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What was the first CD ever released?

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There are a few albums vying for the title of “first CD ever released,” and how you phrase the question makes a difference.

October 1st marks the 40th anniversary of the release of the first albums on CD. So… which was the first?

Billy Joel’s 52nd Street, featuring classics like “Big Shot” and “My Life,” tends to get listed as the first CD to be released commercially, but that’s not entirely accurate, as it was one of 50 albums released in Japan on October 1, 1982. 52nd Street just happened to be the first listed in the catalog, so it gets the tag as “first CD ever released.” Discogs published the list of the 50 albums included in the 10/1/82 release date, which are featured here, and they all should share in the glory.

Who pressed the first CD?

But… before these 50 CDs were pressed, ABBA’s The Visitors is credited as being the first album to be manufactured on CD for sale. It also boasts being one of the first records recorded and mixed digitally. The official release date for the album was November 30, 1981, but it wasn’t released on CD until March of 1983.

And even that pressing was preceded by the first-ever test pressing of an album, Eine Alpensinfonie, a tone poem for large orchestra written by German composer Richard Strauss. According to Famous Daily, that pressing took place on August 17, 1982, making it the first CD ever made.

What was the first CD released in the US?

And I’m sure many of you are reading this thinking, wasn’t Born in the U.S.A. the first CD released commercially? Well, yes, if you’re looking for the first CD released in the US, as Born In The U.S.A. became the first compact disc manufactured in the US for commercial release on September 21, 1984.

While we’re at it, we should note that the first CD to sell a million copies was Dire Straits’ Brothers in Arms, released in 1985.

The first 50 CDs released for commercial sale

Here are the first 50 CDs ever released — in Japan. We’ve included the original release date of the album and a quick note. Do you own any of these? It’s time to pull them out and crank up the hi-fi system and enjoy some quality audio!

first CD Al DiMeola Al DiMeola
Electric Rendezvous  (1981)
#3 on Billboard Top Jazz Albums in 1982


first CD Al DiMeolaAl Di Meola, John McLaughlin, Paco de Lucía
Friday Night In San Francisco  (1981)
Recorded December 5, 1980 at the Warfield Theater in San Francisco, CA


first CD Al DiMeola 3Al DiMeola
Tour de Force Live  (1982)
Recorded February 4, 1982 at the Tower Theatre, Philadelphia, PA


first CD Andy WilliamsAndy Williams
Love Standard  (1982)
Not released in the US, only in Japan


first CD AnnieAnnie
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack  (1982)
Features Albert Finney, Ann Reinking, Martin Charnin, Aileen Quinn, Carol Burnett, Charles Strouse, Bernadette Peters, and more


first CD Art GarfunkelArt Garfunkel
Scissors Cut  (August 1981)
Includes the UK #1, “Bright Eyes,” the theme from the movie Watership Down


first CD AsiaAsia
Asia  (1982)
The supergroup’s debut, featuring “Heat Of The Monment,” “Only Time Will Tell,” and “Wildest Dreams”


first CD Barbra StreisandBarbra Streisand
Guilty  (1980)
Written and produced by Barry Gibb, this is Barbra Steisand’s biggest selling album


first CD Bertie HigginsBertie Higgins
Just Another Day In Paradise  (1982)
Features the Top 10 single “Key Largo”


first CD Billy JoelBilly Joel
52nd Street  (October 1978)
Billy Joel’s sixth studio album, features “Big Shot” and “My Life”


first CD Billy Joel 2Billy Joel
Glass Houses  (March 1980)
Billy Joel’s seventh studio album, features “You May Be Right,” “Don’t Ask Me Why,” and “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me”


first CD Billy Joel 3Billy Joel
Songs In The Attic  (September 1981)
Billy Joel’s first live album, recorded on the Glass Houses tour


first CD Billy Joel 4Billy Joel
The Nylon Curtain  (September 1982)
Billy Joel’s eighth studio album, features “Allentown” and “Pressure”


first CD Billy Joel 5Billy Joel
The Stranger  (September 1977)
Billy Joel’s fifth studio album, features “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song),” “Just the Way You Are,” “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant,” and “Only the Good Die Young”


first CD Bob JamesBob James
Hands Down  (August 1982)
Tenth album from one of the fathers of smooth and contemporary jazz


first CD Bob James Earl KlughBob James & Earl Klugh
One On One  (1979)
Smooth jazz master Bob James teams up with Earl Klugh (acoustic guitar) on the first of two duet albums


first CD Boz ScaggsBoz Scaggs
Hits (November 1980)
Features 10 hits from the former Steve Miller guitarist/vocalist


first CD Boz Scaggs 2Boz Scaggs
Middleman  (April 1980)
Boz Scaggs’ ninth solo album features “Jojo” and “Breakdown Dead Ahead”


first CD Boz Scaggs 3Boz Scaggs
Silk Degrees  (February 1976)
Boz Scaggs’ seventh solo album features “Lowdown” and “Lido Shuffle”


first CD Bruce SpringsteenBruce Springsteen
Born To Run  (August 1975)
Bruce Springsteen’s third studio album features “Thunder Road,” “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out,” “Born to Run,” and “Jungleland”


first CD Earth Wind & FireEarth, Wind & Fire
Powerlight  (October 1982 — in Japan)
Earth, Wind & Fire’s twelfth studio album features “Fall in Love with Me,” “Spread Your Love,” and “Side by Side”


first CD Earth Wind & Fire 2Earth, Wind & Fire
Gratitude November  (1975)
Earth, Wind & Fire’s first live album went Triple Platinum


