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.
Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)
Association of Vogue Picture Record Collectors
The Remington Site
Clubs & Associations
Other Great Reference Sites
Most watched eBay auctions
Recent News: LP Records
Source: Google News
Preview: Black Sabbath's 70's Albums Being Collected in New SetVVN Music, March 10th
Records during the 1970's, including its iconic, eponymous debut (1970), the multi-platinum landmark Paranoid (1970), the platinum albums Master Of Reality (1971), Vol. 4 (1972), and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (1973), as well as the gold albums Sabotage ...Read more
St. Louis weekend trips for hipstersUSA TODAY, March 10th
If you're looking for the best vinyl, look no further than Vintage Vinyl and Euclid Records, both of which stock tons of your favorite music on wax. Literate types need to peruse the wares at independent bookstores Left Bank Books and Subterranean...Read more
Seattle weekend trips for hipstersUSA TODAY, March 10th
Shopping: Flip through new and/or used vinyl records at Easy Street Records & Café in West Seattle and at Bop Street Records and Sonic Boom in Ballard. Georgetown Records buys and sells vintage vinyl and, with its neighbor, Fantagraphics (which sells ...Read more
Salt Lake City weekend trips for hipstersUSA TODAY, March 10th
Once you've found a vintage fedora, take time to visit Randy's Record Store where you can browse the thousands of vinyl records that have helped cement this amazing music paradise as a Salt Lake mainstay for more than three decades. Under the Radar: ...Read more
Houston weekend trips for hipstersUSA TODAY, March 10th
Retropolis is well-stocked with items from a variety of vendors. Replay on 19th Street is known for vintage boots, handbags and children's toys. Nearby, Vinal Edge Records is chock-full of vinyl records from all eras, as well as restored record players...Read more
Classic Car Boot Sale Returns To Southbank CentreLondonist, March 10th
Forget rummaging around in the boot of an old Ford Escort hoping to find a rusty saucepan or chipped ornament. The Classic Car Boot Sale offers a chance to buy retro clothing, accessories, household goods, memorabilia and vinyl records – all displayed...Read more
Mario, flutes and trains - Colorado museum a trove for collectorsThe Macomb Daily, March 6th
Whether it's vintage postcards, baseball caps or vinyl records, antique flutes, model trains or video-game memorabilia, each has a story to tell. The Lakewood Heritage Center, a collector of 20th-century artifacts, itself, is celebrating the stories of...Read more
New DC record store puts a new spin on old tunes (Photos)WTOP, February 20th
Hill & Dale Records, a brightly lit store tucked away near the C&O Canal on 31st and M streets, is jumping on the trend. It offers new LPs, vintage posters and rock photography in a tidy corner space that once housed an art gallery. Vestiges of the...Read more