The Vinyl Countdown

Some of you may recall a fairly regular feature on my old blog on items from my old vinyl record collection (and my dad’s too). Just as vinyl has made a remarkable return to the fore, I too will be returning to my old stash for the blog.

This has been inspired by my daughter’s recent interest in the format and acquisition of a suitably modern record player with retro styling. I’ve been excited about seeing vinyl albums back in the house – even though are musical tastes are poles apart, I have found much satisfaction looking at her small but growing collection, reading sleeve notes I can actually see without a magnifier!

Just handling records has an emotive pull for me; takes me back to my youth, saving up and heading to the record shop in town to browse through the racks, next to rockers, mods and hippies, all doing the silent shuffle down each column, usually from left to right, trying to time your move to the next column just as the next guy did. It was almost always guys as I remember.

This was in the mid eighties when Top of the Pops and the Sunday night chart rundown was the main place most people heard new music. For some of us, John Peel filled in the gaps, and when I started getting in to punk and indie clubs (I went many times and didn’t get in – bloody puberty!) I really started to hear some interesting and exciting music.

Until then, in the days before instant streaming, I learned about music through artwork. I formed my ideas and opinions on the visual relationship I made with the cover art. I could name you the entire back catalogue of certain bands and describe their individual sleeve design while never having heard any of them.

I was aware of all sorts of music, bands and singers because they were all listed alphabetically, regardless of genre. You had to look through them in order to find something you wanted. You browsed. B-R-O-W-S-E-D! We spent hours in those places, just looking. Absorbing the visuals and slowly piecing together a general, if limited knowledge about music.

I took a few chances too and bought albums purely on the cover art alone. Some were good records too. Others less so. I still loved the covers though.

Its worth noting here that during this time I was studying graphic design at college – I ultimately wanted to design record covers – so I was understandably more turned on the visual elements of music but I know I was not alone.

So it’s back into the garage to dig out a few old favourites. Stay tuned, pop-pickers!

Sleevage Sunday #15

cassetteSleevage Sunday is where I once shared selections from my old but rediscovered vinyl collection. Music has always been an important part of my life, but so was the packaging. In my formative years I would carefully study every inch of the cover, read every sleevenote, credit and publishing blurb so that the visual qualities of these records became intrinsically linked with the music, so that even now when I hear an old song I also get the imagery too! Alas, much of this will fall upon younger heads whose only visual link with their music is the tiny thumbnail on their iPod…

However, I am now going to feature some older stuff from my father’s collection. Some of these will raise a smile or an eyebrow, considering that many were the biggest music stars of the 1950’s and 60’s. This next batch are all ’78’s’ and at 10” are larger than the 45’s that replaced them. This did not have any effect upon the packaging though, and these are notable for their lack of design – the music was not packaged for the artist, but sold in sleeves that promoted the retailer…

There was one other 78 that I wanted to include here, but for different reasons. Back in the day, records were the prized possession of young people. They cost money too, which wasn’t easy to come by during the post-war years in the uk, and more often than not, music was a form of escapism from the drab normality of real life. Unlike the 7″ singles that replaced them, these 78’s were made of a substance called shellac which was a resin made by tropical bugs. Shellac discs were not durable enough though, and were prone to wearing out and were notoriously brittle. Imagine playing your new Elvis single non-stop all weekend to find it unplayable on Monday? What if it was accidentally dropped? Well, this actually:

This one, which looks as though it has been repaired many times has eventually been taped back together, sacrificing one side altogether! I’m not sure just how playable the other side is though…

For those of you who are not familiar with this scale of 10″ singles I have put it into a scale most people will understand!