold faces in 6 categories, including pop, classical, domestic Japanese music, and sound effects.

The prices of the first CDs were 3,500 and 3,800 Yen – £20 then, £30 in today’s money – launched this day accompanied by the first commercial CD player, the Sony CDP-101 with tray loading. The equivalent European machine, the Philips CD-100, was top loading. Both retailed at $1000.

Before 1982

100 years after Edison patented his phonograph in 1877, laser disc technology innovations were underway at both Philips and Sony. On Mar 8th 1979 Philips Industries announced plans for the “Compact Disc”, so named follow their Compact Cassette format, together with the early CD logo. Soon after Sony joined forces with Phillips to share the high investment costs and work together, and set up a project team of less than a dozen engineers. Once they had overcome early trust issues in the joint venture, the team worked for a year to make a set of standards, delivering the “Red Book” – the start of a series of ‘Colour Books’ that agreed standards that could be patented and developed.

The manufacturing process and method of encoding were contributed by Philips, while Sony created the digital error-correction that made reading the data reliable. Put simply the technology involved 3 parts: ‘digital data processing’ into sound, ‘optical reading’ using laser, and ’mechanics’ to turn the disc. Compact discs remain largely unchanged 30 years on, as a polycarbonate disc 1.2mm thick with indentations (“pits”) together with a layer of aluminium to reflect the light. They necessitated their own new store case.

The music on the discs was initially described by the SPAR code (Society of Professional Audio Recording Services): a three-letter code that appears on the early Compact Disc recordings informing the consumer whether analog (A) or digital (D) equipment was used in producing the recording the music. For instance “AAD” represented a first stage recording in analogue, a second mixing stage in analogue, with the digital third stage mastering – all CDs having a final digital mastering by fact of its digital nature. Very early CDs are now considered highly valuable as analogue recordings were ‘laid flat’ onto digital medium with no remastering, with near perfect capturing of original source tapes, without tampering of the original audio recording.

The Compact Disc

The standard 12cm size of a compact disc allows for data capacity, raised during the development from 60 to 74 minutes. Norio Ohga, then Sony President, agreed with conductor Herbert von Karajan, assisting Philips, that the new disc must accommodate Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. They predicted that classical music lovers were more likely to appreciate, and buy, the increased audio quality of the CD system.

Only 12 cm in diameter, but if the data track on a disc were unwound, it would stretch to over 3.5 miles long. A disc can carry 700MB, to put it in computer terms computer users, and is ‘read’ from underneath, from the middle out, with its spin adjusting between a rate of 500 and 200 rpm as it does so – this technology remains the same 30 years on.

The First CDs

In Japan, CBS / Sony Records opened the first commercial compact disc pressing plant in April 1982, in Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan. The production of commercial CDs started in mid-September, after some early teething issues with the blend of polycarbonate. The official launch was in Japan on October 1st, 1982. The very first CDs pressed were by CBS/Sony, as theirs was one of only two pressing plants at the time, so they also made for Toshiba-EMI Records. Originally due to cost and technology, the only CD pressing plants were Sony’s in Japan and Polygram’s in Hanover West Germany (the Polygram record company wholly owned by Philips).

In West Germany the new technology was privately inaugurated with test pressings in 1980, and the first modern CD pressed was Richard Strauss’s “Alpine Symphony” conducted by Herbert von Karajan. The following year, the Bee Gees went on the BBC’s Tomorrows World with the album ‘Living Eyes’ – I remember watching the now classic demonstration of jam being smeared on and wiped off the back of the disc, proving that the new medium was a great advance over vinyl and cassette technologies.

Technically the very first production CD Abba’s The Visitors, pressed on August 17th 1982, but this production run was not on sale until end of the year. Their official consumer launch in the Netherlands and the UK was on the 1st March 1983, when the production of CD players had caught up with increasing number of titles on CD. 1000 titles were released in the first year, the first being a series of orange / ‘Red Face’ CDs the first produced where Abba ‘The Visitors’ (800 011-2) and Abba Greatest Hits Vol 2 (800 012-2).

At the start there was a mixed reception from consumers to CDs as a new medium for music: on one side considered a revolution for majority of listeners, taking away noise, being more portable and more durable. But on the other some audiophiles insisted, and still do to this day, that you can’t beat true analogue reproduction of music. Revolutionary and controversial, durable CDs were designed to replace vinyls – meaning you wouldn’t need to ‘buy again’, but meaning you did have to replace your entire existing record collection – I remember this dilemma well, offset by the new ability to skip to tracks instantly and listen noise free.

US record labels initially were sceptical of the new format, and shunned the joint venture. However given the first year success of CDs, followed suit. But it wasn’t until 1984 a plant opened in the US, with Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” was the first CD to be pressed in America.

