As music genres go, rock is unquestionably the sloppiest. How else to describe the disparate sounds of Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Moody Blues, Led Zeppelin, Patti Smith, and Phish? It’s as dissonant a dog’s breakfast of audio as a music fan could imagine, yet the songs written by these artists have a few basic elements in common, including a love of the electric guitar, vocals that careen from indecipherable mumblings to full-fledged wails, and chord structures that are not intimidated by repetition.

That rock is a mutt should not be a surprise. Its parents include the blues and folk music, country-western and R&B, gospel, bluegrass, and even a bit of jazz. The result is a uniquely American sound, although it sometimes took British bands like The Beatles, Yardbirds, and Rolling Stones to show Americans how lucky they were to live in the cradle of rock ‘n’ roll.

As with other genres, rock records come in a number of vinyl variations, from 78s, 45s, EPs, and LPs to monaural recordings, picture discs, and promos. In all cases, the record’s jacket or sleeve is often as collectible as the disc itself, if not more so given the fragile nature of paperboard and paper. Sealed records are also bought and sold, although some collectors prefer to inspect the contents of a record’s jacket rather than take it on faith that the vinyl inside is as advertised.

Of rock’s pioneers, records to collect include the first 12-inch LP that Bill Haley & His Comets cut for Decca, “Rock Around the Clock,” from 1955. A record to look for from 1956 is “The Teenagers Featuring Frankie Lymon,” which included the group’s hit "Why Do Fools Fall In Love." Chuck Berry and Chess Records gave the world “After School Session” in 1957, while Chess released Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love?” in 1958.

And then there was Elvis Presley, who is a genre all to himself. Beginning with his first single for Sun Records in 1954, "That’s All Right," released as both a 45 and 78, Presley was a colossus, snapped up by RCA from Sun’s Sam Phillips for what in retrospect seems a measly $35,000. At RCA, Presley would cut a string of number-one hits, including "Hound Dog" in 1956 and "Jailhouse Rock" the following year.

For rock bands of the 1960s, monaural vinyl is highly sought because that’s how most albums were originally recorded in the studio—in many cases, the stereo releases not only came later, they were mixed by engineers who often added effects not envisioned by the musicians themselves. For example, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” by The Beatles was recorded in 1966 and '67 in mono by the band’s longtime producer, George Martin. Of the subsequent release, guitarist George Harrison said, “You haven’t heard ‘Sgt. Pepper’ if you haven’t heard it in mono.” Monaural recordings were also pressed in fewer numbers, which is why collectors prefer early mono versions of albums by the Grateful Dead, The Doors, and Pink Floyd.

Other rock albums are almost works of art. In addition the psych-rock album covers produced by artists for groups like 13th Floor Elevators, Cream, and Steve Miller, some bands released albums that had actual physical dimension, much to the chagrin, no doubt, of their labels. The original cover of "Sticky Fingers," designed by Andy Warhol for the Rolling Stones, featured a working zipper, while artist Robert Rauschenberg conceived a clear plastic cover with moving parts for "Speaking in Tongues” by the Talking Heads...

In recent years, rock artists such as Jack White have helped spur a resurgence in new, custom vinyl produced in limited runs on audiophile-grade 180-gram vinyl (most albums back it the day were pressed on 140- or even 120-gram discs). Some of the albums White has produced via Third Man Records are pressed in bright colors, an evolution of the multicolored records pressed for bands like Nirvana. Another Seattle band, Pearl Jam, released only 2,000 copies of a four-disc recording of their 2003 benefit concert in Benaroya Hall. Like the album’s cover, the discs are deep red.

