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From Strauss to Dire Straits to ABBA: The Most Important CD Milestones

If you have a big collection of CDs they have probably given you a lot of pleasure over the years. It seems like this music format has been around forever so maybe it is time to remind ourselves of some of the most important milestones it has passed since being introduced.

The First Ever CD

The Philips pressing plant in Germany is where the early milestones in the history of CDs were passed. In the case of the first ever disc, it was a test pressing made of An Alpine Symphony by Richard Strauss. It isn’t clear how many copies were made or what the quality was like. This happened in 1981 and I couldn’t find any information about whether or not any copies of this first ever CD have survived.

The First Public Performance

When did you first hear a CD being played for the first time? If you heard the first ever public performance then it was on Tomorrow’s World in 1981. If you were lucky enough to see this programme then you will have heard Living Eyes by the Bee Gees being played in the new digital format.

The First Commercial Disc to be Printed

The 17th of August 1982 marked the production of a set of CDs featuring Chopin waltzes performed by Claudio Arrai. However, it wasn’t the first CD to be commercially released.

The First Pop CD to be Printed

Not long after that Chopin disc The Visitors by ABBA was also printed off in the Philips factory in Germany. However, this wasn’t the first CD to be commercially released either.

The First Commercially Released CD

In fact, the artist with the honour of having the first album to be put on public release in this new format was Billy Joel. His 52nd Street was put out at the same time at the first CD player, the 1st of October 1982. This happened in Japan and CDs were soon released in other parts of the world as well. The first commercially released CD to be printed in the USA was Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA.  In the UK, we got the first CDs on the 2nd of March 1983, with Dire Straits’ Brothers in Arms and Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon a couple of the most popular titles in the early years.  Within a year of the launch over 1,000 different albums were available. By 1988 400 million CDs were being produced in different plants across the planet.

The First Artist to Get All Their Albums onto CD

Can you remember going to look at CDs for sale in the early days? Whose albums do you most remember seeing? There is a good chance that you saw a lot of David Bowie, as he was the first artist to get his full back catalogue moved over to the digital format. Of course, if you bought all of them and now no longer have space for them you can sell your old CDs on the internet and make some money while freeing up space.

The First CD to Sell a Million

The first ever CD to sell more than a million was one I just mentioned; Brother in Arms. It was released in 1985 and before too long it seemed as though every home in the country had a digital copy of it. In fact, as incredible as it might seem, it is still ranked at one of the UK’s best selling CDs of all time. It’s not the best selling one, though, is it?

The Best Selling CD

Recent figures suggest that the CD which has sold most copies in the UK is Abba’s greatest hits album Gold. It has sold over 4 million in the country, while 21 by Adele has sold 3.5 million copies and What’s the Story Morning Glory? by Oasis has shifted 3.4 million. I couldn’t find accurate figures for the most sold CD in the US. Since Michael Jackson’s Thriller is well ahead of the pack in terms of overall sales it seems reasonable to suggest that it is a strong contender. Having said that, it was originally released in 1982, before CDs were commercially available.

Overall Sales

The best ever year for sales of CDs was 2000, in which a staggering 2.4 billion of these discs were sold across the world. By 2006 sales had gone down to 1.7 billion. The amount of online downloads is increasing all the time while CDs sales are now dropping but CDs still lead the way with two thirds of UK album sales being in the CD format. CD sales in the UK in 2012 fell by 19.5% to 69.4 million.

What classic CDs stand out for you as milestones in the history of this format?

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