Part 2 of this series took us up to where the sonic possibilities of tape manipulation had been explored with The Beach Boys’ Good Vibrations and The Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper’s.
Part 3 started with praise for the 1970s hi fi sound (it had such warmth that it was hard to imagine that it could ever be bettered) and moved onto synthesisers: Rick Wakeman and the Minimoog, Kraftwerk, and then neatly segued into the popularity of Kraftwerk’s music with disco-goers; disco gave birth to sampling and the extended re-mix (so DJs could go for a toilet break, apparently). Alongside this, recording left the studio: multitrack cassette allowed people to create demos at home. We were then into digital recording with a re-creation of Cher’s 1998 ‘autotune song’ Believe, and the backlash against studio trickery in the form of Nirvana’s In Utero. And finally a man creating a song on his phone while still in bed.
Inevitably presenter Neil Brand cast doubt on digital recording and said that some people (i.e. the ones with souls) think that, for the first time in its history, the recording industry took a retrograde step when it introduced CD. CD was never introduced for better sound quality, said one famous producer, but merely convenience. Another said that CD “sounds like s**t”. The opposing view was put by… no one. The programme concluded with the vinyl sales explosion, and an affirmation that the power of the three minute song is so great that pop has a bright future.
As I discussed a while ago it is clear that, among the cognoscenti, the vinyl vs. digital debate is over, with vinyl the winner. Digital audio is tolerated as a convenient medium for the earbud masses and a useful tool in the studio, but no one expects a digital recording played on a real hi-fi system to sound like anything but “s**t”.