The CDs First Ten Years 1982-92

1982 was a turning point for the music industry. Michael Jackson’s Thriller sold 40m copies, the best selling album – ever, still to this day – the same year as the arrival of CD, which would go on to overtake vinyl (but not until 1988). Also in 1982 tape cassette sales had just overtaken vinyls. How music was purchased, and listened to, was starting an irreversible change. CDs after a slow start became very popular, with production by Polygram in ’82 rising from the first years’s 376,000 pressings, to 6 million in 1983, then 13m in, and 25m Polygram pressings in 1985.

Behind the production, the second book of CD standards was written in 1983, then known as the “Yellow Book”, covering Read Only Memory (CD-ROM). This became the standard for computer-based compact discs. Followed by the third book (in 1986), known as the “Green Book,” covered CD-Interactive technology, synchronising both audio and data tracks on a CD-ROM, to enable full motion video combined with interactivity.

The Next Ten Years, 1992-02

CDs and DVDs became a reliable and regular medium for distributing large quantities of information. Their power in music sales were proven in 1985 when Dire Straits’ Brothers In Arms became the first CD to sell one million CDs. This established CDs as mainstream, with the relative merits of CDs coming into their own – the unedited 55mins of Brothers In Arms outsold the shorter vinyl version.

In their first 10 years to 1992, CD rose in popularity, riding the tide of increasing music sales but at the expense of vinyl’s, which fell away in that ten years, replaced by CDs as the album medium of choice, and also overtook cassette sales. In this ten years, CDs continued their rise to peak in ’02 at 2.5billion that year, then replacing and causing the demise of tape cassettes.

CDs In The Last Ten Years, 2002-12

However this 20 year rise has reversed by 2012, with CDs sales falling by 20% each year, as the whole music industry sales have shrunk to a third of 2002 levels. CDs are easy to burn, copy and share, so their sales have fallen, added to the introduction of MP3s and music downloading – and a switch to single tracks over albums after 2004 – CDs are now a minority medium for music. CDs still account for majority of album sales but volume has shrunk to a low equilibrium level, as they fill a niche need. Outside music the fourth “Orange” book, outlines the coming generation of writable CD technology, primarily CD-Es. (Compact Disc – Erasable). This technology is available today, known in its first form as CD-RW. Future uses are contained in a “White Book,” a plan for the future of compact disc technology, outlining video compact discs, and containing the standard of data compression used to display large amounts of audio and video on a home computer; again an early phase from 1995 were DVDs (Digital Video Discs).

Overall the CD has been very successful. To 2012 over 225 billion CDs have been produced. Stack these up (at 1.2mm each) and this CD tower would circle the earth nearly 7 times. CDs revolutionised the consumer audio industry, after the Dutch-Japanese alliance took a calculated business risk. The Compact Disc made it easier for all of us to listen to music, in higher quality, and ushered in the digital format of audio. Now, as music industry now battles against digital aspect of music as data, CDs remain a tangible, practical and collectable part of music history, and is set to continue and endure but at a lower equilibrium level for music reproduction, outpaced by its day to day use for handling computer data. Its precise artistry in music listening will remain to hardcore audiophiles, and the technical sophistication of data CDs will continue as a workhorse of the computer world.

 

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TDSOTM40 On Twitter

Part of ‘throwing the net wide’ TDSOTM40 is on Twitter: follow us!, and we’ll be able to more quickly get updates out to you on progress with findings on Floyd at the Dome…

TDSOTM40

 

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The 1972 Brighton Dome Shows

Hey You!

Calling all Floyd fans: if you’d like to know more about the debut of The Dark Side Of The Moon, or simply relive any of the 3 Dome shows from ’72, please give us your support.

DS40 is helping the Dome gather names in support. Simply add your name to show support for research and funding, by us and The Dome, in recreating the Dome’s Pink Floyd history from 1972. There’s no commitment other than being curious!

Here’s the official word from the Dome:

Brighton Dome needs your help to bring together the lost personal stories of Floyd fans who came to see the band playing at Brighton Dome in the 1960’s and 70’s. We are seeking funding for a Heritage Project which takes in all the major milestones in the venue’s history and Floyd is a big part of this. But first and even if you weren’t at the gigs you can help by adding your name to the petition of support for the application.
Thanks to the Floyd family for all your support, Zoe Curtis – Heritage Project Co-ordinator, Brighton Dome.

Brighton Dome Pink Floyd Dark Side 20Jan72

Support us NOW! The more names we have in support, the more chance of HLF funds to help recreate the history, and allow us all to enjoy this piece of history even more.

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250 And Counting…

There are 250 days to go until The Dark Side Of The Moon turns 40 years old in March 2013. These were the release dates of the original vinyl LP:

US release: 10 March 1973, UK release: 24 March 1973

(So 264 days to go in the UK.)

 

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Dark Side Breathes

40 years ago today… 20th November 1971.

