Thursday, October 11, 2007

The 885 Most Memorable Musical Moments - The Listeners Vote

On October 2, 2007 WXPN, 88.5 FM, Philadelphia began counting down their list of the 885 Most Memorable Musical Moments. The station chose all of the moments themselves from among the huge amount of entries submitted by their listeners. Then their fans were given the responsibility of voting for the top 100 moments from a ballot of entries posted on the station's website. While none of the moments I wrote about in the seven articles I wrote for WXPN and Bloggerhythms in July and August are on the ballot (probably because most of mine were more personal in nature) WXPN's list includes most of the important moments in pop music history. Below are the ten moments I voted for and my reasons for choosing each one. They are ranked chronologically. Many of my ten are not actual musical events but they are significant because of the huge impact each one had on how people listen to music. I voted for the moments I believe are historically significant and not necessarily ones that were personally important to me. Here are my choices.

1. Thomas Edison invents the phonograph record and makes the first recording of a human voice on the first tinfoil cylinder phonograph, 1877

Our record and CD collections exist because of Edison's magnificent invention. For the first time in history music did not have to be experienced in a live setting to be enjoyed. Most people in rural areas probably never heard symphony orchestras, Al Jolson, or Enrico Caruso perform live. Now they could hear those pioneers just by going to their local store and bringing home a record. The phonograph opened up the art of music to a great number of people who previously had only limited exposure to its pleasures. Later on radio would expand on that by reaching millions of people at one time but Edison's talking machine was the first device to allow consumers the ability to own music and listen to it at home.

2. Marconi sends and receives first radio signal, 1895

The listener couldn't choose the music played on the radio, as they could with the phonograph, but now a song could reach thousands or even millions of listeners at a time. Nothing else would have the ability to spread music as far and wide as radio. It is simply the best thing that ever happened to music. The Internet may be changing that somewhat, but as of today, radio is still the primary way for an artist to get their music heard by a large audience. It would take until the 1920s before consumers could get radio in their homes but it all started here.

3. Judy Garland sings "Over The Rainbow" in The Wizard Of Oz, 1939

It's both a beautiful song and a beautiful rendition by one of the very best female singers of all time. It has always been my belief that "Over The Rainbow" may have done more than any other song to make people realize the impact music could have in the movies.

4. "Rock Around the Clock" is used in the movie "Blackboard Jungle", sparking the Rock and Roll revolution, March 19, 1955

Would Elvis Presley, The Beatles, and Bruce Springsteen have become stars, or even musicians, if this song didn't appear in this movie?

5. Motown Records opens for business, 1959

Berry Gordy and his roster of musicians probably did more than anyone in history to popularize and bring black music into the mainstream. Their slogan was "The Sound Of Young America" not "The Sound Of Black America" and that was telling.

6. February 9, 1964, The Beatles appear on "The Ed Sullivan Show"

This is one of popular music's defining moments. For a lot of kids in the world rock & roll and popular music began here. The Beatles arrival launched an era of unprecedented quality and interest in music.

7. "Rolling Stone" magazine founded in San Francisco by Jann Wenner, in 1967

I've long had my gripes with this forty year old periodical but during my late teens and twenties I probably learned more about musicians and the music industry from it than from any other source. It may not have shaped my tastes but it certainly gave me a rock & roll education.

8. The Woodstock Music and Art Fair, August 1969

No, I wasn't there but it truly was one of the the most important events in rock music history. Books, movies, records, and musical careers were all made because of this momentous event.

9. The Phillips factory in Germany releases the first compact disc for commercial use, August 17, 1982

CDs improved upon the quality that high-end phonograph records and stereo equipment reached by the 1980s. CDs had a much wider dynamic range than records, increased music's portability (something that would become very important in the future), and the amount of music that could be stored on a single piece of media increased significantly.

10. Apple introduces the iPod and iTunes, revolutionizing the distribution and consumption of music, 2001

As I said in a recent look back at Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band mp3s are rapidly destroying the entire album/CD formats as ways of listening to music: I wrote, "Downloading has turned many younger music fans back into consumers of individual songs. Fading quickly is the day when someone will buy a whole album to get the three songs they like while hoping there is some other worthy material on it to justify their purchase. Today, instead of paying upwards from $15 for the privilege of buying a whole CD, it is possible to go online and pay just 99 cents each for the three songs you like and ignore the rest."

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