There is something about holding a vinyl LP in the palms of your hands, touching only the platter’s edges lest you smudge, soil, or scratch the grooves incised in its inky surface. As you tilt the disc so that it catches the light, the tracks show up as fuzzy concentric bands, each delineated by a darker, thinner bar of dead space. That wide band in the middle of side one of The Doors must be the seven-minute version of "Light My Fire." Flip it over, and the last band on side two is even fatter, the 11-plus-minute opus, "The End." It’s time to give this vintage vinyl a spin.

Records as we know them today (or knew them, before the rise of CDs and digital music) have been around since 1930, when RCA manufactured a 12-inch vinyl disc that was meant to be played at 33 1/3 revolutions per minute (RPM). RCA’s vinyl records produced a lot less playback noise than the shellac records that dominated the market, but the Great Depression was no time to introduce a new entertainment product with limited manufacturer support, so vinyl didn’t catch on.

It took until 1948 for that to happen. That’s when Columbia introduced its own 12-inch, 33 1/3 vinyl monaural record, which it branded as the LP for Long Play. Today, the letters LP are treated like the word "Kleenex," which is to say that it’s technically a brand name, but we use it as if it was the generic description for vinyl records.

For fans of early rock ’n’ roll, key vinyl LPs to collect include 1955’s Rock Around the Clock, the first 12-inch LP that Bill Haley & His Comets cut for Decca. The following year, a teenage singer named Frankie Lymon, who was sort of the Michael Jackson of the 1950s, released The Teenagers Featuring Frankie Lymon, which included their hit "Why Do Fools Fall In Love."

Other pioneers of rock include Chuck Berry, whose 1957 LP called After School Session on Chess Records is a classic of the genre. Another Chess artist was Bo Diddley, whose 1958 Bo Diddley included such early hits as "Who Do You Love?"

And then there was Elvis Presley, whose eponymous 1956 debut was the first rock ’n’ roll album to top the charts and sell a million copies. Tracks included the King’s famous cover of Carl Perkins’s "Blue Suede Shoes."

For jazz fans, collectible LP choices range from Dixieland to West Coast Cool. From 1952 on, Chet Baker recorded numerous albums, many of them live, accompanied by the likes of Charlie Parker and Gerry Mulligan on labels with names like Fresh Sound, Pacific Jazz, and Blue Note...

Another early jazz LP pioneer was Louis Armstrong, whose trumpet work and vocals on the soundtrack for the 1956 film High Society contributed to its brisk sales (Bing Crosby’s duet with Grace Kelly, plus other tracks by Frank Sinatra, didn’t hurt, either). Armstrong had another film-related hit in 1963, when an LP version of Hello Dolly! was released to capitalize on his best-selling single from the movie.

During the 1960s, a painful (to the ears) transition from mono to stereo took place. In many cases, monaural recording sessions were turned into stereo LPs during post-production, with predictably poor results. For collectors, some of the "pure" mono recordings of that decade are therefore highly prized. These include the 1963 Parlophone release of Please Please Me by The Beatles, the first Rolling Stones album in 1964, mono versions of Pink Floyd’s 1967 The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, and the Grateful Dead’s first album, also from 1967.

In fact, LPs by psychedelic bands like Floyd and the Dead are a genre of collecting unto itself. Known as Psych Rock, bands include 13th Floor Elevators, The Chocolate Watchband, and H.P. Lovecraft. In some cases, particular LPs are considered classics of this trippy art form, such as the Jefferson Airplane’s 1967 After Bathing at Baxter’s, which was reportedly mixed based on how well it would sound while the listener was on LSD.

Yet another highly collectible genre of vintage LPs is Progressive Rock, also known as Prog Rock. This late-1960s to 1970s phenomenon includes bands like Gong, Tangerine Dream, King Crimson, Yes, and Rush.

Regardless of genre, one of the best things about LPs is their generous size, which gave rise to a flood of covers with gorgeous and/or provocative artwork. There are the colorful covers of 1960s Psych records, to be sure, but go back in time a little bit and you can collect Mid-century Modern graphics disguised as 1950s and 1960s jazz albums.

Some album covers are simply legendary: Andy Warhol designed a cover for The Rolling Stones’s Sticky Fingers that featured an actual working zipper. The Who’s Tommy came with a cover-size booklet filled with art and lyrics. Robert Rauschenberg designed a clear plastic cover for the Talking Heads’s Speaking in Tongues. And if you want a copy of The Beatles’s infamous "butcher" version of Yesterday and Today, you’ve got to go back to the original vinyl.

Today, numerous contemporary musicians are choosing to release their music not just on CD and digitally but on vinyl, too. In 2007, Radiohead famously offered music files of its In Rainbows album to its fans for whatever they wanted to pay. The potentially risky gambit did not seem to hurt sales of the vinyl version of the 10-song collection—In Rainbows was the best-selling vinyl LP of 2008.

