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Friday, 14 July 2017

Record (music)

The gramophone disc record was the primary medium used for music reproduction until late in the 20th century.

The phonograph was the first machine used to capture and reproduce analog sound, and was invented by the well-known inventor Thomas Edison in 1877

The entire contents of the first gramophone record was Edison saying five words "Mary had a little lamb." Edison recorded the disc on December 6, 1877.

In 1887 Emile Berliner of Washington DC (inventor of the microphone) patented a gramophone that played flat discs. It represented a marked improvement over Thomas Edison's recording cylinders and gave birth to the recording industry.

Emile Berliner with disc record gramophone

Berliner's "Master Disc" was a 125mm (5 inch) rubber disc, recorded on one side only, with the song lyric printed on the reverse side. Later, the rubber was replaced with Shellac made from crushed Malaysian Beetles.

Berliner later patented a Matrix system for making unlimited copies of the disc from a "master".

Early disc recordings were produced in a variety of speeds ranging from 60 to 130 rpm, and a number of different sizes. As early as 1894, Emile Berliner's United States Gramophone Company was selling single-sided 7-inch discs with an advertised standard speed of "about 70 rpm."


The electrical phonograph standardized the speed at 78 rpm. Most 78s were 10 inches in diameter, with a playing time of about four minutes.

Examples of Congolese 78 rpm records

The first classical music was recorded in 1888. Because the quality was so appallingly bad, many classical musicians were loathe to record fearing their reputation will be hurt..

A recording of English composer Arthur Sullivan's "The Lost Chord" one of the first recordings of music ever made, was played during a press conference introducing Thomas Edison's phonograph in London on August 14, 1888.

The Victor Talking Machine Company was founded in 1901 by Eldridge R. Johnson, who had previously made gramophones to play Emile Berliner's disc records. They used the "Nipper " trademark. (a small dog listening to large horn speaker), which came from a painting by English artist Francis Barraud and titled "His Master's Voice." Emile Berliner had seen the picture in London and took out a United States copyright on it in July, 1900.

Italian opera singer Enrico Caruso was one of the first music stars to make phonograph records. In 1902 Caruso asked the Gramophone & Typewriter Company for £100 to record ten arias in Milan and the London head office cabled back "fee exorbitant, forbid you to record". The tenor went ahead and the discs made thousands of pounds for the record company.

Caruso's 1904 recording of "Vesti la giubba" from Leoncavallo's opera Pagliacci was the first sound recording to sell a million copies. This was at a time when it was cheaper to buy tickets to see the tenor live.

Enrico Caruso with a phonograph c.1910s

The Odeon label released the first ever long-playing album in 1909 when it released the "Nutcracker Suite" by Tchaikovsky on four double-sided discs in a specially designed package.

In 1920 the first 'Race' Records appeared. The release of Mamie Smith's "Crazy Blues" marked the first time a black singer had appeared on a Blues record. The popularity of the recording alerted the music industry to the profitability of making records by and for African Americans.

The first 33rpm long-playing record was demonstrated by the RCA Victor company in New York in 1931, but the players were so costly the venture failed.

The "1937 Hindenburg Disaster" was probably the most tasteless record of all time. It included a commentary of the actual disaster.

Solomon Linda's Original Evening Birds' 1939 single "Mbube" was probably the first African recording to sell more than 100,000 copies.

The first gold record was presented to Glenn Miller on February 10, 1942 by his RCA Victor label in 1942 to celebrate the sales of over a million copies of "Chattanooga Choo Choo". At this point, a gold record was simply a promotional tool for record companies to honor their artists.

In 1939, Dr. Peter Goldmark and his staff at Columbia Records and at CBS Laboratories began to address problems of recording and playing back narrow grooves and developing an inexpensive, reliable consumer playback system.

Nine years later, Columbia Records introduced the 33 1/3 LP ("long playing") record at New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on June 18, 1948. The new format allowed listeners to enjoy an unprecedented 25 minutes of music per side, compared to the four minutes per side of the standard 78 rpm record.

The first LPs were 10 inches in diameter, but 12 inches became the standard size, with 16-inch discs used for transcriptions.

Rare Columbia 7 inch vinyl  33 1⁄3 rpm microgroove ZLP from 1948

The first twelve-inch LP was Felix Mendelssohn's "Concerto in E Minor" by Nathan Milstein on the violin with the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Bruno Walter.

Unwilling to accept and license Columbia's system, in February 1949 RCA Victor released the first 45 rpm single, 7 inches in diameter with a large center hole.

Arthur Fiedler demonstrating the new RCA Victor 45 rpm player and record in February 1949.

Shellac was replaced by plastic vinyl, which is less fragile, as the standard material

The first ever vinyl 45 records issued by RCA Victor were color-coded according to genre – black for pop music, midnight blue for musical theater and operettas and classical music on red.

Soon, the 45, the record with the big hole in the middle, would change the pop music business. RCA even manufactured a record player that played only 45s - with a large spindle that made "stacking wax" real simple and automatic.

Singles fuelled the jukebox craze and became the basis for the first pop charts. The craze for rock 'n' roll music swept all before it, with stars like Elvis Presley building international fan bases.

On April 12, 1954, Bill Haley recorded "Rock Around the Clock" at Pythian Temple studios in New York City.  At the time, Billboard magazine compiled charts in three different categories: Best Sellers in Stores, Most Played By Disc Jockeys, and Most Played in Juke Boxes. "Rock Around The Clock" topped all three becoming the first rock and roll record to reach number one on the Billboard charts.

One casualty of this "war of the speeds" between Victor and Columbia was the old style 78s that rapidly began to disappear. In 1955 Billboard announced that seven-inch, 45-rpm singles were outselling 78-rpm singles for the first time in the U.S.


In 1967 the New York Times reported about a noise reduction system for album and tape recording developed by technicians R. and D.W. Dolby. Elektra Record's subsidiary, Checkmate Records became the first label to use the new Dolby process in its recordings.

In 1999 the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) announced the biggest-selling artists of the century in the United States: The Beatles had sold the most albums (106 million), Garth Brooks was the best-selling male solo act, and Barbra Streisand the best-selling female. Elton John's "Candle In The Wind'97" was the best-selling single of the century, and the best-selling album was The Eagles's Greatest Hits 1971-1975.

The phonograph record has made a niche resurgence in the early 21st century – 9.2 million records were sold in the U.S. in 2014, a 260% increase since 2009.

The groove on a vinyl record is on average around 500 meters long.

Sources Nfo,  Compton's Encyclopedia

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