The British Broadcasting Corporation, in order to meet its producers’ requests for more unusual sound effects and music than is presently held in its sound library, establishes the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in room 13 of the BBC’s Maida Vale recording studios. Concentrating on tape manipulation and found sounds altered with analog effects (and only later delving into the earliest waves of analog synthesizers), the Workshop produces music for such legendary BBC productions as The Quatermass Experiment and the theme music for Doctor Who. Founding members include Desmond Briscoe, Daphne Oram and Dick Mills.
Introduced to an audience of screaming teenagers on national television, the Beatles make their American TV debut on the Ed Sullivan Show. The band, whose TV premiere takes place during their first trip to the States, play five songs to rapturous applause. (Ironically, Sullivan’s other musical act of the evening is a young actor named Davy Jones, later of the Monkees.) An audience estimated to be 73 million viewers strong watches this seismic moment in American pop culture, ushering in years of wanna-be sound-alikes both foreign and domestic referred to as the British Invasion.
Raymond Scott‘s experimental electronic music album Soothing Sounds For Baby, Volume 1 is released. Created entirely on electronic instruments and sequencers of his own creation – decades ahead of the widespread use of such equipment – the LP is a series of somewhat repetitive instrumentals which will supposedly help infants sleep better.
Halfway through filming on the Star Trek pilot episode, The Cage, the attention of the show’s producers turns to the music for the pilot, and possible composers. Among the composers approached but unable to commit to Star Trek are Jerry Goldsmith (later to score 1979‘s Star Trek: The Motion Picture), John Williams (later of Star Wars and Lost In Space fame), Lalo Schifrin (Mission: Impossible), Elmer Bernstein, and Dominic Frontiere (The Outer Limits); a young composer named Alexander Courage, whose schedule is open, is considered especially promising.
Dot Records releases the Leonard Nimoy‘s album Mr. Spock’s Music From Outer Space, a collection of songs both in and out of character as Spock. Aside from providing material for future Golden Throats albums, this record sparks a feud between Nimoy and Roddenberry; Roddenberry claims co-writing credit on the Star Trek theme (which is featured on the LP) and credit for creating Mr. Spock, and demands – to coin a phrase – a piece of the action.
Deram Records – an offshoot of UK label Decca – releases the second Moody Blues album, Days Of Future Passed, an orchestral/rock collaboration intended to show off the company’s stereo recording techniques for classical recordings (and intended to write off the band’s massive promotional debts owed to the label). The results is a perennially popular album now regarded as a rock classic, including the enduring hit singles “Nights In White Satin” and “Forever Afternoon (Tuesday?)”.
Iron Butterfly‘s psychedelic rock album In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida is released; a much-shortened version of the 17-minute (!!) song of the same name becomes a radio hit and a prime specimen of the genre.
Decca Records releases the fifth album by the Moody Blues, To Our Children’s Children’s Children, featuring the single “Watching And Waiting”. This is the first of two albums the band will release in 1970.
Regal Zonophone Records releases the second album by Birmingham rock group The Move, Shazam. (The album is simultaneously issued in the United States and Canada by A&M Records.) The final album with original lead singer Carl Wayne, Shazam is a bizarre collision of heavy metal and showtunes and standards without even the slightest hint of irony. After this album, Roy Wood takes over as the band’s leader.
Decca Records releases the sixth album by the Moody Blues, A Question Of Balance, featuring the singles “Question” and “Melancholy Man”. Thanks to the band’s large following, the album – the second to be released by the band in 1970 – is an international bestseller.
Fly Records releases the third album by Birmingham rock group The Move, Looking On. The group sports an elegant, elaborate new sound on this outing, having recruited budding songwriter/performer Jeff Lynne from another local band, the Idle Race. Lynne’s interaction with Move frontman Roy Wood will lead to the formation, a year later, of the Electric Light Orchestra.
Electric Light Orchestra‘s self-titled debut album is released in the UK, though it proves to be the last released collaboration between founders (and former Move members) Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne; Wood leaves the band after an unpromising live debut. The album is released in the US in March 1972, where a phone call to clarify the album’s title results in a misunderstood written note that leads to the American release going out under the unintentional title No Answer.
Decca Records releases the eighth album by the Moody Blues, Seventh Sojourn (the seven, in this case, referring to the seventh album by the band since the addition of Justin Hayward and John Lodge in the 1960s). The album includes the singles “Isn’t Life Strange” and “I’m Just a Singer in a Rock and Roll Band”.
Virgin Records releases Mike Oldfield‘s second prog-rock instrumental album, Hergest Ridge, the eagerly-awaited follow-up to his debut LP, Tubular Bells.
Electric Light Orchestra‘s fourth album, Eldorado, is released, featuring the single “Can’t Get It Out Of My Head”. This is the first ELO album with a full orchestra (as opposed to previous albums’ practice of overdubbing three string players endlessly), and the first to be released in the US before its UK release date.
