Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for 33 1/3 RPM

Music History Monday: I Don’t Know About You But I’ve Always Wondered About That

Today we mark a technological event that came and went with hardly a murmur. It was 87 years ago today – on September 17, 1931 – that the RCA Victor Company demonstrated the first long-playing (or “LP”) record to rotate at 33-1/3 rpm (or “rounds per minute”). The demonstration took place at the Savoy Plaza Hotel in New York City. (Because we need to know: the 33-story Savoy Plaza was located at 767 Fifth Avenue. It overlooked Central park at Fifth Avenue and East 59th Street. Built at a cost of 30 million dollars, it opened in 1927 and met the wrecking ball in 1965.)  The tony location of the demonstration aside, listeners were generally unimpressed. The first 33-1/3 rpm records offered no significant sonic improvement over the 78 rpm records that were standard at the time, and despite the fact that more music could be packed onto a disc spinning at 33-1/3 rpm, the new technology eventually fizzled. It wasn’t until 1948, when Columbia/CBS introduced a vastly improved 33-1/3 rpm LP that the new technology took off. (For our information: Columbia/CBS unveiled their new record technology at New York’s Waldorf Astoria on June 18, 1948. Take THAT, Savoy Plaza!) […]

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