This Day in Music, August 11: Turn It Down a Bit!

By , Contributor

On this day in 2008, Karl Wiosna from Graig, near Pontypridd in Wales, had his stereo equipment and music collection destroyed after being served with a noise abatement notice, which he later admitted breaching. Environmental health officers were alerted by neighbours who complained about the unacceptable volume at which Wiosna was playing his Cher and U2 records. Two tape and record decks, a radio, and CDs were seized and destroyed by the council; he was also fined £265.

Bloody music fans.

More recently '80s pop fan Justine Thompson was ordered to pay more than £1,040 for repeatedly playing The Cure’s “Boys Don’t Cry” at full blast. Thompson, aged 31, had also belted out “Geno” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners and The Smiths' “This Charming Man” so loudly it shook flats around her home in Brighton. City magistrates found her guilty of ignoring a noise abatement notice.

Even Cliff Richards has noisy fans:

In 2003, 23-year-old Sian Davies was fined £1,000 ($1,700) plus court costs after environmental protection officers raided her flat in Porth, Rhondda, Wales and seized 15 amplifiers and speakers, plus 135 CDs and cassette tapes. The disc found in her CD player was the Cliff Richard single, “Peace in Our Time”. A spokesman for the Cliff Richard Organization said he was delighted to hear of somebody in their early 20s owning one of his many recordings. He added, "Cliff would not want anyone to play his music so that it caused a nuisance".

I would complain if one of my neighbours played Cliff Richards records.

Loud music can be a problem.

Plenty of bands have been sued by disgruntled fans that claimed their hearing was damaged after attending a concert. In 1997 a Motley Crue fan claimed his hearing had been irreparably damaged after a show in New Jersey. The judge told Clifford Goldberg, who had sat near the front of the stage, knew the risk he was taking. Of course he did!

U2 weren’t so lucky; a 34-year old-man was awarded more than £20,000 by a French court after he lost his hearing when he stood too close to loudspeakers at one of their gigs.

In 1972 Deep Purple were recognized by The Guinness Book of World Records as the "loudest pop group" when the sound at the London Rainbow Theatre reached 117 dB. Three of their audience members were rendered unconscious!

American music professor Peter Jeffrey went to court to sue The Smashing Pumpkins, their promoters, and a company that makes earplugs after claiming his hearing was damaged at a concert in Connecticut.

And this isn’t a modern problem. In 1964 when The Beatles made their live concert debut in the US at the Washington Coliseum, over 350 police surrounded the stage to keep the 8,000 plus screaming fans in control. One police officer found the noise so loud he stuck a bullet in each ear as earplugs.

A recent study comparing noise levels of rock music found that older people rated rock music much higher on a loudness scale than younger people. The research, carried out by Ohio University, tested people age 18 to 21 and people ranging in age from 51 to 58.

The study asked participants to rate the loudness of rock music played at nine intensities, ranging from 10 decibels to 90 decibels. Participants listened to “Heartbreaker” by Led Zeppelin for ten seconds at different intensities. At each intensity, the older subjects gave the music higher numerical ratings based on loudness than the younger subjects.

A 2007 report showed that two-thirds of young people who regularly used MP3 players faced premature hearing damage. The Royal National Institute for Deaf People said its findings were alarming, with research showing that 72 out of 110 MP3 users tested in the UK were listening to volumes above 85 decibels. Some MP3 players at full volume registered at 105 decibels - an aircraft taking off measures 110 decibels. That’s loud!

Anyway, you don’t need me to tell you about the dangers of listening to load music. In 1968, the University of Tennessee reported that a guinea pig subjected to days of rock music played at 120 decibels had suffered acute hearing damage.

Well, what a surprise. Now, where are my headphones?

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A former musician, Neil was in the 80's group The Cheaters who were once signed to EMI's Parlophone label, and released three albums. He was also a radio presenter and is still a regular music pundit on various BBC stations. Neil is the founder of the award winning web site This Day in Music which is…

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