Grunge bands such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam embraced vinyl from the beginning of their careers. A rare version of Nirvana’s Nevermind was issued with a multi-colored, mottled, "splash" design on the vinyl itself. As for Pearl Jam, one of the bestsellers on eBay continues to be its four-disc recording of a benefit the band performed in 2003 at Seattle’s Benaroya Hall. The discs, which are red like the album’s cover, were issued in an edition of 2,000. The price in 2004 was $40 for the set. Today, you’d be lucky to find a sealed copy for under $500.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Vinyl Divas

Vinyl Divas

Vinyl Divas pays homage to international female opera singers of the LP era. Chronicling more than 800 singers, the… [read review or visit site]

317X

317X

Despite its mysterious title, 317X is plain and simple—an online gallery of vintage LPs, with a 1950s vintage fee… [read review or visit site]

Mybeatles.net

Mybeatles.net

Jesse Barron's collection of Beatles 45s, picture sleeves, magazines, books, and memorabilia. Browse singles and al… [read review or visit site]

Association of Vogue Picture Record Collectors

Association of Vogue Picture Record Collectors

This great site, from the Association of Vogue Picture Record Collectors, offers detailed background information an… [read review or visit site]

The Remington Site

The Remington Site

Since 1999, the Remington Site has offered classical music collectors a glimpse into Remington Records, an independ… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

The Open Mind -s/t- Original Uk Lp On Philips Psych Prog Freakbeat Mod Drag SetBlue Note 1588 Sonny Clark Cool Struttin´ Original 1st Press 47w 63rd Mono LpJade - In Pursuit Lp - Pesante - Rare Funk Soul Vg++ ShrinkRelatively Clean Rivers Pinnacle West Coast Acid Folk Psych Lp Original Us NmBlack Sabbath Master Of Reality Rarer Orig Uk 1971 Vertigo Spiral Lp With PosterLed Zeppelin:1st Lp.earliest Turquoise Cover+superhype Labels+a//1+b//1 MatrixesDamn Sam The Miracle Man - S/t Lp - Tay-ster - Rare Funk Soul Vg+ ShrinkBaby Huey - The Baby Huey Story: The Living Legend Lp - CurtomSex Pistols - Never Mind The Bollocks A1/b1 First Of 1000 Pressed Record Lp PunkRare Lp - Phil Ranelin Vibes From The Tribe Private Funk Soul Jazz 1976 ListenClean '67 Orig Lp + Lyrics Insert = 13th Floor Elevators ~ Easter ~ Psych GarageBetty O’brien She’ll Be Gone Northern Soul Ep 7” France Liberty HearPink Floyd Dark Side Of The Moon Lp 1973 Solid Blue Triangle Shvl 804Dexter Gordon: Blows Hot And Cool Dootone Lp / Carl Perkins Mono Dg Red WaxSonny Clark-sonny's Crib-jazz Lp On Blue Note Mono, Dg, Rvg, 63rd, 1576, John CGuided By Voices Propeller Lp Original Gbv Robert Pollard Rockathon Diy RareComus First Utterance Dawn Original Uk Press Insert Lp HearLee Morgan + Hank Mobley: Introducing Lee Morgan Savoy Lp / Mono Dg Rvg NmEai Debut - Let Love Grow Lp - Rare Modern Soul Nm ShrinkNirvana - Nevermind Gef 24425 Eu Lp 1991 Geffen VinylBeatles Butcher Cover 2nd Lp Capitol Yesterday And Today Mono Riaa #3 Ex++ NrsvNirvana - Mtv Unplugged In New York Gef 24727 Eu Lp 1st Press 1994 White VinylRadiohead - Ok Computer Nodata 02 Uk 2lp 1st Press 1997 Parlophone VinylSkip Spence Oar Lp Columbia 2 Eye Original Folk Psych Rare VgRare Lp - Bubba Thomas & The Lightmen Country Fried Chicken Funk Soul BreaksErnie Hines - Electrified Lp - We Produce Vg+ PromoBob Marley & The Wailers ~ Catch A Fire ** 1972 Uk 1st Pink Rim Island Lp Zippo Rare Lp - Magnum Fully Loaded Funk Soul Phoenix 1974 Scarce ! Original ListenBuzzcocks - "spiral Scratch" Rare Original Issue Punk 7" Ep New HormonesFamily Circle - S/t Lp - Sky Disc - Sweet Soul Funk Vg+Beatles With The Beatles Mono Lp Only 3 Plays Orig November 1963 7n/7n Nr MintLittle Roy Tribal War Lp Aires 70s Reggae Vg++ Homemade Sleeve Clean Rare ReggaeS.o.u.l. - What Is It Lp - MusicorTom Waits - Bone Machine Ilps 9993 Lp 1st Press 1992 Island VinylDyson's Faces - S/t Lp - Dy-rich - Rare Modern Soul Funk Vg+ ShrinkThe Rolling Stones - Let It Bleed 1969 Uk Lp Decca Mono 1st + PosterGhana Afro Funk Lp ~ “k. Frimpong & Cubano Fiesta” Ghana Orig Ofo Bros ~ Nice!Radiohead - The Bends Epcs 7372 Uk Lp 1st Press 1995 Parlophone VinylJohn Dummer Oobleedooblee Jubilee Original Uk Vertigo Swirl Lp Dave Kelly Jo-annGandalf~self-titled~1st & Only Album~insanely Rare Orig '67 Psych Capitol Lp~Brooklyn Sounds Libre Free Latin Lp Shrink Guaguanco Salsa Mega Rare OriginalThe Avalanches ~ Since I Left You ** 2001 Xl Dbl Lp Rare ModularNirvana - Incesticide Gef 24504 Eu Lp 1st Press 1992 Geffen VinylMystery Of Sixes Oz Kbd Punk Ep 45 Holy Grail Diy Ex Dead Kennedys Super RarePhish Rift Magnaball Limited Edition Lp Sealed Blue Vinyl W/ David Welker PrintThe Undertones - Teenage Kicks Ep -green Paper Sl. -uk 1978 Good Vibrations 45 Beatles Introducing The Beatles Vj Vee Jay 1062 Original Ad Back Mono Lp W/vj SlToe Fat -s/t- Original Uk Lp On Parlophone Uriah Heep Cliff Bennett Prog PsychNatural High - Natural High 1 Lp - Chimneyville PromoTerry Callier - Occasional Rain Lp - Cadet Vg+ ShrinkMy Bloody Valentine Loveless Original 1991 Creation Lp W/ InnerBobby Thurston - Sweetest Piece Of The Pie Lp - Mainline - Rare Soul Funk Mp3Frank Zappa Beat The Boots! Complete 8lp Box Set W T-shirt & ButtonHarold Mckinney "voices & Rhythms..." Rare Spiritual Jazz Funk Lp TribeRare Lp - Conjunto Africa La Casita Guaguanco De La Hermandad Salsa Sealed !!The Best Of Bob Marley & The Wailers [studio One] LpJimi Hendrix Experience Axis Bold As Love Lp 1967 Uk 1st!The Beatles Revolver Lp Parlophone 1966 Mono Uk 1st Press!Lyman Woodard Organization Saturday Night Special Strata Detroit Jazz Funk Og LpPablo Moses Revolutionary Dream Lp Jigsaw Jamaican Pressing Vg++ Reggae

