The first compact disc single (CDS) in the UK (and possibly anywhere) was Dire Straits’ Brothers In Arms single in 1985, but with few homes owning the hardware to play them only a couple of hundred copies were pressed. At that time, CD was still thought to be the preserve of classical consumers, so pop singles were not part of the plan: originally designed to hold an hour’s worth of music, the capacity was extended to 74 minutes to comfortably carry Beethoven’s 9th symphony in its entirety. Not only was this the musical genre thought to benefit most from the superior sound quality offered by this new technology, but the demographic who purchased classical music was the one who had the money to buy a player. When they were launched on to the UK market on March 1st 1983, they typically cost £600.00 – around £1,400.00 today.
Development of the product began in the late seventies and the very first CD pressed was by the Philips factory in Germany on 17 August 1982 – ABBA’s album of the year before, The Visitors – but this was a novelty as the equipment to play it wasn’t yet available. The first official releases came on 1 October 1982 to coincide with the launch of the CDP-101 player in Japan. 50 Sony – CBS – Epic titles were released on that day including recent releases from the past five years, the only contemporary chart album being Toto IV by American rock band Toto. The rest were best sellers from a range of music styles, including a selection of titles by Japanese domestic artists, perhaps the only one familiar to an international audience being jazz saxophonist Sadao Watanabe.
In the UK a few months later, the first record company ready with discs to sell when the players became available to buy for the first time was the PolyGram group, a company closely associated with Philips, the company that developed the technology. PolyGram’s three leading classical labels all had titles available in the month the new medium was launched: Deutsche Grammophon with 28 titles, Decca with 23 and Philips with 24. The price per unit was £5.75, which, with a dealer margin of 33% added, gave a standard retail price of £9.99. (PolyGram suggested that pop titles would have a dealer price of £5.25 when they were released, giving dealers a margin of 37%.) Stock was initially restricted to around 200 retailers in a pilot store scheme. They expected to add a further 20 titles to the range in the second quarter of 1983. Meanwhile, Virgin claimed to have five titles ready for release on March the 6th, 1983. CBS said that ten classical and twelve pop titles would be available in the UK on March the 25th, but as they were importing them from Japan (a choice from the 50 titles issued there the year before) the dealer price was to be £7.29 – with the full dealer margin applied that would be a retail price of around £12.50. RCA were ready to offer nine classical titles by April; Chrysalis were getting ready to make their first issue in May; EMI and WEA had not shown their hands as yet. Arista were still reviewing the market but wished to join later. In all by the end of the year there was expected to be around 180 titles on CD across all label groups.
By 1986, the year Frankie’s Rage Hard was released, still only 1% of British homes had a player. This rose to 5% the following year but with sales of compact discs not included in chart compilation at that time, still very few singles were issued on the format. When demand started to pick up the CDS in the last couple of years of the decade, a special 3” version (as opposed to the original 5” disc used for albums) was developed, which held around 25 minutes of music. They weren’t popular and perhaps delayed the compact disc’s appeal for singles; it wasn’t until 1990 that sales of 7” vinyl singles accounted for less than 50% of the market, that medium’s dominance finally ended by the rise of both CDS and cassingles which that year each held around a 10% market share. In 1992, CDS became the most popular type of single and remained so until they were wiped out by downloads in 2005.
NEW SINGLES on sale from Aug. 25
FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD Rage Hard (ZTT ZTAS22)