Happy Birthday Compact Discs 1983.

(Note: based on album release dates, my memory is definitely off about the following events. But it is how I remember it, 20-25 years later. This isn’t a plea for clarification, it is nostalgia with all of the goodtimes and gaps possible. Enjoy.)

On this day in 1983, the compact disc was… Well, not born. Today is the day that compact discs were sold for the first time in the United States. Back in 1983 CBS Records released 16 CD’s for consumers. I have been trying to find a list of those 16 discs but damn if my microfiche machine is in the shop.

While there are many people who have gone all digital and think CD’s are a relic of the past, I’ll inform you over and over again to hang on to your physical media. Anything digital comes with an expiration date. You will only have this for as long as the company has the rights. Bought it on Amazon but it goes exclusive to iTunes, you no longer have it. But I still have the first CD’s I was given.

Not from 1983. I was 5 and later 6 years old and far too young for my own personal music player. My parents had some cassettes and 8 tracks that I could figure out. Records were beyond me at that age. No, the first CD I owned wasn’t until a pretty girl in high school wanted to share music.

This exchange happened in 1994 and I remember far more than I should. I’m just now realizing that’s 25 years ago, which is not only surprising for my own age but also because I can’t believe the albums I’ll be discussing are that old. So, girl in my class (name not important) overheard me talking about music. If I wasn’t spending what money I had on comic books I was buying cassettes of bands I discovered from Headbangers Ball. See kids, back when MTV played music they also had shows dedicated to specific genres of music. Headbangers ball aired from midnight to 2 am on Saturday into Sunday nights. They played everything you could think of as long as it was heavy. The crazy thing was bands would cross over into mainstream a year later but by then, us metalheads already knew about it. White Zombie, Megadeth, Blind Melon. OK, they weren’t all heavy. I went to Tape World and bought the same White Zombie plus Fight, Pantera, Alice in Chains and I loved it all.

Cassettes were easy to carry in pockets and in 1994 the easiest to copy as well. I shared my tapes and copied others. Girl really wanted to hear White Zombie. I wanted an excuse to talk to her. So I asked to borrow some of her tapes. “Oh, I only have CD’s.”

Defeated. I had no way to listen to discs in my house. None of us had a player at the time. But much like my reasoning for watching Beverly Hills 90210, or going out to bars, I needed this excuse to talk to a girl. Now, I could have been smart and not bought anything for a bit thus saving enough money. However I am burdened and blessed by a desire for instant gratification. SO I asked for a CD player.

And what a CD Player I was graciously given! A monster 5 disc changer. This thing was insane. It was awhile before I even had 5 CD’s to shuffle through. My favorite memory is the pause and ca-CHUNK noise as it changed discs. I was used to it but one time a friend spent the night and unplugged the player to stop the noise every five or so minutes (shuffle track). A multi disc changer is still magic to me and when I got a “new” to me car last year one of the highlights was the six disc changer. Which I only have five discs in.

One of if not the first disc I received was from my Dad. I was woefully ignorant to metal at the time if it was not presented to me on the aforementioned Ball. Thus I did not understand that the new Black Sabbath album, Cross Purposes, featured not Ozzy but the one and only Ronnie James Dio as lead vocalist. “Iron Man” might not be here, but some other treasures are. One of the great challenges and learning curves of CD’s was where to put the singles. Previously there had to be at least 2 on side A and another as the first song on side B. The single side disc eliminated that. Without a known single I had to listen to the entire album, and learned that many times the best songs must be found that way. The Ghost CD I got for this past Christmas is incredible as a straight play through and I think my current favorite song is not a radio single. No irony on Black Sabbath leading me to Ghost.

On my own I had to go out and buy the first album from the biggest newest rock band of the day. The Foo Fighters. “This is a Call”, “I’ll Stick Around”, even “Big Me” and “For All the Cows”. These aren’t the big hits played on the radio, but they’re still great songs and showed the world that Dave Grohl was more than capable of filling the hole that was left in music.

For some reason I bought a Sounds of Thunderstorms CD. Absolutely loved it and played it as white noise for years. I’m not sure why this was one of the first discs I bought, maybe it was super cheap, but it seemed necessary at the time. A great trick was playing it late at night when someone else was in the room and in the morning hear, “did it rain last night?”


Jesus Christ Superstar taught me the difference in recordings. This was the Broadway cast, where I was used to the movie cast. Both are fantastic but I had to open my mind to different interpretations of songs. Later that might be covers or even just BBC recordings. Music is performance and sometimes one night is different than another, but both can be great.

Finally, my first experience with a CD playing too much. While it’s not a nationwide hit, in my area the Toadies “Rubberneck” album was huge. Like, local radio played non singles just to get it on the air more. I’m currently on my third copy of the CD and even that one has its moments. Sometimes an album hits a certain age of kids at a certain time and is forever held as something special. This CD was one of those moments.

Happy birthday to the compact disc!

One comment

  1. My stepdad was stationed in Japan in for a bit in the early 80s. There are two things I remember he brought home: a CD player and a box full of some new toy called TransFormers.
    The first CD I bought was the Empire Strikes Back soundtrack. I remember being annoyed that it was missing tracks being a single CD but who cares, I had it on CD!

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