Unusual types of gramophone records

Unusual types of gramophone records

The overwhelming majority of records manufactured have been of certain sizes (7, 10, or 12 inches), playback speeds (33⅓, 45, or 78 RPM), and appearance (round black discs). However, since the commercial adoption of the gramophone record, a wide variety of records have also been produced that do not fall into these categories, and they have served a variety of purposes.

Polish sound postcards, one example of unusual gramophone records (1960s)


Unusual size

  • European shellac records — In the first three decades of the twentieth century European companies including Pathé, Odeon, and Fonotipia made recordings in a variety of sizes, including 21 cm, 25 cm, 27 cm, 29 cm, 35 cm, and 50 cm (roughly 8½", 10", 11¾", 12", 14", and 20").
  • 16" and 20" discsBroadcasting studios made use of 16" and 20" 78rpm acetate "transcriptions"; these were used for time-delay programs and for prerecorded broadcasts. These could provide up to 20 minutes of unbroken program material with very good fidelity (indistinguishable from live to casual, but not to critical listeners). Early classical LP recordings were in fact initially recorded on 20" 78-rpm acetates for later transfer to LP. 16" turntables are still seen in professional broadcast equipment, although it is probably very rare that any disk larger than 12" is ever played on them.
    7" and 5" singles.
  • 8" EPs. Mostly seen as Japanese pressed records in the 1980s and 1990s, and after 1992 in the US (one record plant started producing them after then).
  • 7" 78-rpm children's records — The 78 rpm records of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s were breakable shellac (and broken records were a very common accident). In the 1950s, unbreakable records of various plastic compositions were introduced and coexisted with breakable shellac records. Unbreakable records were, of course, favored for children's records. A common format for children's records was the 7" 78-rpm unbreakable record, easily handled by small hands, and during the 1950s, 6" Little Golden Records made of bright yellow plastic were a common sight in children's playrooms in the United States. Earlier, non-children's 78s were 7 or 8 inches (from about 1900–1910s, Little Wonder Records being about 5 inches in diameter until 1923)
  • 6", 7", 8", and 9" flexi discs were popular in Japan where they were known as sound-sheets and were often in traditional round format. In other areas, flexi disks were usually square and often included in a magazine (see Unusual materials below). For example, the American magazine National Geographic's January 1979 issue included a flexi disk of whale sounds called "Songs of the Humpback Whale." With a production order of 10,500,000 copies, it became the largest single press run of any record at the time.
  • 5", 6", 9", 11", and 13" records. In 1980, the British band Squeeze released a 5-inch 33⅓ RPM vinyl recording of "If I Didn't Love You", backed with "Another Nail In My Heart" (A&M Records AM-1616 / SP-4802). Due to space restrictions of the grooves, both songs were mixed as monaural. In the late `1980s, Spirit released a 6-inch single, a re-recording of their late 1960s hit, "Fresh Garbage", on Mercury Records. Underground hardcore punk bands in the 1990s started releasing EPs on all sizes of vinyl from 5" to 13" in size. UK Goth band Alien Sex Fiend were the first band to release an 11" record in October 1984. Popular industrial music group Nine Inch Nails has released a limited edition series of 9" discs, to aid in promoting the single March of the Pigs from their full length 1994 album The Downward Spiral. The record featured 2 songs on the first side, and an etching of the album's promotional logo (a coiled centipede) on the second side.
  • 120 mm records. Techno artist Jeff Mills released the single for the Occurrence on a disc that is a gramophone record on one side, and a compact disc on the other. Although dubbed a 5" record, to be usable in most compact disc players, the record can be no bigger than 120 mm or about 4.7".[1]
  • a 1" record was released by the hardcore band Spazz on Slap A Ham Records. It contains one track on each side : "Hemorrhoidal Dance of Death" (played at 78 RPM) and "Patches Are For Posers" (played at 33 RPM). The edition was limited to 14 copies. Similarly, Japanese grindcore band Slight Slappers released a 2" on the same label, limited to 666 copies.
  • Oddly shaped discs were also produced (see Shaped discs below).

Unusual materials

Floppy ROM Flexidisc in a magazine

7" 33⅓ "Flexi disc" records were seen occasionally. One common use was as inserts in books that included audio supplements. LP recordings could be made on very thin, flexible sheets of vinyl (or laminated paper), and this was sometimes done for a mixture of practical utility and novelty appeal. At least one "magazine" was published with a spiral binding, a hole punched through the entire magazine, and four or five of these flexible recordings bound into the magazine. The magazine could be opened to one of these recordings and turned back upon itself; then the entire magazine placed on a turntable and the record could be played. In the early days of personal computers, when programs were commonly stored on audio cassettes, at least one computer magazine published "floppy ROMs," which were bound-in-thin-plastic 33⅓ rpm audio recordings of computer data, to be played on a turntable and dubbed onto an audio cassette. It was also possible to load them into the computer directly if the record player were connected to the computer's cassette (analog signal) input port.

