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Waxing About Wax

Lamenting the loss of vinyl records.


by Dr. Spin
June 4, 2002

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Waxing About Wax_Dr. Spin-Lamenting the loss of vinyl records. Remember the LP? Remember vinyl? Ah, the days before the CD forever changed the way we listed to music…

Up until 1982, the long-playing 12” record was the preferred, if not the only way to hear music. Unlike the various forms of audiotape, LPs were superior in the fact that you could locate any song on the LP; you just had to find the right grooves. Sound quality was usually superior too, that is until your LP started to develop scratches. Sure, with the invention of the Sony Walkman ©, portability became an issue, and cassette tapes began to take away the market, a market that would soon be monopolized by the CD, but what about the casualties of the disappearance of vinyl?

First there was the album cover. Album covers used to be very important. With a giant 12” x 12” canvas, artists could paint a lasting image of the musical contents, and these images could make or break an album. Remember the vivid colors of “Sgt. Pepper?” How about Roger Dean’s magnificent work on all the Yes albums? Heck, sometimes the album covers were even better than the music!

Now reduced to a tiny 6” x 6”, the fantastic crowd around Sgt. Pepper’s is almost unrecognizable, and the artwork of Roger Dean is sometimes completely gone, because there is no gatefold cover (remember gatefold covers?). What’s replaced them are tiny little booklets with images so small, they’re hardly worth viewing.

Gone too, are the extras that would accompany certain albums. The Beatles’ “White Album” used to come with a huge collage poster, with the songs’ lyrics printed on the back, and four portraits, one of each member of the Beatles. The poster still comes with the CD, but it too is miniaturized, and the portraits are now part of those little booklets. The infamous zipper on the Rolling Stones “Sticky Fingers” is gone, as is the colorful and storytelling booklet of the Who’s “Tommy.” Also not included with CDs are the album sleeves, which sometimes had extra pictures of the band or advertisements for other albums produced by that label.

A more serious deletion was that of the 45 single. Costing roughly $12 a pop, albums were sometimes expensive, especially if you only liked one song. Fortunately, if the song was a hit, you could spend a mere $1.50 for the single. The single also sometimes offered a rare B-side that wasn’t on the album, or even further back, TWO songs that weren’t on an album! Nowadays, you have no choice; either pay $15 for the CD, or don’t get the song. Or, you could always buy the “CD single” which usually contains four songs and costs… $10! Or, if you’re really lucky, maybe you can download it off of someone’s Napster-like website. (But that’s illegal, or so record companies would want you to believe, as they force you to spend $15 on songs you don’t want)

The deletion of the single, I believe, has caused bands to be sloppier. Back in the day, bands had to cut hit singles if they wanted to make money. The more hit singles your album had, the more likely it would sell. If you had only one decent song on your album, people would buy the single, and your albums would collect dust.

Today’s bands, however, can record only one decent song, because songs are only available on CDs, and most people would rather pay $15 for ten songs they don’t want to hear than $10 for three songs they don’t want to hear.

And you can’t play CDs at different speed to make them sound funny… and you can’t play them backwards to find “subliminal messages.” And once a CD gets a scratch, it’s ruined.

There’s something nostalgic about the old scratchy vinyl discs. (Sigh) CDs just aren’t as much fun.

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