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...
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.
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Reunion sparks renewed synths of purposeIrish Examiner, May 20th
They toured their favourite LP, 1981's Architecture and Morality, in a warmly received greatest hits show. OMD grew twitchy. Did they want to spend their career Quite frankly, though, many of our contemporaries have made new records with terrible...Read more
Rathborne To Release Soft LP On July 2ndGrateful Web, May 17th
Anyone looking for an all-encompassing statement-of-purpose for SOFT, the hyper-caffeinated new record from Rathborne will find it in the first line of the second song when Luke Rathborne – chief songwriter and principle persona – hiccups, "Heard you...Read more
Huey Lewis on 30 Years of 'Sports': 'Our 15 Minutes Were a Real 15 Minutes'RollingStone.com, May 17th
His 1983 LP, Sports, spawned five massive hit singles, and in 1985 he appeared in Back to the Future and released the huge hit "The Power of Love" on the soundtrack. Things cooled down after that, but he still had enough hits to play to big There...Read more
Vampire Weekend hits mark - MissoulianThe Missoulian, May 17th
The instrumentation on this LP reflects this desire for the days since passed: The pianos twinkle with the worn quality of a barroom upright and the strings are sweeping in the style of a vintage Hollywood romance. For me, there's a bit too much...Read more
This week in Tampa: Steve Martin, Ghostface Killah, Attack Attack! and moreTampabay.com (blog), May 16th
Los Angeles producer extraordinaire who wowed Tampa Bay with a powerful set at Antiwarpt 2012. Their new LP, Twelve Reasons to Die, spins the epic tale of a murdered mid-20th century ex-gangster whose spirit is mythically reborn when vinyl records...Read more
Neo-soul singer ChesnuTT brings music with feeling to NightfallChattanooga Times Free Press, May 15th
In a sense, Cody ChesnuTT is as much an emotional exhibitionist as a neo-soul singer with a vintage sound that's as smooth as crushed velvet. As he sings in a Chattanooga Times Free Press entertainment reporter Casey Phillips spoke with Atlanta...Read more
Library Seeks Volunteers for Book SalePatch.com, May 15th
The sale is 10 - 4 on Saturday, with vintage. collectible, and sets available, in addition to the large room of $1 books, and the 50c items outside. Sunday's sale We also sell audio-visual materials, including LP records, DVDs, CDs, and tapes. We...Read more
Hear Tone of Arc's 'The Time Was Right' LP, a Thrilling Disco Dance-Punk TripSPIN, May 14th
San Francisco duo Tone of Arc are reinventing dance-punk in their own New Age gypsy image, folding vintage DFA Records into a wild and wooly mix that owes to the playfulness of Talking Heads, the modern mixology of Matthew Dear, and the fact that...Read more