The compact disc at 25

Benny & Björn with PolyGram's Jan Timmer and test pressings of The Visitors CD, 1982

Today the worldwide media have been reporting on the 25th anniversary of the introduction of the compact disc, or CD. Some of the stories (such as this video report from Reuters) have reported that ABBA’s The Visitors was the first commercially released CD.

The origin of today’s media story is this press release from Bayer MaterialScience, which reports that 25 years ago The Visitors was the first CD pressed as a test using a new high tech plastic, Makrolon®, during the development phase of the new audio standard.

The Visitors was indeed the first ABBA CD released, and is thought to be one of the first (if not the first) pop music CD released by PolyGram in Europe. But it wasn’t the first CD ever – that honour apparently goes to Billy Joel’s 52nd Street, released in Japan in October 1982, along with 15 other CDs in that first batch.

Benny & Björn were introduced to the new format in late 1982, when they were surprised to hear the tape hiss on analog-recorded tracks on The Visitors (most audible in the ticking between ‘Slipping Through My Fingers’ and ‘Like An Angel Passing Through My Room’ on the original 1983 CD, but not on later remastered versions).

The Visitors was the first CD I ever bought, sometime in 1983, probably 18 months before I bought my first CD player. It cost a whopping $30, which is close to the full price CD in Australia today. My copy was on the Polar label (POLCD 342), manufactured by PolyGram in West Germany, but actually came from the UK where it had been distributed by Epic, and so had a label attached to the spine with the UK catalogue number (EPC CD10032).  But I peeled off that sticker many, many years ago – maybe it could have been a rare collectors item?

It became a tradition for that very same CD to be the first one played everytime I bought a new CD player.

I loved the CD from the outset. The improved sound quality and the ease of playing. But I missed the full 12 inch album sleeve, and even the action of turning over the record to side 2.

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One Response to “The compact disc at 25”

  1. Ian Cole Says:

    Another story doing the media rounds today courtesy of a press release from Philips reports that the first CD manufactured in their plant near Hanover, West Germany on August 17 1982 was The Visitors, but still many months before the first CDs were commercially released (November 1982 in Japan, March 1983 in Europe). Typically, the media re-reporting simplifies the story and tells us that The Visitors was the first CD released.

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