The Breathe riff heard for the first time during Embryo in November ’71…

It was the last night of Pink Floyd’s fifth tour of the United States. It had been a ’27 shows in 37 days’ (a 73% gigging rate) dash promoting the Meddle album, from the West Coast up to Canada, and across the Northern States to the East Coast.

For the last show the band played at the Taft Auditorium, Cincinnati, Ohio. It had been a hectic schedule, and the next UK Winter Tour was already planned for the New Year. Indeed the band needed or wanted new material to tour with, and here’s evidence that new ideas were jangling around the tour bus.

During a performance of Embryo – intro’ed here by The Doc – is the Breathe riff in its earliest form, during a 15 min 39 sec technical problem mid-song: listen carefully from 46:42 when Rick’s amp cuts out, and the rest of the guys use the time to play around with some ideas they were working on

– the Breathe riff is debuted by David at 48:28, then 50:52, 54:12, 56:03, and 1:00:48.

Subsequently it’s the longest version of Embryo, and it was the last time it was performed live. (My thanks to The Doc for this insight.)

Listen to the time-fill-jam from the Taft Auditorium, Cincinnati, OH – 20th November 1971. Ironically from one of the Floyd’s worst moments is the start of one of their greatest.

Raw, but it is Breathe.

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500 Days And Counting…

There are now 500 days to go until The Dark Side Of The Moon turns 40 years old in March 2013. These were the release dates of the original vinyl LP:

US release: 10 March 1973, UK release: 24 March 1973

(So 514 days to go in the UK.)

 

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Pink Floyd Live At Pompeii

40 years ago this week…

Pink Floyd had traveled to Naples by plane to record live footage for Pink Floyd Live At Pompeii. Inspired by Adrian Maben, the first version ran for one hour and was released in September 1972. It was directed by Adrian Maben using studio-quality 24-track recorders. (The tonnes of equipment left 4 days early by truck.) Delays at the start of shooting meant less time for footage, so only 3 tracks were recorded there.

The performances of ‘Echoes’, ‘A Saucerful Of Secrets’ and ‘One Of These Days’ were filmed from 4th to 7th October 1971. Further songs were filmed in a Paris studio late in ’71 and early ’72, with additional front projection footage for insertion into the Pompeii performances, effects and some back-shots.

Adrian Maben proposed to the band to do an “anti-Woodstock” feature of their music, without people and in more atmospheric scenery. He’d visited Pompeii early in the year with his girlfriend and seeing the old amphitheatre, Maben thought this would be the perfect location – in the ancient Roman amphitheatre in Pompeii. The Floyd’s music bringing alive the dramatic history of the location: violence, sex, bustle.

Accustomed to helping on other film soundtracks, Pink Floyd were to record their own: interestingly without a live audience, which was a true divergence performing without any of their usual stage lights or effects for which they were known.

The movie includes some now iconic shots with very slow zooms and horizontal pans past stacks of speakers. At only an hour in length, director Adrian Maben thought more could be done with it and returned to the movie in 1973 to add inter-song snippets of interviews and pretend studio work. This included the now infamous Dark Side studio recordings of ’72 and ’73. Maben’s questions that Roger answers so uncaringly formed the basis of the Dark Side questions on cards during the Abbey Road recording.

But the live performance in Pompeii remains the only official live footage of the band from this time.

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The Dark Side Of The Moon Immersion Makes UK #11

And did it make it? (drum roll…)

No.

The Dark Side Of The Moon still hasn’t been #1 in the UK. The release this week (on the 26th September 2011) of the Remaster copy, the Experience, and the Immersion was enough to propel the album into 11th spot in the Official UK Chart:

(Some interesting reviews of the Immersion box set on Amazon, where – let’s just say – the music was a clear winner over the extra memorabilia!)

Anyway, looks like we’re back on then: the campaign must continue. If this didn’t do it then it’ll take something special to reach the high spot…

Who’s with us?

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1 Year Til the 30th Birthday Of The CD

The year, 1982.

The first album to be released on CD was Billy Joel’s 52nd Street on October 1, 1982 in Japan, alongside Sony’s CD player CDP-101. 50 CDs were released on this day, with Joel’s nominally number 1, from the the first commercial compact disc pressing plant in Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan – owned by Sony, opened in April 1982.

Earlier in the Summer of ’82, the first test CD was pressed in Langenhagen near Hannover (West Germany), by the Polydor Pressing Operations plant. The disc contained a recording of Richard Strauss’s Eine Alpensinfonie (in English, An Alpine Symphony), played by the Berlin Philharmonic and conducted by Herbert von Karajan. In August 1982 the real pressing was ready to begin in the new factory. The first CD to be manufactured at the new factory was The Visitors (1981) by ABBA (DDD in SPARS code); a first public demonstration of the new discs was on the BBC television program Tomorrow’s World using The Bee Gees’ album Living Eyes.

Early the following year, on 2nd March 1983, CD players and discs (16 titles from CBS Records) were released in the United States and other markets.

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