Flexi discs or soundsheets often were provided by music publishers to their customers, frequently school band and orchestra directors, marching band and drum corps leaders and others, with their printed catalogs of sheet music. The director could then hear a sample recording of the piece as they looked at an excerpt from the musical score.

A chocolate record and accompanying phonograph produced in 1902

Paper records were pioneered in the 1930s by Hit of the Week Records and Durium Records. Laminated cardboard records have also been produced as promotional materials, most notably on the backs of cereal boxes in the late 1960s.

"Melody Cards" were popular in the late 1950s. These took the form of an oversized rectangular postcard with the usual address and greeting space on one side and an illustration on the other. The illustration was overlaid with a transparent plastic material into which have been embossed the grooves for the recording which was usually musical as the name implies. They typically played at 45 rpm. It was not recommended to write on them with a ball point pen, but these were not all that common at the time.

Chocolate has even been used to produce promotional recordings that could be eaten once the record had been played, although the lifetime of the records would have been remarkably low - perhaps two to three plays.[2] Contamination of the stylus, and, if it were not thoroughly cleaned, of other records afterward, would also be a concern.

Unusual speeds

8 RPM 7-inch- This recording format was developed sponsored by the American Foundation for the Blind. One record holds 4 hours of speech.[3] The format was later used to distribute magazines on ten-inch "flexible discs" recorded at 8⅓ RPM. These discs were made of thin plastic and were literally flexible, similar to an overhead transparency sheet. The first magazine to be circulated widely in the flexible disc format to blind individuals was U.S. News & World Report.[4] The National Library Service for the Blind ceased using analog discs as a format for audio book and magazine distribution in 2001.

16⅔ RPM — This speed was used almost exclusively for spoken word content, in particular for the "talking books" used by the visually impaired, though it was also employed in the Seeburg 1000 Background Music System. For this reason, the inclusion of a 16⅔ speed setting on turntables was compulsory in some countries[which?] for many years[when?], despite the records themselves being a rarity. Cassette tapes proved to be a far more popular format for such spoken content. Chrysler's short-lived Highway Hi-Fi format also used 16⅔ 7"s. Some manufacturers of very low-speed discs such as Highway Hi-Fi used shallow and narrow "ultra-microgrooves", requiring a 0.25 mil stylus - modern styluses of 0.7-1.0 mil will damage these fine grooves.[citation needed]

Prior to 1930 (particularly before 1925), a number of proprietary formats existed, with recordings made at speeds anywhere from 60 to 130 RPM (although most were between 72 and 82 rpm). Even 78 RPM was not initially a worldwide standard, as American records were often recorded at 78.26 rpm and European records were often recorded at 77.92 rpm. Edison Disc Records were different: always running at 80 rpm and being vertically cut, ¼ inch thick with a core of wood flour and, later, china clay.

Edison Records "Diamond Disc" label, early 1920s, featuring the popular duo of Billy Jones and Ernest Hare

A small number of 78 RPM microgroove vinyl recordings have been issued by smaller and underground performers, mainly as novelty items, from the 1970s to the present. Recently[when?] the Belfast singer Duke Special has released a number of ten inch EPs in 78 RPM.

In the late 1930s, the company now known as Philips Electronics introduced a constant linear velocity format prior to the standardised '78' where the RPM changed as the stylus traversed the record (unusually) from the centre to the edge. The actual playing speed, measured in inches-per-second as tape speed is measured was shown as a letter between 'A' and 'D'.

This centre-to-edge format would regain popularity in the 1940s and 1950s as an office-dictation format known as the Gray Audograph or the CGS/Memovox format which combined the flexible-disc format with the inside-out recording format common to CD's today. Both machines recorded at a fixed pitch, but Grey Audograph could only record at one linear speed allowing 15 minutes per side of a 7-inch disc. The CGS or Memovox on the other hand, had a High Fidelity speed as well as a Speech speed, allowing over two hours of recording time per side on a 12-inch disc.

In the 1970s, Atlantic Records started producing a series of albums later designated on a label known as Syntonic Research. Each album consisted of one full side, usually at least half an hour long per side, of sounds recorded of various locations. One side would have ocean waves crashing against the shore, the other would have the sounds of birds chattering away in an aviary, another would have frogs, crickets and birds making their usual vocalizations that were heard in the early morning hours of a swamp or lake. There were a few dozen made. These were mostly used for soundscape or relaxation purposes. At least one such side, particularly the ocean side, listed the playing speed as anywhere from 8 RPM to 130 RPM, depending on the desired effect of the person playing the record.

