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    

Pearl Jam Benaroya Hall Vinyl 4lpKenny Dorham Cafe Bohemia Blue Note Lp Original Lexington 1524 Flat EdgeDusk Fire Lp By Don Rendell/ian Carr Quintet - Emi Records 1966 - Glorious MonoThe Beatles - Please Please Me 1963 Uk Lp Parlophone Mono Gold Label 1st PressFreddie Hubbard "goin' Up" Blue Note Original Lp 4056 SuperbBeck - Sea Change (vinyl Pink Lp Limited To 1000 Mofi Mfsl 2-308) ***sealed***Jimi Hendrix Experience / Electric Ladyland Lp 1st Press Blue Text Ex +Rare Rockabilly Buddy Holly "listen To Me" No Glasses Ep Ec 81169 CoralSonny Clark Cool Struttin' Original Mono Blue Note LpRare Rockabilly Gene Vincent "hot Rod Gang" Capitol Ep Eap 1-985 HardcoverJudge Bringin' It Down Lp Rare Orange Vinyl /333 Nm Gorilla Biscuits Bold Nyhc John Coltrane Blue Train Original Mono Blue Note LpEddie Cochran 1958 Original Rock Ep Singin' To My Baby Part Three Vg+ Nr Clean!!Niagara "same" Mega Rare 1971 Ger Orig. Lp Funk Breaks Kraut Killer Klaus WeissTwin Peaks Soundtrack Lp - Angelo Badalamenti: 1990 Wea Records, OriginalU2 - All That You Can't Leave Behind (vinyl Lp Island U212/524653-1)Small Faces From The Beginning Uk Mono Unboxed Red Decca Lp Lk4879 5b/8a MintVelvet Underground & Nico Orig 1967 Verve V6-5008 Lp W/ Banana Andy Warhol Vg++Jutta Hipp With Zoot Sims ~ Blue Note 1530 Flat Lex Jazz Lp Rvg Ear ExBob Marley/the Wailers - Catch A Fire 1973 Uk Lp Island 1st Zippo Sleeve !!!The Beatles - The Beatles Hottest Hits 1965 Danish Lp Parlophone Eskimo CoverQueen Made In Heaven Rare Cream Vinyl .lp Limited Edition Excellent ConditionSonny Rollins/john Coltrane Nice Esquire LpPearl Jam Sealed Lp Riot Act Original Epic E2 86825 W/ BookletLed Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin Iii (3) Lp - Original Rare 1st Press Vinyl - Ww ShipBob Dylan 50th Anniversary Collection 1964 9 Lp Box SetPearl Jam Sealed 2lp Avacado Original Press With Large Booklet Limited EditionJoe Meek & The Blue Men - I Hear A New World 1960 Uk Ep Rgm Mint-Pearl Jam Sealed 2lp Avacado Original Press With Large Booklet Limited EditionCornel Campbell The Gorgon Lp On Total Sounds Vg++The Beatles White Album Mono Numbered Vinyl Lp Gentle Giant Acquiring The Taste Lp Uk Vertigo Swirl Rock ProgPearl Jam Sealed 2lp Lost Dogs Original Epic 57381 Limited Edition U2 - The Best Of 1980-1990 (vinyl 2 Lp)Paul Chambers Whims Of Chambers Original Mono Blue Note LpPaul Chambers Bass On Top Original Mono Blue Note LpHank Mobley Mobley's 2nd Message Original Promo W. 50th Prestige Lp Dg RvgLast Rites This Is The Reaction Lp Vinyl Crass Exploited Destructors DischargeDr Hooker The Truth Lp Record Original Xpl-1029 Psych MonsterSparkle "s/t" Ultra Rare Disco Soul Funk Lp Jam Sessions Mp3Nofx Hofx Ep Rare Splatter Vinyl Bad Religion Rancid Pennywise Propagandhi PunkDonna Mcghee - Make It Last Forever - Red Greg Records - Lp - Rare - DiscoThe Beatles Rubber Soul Lovely Heavyweight 164g Uk 1965 Mono Ex++ Super Sound LpThe Graham Bond Organization - The Sound Of '65 1965 Uk Lp ColumbiaRare Modern Soul Funk Boogie Lp Prophet 'right On Time' Original Listen Upsetters The Good The Bad Lp On TrojanThe Beach Boys Lp "pet Sounds" Original Capitol Mono In Shrink NmNirvana Nevermind Lp Rare Red Marbled Vinyl Dgc Sub Pop Foo Fighters Pearl JamManfred Mann Lp Chapter Three Uk Large Vertigo Swirl 1st Press Philips Credit Bob Dylan.ten Of Swords.tarantula Cl16319.10lp Box.not Tmoq.1961-1966.zimmerman.Madonna "get Together" Promo Lp Pro15953 Uk Tiefschwarz/ James Holden Remix 12"Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin Iv (4) Lp - Superb Original Plum/orange Label VinylQueen A Day At The Races Promo White Label Lp With Press Kit Pack Ultimate Rare!The Beatles Something New Original Lp Still SealedNirvana - Nevermind (vinyl Lp Mobile Fidelity Mofi Mfsl 1-258) **sealed**Reid, Inc. Rare Northern Soul. Clarence Reid Funk On Bold Records Lp. Vg++Manfred Mann Lp Chapter Three Volume 2 Uk Large Vertigo Swirl 1st PressSalem's Wych Betrayer Of Kings 1986 Lp Private Us Metal BehemothNofx Liberal Animation Lp Wassail 1st Press 1988 Bad Religion Pennywise Rkl Punk Pink Floyd Blue Colored Vinyl Lp "the Division Bell" Columbia M- Og 1994 Us

