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The Greatest Moment in the History of Recorded Music

  • By AndyVale
  • 24 May 2013

Bold claim right there. Those are some big big words that I'm spouting. You may have already decided that I'm going to be wrong and are currently thinking about a more worthy choice that you could tell everyone about in the comments section at the bottom.

You'd be wasting your time. Make suggestions by all means, but unless you're agreeing with me then you're chatting bunk.

I've gone through all of the music that's ever been recorded (WAYYYYYYY over 10 CDs worth) and have pinpointed the apex moment in recorded musical history. Everything before was building to that point, everything after it has been a futile exercise.

I started with Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville's 1860 recording of  'Au Claire de la Lune', which is said to be the first example of a recognisably recorded musical performance. I rated it 4/10.

I carried on the whole way through history. I heard Jug bands in the 20s, Blues in the 30s, Jazz in the 40s, Rock & Roll in the 50s, the birth of Metal in the 60s, Punk in the 70s, 80s in the 80s, East 17 - Stay Another Day in the 90s, Indie in the 00s and Dubstep in the 10s. I went through all of it to find the greatest moment.

There were some good contenders. The "trust me" in MCR - I'm Not Okay probably takes the crown for the greatest post-millennial moment in recorded musical history. Dave Lombardo's double-bass fill before the chorus of 'Angel Of Death' is a noteworthily robust effort. Robert Johnson making the aside of "'til the juice runs down my leg, you know what I'm talkin' about" like a naughty schoolboy shows that men have always been filthy.

Led Zeppelin took many bits of Robert Johnson's music to add to their own. They deserve an honourable mention for Jimmy Page's lone guitar moment in 'When The Levee Breaks' that calls all four band members to club together and collectively state their claim to being the best on planet Earth at their chosen instrument at the time. It's like watching the Universe in fast-forward and slowly pausing it when all of the galaxies align. 

These great moments aren't restricted to those enjoyed by historical purveyors of credible beard strokery. René gleefully declaring "baby I am missing you" in 'Doctor Jones' like a lust-filled Honey Monster is a legitimate outpouring of emotion that can stand on its own next to any Clapton solo.

There's Dre going a capella. There's Slipknot announcing their intentions to the world. There's Pendulum creating the soundtrack to every student night out from 2006-2009. There's the moment when you know you've got something big. There's Fugazi's bass intro to 'Waiting Room'. There's any time Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu opens his mouth. There's the bit that sounds like TIMMEHHHH in Tool - Right In Two. There's Leonard Cohen's drawl as he wistfully remembers receiving a blowjob from Janis Joplin. There's Philip Glass realising the ever-changing grandeur of everything in existance. There's Andrew W.K. jubilantly kicking things up a notch to tell the world about some girl he fancies in a pure crystalised burst of teenage joy.

All of those are great. We could sit here all day picking out masterful examples of musicianship. But a time has to come where we cut straight to the chase and look at the purest, most perfect moment of music that has ever been recorded.

On the 6th of October 1972, Bill Withers would perform a set at Carnegie Hall that was to be recorded for a live album. The show contained more famous songs of his such as 'Lean On Me', 'Ain't No Sunshine' and 'Grandma's Hands', however these were mere entrées for the defining moment. The song 'Hope She'll Be Happier' is a slow number from Bill's first album, it's good but it's ultimately a relatively minor piece in his ouevre. But there was gold dust in the air at Carnegie Hall that night, and at 2:58 something truly magnificent happens.

During that drawn out word it's possible to experience every feeling on the human spectrum of emotion. Initial stings of pain, confused pangs of jealousy, being lost, discovering yourself, a breathtaking crush of depression, a last-ditch glint of optimism. It's all in there, close your eyes and you won't have to look that hard to find it. It leads to euphoric happiness as Bill's note stretches to a close that causes spontaneous applause as people realise what they have just witnessed. From nothing to everything and back to nothing, or vice versa. That one breath had it all.

Got a better suggestion? You don't. But if you think you do then I'd love you to leave it in the comments box below for us all to enjoy.

Andy is a Supajam writer who has been a small-fry at numerous Commerical, BBC and Student radio stations over the last 6 years. He is also a music promoter in the South-East of the UK. He has a website where he interviews musicians with only one question, and he is currently typing in third-person. You can tweet abuse at him if you fancy letting off some steam.