first CD ELOELO
Discovery June  (1979)
Electric Light Orchestra’s eighth studio album features “Shine a Little Love,” “Last Train to London,” and “Don’t Bring Me Down”


first CD Herbie HancockHerbie Hancock
Directstep  (October 1982)
Recorded and released in Japan to be part of this first wave of CD releases


first CD Herbie Hancock 2Herbie Hancock
Lite Me Up  (1982)
Features “Lite Me Up,” “The Bomb,” and “Getting’ to the Good Part”


first CD Herbie Hancock 3Herbie Hancock
The Piano  (1980)
Features a suite combining “My Funny Valentine,” “Green Dolphin Street,” and “Someday My Prince Will Come”


first CD JourneyJourney
Escape  (August 1981)
Journey’s seventh studio album features “Don’t Stop Believin’,” “Stone in Love,” “Who’s Crying Now,” and “Open Arms”


first CD Journey 2Journey
Frontiers  (October 1982 — in Japan)
Journey’s eighth studio album features “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart),” “Send Her My Love,” and “Faithfully”


first CD Karla BonoffKarla Bonoff
Wild Heart of The Young  (March 1982)
Karla Bonoff’s third studio album features a cover of Paul Kelly’s “Personally”


first CD Kenny LogginsKenny Loggins
High Adventure  (September 1982)
Kenny Loggins’ fourth studio album features “Don’t Fight It,” “Heartlight,” and “Heart to Heart”


first CD Miles DavisMiles Davis
The Man With The Horn  (July 1981)
This was Miles Davis’ first album after a six-year retirement


first CD Percy FaithPercy Faith
Latin Hit Sounds  (October 1982)
Not released in the US, only in Japan


first CD Percy Faith 2Percy Faith
Screen Music Special  (October 1982)
Not released in the US, only in Japan


first CD Pink FloydPink Floyd
Wish You Were Here  (September 1985)
Pink Floyd’s ninth studio album features “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” “Welcome to the Machine,” and “Wish You Were Here”


first CD QuarterflashQuarterflash
Quarterflash  (1981)
Quarterflash’s debut album features “Harden My Heart” and “Find Another Fool”


first CD SantanaSantana
Shangó (August 1982)
Santana’s thirteenth album features “Hold On” and “Nowhere to Run”


first CD Simon & GarfunkelSimon & Garfunkel
Bridge Over Troubled Water (January 1970)
Simon & Garfunkel’s fifth (and final) studio album features “Bridge over Troubled Water,” “Cecilia,” and “The Boxer”


first CD Simon & Garfunkel 2Simon & Garfunkel
Collection (1981)
Features 17 of the duo’s best songs


first CD The Brothers FourThe Brothers Four
Greenfields (October 1982)
Not released in the US, only in Japan


first CD The Herbie Hancock TrioThe Herbie Hancock Trio
The Herbie Hancock Trio (1977)
Not released in the US, only in Japan, features Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams


first CD The VSOP QuintetThe VSOP Quintet
Five Stars (December 1979)
Recorded in Tokyo, Japan in 1979


first CD Third WorldThird World
You’ve Got The Power (1982)
World Party’s ninth album features two tracks written by Stevie Wonder, “Try Jah Love” and “You’re Playing Us Too Close”


first CD TotoToto
Hydra (October 1979)
Toto’s second studio album features “99”


first CD Toto IVToto
IV (April 1982)
Toto’s fourth studio album features “Rosanna” and “Africa”


first CD Toto 2Toto
Turn Back (January 1981)
Toto’s third studio album features “Gift With a Golden Gun” and “Live For Today”


first CD Weather ReportWeather Report
Night Passage (1980)
Weather Report’s ninth studio album features “Port of Entry” and “Rockin’ in Rhythm”


first CD Weather Report 2Weather Report
Procession (October 1982 — Japan)
The group’s 13th studio album features a revised lineup of Victor Bailey, Omar Hakim, Jose Rossy, and Joe Zawinul


first CD Weather ReportWeather Report
Weather Report (May 1971)
Weather Report’s debut features Joe Zawinul, Wayne Shorter, Miroslav Vitous, Airto Moreira, and Alphonse Mouzon


first CD Willie NelsonWillie Nelson
Always On My Mind (1982)
Willie Nelsons’ 27th studio album features “Always on My Mind,” “Let It Be Me,” and “Last Thing I Needed First Thing This Morning”


first CD Wynton MarsalisWynton Marsalis
Wynton Marsalis (August 1981)
Wynton Marsalis’ debut (at the age of 19) features “Father Time,” “I’ll Be There When the Time Comes,” and “Sister Cheryl”

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6 thoughts on “What was the first CD ever released?

  1. Information of interest to the many independent music-makers that follow DiscMakers: Giraffe’s “The Power Of Suggestion” was the first independently released album on the new CD format by an independent artist. Giraffe was the band led by Kevin Gilbert, who later was a part of Toy Matinee, and a primary founding member of the “Tuesday Night Music Club” which birthed the career of Sheryl Crow. He was an outstanding talent, and I urge you to check out his solo efforts – his discography is a rabbit hole that you will find yourself stuck in for a lifetime!

    1. Thanks for this info — admittedly I’m taking your word for it, but I love including the indie angle. Makes me want to research what the first CD was that rolled of the presses at Disc Makers. More to come…

      1. That info is either on Kevin’s website or a Giraffe related site. I had read that fairly recently and wanted to respond with the same info, but could not navigate back to the source – ie. my brain forgot where I read it. Mark is correct – at least until someone else comes up with better information.

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