Charisma Records releases Genesis‘ epic-length double album The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, a mythological concept album which proves to be Peter Gabriel’s last studio album with the band. The album will go on to be widely regarded as one of the creative peaks for the group.
Mushroom Records releases the debut Split Enz album Mental Notes, the product of two months of concentrated recording sessions in Sydney, Australia (and three years of playing live and building a following). The album is a modest success story in Australia and the band’s native New Zealand, and is critically acclaimed for its originality.
Virgin Records releases Mike Oldfield‘s third prog-rock instrumental album, Ommadawn.
A group of veteran session musicians working under producer Alan Parsons and songwriter Eric Woolfson releases its debut album, The Alan Parsons Project – Tales Of Mystery And Imagination: Edgar Allan Poe. The “group” becomes known, somewhat unintentionally, as the Alan Parsons Project, though that was intended to be part of the album title. Themed around the works of Poe, the album becomes a prog rock cult classic and sells well enough that Parsons and Woolfson begin planning a more futuristic project…
Electric Light Orchestra‘s sixth album, A New World Record, is released, featuring the singles “Livin’ Thing”, “Telephone Line” and “Rockaria!”; the record goes gold and then platinum by the end of the year. This is the group’s first album to sport artwork with the now-familiar ELO logo, created from a mirrored image of the upper part of a Wurlitzer jukebox; following the post-Star Wars science fiction revival, future albums render this logo as a flying saucer.
RCA Records releases Isao Tomita‘s interpretation of Holst’s The Planets, a new recording of the famous orchestral suite recorded entirely with synthesizers.
Warner Bros. Records releases Fleetwood Mac‘s 11th album, Rumours, featuring the singles “Don’t Stop”, “Dreams”, “Go Your Own Way”, “You Make Loving Fun”, and “The Chain”. The album is an almost instant chart-topper, capitalizing on the huge following from the band’s 1975 album.
At Anvil Studios in Denham, England, John Williams and the London Symphony Orchestra convene for the first recording session for the Star Wars soundtrack. Over the course of the next 11 days, and with director George Lucas in attendance in the recording booth, all of the music for Lucas’ movie is rehearsed and recorded. Williams and Lucas had been introduced by their mutual friend Steven Spielberg, with whom Williams had worked on 1975’s Jaws (whose score had gone on to win Williams his second Oscar); Lucas’ original plan was to “score” Star Wars entirely with classical pieces. The first scene scored by Williams and the LSO is the rapid-fire chase through the Death Star, culminating in Luke and Princess Leia swinging across a chasm; other pieces recorded on the first day include the death of Obi-Wan Kenobi and the iconic theme music.
RSO Records releases a double LP of John Williams’ soundtrack from Star Wars, coinciding with the movie’s release. A fold-out poster of publicity artwork of the climactic Death Star dogfight is included. The album becomes a chart-topper by the end of the year, and cover versions by other artists are released even before the year is out. Many listeners become lifelong film score fanatics on the spot.
The Alan Parsons Project releases its second album, I Robot, including the singles “I Wouldn’t Want To Be Like You”, “Breakdown” and “Don’t Let It Show” (the latter of which is covered latered by Pat Benatar). The album is loosely themed around fear of the future and technology, a far cry from the original plan for a concept album built around Isaac Asimov’s story “I, Robot” (though Asimov allows the album’s title since it lacks the comma). This is the Project’s first album on Arista Records.
With less than a month to go before the launch of the first of two Voyager unmanned spacecraft, NASA attaches copper phonograph records, encased in lightweight, protective golden casings, to each of the Voyager probes. With participation from Carl Sagan (who led the effort to mount a plaque on the Pioneer probes consisting only of visual information), SETI pioneer Frank Drake, Jon Lomberg and others, the 12″ LP consists of not only sound recordings, but photos and diagrams depicting the diversity and composition of life on Earth. The sounds include various kinds of Earth wildlife, spoken messages from President Jimmy Carter and United Nations Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim, music from Beethoven and Bach to Chuck Berry (the Beatles decline permission to include “Here Comes The Sun”), and Carl Sagan’s young son Nick delcaring “Greetings from the children of planet Earth.” The outer casing includes a playback mechanism and diagrams for how to use it.
In the decades to come, fictional aliens visiting or invading Earth because they have viewed the Voyager “Golden Record” becomes a staple of science fiction media.
Mushroom Records releases the third Split Enz album, Dizrythmia, the first of the group’s recorded output to feature frontman Tim Finn’s younger brother Neil as the new guitarist. This is also the first album to feature new recruits Nigel Griggs on bass and drummer Mal Green, both of whom will remain through the band at the peak of its success in the early 1980s.
Produced in the wake of Star Wars mania, Meco Menardo’s disco cover of John Williams’ music from Star Wars tops the Billboard Hot 100 chart for two weeks. A shortened, radio-friendly single is the song certified as #1, although the album version (titled Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk) is an extended suite lasting over 15 minutes and covering most of the movie’s major music themes. Meco would continue to ride the Star Wars train, disco-style, for years to come.