A Musical History

  • The history of Universal Music Publishing Group is best told through our songs. 

    From classic Irving Berlin numbers to the pioneering jazz of John Coltrane; definitive sixties Beach Boys to the heartfelt soul of Otis Redding; Sweet's glam rock to the Sex Pistols' call to anarchy; Joy Division's beautifully bleak anti-love song to Eurythmic's glorious synth-pop; Pulp's lyrical marvels to Coldplay's anthemic rock; and taking us through to the present day when Adele, the UK's very own "girl done good", is breaking records worldwide with a voice that gives you goosebumps. 

    Scroll through and click to either watch the video or play a song clip.


  • 1936

    Irving Berlin - Let's Face the Music and DanceIrving Berlin - Let's Face the Music and Dance

    A classic song from one of America's greatest ever songwriters. This version by Fred Astaire marked the track's first appearance, as part of the film 'Follow The Fleet'.

    Irving Berlin - Let's Face The Music and Dance (Fred Astaire) 

  • 1942

    Legend has it that when Irving Berlin wrote this song he called to his secretary, "Grab your pen and take down this song. I just wrote the best song I've ever written — heck, I just wrote the best song that anybody's ever written!".

  • 1958

    The Platters - Smoke Gets In Your EyesThe Platters - Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

    The most famous version of the classic song came from this American doo wop group, and was a number one hit on both sides of the Atlantic.

    The Platters - Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

  • 1960

    John Coltrane - Giant StepsJohn Coltrane - Giant Steps

    A true pioneer of freeform jazz, John Coltrane was constantly pushing the boundaries with his music, and this title track from his 1960 album is a perfect example of his talent and radical approach to composition. 

  • 1965

    Simon and Garfunkel - The Sound of SilenceSimon and Garfunkel - The Sound of Silence

    One of the greatest folk-rock anthems of all time, and the song that shot the duo to stardom - as well as appearing in Mike Nichols' infamous film 'The Graduate'. 

    Simon & Garfunkel - Sound of Silence

  • 1966

    Beach Boys - God Only KnowsBeach Boys - God Only Knows

    The first commercially successful pop song to use the word 'God' in the title, this became one of the defining tracks of the decade. 

  • 1967

    Jimi Hendrix - Purple HazeJimi Hendrix - Purple Haze

    The definitive psychedelic rock anthem from the Jimi Hendrix Experience, from their 1967 album 'Are You Experienced'. 

  • 1968

    Otis Redding - (Sittin' On) The Dock of the BayOtis Redding - (Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay

    Recorded just a few days before his death in 1967, this was the first ever posthumous number one single to enter the UK and US charts, and went on to become the most successful release of his career. 

  • 1972

    Elton John and Bernie Taupin's atmospheric pop ballad, documenting the lonely life of an astronaut, appeared on Elton's fifth studio album 'Honky Château'. 

  • 1973

    Sweet - Ballroom BlitzSweet - Ballroom Blitz

    Apparently inspired by a gig in Scotland when the glam rockers were chased off stage as they were pelted with bottles, 'Ballroom Blitz' went on to be smash hit in the UK, US, Canada and Australia.

  • 1975

    From the band's fifth studio album 'Siren', 'Love is the Drug' was built around a gloriously addictive disco bassline, and took the band to number two in the UK charts. 

  • 1976

    Sex Pistols - Anarchy in the UKSex Pistols - Anarchy in the UK

    The Sex Pistols' debut single was a rallying cry for a disillusioned and allientated youth in 1970s Britain - described by their manager Malcolm McLaren as, "a call to arms to the kids who believe that rock and roll was taken away from them."

  • 1977

    One of the standout out songs from the film soundtrack that helped bring disco into the mainstream - helped along by John Travolta's legendary strut through the streets of New York for the 'Saturday Night Fever' opening credits. 

  • 1979

    The Clash's powerful political anthem was a response to social problems in Britain at the end of the 1970s, and regarded by many as one of their finest pieces of work. 

  • 1980

    Joy Division's beautifully bleak anti love song, and their first chart hit  - tragically marred by the death of Ian Curtis.

