This Day in History (30-Jan-1969) – The Beatles perform in public for the last time, on the roof of Apple Records in London

The Beatles were an English rock band that formed in Liverpool in 1960. With members John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, they became widely regarded as the greatest and most influential act of the rock era. The Beatles built their reputation playing clubs in Liverpool and Hamburg over a three-year period from 1960. Manager Brian Epstein moulded them into a professional act and producer George Martin enhanced their musical potential. They gained popularity in the United Kingdom after their first hit, “Love Me Do”, in late 1962. They acquired the nickname “the Fab Four”. By early 1964 they had become international stars, leading the “British Invasion” of the United States pop market. From 1965 onwards, the Beatles produced what many consider their finest material, including the innovative and widely influential albums Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles (commonly known as the White Album) and Abbey Road.

In the mid-1960s, the Beatles became interested in Indian culture, after using drugs in an effort to expand their consciousness. In 1966 Harrison visited India for 6 weeks and took sitar lessons from Pt. Ravi Shankar. At friend’s suggestion, the Beatles attended the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s (the founder of the Transcendental Meditation movement) lecture at London in 1967. The group visited maharishi’s camp in Wales. While there, they announced at a press conference that they were giving up drugs. Curious to learn more, they visited Maharishi’s ashram in Rishikesh and spent some days there in simplicity.

According to the RIAA, the Beatles are the best-selling music artists in the United States, with 178 million certified units. They have had more number-one albums on the British charts and sold more singles in the UK than any other act. In 2008, the group topped Billboard magazine’s list of the all-time most successful “Hot 100” artists; as of 2015, they hold the record for most number-one hits on the Hot 100 chart with twenty. They have received ten Grammy Awards, an Academy Award for Best Original Score and fifteen Ivor Novello Awards. Collectively included in Time magazine’s compilation, they are the best-selling band in history, with estimated sales of over 600 million records worldwide.


This Day in History (30-Nov-1982) – Thriller by Michael Jackson, the best-selling album of all time, is released

Michael Jackson’s previous album ‘Off the Wall’ (1979) received strong critical acclaim and was also a commercial success, eventually selling over 20 million copies worldwide. The singer was upset about what he perceived to be the under-performance of the album and moved to Thriller. Jackson recorded 30 songs in 9 months for ‘Thriller‘ album at Westlake Recording Studios in Los Angeles with a production budget of $750,000. Nine of the songs were eventually included. Jackson wrote four songs for the record. Jackson was inspired to create an album where “every song was a killer”, and developed Thriller with that in mind.

Thriller was released on November 30, 1982, and sold one million copies worldwide per week at its peak. Thriller was well received by most critics. The album won a record-breaking eight Grammy Awards in 1984, including Album of the Year. Jackson won seven of the Grammys for the album. Thriller was recognized as the world’s best-selling album on February 7, 1984, when it was inducted into the Guinness Book of World Records. In 2009, Thriller was certified 29× platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, for shipments of at least 29 million copies in the US.

Before the success of Thriller, many felt Jackson had struggled to get MTV airing because he was black. His position persuaded MTV to begin airing “Billie Jean” and later “Beat It”, which led to a long partnership and later helped other black music artists to gain mainstream recognition. The popularity of his videos, helped to place the young channel on the map, and MTV’s focus shifted in favor of pop and R&B. Jackson transformed the medium of music video into an art form and promotional tool through the use of complex story lines, dance routines, special effects and cameo appearances by well known personalities. For a black artist in the 1980s to that point, Jackson’s success was unprecedented. According to The Washington Post, Thriller paved the way for other African-American artists. Time noted, “Jackson is the biggest thing since The Beatles. He is the hottest single phenomenon since Elvis Presley. He just may be the most popular black singer ever”.


This Day in History (23-Nov-1889) – The world’s first jukebox begins playing tunes at the Palais Royale Saloon in San Francisco

One of the early forerunners to the modern Jukebox as we know was the Nickel-in-the-Slot machine. In 1889, Louis Glass and William S. Arnold, placed a coin-operated Edison cylinder phonograph in the Palais Royale Saloon in San Francisco. It was an Edison Class M Electric Phonograph in an oak cabinet that was refitted with a coin mechanism patented by Glass and Arnold. This was the first Nickel-in-the-Slot. The machine had no amplification, thus the listener has to stand close to it to hear, and it can only play one cylinder, changed every day or so. In its first six months of service, the Nickel-in-the-Slot earned over $1000. The Palais Royal Saloon was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire, thus its current location is still undetermined.

