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]



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]

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    

Ruth Copeland I Am What I Am Lp Invictus 70s Funk Rock Vg++ Gatefold Orig Nice!Spanky Lee & Johnny Lee Spanky & Johnny Lp Tiger Lily Rare Psych Orig. Vg++ Dead Milkmen Eat Your Paisley Lp Restless 80s Punk Sealed OriginalBeta Band Hot Shots Ii Lp Astralwerks Electronic Sealed 2001 Store StockMagnificent Seven S/t Lp Taboga Panamanian Funk Soul Vg++ Amazing Copy! Rare!Waylon Jennings And 357s Lp Vagrant Sealed Store Stock RareGlasvegas S/t Lp Sony Store Stock 2008 Sealed Alt Indie RockBob Dylan Self Titled - Vinyl Lp First Album 6 Eye Promo Cs 8579 (nm) Near MintCarlos Ramos & Fuego - Tecato Ost Lp - Candela - Rare Latin Psych Funk Vg+Foo Fighters Medium Rare Lp Album Mint Unplayed Record Store Day 2011 Rsd VinylRed House Painters Box 6lp Mint Rsd 2015Mint Vpi Hw-27 Typhoon Record Cleaning Improve Your Lp Records Psych CollectionJohnny Griffin "congregation" Jazz Lp Blue Note 1580 63rd St. Nyc Mono Dg WarholJohn Coltrane "blue Train" Jazz Lp Blue Note 1577 63rd St. Nyc Mono DgSs Decontrol -the Kids Will Have Their Say Lp Original Kbd Xclaim Minor ThreatHeart To Heart - Tuff Lp - Raven - Rare Modern Soul Vg++ Shrink Mp3 W/ Photo!Joe Acosta & His Orchestra - Encore Lp - Solo - Rare Latin Salsa Vg+Pink Floyd Piper At The Gates Of Dawn Lp Emi Sx6157 1st Pressing MonoThe Artwoods Art Gallery Lp Decca Mono Lk 4830Red House Painters 6 Lp Set Rsd Sun Kil MoonLos Hermanos Rivera - No Hay Suerte Lp - Llegue - Rare Latin SalsaBill Evans "portrait In Jazz" Jazz Lp Riverside 12-315 Mono SealedBobby Valentin - Se La Comio Lp - Fania - Rare Latin Salsa Mono ShrinkJimi Hendrix Electric Ladyland 2lp Laminated Sleeve Blue Text Inside SleevePink Floyd Dark Side Of The Moon First Pressing Lp Complete A2/b2 Solid PrismCurtis Fuller "new Trombone" Jazz Lp Prestige 7107 50th St. Nyc Dg MonoCzar Czar Uk Original Press Fontana 6309 009 1970 Psych Prog LpOrquesta Antonetti - Empiezo Fuerte Lp - Columbus - Rare Latin SalsaJohnny Zamot & Manny Roman - Zamot Lp - MericanaT Rex Marc Bolan Lp Zinc Alloy And The Hidden Riders Of Tomorrow Rare Cage Cover Led Zeppelin Iv Lp 1971 Uk 1st Press Stereo Atlantic 2401012 Red Plum ZosoNirvana Foo Fighters Medium Rare Record Store Day 2011 Vinyl LpS.o.u.l. - What Is It Lp - MusicorPlacebo Placebo Lp S/t Sealed & Mint Rsd 2015The Norman Haines Band ~ Den Of Iniquity ** 1971 Fr. Original 1st Emi Lp **mint*The Maccabees Colour It In Lp Sealed & Mint Rsd 2015 240/1000Rare Vintage 1993 Kate Bush 'the Red Shoes' Original Emi Vinyl Lp - 010 L11The White Stripes - Get Behind Me Satan - Rsd 2015 Dbl Lp.Nirvana ~ All Of Us ** 1968 Uk 1st Pink Island LpBaby Gonzalez Con La Orquesta Riviera - Cocinando Salsa Lp - Cotique Vg+ ShrinkHelen Merrill "s/t" Jazz Lp Emarcy 36006 Mono DgKenny Burrell Introducing Lp On Blue Note Lexington Dg MonoVelvet Underground Loaded Lp 1971 Atlantic 1st Press!! Brilliant Example!!!!Sonny Rollins "saxophone Colossus" Jazz Lp Prestige 7079 Dg MonoJohn Coltrane "coltrane" Jazz Lp Prestige 7105 50th St. Nyc Mono DgJimi Hendrix Experience Axis Bold As Love Lp 1967 Mono 1st Press!! Ultra Rare!!Orquesta Amistad - Tecato Lp - Borincano Vg+ ShrinkNofx The Decline Limited Yellow Black Smoke Vinyl Lp Fat Wreck Chords Rare Oop Bennie Green "walkin' And Talkin'" Jazz Lp Blue Note 4010 63rd St. Nyc Dg MonoMichael Garrick Quintet - October Woman Lp: Orig Uk, 1965, Argo, British JazzMetallica - St Anger - 2003 Original 2 X Vinyl Lp - Near Mint - Rare Metal LotMichael Garrick Trio Cold Mountain Ex Argo 1972 Uk Lp★★the Beatles Black And Gold Please Please Me Original Uk Lp + Bonus L@@k★★Brand New "deja Entendu" 2 X 12' Lp Vinyl 2015 Rsd (ltd To 1400)Pink Floyd Echoes(the Best Of) Emi 7243 53611118 Eu Pressing Vinyl 4lpNirvana:in Utero,1993,clear Vinyl Lp,geffen,us Issue,in Shrink,ex/exAlice In Chains:self Titled,us Dbl Lp,1995,columbia,ex+The Beatles Yesterday And Today Lp 2nd State Unpeeled Butcher Baby Cover MonoBrand New-deja Entendu 2015 Rsd Release Of 1,400 2 X Lp Gate-fold Cover & More. Glacier-s/t Lp 1985 Org Mega Rare Private Metal/manowar/heathens Rage

