Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Magic of the Vinyl

Parallel grooves

Lot of recording are on CD, but the CD can't capture one aspect of the experience of listening to the record.

      "My father bought this record new in 1975 and, over the next few days, we listened to it several times. About the third time we heard it, we both had the impression that we were hearing some bits we hadn't heard the first time and that some of the bits we'd heard before were now missing from the record. We knew that was impossible, but something still seemed strange.

The initial pressings were packaged with a real tie and handkerchief and distributed to menswear stores, the concept being that the record was merely a 'free gift' in the manner of plasticdinosaurs with breakfast cereals. It is also notable for its inner sleeve art, which is visible through a cutaway hole in the album's outer sleeve. It appears to be a simple Terry Gilliam artwork of a tie and handkerchief, but when the inner sleeve is pulled out, it reveals that the tie and handkerchief are actually on a dead man hanging rather graphically from a gallows. Later releases of the album would just have the picture of the clothing on the front cover, and removed the inner sleeve and the unusual hidden artwork.

Upon investigation, we found that one side of the record (both sides are labeled Side 2) contained two completely different sets of tracks, and depending on where the needle landed, you heard either one set or the other. That side of the record was cut with two concentric grooves, effectively giving the record three sides. It was a great trick, something you'd expect from Monty Python.

The CD release handles this with two tracks called "Side 2" and "Side 3." What fun.

I got this copy at the thrift store for 99 cents. It is a bit worn, but it's a comedy album, so the sound quality isn't that important to me. "

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.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 

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 examples of this technique was The BeatlesSgt. 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.the concentric grooves started.

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

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 has this feature. George Harrison's Wonderwall Music also starts in the lead-in groove. 
Coloured vinyl

The Ramones album Road to Ruin on transparent yellow vinyl.

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 Faustreleased 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.

Man or Astro-man
's Your Weight on the Moon on glow-in-the-dark vinyl

Kraftwerk released a 12" single of "Neon Lights", made of glow-in-the-dark plastic. Penetrationreleased 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, andLuke Vibert also released a glow-in-the-dark 11" EP in 2000. In late 2010 - early 2011, dubstepartist Skrillex released a limited 500 copy run of his EP Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites on 12" 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.

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.

Adolf Hitler released a 7" picture disc of this type with one of his speeches. Known as the Patria (Fatherland) picture disc, it holds an image of Hitler giving a speech on one side, and a hand holding a swastika flag on the other, and recordings of speeches by Hitler and Party Member Hans Hinkel.

The first 'modern' rock picture discs was British progressive rock band Curved Air's first album, Air Conditioning, a UK issue (1970)

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

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 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 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

Shaped discs

Tangerine Dream's Warsaw in the Sun, in the shape ofPoland.
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.

LED Zeppelin III

Led Zeppelin III's original vinyl edition was packaged in a gatefold sleeve with an innovative cover, designed by Zacron, a multi-media artist whom Page had met in 1963 whilst Zacron was a student at Kingston College of Art. He had recently resigned a lectureship at Leeds Polytechnic to found Zacron Studios, and in 1970 Page contacted him and asked him to design the third album's cover.
The cover and interior gatefold art consisted of a surreal collection of seemingly random images on a white background, many of them connected thematically with flight or aviation (as in "Zeppelin"). Behind the front cover was a rotatable laminated card disc, or volvelles, covered with more images, including photos of the band members, which showed through holes in the cover. Moving an image into place behind one hole would usually bring one or two others into place behind other holes. This could not be replicated on a conventional cassette or CD cover, but there have been Japanese and British CDs packaged in miniature versions of the original sleeve. In France this album was released with a different album cover, simply showing a photo of the four band members.

The idea of including a volvelle, based on crop rotation charts, was initially Page's concept.However, the result was a meeting of minds as Zacron had been working on rotating graphics from 1965. Zacron felt that by not including text on the front of the cover, the art would endure.
In an article featured in the December 2007 issue of Classic Rock magazine, Zacron claimed that upon his completion of the artwork, Page telephoned him while he was in New York to express his satisfaction with the results, saying "I think it is fantastic".However, in a 1998 interview Page himself gave to Guitar World magazine, he described the results as a disappointment:
I thought it looked very teeny-bopperish. But we were on top of a deadline, so of course there was no way to make any radical changes to it. There were some silly bits—little chunks of corn and nonsense like that.
The album cover featured on the front page of The Daily Mail's Live Magazine in December 2007, which hailed Led Zeppelin III as "the greatest rock album of all time.
The first pressings of the album included the phrases "Do what thou wilt" and "So mote it be," inscribed on the lacquer itself by engineer Terry Manning during the final mastering process. This phrase is from the core tenet of Aleister Crowley's philosophy of Thelema: "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law. Love is the law, love under will. There is no law beyond do what thou wilt." Page was a scholar of Crowley's work, once owning a private collection of Crowley manuscripts, artwork and other ephemera, and in the 1970s even bought one of his residences, Boleskine House on the shores of Loch Ness in Scotland.

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