Unusual playing times

LP records rarely exceeded 45 minutes per disc, with a limit in the early years of 52 minutes, due to mastering issues. eventually, some records exceeded even the 52-minute limitation, with single albums going to as long as ninety minutes in the case of Arthur Fiedler's 1976 LP 90 Minutes with Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops, made by Radio Shack.[5] However, such records had to be cut with much narrower spacing between the grooves, which allowed for a much smaller amount of dynamic range on the records, and meant that playing the record with a worn needle could damage the record. It also resulted in a much quieter sound. (Other notably long albums included the UK version of The Rolling Stones' Aftermath, with both sides exceeding 26 minutes in length; Genesis' Duke, with both sides exceeding 27 minutes; Bob Dylan's 1976 album Desire, with side two being just shy of thirty minutes; Brian Eno's 1975 album Discreet Music, whose A-side exceeded 30 minutes; Miles Davis' 1972 album Get Up with It, totalling 124:15 over four sides; Todd Rundgren's 1975 album Initiation, totaling 67:32 over two sides, as well as his band Utopia's 1974 self-titled debut, totaling 59:17 over two sides, and his 1973 album A Wizard, A True Star, whose second side nearly reaches thirty minutes; and La Monte Young's Dream House 78' 17", whose two sides were each just under 40 minutes (the running time of the album is indeed 78:17)). Spoken word and comedy albums, not having a wide range of musical instrumentation to reproduce, can be cut with much narrower spacing between the grooves; for example, The Comic Strip, released by Springtime Records in 1981, has a side A lasting 38:04 and a side B lasting 31:08, for a total of 69:12.

Unusual holes

The vast majority of records used a standard small spindle hole. The main exception to this is the larger holes on 7" records (a.k.a. "45"s). This was partly due to RCA's wishing their system to be incompatible with Columbia Records' system when microgroove vinyl discs were first introduced.[6] The larger hole was also designed to be played on jukeboxes, which mechanically place the record onto a turntable with a conical spindle of matching size at the base which is easier for a machine than it would be if standard-sized holes and spindles were used (with problems including breakages common with early 78-based jukeboxes).

Early on, some 78 rpm records had larger holes in marketing schemes that sold a phonograph cheaply, but required purchase of compatible discs at full-price. Standard Records had a half-inch hole,[7] Harmony Disc Records had a 3/4-inch center hole,[8] United had a 1.5-inch hole[9] and the largest, Aretino, had a three-inch hole.[10] This spindle format would be resurrected some 40 years later for the Holy Bible Old and New Testaments produced at 16 RPM by the Audio Book Company of St. Joseph Michigan. The rarest edition comes with a fibreboard insert to adapt the 3-inch hole of the vinylite discs to a standard phonograph hole.

Other records had more than one hole in the label area. Busy Bee, in a marketing scheme similar to Standard et. al. would employ a second cut-out area. This allowed the Busy Bee disc to also be played on a standard phonograph in addition to the proprietary format sold by the O'Neill-James Company.[11]

Most 7" records in the USA continue to be pressed with a large hole (requiring an adaptor to be used on standard turntables). In other territories such as Europe, 7" records intended for home use have standard-sized holes. Many such 7" records had a center which could be easily snapped out, yielding a record with a larger hole to be used in jukeboxes or certain record-stacking players; this approach was common in the United Kingdom from the 1950s until the early 1980s, with standard, solid centres becoming gradually more common. Some 7" singles in the early-mid-1990s had large holes also, but this was a rarity.

Many blank acetate discs have multiple holes (usually three or four) intended to prevent slippage during cutting.

NON's Pagan Muzak (Gray Beat, 1978) is a one-sided 7" with multiple locked grooves and two center holes, meaning each locked groove can be played at two different trajectories as well as any number of speeds. The original release came with instructions for the listener to drill more holes in the record as they saw appropriate.[citation needed]

Unusual grooving

Multiple bands

Some records are cut with completely independent bands on the same side. In this case the bands are appear as separate tracks on the record and are not intertwined as with Parallel grooves (see below.) This has most often been used on educational records but is also sometimes used on discs of commercial Pop and Rock music. These individual bands need not be cut at the same speed. The second Moby Grape album Wow/Grape Jam (1968) has this setup. Following the fourth song on side one there is a spoken announcement telling the listener to change the speed from 33 to 78 to play the next band of the disc. In order to play the last song on the side the listener must pick up the stylus from the record, change the speed, then put the stylus at the start of the fifth and final song on side one.

The Gorillaz debut album, like the CD release, features the remix of "Clint Eastwood" as a bonus track but the LP has a recorded locked groove after what is meant to be the final track of the album so the needle has to be physically lifted and moved to play the bonus track.