Recent News: LP Records

Source: Google News

As vinyl makes a comeback, this startup lets anyone crowdfund an LP
Tech in Asia, April 25th

While the vast majority of people consume their music digitally, a small but steadily increasing number of collectors, audiophiles, and vintage-loving hipsters are embracing vinyl records. That's good news for Tokyo Digital Music Syndicates (TDMS), ...Read more

20 Years Later: 13 Hip-Hop Personalities Share Memories of Mobb Deep's 'The ...
The BoomBox, April 25th

The situation was dire and a harsh introduction to the ways of the record industry, but the duo quickly bounced back, landing a deal with Loud Records and heading back in the studio to record their sophomore LP, The Infamous. While Juvenile ... In...Read more

Pokey LaFarge 'raises ruckus' well at Off Broadway, April 25th

LaFarge's weekend also includes in-store appearances at Euclid Records and Vintage Vinyl. Friday's show moved at a torrid pace, packing 21 songs — including nearly everything from “Something in the Water” — into 80 minutes. LaFarge said little...Read more

Vinyl gold: What are the world's ten most valuable records?, April 23rd

Rare Record Price Guide has a list of the ten most valuable vinyl records commercially available. That's stuff you could have bought in Woolworths (remember them?) back in the day. The big surprise? The top ten most valuable vinyl records are dominated...Read more

The Most Fashionable Album Covers of All Time, April 18th

(Don't believe us? Forty-six percent of global music sales are still from CDs and vinyl.) There's something satisfying about spending a day digging through dusty stacks at your neighborhood record store to reveal a vintage album cover featuring Dolly...Read more

17 enduring N.J. vinyl shops ready for Record Store Day 2015 (PHOTOS), April 17th

In moniker alone, a longstanding record shop in Fords succinctly defines its industry. Vintage Vinyl. It's that simple -- vinyl records are now considered vintage, and vintage is novel and cool. And that cool factor spells revenue for enduring New...Read more

Don't panic, college seniors: Jobs for grads likely to grow
The State, April 16th

Record clerk Josh Kelly checks the condition of a used LP record as he puts it in a sales bins at Vintage Vinyl Records Tuesday, April 14, 2015, in Fords, N.J. A recent Rutgers graduate, Kelly is working at the record store and living with friends...Read more

5 to Find: Vintage album covers to hunt for on Record Store Day
Tulsa World, April 14th

The world is round. So is a record album. On Saturday, April 18, the world will celebrate Record Store Day. Record Store Day was birthed in 2007 as a way of shining a spotlight on the nearly 1,400 independently owned record stores in the U.S. and ...Read more