Recent News: LP Records

Source: Google News

Neighborhood Guide: Logan Circle and U Street
Washingtonian.com, August 28th

Now tackle the rest of U. Head to Junction (1510 U St., NW; 202-483-0261), a pocket-size space with a variety of funky finds including affordable vintage T-shirts, piles of sunglasses, and swirly-patterned skirts. A few doors down—and up a couple of...Read more

Carmarthen set for river festival and vintage celebration
Carmarthen Journal, August 28th

Expect a vintage shopper's heaven browsing through the numerous shops and stalls in Carmarthen with clothing, accessories, household goods, memorabilia, quirky ornaments, curious trinkets and vinyl records. The festival also features a fashion show, ...Read more

Chaka Khan Revealed As Another Contestant on "Dancing With the Stars"
VVN Music, August 27th

Khan was an original member of Rufus who signed with ABC Records in 1973. During her ... Chaka struck out with her first solo album while still a member of Rufus with 1978's Chaka which included the classic I'm Every Woman (1978 / #21 Pop / #1 R&B)...Read more

SIRIS vintage record sale is Sept. 12-13
SIU News, August 27th

Sponsored by WSIU Public Radio and the Southern Illinois Radio Information Service (SIRIS), the annual event offers gently used stereo equipment, vintage vinyl records, CDs, DVDs, cassettes, electronic games, audio books and more at bargain prices...Read more

Indie-Pop Prodigy Alex G on His Dreamy New Album, 'Beach Music'
RollingStone.com, August 27th

The singer-songwriter, who records as Alex G, had recently finished his junior year at Philadelphia's Temple University and released his breakthrough album, a fire-bright indie-pop gem called DSU, on the tiny Brooklyn label Orchid Tapes. His house...Read more

Your Tunes 2015: Online music vs. vintage Vinyl
Sierra Vista Herald, August 19th

Vinyl records aren't all just about attic-sheltered relics, however artfully scratched up or old-school. Vinyl is a truth to sound. It's a different audio experience. And what's hot right now isn't the homesick keepsake aspect of vinyl. Today's vinyl...Read more

El Paso record stores see increasing sales of LPs
El Paso Times, August 15th

By January of this year, One Way Gallery and Vintage set up shop downtown. The revival of this growing niche comes on the back of record vinyl sales. This year, like in the past couple of years, Nielsen Soundscan gave vinyl a glowing report. The...Read more

Organisers hoping for record turnout at vintage vinyl fair
Plymouth Herald, August 11th

VINTAGE vinyl record dealers from across the region are preparing to descend upon Plymouth in time for next weekend's Record Fair. The long-running and hugely successful Plymouth Record Fair has been a regular visitor to the city's Lower Guildhall for ...Read more