This concept has been extended to the production of records consisting entirely of circular multiple bands to provide collections of infinite loop sound samples of duration limited to one revolution of the disc. Notable examples of this are the releases from RRRecords of the 7" RRR-100 (with 100 individual bands) and the 12" RRR-500 (with 500 bands) and RRR-1000 (with 1000 bands.)

Sound recorded in locked grooves

All records have a locked-groove at the end of each side or individual band. It is usually a silent loop which keeps the needle and tonearm from drifting into the label area. However, it is possible to record sound in this groove, and some artists have included looping audio in the locked groove. One of the best-known (and possibly the first) examples of this technique was The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967.) Many U.K. copies featured a multi-layered collage of randomized chatter in its run-off loop. However, there were two variations made: the original British pressing (black label with gold logo) has the "Inner Groove" play through the entire locked groove and does not include the laughter at the beginning of the piece. The re-issue of the British pressing (black label with silver logo) starts playing the "Inner Groove" long before the needle reaches the locked groove, includes the laughter and, once the needle hits the locked groove, you only hear the last two seconds of the piece played over and over again. The Who responded by putting a musical locked groove at the end their 1967 album The Who Sell Out.

On The Format's album Dog Problems, the feedback at the end of "If Work Permits" continues into the lock-groove, which repeats. Early copies of Pink Floyd's album Atom Heart Mother have the sound of a dripping tap repeating at the end of side two. The B-side of The Damned's single Love Song ends the song Suicide with an eternal yell in the lock-groove. Peter Gabriel's second album (also known as Scratch), The Boomtown Rats's album The Fine Art Of Surfacing and The Dead Kennedys album Plastic Surgery Disasters also utilize the technique. Sonic Youth's 1986 album EVOL contains a locked groove at the end of the final track, "Expressway to yr. Skull (Madonna, Sean, and Me)" and the track's length is indicated on the label as ∞.

The debut album by The James Gang has a locked groove at the end of each side, with the inner spiral on Side One leading to the inner groove with the spoken phrase "Turn Me Over", and the inner spiral of Side Two leading to the inner groove with the spoken phrase "Play Me Again".

On the Ralph Records release "Songs For Swinging Larvae" by Renaldo And The Loaf, the last song continues into the inner spiral and into the inner groove with a loop of a male voice providing a spoken percussion effect of "boom boom crash crash", which, however, when it reaches the inner groove is not strictly in the same 4/4 rhythm, being more in 5/8 ("boom boom crash crash [crash]") This motif reappears (in strict 4/4 rhythm again) in the lead-in groove opening Side Two of the album, which then leads to the first selection on that side.

Another example of recorded locked groove record is Godspeed You! Black Emperor's debut album F#A#∞ (pronounced F-sharp, A-sharp, Infinity). At the end of the song "Bleak, Uncertain, Beautiful..." there is a string phrase recorded on the locked groove. The title's "infinity" refers to this phrase. The Stereolab album Transient Random Noise Bursts With Announcements ends with the song 'Lock Groove Lullaby' which, as the name suggests, extends into the locked groove. Nail by Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel (1985) features a recorded lock groove on the final song ("Anything") which results in the final note of the album slowly repeating itself. Portugal. The Man's 2008 album Censored Colors contains a locked groove at the end of the first disc repeating the words "turn me over". The second side of the live King Crimson album, USA has a locked groove that contains the first few seconds of applause after they finish playing "21st Century Schizoid Man". The first Kissing the Pink album, Naked, features a recorded locked groove at the end of side one which continuously plays the last note of "The Last Film". The Otto Von Schirach album "Pukology" is pressed on two 7 inch colored discs (one yellow, one transparent brown), all 4 sides end in recorded locked grooves. One side ends with repeated burping, one side ends with repeated toilet flushing, one side ends with what sounds like tape/record scratching, and one side ends with repeated vomiting.

Welsh band Super Furry Animals released the album Rings Around The World as a 3-record set on Epic Records. Sides 1, 2 and 4 played normally. Side 3 played from the inside out and side 5 was on a 7" single. The side consisted of one recorded groove in the center of the record and was a perfectly timed loop of the music for a non-album song called, "All The Shit U Do".

Canada's Legion Of Green Men took the art further creating several records and remixes containing what they called Eternal Opuscules, rhythmic tunes and songs which would play seamlessly to a recorded locked groove at the end of a side.

There are also many Techno records featuring loops as recorded locked grooves, which, when recorded at 133⅓ bpm and are replayed at 33⅓ rpm, will continuously repeat the beats and musical phrases, which can then be utilized by a DJ. Warp20, the 20th anniversary box set from Warp Records, features two 10" locked groove albums, each containing 20 looped tracks from the record label's most popular artists. Both album sleeves contain correct turntable pitch speed settings for each track. Another example is Luke Slater's "Diesel Drudge", from his 1994 EP Planetary Funk Vol 4, which also ends in a locked groove.

