Obsession #1: Coloured & Picture Disc Vinyl

This is the first in a possible ongoing series dealing with particular 'obsessions' I have. These obsessions could be music formats, consoles, bands, directors, genres, eras etc.

I am a bit of a collector, not as crazy as some out there - due mostly to a lack of money - but I do collect a fair bit and have a love for owning things - especially with music, having never bought a digital download - so the first obsession I would like to go into is vinyl, but not vinyl as a whole but in particular coloured or picture disc vinyl.

Vinyl is the ultimate musical object, a musical fetish. For those who are old enough vinyl signals memories, nostalgia, childhood. It also suggests a process of listening that for the most part has gone, the placing of the needle, the crackle showing a well loved record, the cleaning of the vinyl etc. Included are pictures of my collection of coloured and picture disc vinyl.

Baby Dee - Love Is Stronger Than Dirt

Yet for those of us who were born in the late 80's onwards vinyl can seem archaic, an antique that is strange but at the same time somehow alluring, like some mystifying magical object which also happens to be engrained with music. This charm that vinyl has is greatly amplified when it is also takes on an odd limited edition format such as picture disc or coloured vinyl, and this is why for me I am a bit obsessed with these odd formats, they reflect the curiosity that vinyl as a whole contains and amplifies it, makes it that ever more intriguing... some collect faceless white label promo copies but that doesn't really do it for me, I much prefer the 'Look at me! Aren't I pretty!? Play me, play me!' of coloured and picture disc vinyl.

BBC Radiophonic Workshop - Out Of This World

Records are made using melted vinyl plastics, the pellets that are used are - I believe - naturally black in colour... or they appear black through the process' they are put through for strengthening etc... Coloured vinyl is created using clear pellets with dyes whereas picture discs are literally clear vinyl with images between the two sides.

There is widespread debate and speculation as to whether coloured and picture disc formats have a reduction of sound quality, most believe that it reduces sound quality greatly and that it is not as long lasting as your regular black vinyl, that they are collectors items only. In my experience both formats - picture disc and coloured vinyl - have sounded fine, I own multiple copies of the first Devo record (pictured below) and honestly I don't believe I've ever noticed much difference between each of the versions. The only coloured or picture disc vinyl I own that sounds like pants is Devo's Something for Everybody, but I believe this is down to a really loud mastering of the vinyl. Obviously you cannot beat a heavyweight virgin vinyl pressing for the best sound quality but if a record's master copy is pants the end product is going to sound pants too, whether it is virgin vinyl, picture disc or coloured vinyl.

Surprisingly enough coloured vinyl isn't exclusive to the modern vinyl but was around in the times of the 78rpm shellac records as this 1922 record proves (pictured below). The label RCA Victor made use of coloured vinyl for the first ever 7" 45rpm singles, each genre taking on a separate colour, this would sadly be discontinued due to the cost of colouring the vinyl but the colour coding would live on in a small way with  the colour of the centre labels. It wasn't really until the bombastic and over the top packaging concepts of prog rock and experimental rock of the 1970's that coloured vinyl would really come back, along with picture discs and shaped vinyl.

Nightmares On Wax - The Sweetest

Rolf Julius - Black (inside)

Son Lux - We Are Rising

One of my favourite designs for a vinyl record is the first Faust record from 1971, with its clear vinyl and clear inlay and sleeve, it really is something amazing to behold and shows just how beautiful coloured vinyl can look and how packaging can add to the overall mood of an album. The x-ray of the fist (Faust) would go on to become synonymous with the group, even after the group literally separated in two, more than four decades later both use the image of the fist from this album as a signifier of all things Krautrock!

Thurston Moore - Built for Lovin

The first colour vinyl I bought was the red 7 inch Nightmares on Wax single in the summer of 2006. I have to be honest I bought it simply because it was a red vinyl on Warp! At the time I didn't tend to buy vinyl or second hand music and so my buying habits were pretty much limited to what HMV, MVC or Music Zone had in store. There was a tiny tiny section of vinyl at the back of HMV and it mainly catered to dance and indie singles, I bought this on a whim for two or three pound and I think I didn't get to listen to it for another year as I didn't have anything to play it on. Sadly it isn't exactly the greatest track in the world but I do still love that transparent red design.

The first picture disc I bought I think might have been the limited edition Trattoria Menu 100 set around 2007. At the time I was really into Cornelius (I still love him!) and kind of wanted to listen to some of the music on his now defunct Trattoria label. This set has a variety of odd bits and bobs including a cut out gold crown, a set of playing cards, a big booklet with a strange little stories, 3-CDs and of course that amazing picture disc. Sadly I'm not really into the music on this release either but the packaging is great and the vinyl is really over the top and amazing to see spinning on the turntable! It's one of those items I get out now and then just to look at it and flick through all the odd things it contains...

Various - Trattoria 100

The number of picture discs and coloured vinyl being produced seems to have exhilarated recently probably due to their allure and vinyl's ever increasing popularity. At this point in time it is hard not to feel that the CD is becoming a redundant format whilst - perhaps surprisingly - sales of vinyl increase. If you want to own a physical album you might as well go for a vinyl these days, it is much more sought after and doesn't devalue like CDs tend to. Plus a lot of vinyl that is released these days comes with an MP3 download code or in the case of the Devo Something for Everybody vinyl a CD copy of the vinyl... It's a good time to get into vinyl... and coloured and picture disc vinyl only make the appeal even sweeter!

Yello - I Love You

Posted 26th July 2012

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