The Library of Congress has released the list of 2005 entries into the National Recording Registry. Every year, 50 recordings are selected for their historical, cultural or aesthetic significance. There are 200 recordings in the registry as of this year.
Last year, Nirvana’s Nevermind and Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet made the list. (The aforementioned albums are also the most recent entries in the registry.) The highlights of this year’s list:
- Crazy Blues, Mamie Smith (1920) - The first commercial blues recording. The surprising success of Crazy Blues convinced the record labels that black people were actually interested in buying music recorded by blacks. And as jazz, rock and hip hop soon proved, so were white people.
- Anthology of American Folk Music, edited by Harry Smith (1952) - The legendary box set of roots music 78s that helped spark the ’60s folk revival. Just in case you were looking for someone to blame for that.
- Poeme Electronique, Edgard Varese (1958) - The first avante garde piece to be admitted to the registry. A massive musique concrete installation that premiered at the 1958 Brussels Exhibition.
- We’re Only in It for the Money, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention (1968) - The second avante garde piece to be admitted into the registry. Not only Zappa’s best work, but probably the album that truly captured the zeitgeist of the 60s. (Anyone who had the foresight to make fun of hippies in 1967 is deserving of immortality.)
- Switched-On Bach, Wendy Carlos (1968) - Still going by the name Walter Carlos at the time, Switched-On Bach featured Carlos performing Bach on the Moog synthesizer (an instrument previously pioneered by jazz musician Sun Ra, who used it to make appropriately spacy sounds). Music would never be the same again. Dark Side of the Moon and prog rock would soon follow.
- Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers, Firesign Theatre (1970) - Remarkable if only for its title. The Theatre were a surrealist sketch comedy troupe that got their start in the late 60s.
- The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, Gil Scott-Heron (1970) - Radical black activist and poet Gil Scott-Heron released this scathing and hilarious putdown of televised mass media. [Lyrics and music], and in the process became one of the forefathers of hip hop.
- Daydream Nation, Sonic Youth (1988) - The third avante garde piece to be admitted into the registry. Honestly, when I heard that Sonic Youth was on the list, I was expecting Dirty. This album is considered by many to be their best, although Evol is my personal favorite. Hey, at least it wasn’t Goo.