Records are records are records right? Circular things with grooves that contain music that you need to look after? No. Not if you’re a youngster. (By that I mean sub 30) The Record Collector types and the Mojo Man are getting on a bit -keepin’ on keepin’ on… I like the new vinyl buyers a lot as they are more vibrant and healthy than my bretheren, but there is one thing I’d like to talk about:
These healthy record buying youngsters call records “vinyls”… All of them do! And it has become contagious; even old bands are calling them vinyls and folk even older than them are emailing me about their vinyls for sale. So with the realisation that even people that grew up with records are calling them vinyls, I capitulated last year and became tongue in cheek @VoxBoxVinyls for a while on Twitter and put up a sign saying “Vinyls for sale”. Was that an apostrophe away from being correct?
I’ve actually grown to like the term vinyls. It makes me feel young and want to throw my walking stick away. Ah let’s go shopping for some vinyls! I bought a great vinyl the other day! I love my vinyl player! I’m building up a great collection of vinyls! I can’t wait for Vinyl Store Day! I love shopping at VoxBox Vinyls! Harry has said something! If you can’t be bothered to try to beat them and can’t bring yourself to join them AND have a vinyls shop, still at least be glad of these youngsters. For this is the future. -You may not like it much but you will have to live in it.
The old guard; the record collectors and dance DJs that kept the format alive through the 1990s onward don’t like the word vinyls. To them, it like calling a flock of sheep “sheeps”. The plural of vinyl is vinyl they say; or more accurately, when they overhear you youngsters call records “vinyls” it is as if you asked them to close their eyes and then simulated the cracking of an egg over their head by clapping your hands together and then used your fingers to trickle pretend egg down and all over their face.
As I’m of a certain age and have been in among records for a long time, the term vinyls does also annoy me a bit but I can’t see things changing and I do get a wee bit of pleasure seeing the 1990s house music purist get all Basil Fawlty about it.
The term vinyls is generally used to describe new albums released as records on vinyl but it is a shame as it makes the description clunky as for example people are looking for “vinyl records” rather than records or vinyl and there is a difference. There has certainly been a lot adaptation of the terminology. – Lady Gaga will call a single only available as a download a record. Maybe that’s were the need to specify comes from. The kids say duh! Everyone knows a record is a download. A “vinyl record” is when you get a vinyl with it.
It’s the shops that have to change but also be at the leading edge of informing new artists and labels about what it is that they are putting out. Meanwhile… In these transitional times, VoxBox has developed a ready reckoner for the budding connoisseur. (An old fashioned app)
The VoxBox Vinyls App:
Record: Round flat disc played with a stylus.
Single: As above. A normal single has one song on each side and is known as “a 45” or a “seven inch” record. They are seven inches in diameter and usually play at 45rpm. Simple.
12 inch single: A single can also be released as a 12 inch record. Often have extended dance version with remixes. These are known as “12 inchers” or “twelves” and usually play at 45rpm.
EPs: Some seven inch records have more than 2 tracks. These are EPs – Extended Play singles. Having 3 tracks is actually a grey area –they could still be called a single with a bonus track- but one with 4 tracks is definitely an EP. These can be 7 inch, 10 inch or 12 inch and can play at 45 or 33 1/3rpm.
Album: An album is usually 12 inches in diameter but they aren’t ever called 12 inch records or 12 inchers. They are only ever called albums or LPs (Long Players). They play at 33 1/3 rpm.
It can get a bit confusing.
So albums play at 33 1/3rpm? Yes. Unless they play at 45 rpm… Some single albums are re-released as double albums to be played a bit faster. The faster a record goes, the more information the needle can gather every second so the sound quality should be better. Unfortunately you have to get up and turn the record over more often. So life quality goes down.
Some albums are released as 10 inch records. There is absolutely no reason for a band to do this and it makes organising your record collection a lot more difficult. 10 inch records are usually EPs and although they can often contain enough songs to be called albums they are never called LPs. If your favourite band release an album on 10 inch vinyl or even worse, double 10 inch vinyl (I’m looking at you Radiohead) please write in to complain. Not to me.
So, in summary, 7 inch singles that are longer are sometimes played at 33 1/3 rpm rather than 45rpm but are still called 45s. Short 7 inch EPs are often played at 45rpm but are never called 45s. 12 inch records are albums unless they are singles or Eps. Some 10 inchers are albums but not LPs. Albums are on 10 or 12 inch vinyl and are never called a 12 inch or incher but they can be called a 10 inch but not a 10 incher. Some Eps are 10 inchers. Some 10 inchers are 78s -but they definitely aren’t called 10 inchers (see below). Some 7 inchers are Eps and play at 45rpm but they are not called 45s. A 10 inch that plays at 45rpm is not a 45. No Eps are albums unless they are mini-albums or a double EP. And CDs are 3 inchers but no-one has or will ever called them that.
IS THAT CLEAR!
But there’s more:
Can we now at least all agree that records are made of vinyl?
Well, maybe yes. That is, some are not. Test pressings were originally made of a metal plate coated in a waxy substance called acetone (These are known as acetates) and the first records were made of shellac, an ooze harvested from the underappreciated Lac Beetle. In which case they are still called records or maybe 78s, or your “BIG ten inch” if you have that wonderful Bullmoose Jackson record, but never shellacs or singles although they are technically singles, having a single song on each side. They are usually 10 inches in diameter and these will normally play at 78rpm… unless they play at somewhere between 76 and 80rpm or as low as 16rpm. To get a full album of songs or more likely, to fit in a whole symphony, they would come with their sleeves bound together like a book. –much like a photo album.
And that’s where the term album comes from.
So now you know.
Coming next week: Kiss my Acetates… Me and my wax.
Meanwile listen to this and contemplate a well labelled record.
* The original CD 3-incher was designed to hold 74 minutes. Enough to fit in Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.