The first known hit single to have a recorded locked groove is "Muskrat Love" by Capt & Tennille. A few years later, in December 1975, a British artist known as Chris Hill did a break-in record (see Dickie Goodman or Bill Buchanan) called, "Renta Santa" on Philips 6006-491 that included a recorded locked groove at the end of the side.

Sound recorded in lead-in grooves

Nearly all gramophone records also have lead-in grooves at the outer edge of the record (i.e. before the first song) in order to make it easier to place the stylus before the start of the first song. Like with the recorded locked groove at the end, it is possible to record sound into the lead-in groove. King Crimson's USA (mentioned above) has this feature. George Harrison's Wonderwall Music also starts in the lead-in groove. Also: the Dead Kennedy's Plastic Surgery Disasters. Many Telarc classical LP's began the music near the end of the lead-in groove to avoid pre-echo (caused by wide groove modulations following a number of closely spaced silent grooves).

Parallel grooves

Also known as concentric grooves, it is possible to master recordings with two or more separate, interlaced spiral grooves on a side. Such records have occasionally been made as novelties. Victor made one as early as 1901.[12] Depending on where the needle is dropped in the lead-in area, it will catch more or less randomly in one of the grooves. Each groove can contain a different recording, so that you have a record which "magically" plays one of several different recordings. Victor marketed a couple of 10" 78's with two concentric grooves (called 'Puzzle Record'). Columbia also issued a few 10" 78's in 1931 with concentric grooves for their cheap Harmony, Clarion and Velvet Tone labels. In the blank edge of the record, there was a stamp 'A' and 'B', which indicated where each of the concentric grooves started.

In 1975 Ronco UK released a parallel groove game called "They're Off", which featured four 12" discs each containing eight possible outcomes on a horse race. It featured Noel Whitcomb, a well-known horse-racing commentator of the day and the game revolved around betting which "horse" would win the race on that occasion. This appears to have been based on a Canadian product called "They're at the Post" by Maas Marketing, which is more or less the same game with different recordings on the discs to reflect the target market.

A more recent example is Monty Python's Matching Tie and Handkerchief. Also Tool's 1992 EP release, Opiate featured on the second side a double groove that would either play the first track of side two or the hidden song that was found at the end of the CD version. In 2005 a 7" single titled "The Road Leads Where It's Led" by The Secret Machines was released in UK, that contained both tracks on one side on parallel grooves. The Summer 1980 issue of Mad Magazine Super Special included a one-sided sound sheet (see "flexidisc" above), playable on a standard turntable. It had eight interlaced grooves, each track having the same introduction song but a different ending. In the 1980s, Rhino Records re-released the Henny Youngman comedy album as a series of concentric grooves. Each side of the album has at least 6 grooves. In the 1980s, the band, Pink Slip Daddy released a 10-inch single called, "LSD", on clear pink vinyl with pink glitter inside the vinyl. One side of the single had one song that played from inside out and, on the other side, there were two songs that were pressed as concentric grooves. Many of The Shins' 7" records have Parallel grooves. (Such as their 2007 single "Phantom Limb", which has "Nothing at All" and "Split Needles (Alt. Version)" on the b-side.) The band None of Your @#$%&! Business released a one-sided 7" called "Escapes from Hell" (side 2 has a groove, but there is no audio encoded in the groove), with 2 grooves that started from the center and ended on the outside of the disc. One groove ran at 45rpm, while the other ran at 33rpm. UK punk rocker, Johnny Moped's debut album Cycledelic has a lead track with a parallel groove listed on the label as "0. Mystery Track", which runs parallel to the track. The 12" single for rap group De La Soul's 1989 song Me Myself and I has 2 different tracks in a parallel groove on the B-side. One groove has the Oblapos remixes of "Me Myself and I", while the other has "Brain Washed Follower".[13]

Inside-to-outside recording

Almost all analog disc recordings were recorded at constant angular speed, resulting in a decreasing linear speed toward the disc center. The result was increased "end-groove distortion" toward the center of the disc, particularly on loud passages. Since classical music tends to start quietly and mount to a loud climax, it was frequently[citation needed] suggested that it would be better if recordings were made to play from the center of the disk outward. A few such recordings were made, but the domination of record changers, and the fact that symphony movements are not uniformly twenty minutes long, made these recordings no more than curiosities. In the late 1920s and early 1930s some movie studios experimented with records as an alternative method for recording film sound. Most of these records "played from the inside out" as this supposedly made it easier to synchronize the sound on the record with the pictures on the film. Nevertheless synchronization difficulties meant that "sound on film" techniques (using optical or magnetic soundtracks) were more commercially successful despite inferior sound quality. A famous scene in MGM's Singin' in the Rain depicts this.