During the 1890s, recordings had become popular primarily through coin-in-the-slot phonographs in public places. In the decade 1910-20, the phonograph became a truly mass medium for popular music, and recordings of large-scale orchestral works and other classical instrumental music proliferated. In the mid-1920s, radio, which provided free music, developed, and this new factor, plus the worldwide economic depression of the 1930s, threw the phonograph industry into serious decline. During the 1930s, as the American companies relied mainly on dance records in jukeboxes to satisfy a dwindled market, Europe supplied a slow but steady trickle of classical recordings.

Manufacturers did not call them “jukeboxes”, they called them Automatic Coin-Operated Phonographs (or Automatic Phonographs, or Coin-Operated Phonographs). The term “jukebox” appeared in the 1930’s and originated in the southern United States. ‘juke’ was a slang for a brothel.

The first modern jukebox was created by Wurlitzer in 1934. It was a partially automated music-playing device, a coin-operated machine, which would play a patron’s selection from self-contained media. The classic jukebox has buttons with letters and numbers on them that, when entered in combination, are used to play a specific selection.


This Day in History (14-Jul-1995) – A revolutionary new technology is christened “MP3”

The importance of MP3 is made clear by some straightforward arithmetic. The music on a compact disc is encoded in such a way that a single second corresponds to approximately 176 KB of data, and a single three-minute song to approximately 32MB. In the mid-1990s, when it was not uncommon for a personal computer to have a total hard-drive capacity of only 500MB, it was therefore impossible to store even one album’s worth of music on the average home computer. And given the actual connection speed of a then-standard 56K dial-up modem, even a single album’s worth of music would have taken literally all day to transfer over the Internet.

Over the course of the early 1990s, several teams of audio engineers worked to develop, test and perfect the standard that would eventually gain the blessing of Motion Picture Experts Group (MPEG), a working group of the International Standardisation Organisation ISO. Their approach took advantage of certain physical and cognitive characteristics of human hearing, such as our inability to detect the quieter of two sounds played simultaneously. Using a “perceptual” compression method, engineers were able to eliminate more than 90 percent of the data in a standard CD audio file without compromising sound quality as perceived by the average listener using standard audio equipment.

Known formally as “MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3,” the technology in question was an efficient new format for the encoding of high-quality digital audio using a highly efficient data-compression algorithm. The brand-new MP3 format was given its name and its familiar “.mp3” file extension on this day in 1995. The very next year Worldspace Radio chose mp3 for audio coding. Suddenly, that digital copy of your favorite pop song took up only 2-3 MB on your hard-drive rather than 32MB, which in combination with the growth in average drive capacity and the increase in average Internet connection speed created the conditions for both the rampant, Winamp- and Napster-enabled copyright infringement of 1999-2000 and for the legal commercial distribution of digital music via the Internet.



This Day in History (7-Jul-1901) – J. Watsan Harod started a branch of Gramophone Company at Calcutta

Considering the great potential of recording industry in India, the Gramophone Company set up its office in Calcutta in 1901. Within a year or so, its leading technical expert F.W.Gaisberg landed in Calcutta with his recording team. At that time, they had to go wherever the performing artistes were located. Within six weeks they travelled to different parts of India and recorded over 600 titles. Over 500 artistes were recorded in different regional languages all over India. Most of them had to be trained to record songs from one minute to three minutes. Most of the artistes were professional female singers who agreed to special training required for gramophone recording.

The earliest recording made in India was that of Gauhar Jan, a Hindustani vocalist, in the year 1902. Although the recording was made in India, the disc was manufactured in England. So, at the end of the record she announced her name, to enable the technicians abroad to fix the right label to the disc. This practice of announcing one’s name at the end of a song continued until 1908, when the Gramophone Company of England set up manufacturing facilities in Sealdah, Calcutta. Many renowned maestros of classical music refused to record as they thought this would adversely affect the attendance at their concerts. That is why there is no recorded voice of Vishnu Digambar Paluskar, Bhaskarboa Bakhle, Alladiya Khan and other famous singers.