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    

The Damned Damned Damned Hot Rods Cover 1st U.k.pressing Vinyl Debut Lp 1977Marc Bolan T Rex Electric Warrior Lp Uk Fly 1971 First Press Sticker PosterAffinity Affinity Vertigo Swirl Uk 1st Pressing Ultra RareJob Lot X 50 Quality Lps Vinyl - Great Titles Beatles - Bowie - Who - Stones EtcLed Zeppelin 1st Album 1st Press Turquoise Lettering Uk Vinyl Superhype CreditsKaleidoscope Tangerine Dream Uk Fontana Original Stereo Lp Near-mintU2: Achtung Baby 1991 '1st Day Purchase' Uk Lp Vinyl & Promo Poster Pack SetKing Crimson - In The Court Of The Crimson King - Uk 1st Press Pink I A2/b4 Ex++Neil Young - Unplugged 45310-1 Eu Lp 1st Press 1993 Reprise VinylLed Zeppelin Iii A5/b5 1st Press Red/plum 'peter Grant' Credit Ex/ex+/nm AudioLed Zeppelin Iv A3/b3 Uk Atlantic (inverted Feather) Red/plum Mega Rare Vg+/exCressida Cressida Vertigo Swirl 1st Pressing Uk Very Rare Vo 7 Phillips ProductGracious Gracious! Vertigo Swirl Textured Rare Uk Pressing MintProcol Harum Same Self Titled Lp 1967 Uk 1st Press Mono Regal Zonophone Lrz 1001U2 - Achtung Baby U 28 1991 Island + Insert VinylThe Who Live At Leeds Lp Uk Track 1970 Early Press All Inserts Blue LetteringLed Zeppelin 1 Debut Turquoise Lettering Superhype LabelManfred Mann Chapter Three Lp 1969 Uk 1st Press Stereo Vertigo V0 3 847 902 VtyPink Floyd Wish You Were Here - Original Uk Lp + Black Shrink + Postcard - ProgPneumania I Can See Your Face Oak Records R.g. Jones Morden 7" Vinyl Single RareThe Damned New Rose Orig 1st Uk 1976 Push Out Centre Delga Pic Cover 45"Genesis Nursery Cryme Lp Uk Charisma 1971 Early Press Gatefold Pink Scroll LabelElvis Presley - Mystery Train Original Uk Purple And Gold Hmv 45 Clip 1n/1nBeatles 1967-1970 (pcspb 718) - Vinyl Lp - Rare Uk, 1978, Blue - P17 Pink Floyd Echoes 4x Lp Vinyl Records Box Set Records Look UnplayedThe Seeds Lp A Web Of Sound Uk Vocalion Mono 1st Press Top PsychKing Crimson The Wake Of Poseidon St Uk Pink Island Lp Gatefold Textured MintNucleus Elastic Rock Lp Vertigo Ian Carr Brit Jazz Don Rendell The Dead Weather Horehound Split Jack White Third Man Records Rare Lp Tmr-008Fairfield Parlour From Home To Home Vertigo Swirl Uk 1st Pressing Ultra RareThe Pink Floyd**it Would Be So Nice**mod**psych**listen To ItThe Pink Floyd**apples & Oranges**mod**psych**listen To ItThe Who La-la-la-lies 45 1965 Brunswick 1st Press! 1c/1c!! Their Rarest 45 Ever!Stray S/t Debut Lp Uk Transatlantic 1970 First Press GatefoldHawkwind X In Search Of Space Lp Uk Ua 1971 Gimmix Cover And Log BookDaddy Lindberg**wade In The Shade**demo**mod**dancer**listen To ItThe Pretty Things Lp Get The Picture Uk Fontana Mono 1st Press Top PsychPink Floyd Dark Side Of Moon Lp 1973 Harvest 1st! Solid Blue Triangle!! Sample!!Big Country * 12 Collection * Box Set X 5 Mint!..rare!Ac/dc High Voltage / Live Wire Pic Sleeve PromoThe Dead Weather Sea Of Cowards Split Jack White Third Man Records Lp Tmr-025Pink Floyd The Wall 2lp Uk Harvest 1979 Early Press Gatefold A1 / B2 A1 / B3Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here Lp Uk Harvest 1975 First Press Postcard InnerThe Cure - Primary/descent 7" Pic Signed By Smith Gallup & TolhurstDr Strangely Strange Heavy Petting Vertigo Uk 1st Pressing Ultra RareThe Seeds Lp Future Uk Vocalion Mono 1st Press Top PsychQueen Hammer To Fall Mega Rare Withdrawn Live Sleeve 100% Genuine 12 Queen 4 Jimi Hendrix Experience, Electric Ladyland 1968 Uk Track Double True 1st PressLed Zeppelin Physical Graffiti A1/b4/c1/d1 1st Press Rare Ex+The Rolling Stones - Let It Bleed - Original Uk Stereo Press - With Poster!Dickie Pride - Fabulous Cure Rare Uk 1959 Demo Promo / British Rocker / Vg+++Bob Downes Open Music Electric City Vertigo Swirl Rare Uk Pressing Mint-King Crimson In The Court Of Crimson King St 5 Track Island Lp Gatefold 2/2 MintThe Cure - Faith Lp Signed By The Cure + Entire Tour Party Inc Chris ParryWire - Pink Flag Harvest Lp Very Rare 1977 Original Uk 1st Pressing Shsp 4076The Pretty Things Lp Same Uk Fontana Mono 1st Press Top PsychThe Pink Floyd**arnold Layne**mod**psych**listen To ItGenesis - Trespass - Uk 1970 1st Press Charisma Lp Pink Scroll Label + InsertThe Damned Music For Pleasure New Zealand Emipressing With Blue Sticker Vg+/vg+ The Clash - Give 'em Enough Rope Dutch Promo Signed By All 4