Until the 1920s, French Pathé Records used inside start and other commercially distinctive grooving. At that time they cut all discs vertically, meaning the vibrations in the grooves were "hill and dale", as their wax cylinders had always been. The records required a special sapphire stylus and a vertically responsive reproducer for playback.

Inventor Thomas Edison, who always favored the cylinder for all its advantages, also cut his discs with vertically modulated grooves from their introduction in 1912 until a year or two before his company's demise in 1929 (Edison Disc Records). Edison pioneered fine groove discs that played for up to five minutes per 10-inch side; they were very thick to remain perfectly flat and played back with a precision-ground diamond stylus. A commercially unsuccessful extension of the system introduced grooves nearly twice as fine as those of microgroove LPs, yielding playing times of up to 20 minutes per side at 80 RPM and again requiring a special diamond stylus. Even more than with Pathé discs, Edison's vertical-cut records called for specially designed equipment for playback.

To play these or other vertical-cut recordings on modern equipment, one must reconnect a stereo pick-up cartridge such that it picks up a "cross-phased" signal, and switch the sound output to mono.

In 1977, Mercury Records released a pair of dealer-only promotional LPs called Counter-Revolutions (samplers of various Mercury popular artists at the time) which played from the inside-out and had a locking groove at the disc's edge.

Later, in 1985 Memory Records in Germany released a limited-edition version of the Italo Disco hit Talking To The Night by Brian Ice that played from the edge of the label outwards.[14]

In 1993, American metal band Megadeth released a single "Sweating Bullets", on 12" blue vinyl with both sides running from the inside of the disk outwards.

In 1994, An unusual 12" came out on a now famous electronica label called Basic Channel, it released Cyrus - Inversion with one side that played inside out. details : http://www.discogs.com/Cyrus-Inversion/release/2165

Early multiple track (i.e., stereophonic) format

Before the development of the single-groove stereo system circa 1957, at least three companies, Cook Records, Livingston Audio Products, and Atlantic Records, released a number of "binaural" recordings. These were not created using binaural recording techniques, but rather, one side of each record consisted of two long, continuous tracks — one containing the left channel, and the other containing the right channel. It was intended that the buyer purchase an adapter from Cook Laboratories or a tonearm from Livingston that allowed two cartridges to be mounted together, with the proper spacing, on a single tone arm. Over 50 records were released using this format.

Quadraphonic formats

Quadraphonic records present four channels of audio, requiring specialized pickups and decoding equipment to reproduce the two additional channels' signals from the groove.

Vibration-resistant discs

Highway Hi-Fi was a system of proprietary records and players designed for use in automobiles, utilizing a slower play speed and high stylus pressure.

Unusual appearance

The Ramones album Road to Ruin on transparent yellow vinyl.
Man or Astro-man's Your Weight on the Moon on glow-in-the-dark vinyl
Made in 1978, this Han-O-Disc Liquid Disc is filled with aniline dye colored silicone fluids and oils that freely move around. This disc was a prototype for the Disney movie The Black Hole (1979) but leakage proved too great a problem and it was never released.

Coloured vinyl

Unusual colors, and even multi-colored shellac first appeared in the 1910s on such labels as Vocalion Records.

When RCA Victor launched the 7" 45 rpm record, they initially had eight musical classifications (pop, country, blues, classical, children's, etc.) each with not only its own uniquely colored label but with a corresponding color vinyl. According to experts at the Sarnoff Center in Princeton, NJ, the cost of maintaining eight vinyl colors became too high, but the different colored labels were continued, at least for popular music (black) and classical (red, as in "Red Seal"). In October 1945, RCA Victor[15] put on the market its first "non-breakable" phonograph records. Made of a ruby-red, translucent vinyl resin plastic, they cost twice as much ($2 per disc) as the 12-inch Victor Red Seal. In the 1960s, a distinction was made in label colors of promotional copies of 45 rpm records as well, with pop music being issued on yellow labels and country on light green.[citation needed]

In the 1970s, such gimmicks started to reappear on records, especially on 7" and 12" singles. These included using colored acetate instead of black vinyl. Available colors included clear, transparent white, red, blue, yellow and multi-hued. A transparent 12" of Queen's The Invisible Man was released, and Faust released their debut album with transparent vinyl and cover in 1971. In the 1980s. The Ska band Bad Manners released a single on Magnet Records called, "Sampson And Delilah" that was pressed on clear vinyl, with a clear label and clear print on the label and it came in a clear sleeve. Some recordings were released in several different colors, in an effort to sell the same product to one person multiple times, if they were of the collecting bent. Currently, it is common practice for hardcore punk to release records of different colors at the same time, and press a smaller number of one color than the other. This has created a culture of hardcore record collecting based on having the same release multiple times, each copy with a different and more rare color.[16]

In 1972, the Kingdom of Bhutan released several unusual postage stamps that were playable plastic phonograph records. These miniature 33⅓ RPM recordings feature either regional music or tourism information. While they are sought-after as novelty postage stamps, they were not practical for postage use because of their size, and cancellation damaged the grooves, rendering them unplayable. Also, the small circumference of many of the stamps made them unplayable on turntables with automatic return tonearms.[17]

The 1977 release of the 45rpm single of "Strawberry Letter 23" by The Brothers Johnson was produced by A&M Records with a slightly pink center label (as opposed to the usual buff color that A&M uses), and had strawberry scent embedded into the plastic to make the record give off the odor of strawberries.

