January 19 – Rhythmicon, Unchained Melody, The Wall, Pretenders, Rodriguez


Joseph Schillinger/and Rhythmicon

American composer Henry Cowell introduces the first electronic drum machine, the Rhythmicon, at a concert in NYC.

Two machines were built on commission by Leon Theremin while he was in the US. Each of 16 keys played one rhythm and pitch; duplets played 2nd harmonics, quintuplets 5th harmonics, etc.

One of the machines was apparently left at Stanford by Cowell, where it was tossed out in 1938. The other wound up with Nicolas Slonimsky, then with Joseph Schillinger, then the Smithsonian — where it can be heard today. (Just kidding … does anything there work?)

Brief design description: Sounds are generated when light is allowed to pass through holes in spinning disks and fall onto photocells. Reportedly Theremin made a third machine in Russia in the mid-60s. Moscow demo  Software version

 Grandaddy of all Emo 

Hy Zaret, aka Wm Stirrat

Hall Bartlett‘s forgotten prison film Unchained is released, unleashing Alex North and lyricist Hy Zarat‘s monster-hit song Unchained Melody on the world.

In the US, covers by three artists chart in the top-10 in that year alone, including a US#3 by ex-Duke Ellington vocalist Al Hibbler, and Les Baxter‘s US#2 instrumental version.

Oh, my love, my darling
I’ve hungered for your touch a long lonely time
and time goes by so slowly, and time can do so much
are you still mine?
I need your love, I need your love
Godspeed your love to me

In 1964 the Righteous Brothers score a US#4, still well-remembered hit with an emo version that seems tailored after Johnnie Ray. It’s revived by inclusion in 1990 film Ghost. Righteous Bros 

In the UK, BBC DJ-singer Jimmy Young is the first of 4 to manage a UK#1 with it. In all there are over 500 covers. Platters  Orbison  Gene Vincent  Al Green  U2  Sha Na Na 


English prog rockers Pink Floyd top the US charts with their eleventh studio album, a double-album rock opera called The Wall.

The album generates the band’s only #1 single, Another Brick in the Wall Part 2.

A full-blown production concert tour known as The Wall Tour visits 31 locations. A film version is released in 1982. On Sep. 15, 2010, bandmember Roger Waters begins a 190-show world-wide tour called The Wall Live lasting ’til July 2012. Promo 


Brit new wave band The Pretenders release their first album.

It quickly climbs to UK#1, US#9. It includes their most popular (UK#1, US#14) single Brass in Pocket. Rolling Stone ranks it #155 in its 2003 top 500 albums list.


Cover of Coming from Reality

Release of film Searching for Sugar Man, the story of Detroit-born singer Sixto Rodriguez, whose two early-70s US albums — Cold Fact (AU#23) and Coming from Reality — sold poorly in the US, where he remained poor and unknown.

In 1997, Rodriguez was found alive by fans from South Africa, where his music was extremely popular and he was rumored to be dead. He played six sold-out concerts there in 1998. The title track from Cold Fact is heard in 2006 Heath Ledger film Candy. Sugar Man