Recent News: LP Records

Source: Google News

Brian Setzer's rockabilly music is made to last
OCRegister, December 18th

Cranking up an old record on his stereo spinning platter impressed his daughter so much that it motivated her to start collecting vinyl. For Setzer, it got the ball rolling for him to pen “Vinyl Records,” the first song he wrote off his latest release...Read more

Bandra cafe is a haven for Mumbai's vinyl record lovers
Mid-Day, December 16th

Rhythm House remains one of the few music stores that continues to sell LP and vinyl records as well as turntables, since it was set up in the 1940s. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi. “They were my dad's; he loved collecting vintage music,” reveals George, ...Read more

Handmade vinyl albums: Yours for £2500
The Independent, December 15th

We know that vinyl is back, but now the demand for retro is leading to some extraordinary prices. As LP sales return to a level not seen for almost 20 years, a small west London vinyl-only record label is busy producing handmade limited-edition albums...Read more

Pete Mitchell's favourite albums of 2014, December 15th

The album twists, turns and surprises. It is a diverse, deep and layered sonic journey full of rewards ... 'Give the People What They Want' by Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings is a very enjoyable record from the former corrections officer at Rikers...Read more

Korn's 1994 Debut LP: The Oral History of the Most Important Metal Record of ..., December 11th

The reason I picked [Indigo Ranch Studio] was because Neil Young was there, Neil Diamond, all these really killer old-schoolers. I think Lenny Kravitz recorded there, Nick Cave. I knew that recording raw and vintage, the album wouldn't sound dated ever...Read more

The vintage vinyl: Here to stay?
BusinessWorld Online Edition, December 11th

For much of the 20th century, vinyl was the predominant format in the music industry. They were sold everywhere, and at reasonable prices too, before the advent of the compact disc in the 1980s, which sent collectors and the industry itself to the junk...Read more

Duke Ellington's Best Album—One of the Best in Jazz—Is Also One of His Least ...
Slate Magazine, December 9th

The best album ever made by Duke Ellington—which is to say, one of the best albums in jazz—is also one of his least-known. It attracted scant attention upon its release, in 1951, and no particular acclaim when reissued on CD in 2004, after decades in ...Read more

Have Any of These Old Christmas Records? They Could Be Worth Thousands of ..., November 22nd

According to vintage vinyl music expert John Marshall (aka “Mighty John the Record Guy”), there are many old Christmas records worth several hundred to several thousand dollars. If most of these records are no longer played on the radio, we wondered...Read more