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Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Vintage LPs Vinyl Records Phonograph Death and ReBirth

WickerWoodWorks  sells "The Turntable Station" to neatly house your collection. 

One thing often overlooked on this plastics blog is the vinyl record.  Starting as a way to record voice or date the early mechanisms in the 1890's went through some trial and tribulations. The "record" was made in all experimental sizes from 7 inch to 10 inch and early 78's would then be a fad.  We often equate this to Edison's phonograph, and early Victrola players, yet early Gramophone style recorders and record devices were being made in other countries.  A very good history can be found on Wikipedia and case in point gets rather confusing with so many early markers rushing to get on the bandwagon. 

The earliest "records" were most likely NOT plastic but made of heavier material (much like slate) or lacquer acetate.  In fact I once dropped my great grandmother's 78rpm record and it shattered into a bunch of pieces and shards resembled glass. Woops.

I read that the Germans were actually the ones to cut the first recording on true plastic though there is surely some debate about this, as the US would like to think it was us. In fact technically speaking we were taught that Edison created the photograph LP yet this may not be entirely the case. 

As far as the Germans being ahead of the game, it wouldn't surprise me if it is true since Germany had the best colleges for obtaining engineering degrees in plastics back during this time.  Casein, a plastic derived from milk, was an early development in Germany and led to so much plastic innovation. Some debate over the first plastic ever made was said to come from the UK. Wonder if that fella went to a German college? In my humble opinion, Germany is somewhat responsible for the plastics we have today. This was due to the fact that the chemists, scientists, and engineers had a college excelling in this study. 

Many of our plastics forefathers, members of the early Plastics Society and early developers of plastics such as the ones I speak often about at Northern Industrial Chemical Society (Boston's great early plastics factory) went to Germany to obtain their degree. So, I for one would like to say thanks to the Germans for not only having the studies that we lacked, but in fact, if you did create the plastic record.

None the less, growing up in the 80's my parents had a long wooden RCA Stereo cabinet that played both 78's and 45's. Music is such a powerful tool, you can be redirected to a time and place just like it was yesterday by hearing a song. Has that ever happened to you?  Of course as a child, I knew by type of music they were playing what kind of day it was going to be.  When my stepfather would put on the Four Tops LP,  he was in a good mood.  When mom played Patsy Cline, they were missing someone.  Then when Wham came on, it was time for bed because he was trying to get romantic with my mom.  I can still hear the little skip mark in my mind from the Michael Jackson Thriller album, where it was scratched in the Billie Jean song because I had accidentally pulled the needle across it trying to skip to that song. 


Records began to slow down during innovation.  The small casette tape came out and was a good way to listen to your favorite artists in your car (and the smaller tape reduced storage of the previously large 8 track tape).  The death of the record is certainly via CDs.  Vinyl records that were once played (and mixed) by the local club  DJs were being given away and forgotten by the new lightweight (less to set up in the club and carry) CDs. Don't worry about carrying 100 records to play 100 songs, now you could cut them all on one CD.  Great for moving forward, but bad for the mere fact so many records were in so many homes.  

LPs would now be donated by the thousands to thrift stores.  Rummage sales, churches, estate sales, flea markets were loaded with them. People who would not be able to donate them or give them away, then stuck them in their attics or basements for storage, which they would find had later warped from the heat in the attic or molded covers in a damp basement. Wasted, dead.   The thrift stores tried to move them but soon found they had so many that were clogging up space because no one wanted them anymore.  Some would post a sign "no donations of records."  Crafters were trying to preserve these items in history by making record book purses, record popcorn bowls and wall clocks. This fad was tacky and short lived due to the style of decor always changing.  Their efforts just weren't enough. The death of vinyl was here.  Ironically during this time, bands like Pearl Jam were still making vinyl records and their followers were still buying.  I cannot fathom how many ended in up landfills during the 90s into 2000's.  I do not want to think about it. 


Believe it or not, records were still being produced and still are produced today.  What was once old is new again.  Just like those 70's bell bottom pants came back around a decade ago as "wide leg".  I suppose for me, walking into the local Wally World and seeing a brand new LP player that was made of plastic and made to look vintage turned my head. First and foremost, I thought it was a radio made to look like a record player, but no, it was certainly a record player. Wow. I had to stop and stare for a moment because obviously I'm a bit puzzled.  A zillion LPs end up in landfills NOW you want to reinvnet the players?  I am sure they have been around for some time, but I don't shop the morden day electronics and appliances as often as I should :)


For the person who held onto their collection, good for you. For new record collectors still obtaining vintage records is easy, however, some stock of course had been rare or unobtainable due to the fact people played them to death or sent them to the landfill. 

It wasn't until my latest vintage podcast on Record collecting did I fully understand what to collect and why.  Is it profitable?  It is worth the storage space? When should you spent the $1 and buy the album to resell or save?  Find out via my podcast when I talked to ex DJ Eddie G from Baltimore, who is a regular guest on my show.  

Tell me about your collection!  Find me under RetroChalet on IG or TikTok

Thanks to podcast sponsors like Shafollo shop, this word "shafollo" means success in Bangali. The shop helps women rise above their economic conditions and produce art for sale on Amazon and Etsy. Follow on Twitter at Shafollo30 or check out this pick, what I like to call the Viking Cross pendant, shipped to your door handmade for $25.

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