(Full disclosure: “Licorice Pizza” was actually the name of a retail chain back in the ’70s, based in southern California. The moniker is also an accurate and whimsical term for LP records. I never patronized a Licorice Pizza store, but there were plenty of other chains in Bubbaland, like Turtle’s and Record Bar. There was also the gigantic Peaches store in Atlanta that had an outdoor display of handprints, etc. pressed into concrete by rock stars.)
There’s been a recent propensity for some musical artists to release their latest albums on vinyl 12-inch LPs in addition to digital download formats and maybe on CD. The new version of “licorice pizza” is reportedly a high-quality material that provides optimum fidelity and such albums are quite expensive, especially when compared to LP prices when 12-inch platters were the dominant format.
Indeed, veteran singer/guitarist Jim Messina’s recent live album was titled “In The Groove” because it was originally intended to be released only in the LP format.
“(Vinyl) was ‘trendy’,” Messina said, “but I realized I could only get 20 minutes on each side, and my (live) set ran 90-something minutes.”
Accordingly, “In The Groove” was also marketed in digital download formats and on CDs. It’s an excellent retrospective on Messina’s career with the Buffalo Springfield, Poco, Loggins" Messina and his solo efforts.
A couple of weekends ago, I attended a record exposition held in the gymnasium of the Gardendale Civic Center. Sponsored by the Birmingham Record Collectors, it was billed as one of the South’s largest events of its type, and while a token amount of CDs was available, the dominant merchandise consisted of thousands of black platters that were several decades old.
The demographic in this phenomenon seemed to be primarily baby boomers. Some exhibitors and attendees had come from a considerable distance. I had a pleasant conversation with a couple from West Palm Beach, Florida.
I also chewed the fat with a good ol’ boy from Pinson (all of a dozen miles from the venue). He’s a retired firefighter and has been wheeling and dealing with records for decades. His insight was enlightening.
Like any collectible, there are iconic albums and singles that are rare and valuable. The most collectible album the Pinson aficionado had owned (and sold) was the Beatles’ “Yesterday and Today” album with the notorious “butcher shop” cover photo.
The condition of albums and their covers is an obvious factor among collectors. It’s also no surprise factory-sealed items would be highly prized.
Albums with “gimmicks” (a reticular image on a Rolling Stones cover would be exemplary) as well as records with iconic illustrations — as noted in this space some time ago — are sought by record collectors.
There are also “picture discs,” which have an image beneath their playing surface. Most folks remember having seen those items as a fad in the ’70s. Many of the picture discs from the ’70s were limited editions or promotional items that hyped a particular artist or band. The audio on picture discs will usually be inferior to a standard record, but that factor doesn’t seem to matter to collectors, as once again, rarity and condition figure into the desirability of such “illustrated records.”
To their credit, the show promoters made announcements over the P.A. system about exhibitors and attendees seeking specific albums.
As a non-collector, I experienced a bit of wistfulness a lot of the music in the primary format on which I first heard such songs was now collectible. I made the switch to compact discs in the late ’80s, but a lot of my CD collection is comprised of albums I originally owned as LPs sporting memorable cover art.
These days CDs are reportedly heading toward obsolescence, and at my age I can’t justify another massive conversion of my musical library. I don’t want to know about downloading old favorites.
Maybe some company will continue to manufacture CD players for the foreseeable future.
I’ve also got a Sony direct-drive turntable stored away. I haven’t used it in decades, and I don’t anticipate pulling it out and cranking it back up.