Adrian Snell's 1979 album, "Something New Under the Sun" was produced on opaque yellow vinyl, in reference to the name of the album.

Kraftwerk released a 12" single of "Neon Lights", made of glow-in-the-dark plastic. Penetration released a luminous vinyl limited edition of the album Moving Targets in 1978 and the "Translumadefractadisc" (Han-O-Disc) punk sampler picture disc (which had a silk screened luminous ink under the litho on Mylar film image of Medusa) was released by The Label (U.K) in 1979. The Foo Fighter's debut single 'This Is A Call' was available on 12" glow-in-the-dark vinyl, and Luke Vibert also released a glow-in-the-dark 11" EP in 2000. In late 2010 - early 2011, dubstep artist Skrillex released a limited 500 copy run of his EP Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites on 12" glow-in-the-dark vinyl.

The Canadian pressing of Devo's Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! album featured spattered-color vinyl, with a grey/white marbled base with splashes of color on the top of that. The UK pressing came in multiple (solid) colors of vinyl and a picture disc edition that came with a flexi-disc (the US edition, however, was plain black).

Isis released their first EP Red Sea' on tri-coloured vinyl. Divided like a pie, one third was red, one third was black, and one third was tan/gold. Other bands have released records with 2 colours, divided down the middle.

Electronic artist Isao Tomita issued a coral or peach vinyl disc of The Bermuda Triangle, on RCA Red Seal.

Alternative artist The Dandy Warhols have been known to release all their 7" singles on different colour vinyl records, and also their LP's. An uncolored, clear, limited release version of their album 'The Dandy Warhols Come Down' was available at the record stores in the band's hometown in 1997.

Picture discs

Picture discs debuted in the early 1930s, when various materials were used experimentally as gimmicks or for advertising. These early picture discs were simply a sheet of thin vinyl film which was placed over a thick paper print and then pressed with the grooves and had very poor sound quality. Invented in the forties by Tom Saffady,[15] Vogue Records (picture discs) were manufactured in Detroit, Michigan, at Sav-Way Industries during 1946 and 1947 and sold for 50 to 75 cents each.[18]

Following the introduction of colored vinyl, picture discs started to appear in the 1970s. The first 'modern' rock picture discs was British progressive rock band Curved Air's first album, Airconditioning, a UK issue (1970). The first commercially issued American picture disc is To Elvis: Love Still Burning, a collection of 11 Elvis tribute songs by various artists, issued in May 1978. Both sides of the album (Fotoplay FSP-1001) picture Elvis Presley.

Shaped discs

Tangerine Dream's Warsaw in the Sun, in the shape of Poland.

Shaped discs contain an ordinary grooved centre (typically the same as a standard 7") but with a non-grooved outer rim that can be cut to any shape that does not cut into the grooves. These oddly shaped records were frequently combined with picture discs (see above); a trend that was pushed particularly hard by UK record company branches in the mid-1980s. Curiously, uncut test pressings of shaped discs in their original 12" form - with the clear vinyl surrounds still intact - are much more sought-after by collectors than the "regular" shapes themselves.

Screamo bands Jeromes Dream and Orchid released a split in the shape of a skull. The record was considered a 10". It spun at 45 RPM and was one sided. Some came in glow in the dark, some in blood red, and some black and white.

Some extreme examples required smaller grooving than standard 7" such as the single "Montana" by John Linnell (of the band They Might Be Giants) which was in the shape of the USA. This record was problematic because record players whose tonearms returned automatically after the record finished playing often did just that before the needle actually reached the song.

Canadian hardcore punk bands Left For Dead and Acrid released a split LP on No Idea Records on July 31, 1997 as a saw-blade shaped vinyl record. When these spun on the record player, they resembled a spinning saw. Alternative rock band Snow Patrol released a specially created web-shaped vinyl for the single "Signal Fire", a song which was used in the film Spider-Man 3.[19]

Etched discs

Usually taking up a blank side of vinyl, rather than containing music, one side of a disc can be pressed with etched or embossed images. This can take the form of autographs, part of the artwork or logos. Coheed and Cambria released their fourth album Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV, Volume Two: No World for Tomorrow with Side IV having etched artwork on it incorporating the band's logo. The "B side" of Dinosaur Jr's cover of The Cure's "Just like Heaven" has a bas-relief "sculpture" embossed on its surface.