In the early years all recordings were done through acoustic technology through brass horns and the artistes were expected to sing in a loud voice. It was later in 1925, that the electric carbon microphone brought into fashion a new practice of recording folk and comic songs, devotional numbers and even full drama series with dialogues. Within a few years, many recording companies appeared on the scene but the Gramophone Company, with its trademark of an image of a dog listening to a gramophone horn with a ‘His Master’s Voice’ label enjoyed a virtual monopoly in India until the 1970s. In 2000, controlling RPG group changed the company’s name to ‘Saregama India Ltd’.



This Day in History (1-Jul-1979) – Sony introduces ‘Walkman’

Before the Walkman was introduced, music could only be enjoyed through a stereo system at home or a car audio system. Sony Founder and Chief Advisor, the late Masaru Ibuka, who was then Sony Honorary Chairman, and Sony Founder and Honorary Chairman Akio Morita, then Sony Chairman, created the concept of the Walkman portable stereo as a means of enjoying personal music entertainment. The Walkman was created by eliminating the record function and a speaker from a conventional cassette tape recorder and instead equipping it with stereo circuits and a stereo headphone terminal.  The first Walkman model, ‘TPS-L2’, was introduced on July 1st, 1979. The Walkman created a new global culture of “enjoying music any where and any time”.

Market watchers, and even Sony employees, were skeptical about the profitability of this new product during its development. Two months after the launch of this product, the skepticism was completely wiped out, and the Walkman became extremely popular. In addition to promoting the concept of ‘enjoying music any where and any time’, Walkman was widely advertised by celebrities appeared in magazines with the product. The Walkman became a new culture icon – a social phenomenon – with enormous support from young users.

At the time of the initial introduction of the Walkman overseas, Sony sales companies abroad strongly opposed the Japanese-made English word ‘Walkman’. The Walkman was initially launched as ‘Soundabout’ in the U.S., ‘Stowaway’ in England, and ‘Freestyle’ in Australia. However, the name ‘Walkman’ was eventually accepted overseas, as Walkman portable stereos became very popular in Japan and tourists visiting Japan from abroad started buying them as a souvenir. At this point, Mr. Morita decided to standardize the name of the product and officially announced that the name ‘Walkman’ would be used worldwide. In 1986, the word ‘Walkman’ appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary and officially became a new English word.



This Day in History (28-Jun-1846) – Saxophone is patented by Antoine Joseph Sax

The saxophone is known as a single-reed musical instrument that is a staple in jazz bands. Considered to be newer than other musical instruments in terms of its music history, the saxophone was invented by Antoine-Joseph (Adolphe) Sax. His father, Charles, was a maker of musical instruments. His father’s passion for creating musical instruments influenced him greatly and he began plans of improving the tone of the bass clarinet. What he came up with was a single-reed instrument constructed from metal that has a conical bore and overblows at the octave. Adolphe Sax first showed his creation (a C bass saxophone) to the composer Hector Berlioz. The great composer was impressed by the uniqueness and versatility of the instrument. Hector Berlioz published an article in the Paris magazine “Journal des Debats” describing the saxophone.

In 1844, Adolphe Sax revealed his creation to the public through the Paris Industrial Exhibition. Hector Berlioz conducted a concert featuring his choral work. Hector’s choral work arrangement is called Chant Sacre and it featured the saxophone. In December, the saxophone had its orchestral debut at the Paris Conservatory through the opera “Last King of Juda” by Georges Kastner. French military bands during this time used oboes, bassoons, and french horns, but Adoplhe replaced these with the Bb and Eb saxhorns. In 1846, he obtained patent for his saxophones that had 14 variations. Among them are: E flat sopranino, F sopranino, B flat soprano, C soprano, E flat alto, F alto, B flat tenor, C tenor, E flat baritone, B flat bass, C bass, E flat contrabass and F contrabass. In 1847, a saxophone school was created in Paris. It was set up at “Gymnase Musical,” a military band school.

In bollywood, well know saxophonist Manohari Singh was a key performer of many great songs. His piece on saxophone in songs like ‘Gaata Rahe Mera Dil’ and ‘Din Dhal Yaye’ in Guide and ‘Ye Duniya Usi Ki Zamana Usi ka’ (Kashmir Ki Kali) are still raved by film music lovers.