  • 1981

    From the band's 'Prince Charming' album, this highway man inspired number was their most successful single - entering the charts at number one and staying there for five weeks. 

  • 1982

    The Jam's third number one single was inspired - according to Paul Weller - by his teenage years growing up in his not-quite-rock-n-roll hometown of Woking.

  • 1983

    Arguably one of the most memorable electronic introductions to any track, Annie Lennox and David Stewart's hit single continues to ignite dancefloors today. 

  • 1984

    The Smiths - How Soon is NowThe Smiths - How Soon is Now

    Although often considered to be a diversion from the classic Smith's sound, it was clearly a good one, as this was doubtless one of the band's best loved records, and according to co-writer Johnny Marr, "possibly our most enduring."

    The Smiths - How Soon is Now

  • 1985

    The Grammy award winning song about an every day man dreaming of life as a rock star was one of the band's most successful singles, and also the first track ever to be played on MTV Europe. 

  • 1990

    Adamski - KillerAdamski - Killer

    The combination of Adamski's distinctive bassline and Seal's soaring vocal made this one of the most memorable tracks of the early 1990s. 

  • 1991

    The emotive second single from Massive Attack's  debut album 'Blue Lines', featuring the vocal talents of Shara Nelson. 

  • 1995

    The lyrically brilliant song about at an art student who aspired to be one of the 'common people' helped establish Pulp as one of the UK's best loved bands. 

  • 1996

    The song that launched the career of the Posh, Scary, Sporty, Baby and Ginger, as they introduced the world to their own brand of 'Girl Power'. 

  • 2001

    The day the Australian pop princess went disco and never looked back - this catchy floor filler coupled with the futuristic music video became Kylie's most successful ever release. 

  • 2002

    Built around an unforgettable piano riff, 'Clocks' won the band the prestigious 'Record of the Year' Grammy award.

  • 2004

    The Killers' debut single slipped under the radar on its first release, but firmly established the band as a force to be reckoned with second time round. Lead singer Brandon Flowers described the song as being heavily influenced by La Vegas, where he grew up.

  • 2006

    This breezy, lilting, ska-inflected slice of perfect pop launched the career of one of the UK's best loved (and sometimes controversial) pop stars.

  • 2008

    This second track from Florence's debut album 'Lungs' showcased her unique and captivating vocal style and set her on the path to stardom. 

  • 2009

    Stripped back, haunting and beautifully atmospheric, The xx's debut single ignited a huge buzz amongst fans and critics alike. 

  • 2010

    The London quartet pedal a distinctive brand of bluegrass tinged folk, played across instruments as diverse as a double bass and a banjo. 'The Cave' was the third single from their Brit award winning debut album 'Sigh No More'.

  • 2011

    Adele's first UK number one single was inspired by heartbreak, but set her on the path to becoming a record breaking global superstar, the UK's very own "girl done good".

  • 2012

    Laura Mvula's debut single ‘She’ appeared out of nowhere in November 2012 and almost overnight won huge praise from influential UK music critics for her unique sound that fuses orchestral soul with velvet harmonies and emotional vocals. 

  • 2013

    Disclosure's 'Settle' debuted at number one in the UK Albums Chart and received widespread critical acclaim. The album featured collaborations with Jessie Ware, Jimmy Napes, and its highest-peaking single was 'White Noise' featuring AlunaGeorge.

  • 2013

    Bastille's 'Pompeii', from their album 'Bad Blood' was named the UK's most streamed track of all time in June 2014, and also secured the band chart success in the US. "Everything that’s happened with 'Pompeii' has completely blown our minds" Dan Smith said of the song's success.

  • 2014

    'Magic' was the second single to be released from Coldplay's sixth album 'Ghost Stories'. The album marked a more introspective turn for the band with Chris Martin's trademark emotive vocal delivery overlaying a more atmospheric backdrop. The song was praised by critics for its intricacies and delicate craftsmanship. 

  • 2015

    Addictive hooks, lush production and irrepressible feel good energy saw the trio reach No.1 in the UK charts with 'King', whilst debut album 'Communion' topped the albums charts - outselling the rest of the top 5 combined in the process. NME have described the group as "the most important pop band of our time."

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