Although these etchings cannot be seen while the record is playing, some are pressed on clear vinyl so the etchings can be seen from both sides. An example of this is the 1997 7" of "Freeze the Atlantic" by Cable which has etched fish.

The Japanese rock band Boris (known for their unique LPs; their 2006 album Pink was released on pink vinyl) pressed their 2006 album, Vein, on transparent vinyl with etched artwork on the outer two inches of the record. This causes problems with auto-start phonographs, as the actual grooves of music do not start where the needle is designed to drop. This can cause damage to the needle and record artwork.

Finnish electronica group Huminoida released a 7 inch called Self-titled, which B-side was hand carved by the band members. It was limited to 300 unique copies.

Split Enz's laser etched True Colours album

The 1980 A&M Records LP of Split Enz's album True Colours was remarkable not only for its multiple cover releases (in different color patterns), but for the laser-etching process used on the vinyl. The logo from the album cover, as well as other shapes, were etched into the vinyl in a manner that, if hit by a light, would reflect in polychromatic colors. This laser etching does not affect the playing grooves. This same process was also used for the 45 single of the band's song "One Step Ahead" from the album Waiata.

The 1981 A&M Records LP of Styx's album "Paradise Theatre" as was the case with the aforementioned Split Enz "True Colours" LP had a laser-etched design of the band's logo on side two.

The 1990 Mute XL12Bong18 release from Depeche Mode features "Enjoy the Silence" The Quad: Final Mix on side A and the laser-edged image of a rose and a hand-drawn "DM" on side B.

The original soundtrack recording for the film Superman II had a special edition with the Superman "S" shield logo etched five times on each side of the standard black vinyl album[20]

See also


  1. ^ The Vinyl And CD Release On One Disc From Jeff Mills
  2. ^ Stollwerck and Eureka Chocolate Phonographs René Rondeau's Antique Phonograph Gallery website. November 2005, via Archive.org. Retrieved March 1, 2010.
  3. ^ Latest Advances in Extra Fine Groove Recording JAES Volume 6 Number 3 pp. 152–153; July 1958. Peter C. Goldmark, CBS Labs.
  4. ^ NLS/BPH History U.S. National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped website. Retrieved March 1, 2010.
  5. ^ 90 Minutes with Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops, Radio Shack/Realistic Cat. No. 50-2040, 1976 (copyright 1974, 1976, Polydor Records)
  6. ^ http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a1_258b.html
  7. ^ Sutton, Allan (2000). American Record Labels and Companies: An Encyclopedia (1891–1943). Denver: Mainspring Press. p. 195. ISBN 0-9671819-0-9. 
  8. ^ Sutton, Allan (2000). American Record Labels and Companies: An Encyclopedia (1891–1943). Denver: Mainspring Press. p. 96. ISBN 0-9671819-0-9. 
  9. ^ Sutton, Allan (2000). American Record Labels and Companies: An Encyclopedia (1891–1943). Denver: Mainspring Press. p. 210. ISBN 0-9671819-0-9. 
  10. ^ Sutton, Allan (2000). American Record Labels and Companies: An Encyclopedia (1891–1943). Denver: Mainspring Press. p. 9. ISBN 0-9671819-0-9. 
  11. ^ Sutton, Allan (2000). American Record Labels and Companies: An Encyclopedia (1891–1943). Denver: Mainspring Press. p. 33. ISBN 0-9671819-0-9. 
  12. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MhZQpFKLuEE
  13. ^ Equalizing X Distort Equalizing X Distort radio show, CIUT-FM[dead link]
  14. ^ http://www.discogs.com/release/1001144
  15. ^ a b New Products: Plastic Records Time Magazine Oct. 22, 1945. Retrieved March 1, 2010.
  16. ^ MRR #267 Record collecting Felix Havoc, havocrex.com January 1, 2005. Retrieved June 17, 2007.
  17. ^ Record stamps from Bhutan WFMU.org M. Cumella, 2003. Retrieved March 15, 2007.
  18. ^ Vogue Picture Records, 1946–1947. Postwar attitudes and optimism. University of California, Santa Barbara. Exhibition mounted May–June 2000.
  19. ^ "Snow Patrol - Signal Fire". Discogs user-built database w/info on artists, labels, and their recordings. http://www.discogs.com/Snow-Patrol-Signal-Fire/release/1456411. Retrieved 2009-07-20. 
  20. ^ Superman II: Original Soundtrack, Ken Thorne/John Williams, Warner Brothers Records HS3505, 1980/1981

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