David Bowie's "Low" on 8-track. While it played records in a continuous loop, companies often changed up song running order from the LP counterpart, and the "clunk" noise made as the tracks shifted could come in the middle of a tune.EXPAND
David Bowie's "Low" on 8-track. While it played records in a continuous loop, companies often changed up song running order from the LP counterpart, and the "clunk" noise made as the tracks shifted could come in the middle of a tune.
Photo courtesy of Backbeat Books

All You Need to Know About Collecting Music in Whatever Format You Desire

The Ultimate Guide to Vinyl and More: All You Need to Know About Collecting Essential Music, From Cylinders and CDs to LPs and Tapes
By Dave Thompson
304 pp.
$29.99
Backbeat Books

Have you heard? Vinyl is BACK! While it’s not the most surprising record format to have a resurgence in popular taste (we’re looking at you, 8-Track), this particular news story is starting to show its age. Even as stores like Best Buy and Barnes & Noble phase out CDs to make shelf ready for new LPs (on 180 gram weight with a higher price tag than their forebears).

But Thompson’s insanely detailed book – manna for music nerds – details the history, impact, and reputation of many, many more music formats, and the collecting mania that often surrounds it. Woe be the pilgrim whose task it is to seek out like scores of Holy Grails the 800+ versions of The Velvet Underground and Nico found around the world since its original release.

“There are as many ways to collect as there are collectors to find new ways,” Thompson offers. “And just as nobody can tell you what you should be collecting, nobody can tell you what you shouldn’t.”

And those collections could be made up of LPs, 45s, cassettes, CDs, or mp3s. But also CD-3s, digital compact cassettes, flexidiscs, gold SACDs, 4-track cartridges, Playtapes, reel-to-reel tapes, and Pocket Rockers!

Other chapters delve into super granular topics: How many different formats of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon are there out there in the universe? Can a person focus in on a single year – in this case 1968 – to collect exclusively?

Other pages detail specific record labels, records about witchcraft and Christmas, 50 essential punk rock 45s, collecting pre-fame Jimi Hendrix, and the real (and faked) collaborations between members of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. In 1968 journalist Martin Lewis as a joke made up two collaborations between the groups titled "Pink Litmus Paper Shirt" and "Colliding Circles" — titles taken from poems he'd written as a teen. He was  shocked to find the non-existent numbers often cited in "official" Beatles/Stones discographies even decades later.

Thompson also includes a sort of top ten collectible rarities of specific acts, from Elvis Presley all the way down to Robyn Hitchcock and the Soft Boys (one from that list would be the single for “Angelpoise Lamp.” What? You didn’t know that? Amateur.

Throughout, the book is chock full of photos of music ephemera dating back to the days of Thomas Edison in vibrant color. At times – and despite Thompson’s often lively, snarky prose – the text does get very, very detailed.

The reader may find himself skipping over sections that don’t pique his curiosity or about performers and subjects not to his interest. But then again, isn’t that sort of like what you do at a great crate digging hunt at a used record store, convention, or flea market?

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