Saturday, 21 September 2013

Weird Records

In an age where idiots such as myself, can very easily make a grab for my 15 minutes of fame via the Internet - YouTube springs to mind as the quickest way to record a song, film an event, or even make your own film, and post it to a world audience - then the idea that any other method once existed is something of new one.

Of course 'vanity publishing', where you paid for a limited print run of a self written book, then gave copies to friends etc, and hoped that this might generate some interest and prompt a publisher to buy up the rights, and publish more copies, is as old as publishing itself. Indeed this form of publishing is more popular than ever in the age of the computer and desktop publishing, and I know of at least two people who have paid a few hundred pounds for a run of 50 to 100 books (illustrated books cost more), and then told everyone that they had 'written a book and been published', neglecting to point out that it was a self publication. Indeed the arrival of eBook publishing has led the self published book Fifty Shades of Grey, to become a worldwide sales phenomenon.  

However, what did you do if you wanted an audio record?

Well famously, there used to be booths in some record shops in the 1950's and 1960's, where you could sing into a microphone, and a single vinyl record would be produced, but this had no fancy sleeve cover, and of course, usually there was just one rather expensive 'promo' copy produced.

Then as discussed before on this blog, the age of the tape recorder opened up a chance to comparatively cheaply produce a dozen or so copies, but they were hardly satisfactory as sellable adverts of a persons talents - and even after the advent of the cassette tape, when you could make make cheap transportable copies of your work, it was hardly good enough to pass off as a 'professional' production. Only later with desktop publishing, when you could even add coloured 'professional' labels, was this self recording viable, but by then the cassette was largely dead (outside of a limited audience for band promos), so this was a very small market ....

But there was for a brief time, another market that flourished. This was when the pressing plants themselves (where the vinyl Long Players and Singles where actually produced), started advertising on US TV, that you too could become a recording artist (with a  professional print sleeve cover of your design), but you needed to pay for a minimum run of 500 copies .... so not cheap, but affordable if you wanted it bad enough.

So in the 1950's, right through to the 1990's in the USA, this form of self recording flourished, even though few, if any of these records ever 'sold', and most ended up as purely vanity projects. Sadly, their day ended with the CD, Internet and YouTube, but these records are now collectables, not for their musical quality, but for their goofiness, their rareness (they may well be the only copy left), and possibly their 'can do' spirit .... 

If this post has piqued your interest in the subject, look out for the book 'Enjoy the Experience'  (ISBN-10: 1938265041) edited by Johan Kugelberg, Michael P Daley and Paul Major.   

Personally I like the covers for what they say about the artists motivations in self producing these albums, and not for the records they contain ....



  1. Nice piece, an unexpected and interesting subject.

    1. Yes, it's certainly something I wasn't really aware of until I started thinking about vanity publishing, and the research pointed to the subject of Personal LP's.

  2. This is an interesting article. I enjoyed it, but what those girls called the shags were thinking of god only knows.

    1. Maybe, 'Rudy Q Jones, soldier for Jesus' ... May know why.

    2. The Shags are my personal favourites as well .... I guess it just doesn't mean the same in the US ... giggity giggity as Quagmire would say.


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