‘Dark Side of the Moon,’ ‘Saturday Night Fever’ Added to National Recording Registry

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EMI / Capitol Records

Cover art from Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon"

Forty years after its release, Pink Floyd’s groundbreaking album “The Dark Side of the Moon” has found a permanent home in the United States Library of Congress. The prog rock opus is one of 25 recordings being added to the National Recording Registry, the Library announced today.

Since 2000, the Library has been tasked by Congress with building a registry of sound recordings that are “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant” to American society and at least a decade old. The 350 recordings already in the registry span the gamut of the aural experience, from an 1888 recording of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” made for a children’s doll by Thomas Edison to “Dear Mama,” a 1995 release by hip-hop star Tupac Shakur. This year’s new additions also include “The Twist” by Chubby Checker, the soundtrack to the film Saturday Night Fever and a broadcast near the shores of Normandy on D-Day by radio correspondent George Hicks. A similar registry was established for film in 1989.

Cultural significance is obviously up for wide interpretation. The Library of Congress leaves the final decisions up to a single man, official librarian James Billington, who has been deciding what music and movies the government will preserve for decades. A National Recording Preservation Board made up of academics, historians, and music industry figures offer expert opinions, pitching Billington their suggestions during one day of intense deliberations each year. The public is encouraged to send in nominations too. The Library typically gets more than 1,000 nominations from regular citizens per year, with some people writing paragraphs worth of scholarly justification for their choices.

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“The Dark Side of the Moon” has been a popular nominee among the public and members of the board for several  years, says Pat Loughney, the head of the National Recording Registry. “It struck a cultural resonance that has made the leap from one generation to the next,” he says. “It was an album that strived to deal with big things rather than just get on the stage and bang out loud sounds.”

After announcing the new entries each year, the Library seeks to acquire the master recordings of the music from its owners, typically record labels. While “The Dark Side of the Moon” has been remastered and rereleased in countless formats, the Library will aim to acquire a digital copy of the original LP stereo release from 1973. “There’s an aesthetic that we want to try to adhere to,” says Eugene Deanna, head of the Library’s recorded sound section. “The subsequent later recordings are kind of derivative works.”

The album and the other new recordings will be stored in the Library’s 10-petabyte (10 million-gigabyte) digital archive. Works acquired in a physical state are stored in an underground vault that’s consistently kept at 50 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid physical deterioration. The Library has about 3.5 million recordings in total, which includes 500,000 LPs, 200,000 CDs and 75,000 cassettes.

The organization’s goal of saving and preserving important music works seems almost anachronistic in the age of music streaming, but officials say holding onto music, whether it’s on a vinyl record or a hard drive, is still important. “People would be surprised about what they’re not able to access at any moment,” Deanna says. “When commerce dictates what’s accessible, things fall off our cultural landscape. Certainly things like Spotify, the access they provide is phenomenal, but there’s another level of preservation that needs to be done.”

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Here’s a complete list of this year’s additions:
  1. “After You’ve Gone,” Marion Harris (1918)

  2. “Bacon, Beans and Limousines,” Will Rogers (Oct. 18, 1931)

  3. “Begin the Beguine,” Artie Shaw (1938)

  4. “You Are My Sunshine,” Jimmie Davis (1940)

  5. D-Day Radio Broadcast, George Hicks (June 5-6, 1944)

  6. “Just Because,” Frank Yankovic & His Yanks (1947)

  7. “South Pacific,” Original Cast Album (1949)

  8. “Descargas: Cuban Jam Session in Miniature,” Cachao Y Su Ritmo Caliente (1957)

  9. Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, Van Cliburn (April 11, 1958)

  10. President’s Message Relayed from Atlas Satellite, Dwight D. Eisenhower (Dec. 19, 1958)

  11. “A Program of Song,” Leontyne Price (1959)

  12. “The Shape of Jazz to Come,” Ornette Coleman (1959)

  13. “Crossing Chilly Jordan,” The Blackwood Brothers (1960)

  14. “The Twist,” Chubby Checker (1960)

  15. “Old Time Music at Clarence Ashley’s,” Clarence Ashley, Doc Watson, et al. (1960-1962)

  16. “Hoodoo Man Blues,” Junior Wells (1965)

  17. “Sounds of Silence,” Simon and Garfunkel (1966)

  18. “Cheap Thrills,” Big Brother and the Holding Company (1968)

  19. “The Dark Side of the Moon,” Pink Floyd (1973)

  20. “Music Time in Africa,” Leo Sarkisian, host (July 29, 1973)

  21. “Wild Tchoupitoulas,” The Wild Tchoupitoulas (1976)

  22. “Ramones,” The Ramones (1976)

  23. “Saturday Night Fever,” The Bee Gees, et al (1977)

  24. “Einstein on the Beach,” Philip Glass and Robert Wilson (1979)

  25. “The Audience with Betty Carter,” Betty Carter (1980)