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Music History Events: Innovations

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October 26, 1993 Michael Jackson is awarded a patent for the system that allows him to lean in unnatural angles during performances of "Smooth Criminal." To recreate the video on stage, Jackson and his dancers wore special shoes that they could insert into pegs set up on stage for the famous lean.More

November 30, 1991 Billboard changes its methodology for determining the Hot 100, using SoundScan data to track record store sales and BDS information for radio plays. SoundScan, an electronic system that counts record sales when they are rung up, replaces record store reporting, which was typically done with phone calls. BDS is a Shazam-like service that identifies songs played by radio stations, which eliminates the need for stations to report their playlists. The first #1 on the revamped chart is "Set Adrift On Memory Bliss" by P.M. Dawn.

May 25, 1991 Billboard implements SoundScan technology on their Albums chart, replacing the decades-old system that relied on record stores to report sales figures. With SoundScan, the sales are tracked electronically, providing much more accurate data.More

May 1, 1991 For the first time, MTV Unplugged features rap acts, with De La Soul, MC Lyte, A Tribe Called Quest and LL Cool J performing. LL steals the show with a shirtless rendition of "Mama Said Knock You Out."More

November 26, 1989 MTV's acoustic showcase Unplugged premieres with an episode featuring Squeeze. Jules Shear hosts the first season.More

June 29, 1987 Meeting at a London pub, a group of record label executives decide to use the term "World Music" to promote their international artists. This new designation becomes a section in many record stores and makes it much easier to classify artists that don't fit traditional genres.

April 28, 1987 The Art Of Excellence by Tony Bennett becomes the first album to be initially released on CD instead of the traditional vinyl format.

November 2, 1985 The Miami Vice soundtrack album, featuring the #1-hit theme song, tops the albums chart in America, ushering in a new age of TV soundtracks.More

May 16, 1983 Michael Jackson does the Moonwalk for the first time on TV when he breaks out the move on the Motown 25th anniversary TV special.More

August 1, 1981 MTV goes on the air, bringing music videos to the masses - at least the ones with cable.More

July 1, 1979 The Sony Walkman debuts in Japan, making music portable.More

December 6, 1977 Jackson Browne releases Running On Empty, a live album compiled from performances at various stops on his summer tour. Live albums typically rely on songs that have already been released, but this one features all new songs, the first major rock album to do so.

September 2, 1976 Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five become the first rap act to play a theater when they do their first major gig, performing at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem. They introduce various DJ techniques along with rap interplay and choreography.

August 11, 1973 At a dance party in the Bronx, DJ Kool Herc plays a set with lots of instrumental breaks that his friend MCs over, marking what many consider the beginning of hip-hop.More

May 22, 1971 The Rolling Stones' Sticky Fingers album, with a working zipper on the cover, hits #1 in the US.More

April 20, 1971 Five friends at San Rafael High School in California coin the term "4:20" as a euphemism for smoking pot. April 20th becomes a popular day to spark one up, as does 4:20 pm. Note that the Boston song "Smokin'" clocks in at 4 minutes, 20 seconds, and if you multiply the title numbers in Bob Dylan's "Rainy Day Women #12 And #35," you get 420. Dude!More

September 13, 1969 At the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival festival, host Kim Fowley starts a rock tradition when he asks the crowd to hold up lighters for Eric Clapton and John Lennon.More

July 20, 1969 When the Apollo 11 spacecraft lands on the moon and Neil Armstrong takes his one giant leap for mankind, it reverberates through the world of music.More

May 23, 1969 The Who release their album Tommy, a rock opera about a deaf, dumb and blind boy who plays a mean pinball.More

April 26, 1969 Walter Carlos's album Switched-On Bach, notable for being the first successful album to remix classical music compositions on the newly-invented Moog synthesizer, reaches #10 on the Billboard Albums chart. The popularity of the album is the commercial breakthrough for Moog synthesizers, which go on to be part of the soundtrack in the films Tron, The Shining, and A Clockwork Orange. This in part brings synthesized music to mainstream popularity, paving the way for disco (especially the 'hi-NRG' style) in the '70s.

July 1, 1966 Bob Dylan releases the "thin, wild mercury" sound of Blonde on Blonde, rock's first double album. Minds are blown.More

September 15, 1965 Ford offers factory-installed 8-track tape players in its Mustang, Thunderbird and Lincoln models. This marks the first time 8-track players are widely available, so you can only get the tapes in auto parts stores or Ford dealers. The players have a tendency to chew up the tapes, leading to 8-track roadkill as drivers throw the tangled tapes out their windows.More

October 24, 1962 In the thick of the Cuban Missile Crisis, James Brown records his electrifying stage show for the album Live at the Apollo.More

January 20, 1962 Dick Dale's guitar instrumental "Let's Go Trippin'" hits #60, becoming the first Surf Rock song to chart. Many groups, including The Beach Boys, subsequently cover the song.More

April 5, 1961 On The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet episode "A Question of Suits and Ties," Ricky Nelson sings "Travelin' Man" in what could be considered the first music video.More

May 9, 1960 The birth control pill is introduced in the US, inspiring Loretta Lynn to sing a song about it.More

February 3, 1960 Frank Sinatra launches the first fully artist-owned label, Reprise Records (pronounced "repreeze"), so he can own his own masters. Some of his cohorts, including Dean Martin and Rosemary Clooney, join the label, which is sold to Warner Brothers in 1963, where it becomes home to a number of famous acts, including Jimi Hendrix, Joni Mitchell and Green Day.

September 8, 1955 In an attempt to hide the wrinkles in his suit, Chuck Berry does the duck walk for the first time.More

January 10, 1949 The vinyl record format war heats up as RCA introduces the 45-RPM, 7-inch record. It eventually replaces the 78-RPM record for "singles" - one song on each side. The format takes off in the early years of the rock era.

June 21, 1948 The Columbia label announces its new technological breakthrough, a "long-playing" vinyl phonograph record that can hold up to 23 minutes of music on a side.

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