Digital downloads? Pfft… it’s all about the vinyl

There’s a very simple reason why, a few decades ago, so many things changed almost entirely overnight. A cataclysmic advent brought to their knees entire industries and changed our lifestyle, though whether it was for the better is yet to be seen. Two words: Internet and Mobile. Everything on this Earth (or almost) was replicated on a digital platform which could be accessed and shared by all. You wanted to buy those pair of shoes but can’t stand queueing at the till? Shop online. Can’t get enough of a fix from that online game? Play it on your phone when you’re on the way to work. Don’t have time to read? Download the audio book and listen to it on your way to work. It revolutionised the way we thought and did things, speeding processes to conform with our hectic lifestyle.

Take vinyl for instance. A decade ago the prospect of playing your music on vinyl was scoffed at. Record players had been consigned to the same dustbin of history that contains Betamax video recorders and cassette players. The world had embraced the digital download – albeit pausing for a stop-off at the compact disc aisle along the way – and a sharp, crisp sound with a discernible lack of crackle and hiss was deemed the way forward.

And then the hipster generation happened. We started appreciating the beauty of slowing down and taking our time to do things. “Vintage” and “retro” became the “in” way of life and people the world over returned to their attic to blow dust from their parents’ hoarded antiques.

Out of the blue came a vinyl revival and overnight ‘crackle and hiss’ was replaced with ‘depth and warmth’ and a new generation of record players went into production; needles, turntables, 45rpm, the lot…

Vinyl put the hip back in hipster and the presses started pressing again. Such was the increase in interest sales of vinyl records that it reached a 25-year high in 2016 as the record buying public, both young and old, once again discovered the joy that can be gleaned when needle meets plastic. Not since the halcyon days of 1991 – when Simply Red’s Stars was the bestselling album of the year – had more LPs been sold. It also had the effect of rekindling the love for existing vinyl libraries. Even Gamblib blew the dust off his old vinyl collection and that made him check what they’re worth today.

Those who had sold off their vinyl collections because ‘why keep them when there’s nothing to play them on’ were suddenly cursing that decision and that otherwise boring old rule of supply and demand all of a suddenly meant that records of a certain ilk had a certain value. Vinyl was reborn and those who hadn’t culled anything that wasn’t compact or digital started to dust down their collections to see if anything of value lurked in their cupboards, lofts and garages…

Golden Nuggets

Most would have ended up disappointed because, if you think about it, there were hundreds of millions of LPs sold in the 60s, 70s and 80s, not to mention 7-inch and 12-inch singles, and so there are still likely to be large numbers in circulation, but among them are some golden nuggets. Rarities do exist, and these are the ones that you do need to find protected by several layers of dust at the back of your wardrobe in the spare room.

On our graphic we’ve highlighted the most expensive vinyl classics and a quick skim down will not only startle as to the sums that a bit of fancy plastic can generate but also shows what it takes to make it onto the vinyl collectors’ ‘Holy Grail’.

God Save the Pistols

Top of the pile is a seven-inch version of God Save the Queen by the Sex Pistols, of which there are only nine known copies in existence. Given the notoriety of both band and song this may sound odd but said version of single was pressed during the band’s very brief tenure with A&M Records – one that lasted just six days. After the band announced their new label and upcoming single “God Save the Queen,” they reportedly returned to the A&M offices, totally obliterated it, and proceeded to wreak havoc. Sid Vicious, new to the band at the time, is said to have destroyed a toilet bowl and dragged his bloodied foot across the office while John Lyndon allegedly mouthed off to A&M office staff. Lyndon then allegedly followed his outburst with another diatribe a few days later that included a death threat to a good friend of A&M’s English director. A&M decided that they had seen enough and cut ties with the band, terminating their contract and destroying the majority of the 25,000 7″ God Save the Queen singles. The nine that remain are therefore in demand, their sale value being estimated at a whopping £8,600

Unsurprisingly the Beatles make it into our chart just as they did with record-breaking regularity in the 1960s at both numbers 2 and 3.

Fab Four Gold

Tucked in at 2 behind the Pistols is an early, mono version of their first studio album, Please Please Me. Parlophone Records decided to rush release the album in order to capitalise on the huge success of Please Please Me, the single, and Love Me Do and so the mono version was rushed into the shops a full six weeks before the stereo version. The album cover also contains some incorrect publishing credits for four of the tracks, all of which conspires to make it vinyl collectors’ gold dust.

At number 3 is a relatively unknown Beatles album entitled Introducing… The Beatles, which VJ Records intended to be their debut LP in the US – just as the title suggests. What transpired however was that another Fab Four album, Meet the Beatles! beat ‘Introducing…’ to the US number one spot and stayed there for eleven consecutive weeks. As a result, ‘Introducing…’ was marooned at number two in the US chart for nine of those eleven weeks.

Both Beatles’ albums are valued at in excess of £6,000, so maybe worth a quick check.

Stay Classy

Things get properly classy for number four in our chart with a rare LP version of Bach/Mozart Violin Concertos – Gioconda de Vito plays violin and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra are conducted by Rafael Kuvbelik – giving our chart a classic feel. The version in question is a ‘HMV Cream and Gold Label First Pressing’ and is the first pressing in the UK of de Vito’s only stereo recording.

This is far from a one-off however and classic pieces by relatively obscure artistes such as Ernest AnsemetShrurichtJanos StarkerLeonid KoganSamson Francois and Kurt Leimer (no, me neither) have made our chart, most of them rarities whose value comes from there being only a few in original production.

Star Man on Acetate

Rock n’ Roll Hall of Famers are still well represented, as you’d expect, and the Beatles appear again at number 16 with a rare version of Yesterday And Today and Paul McCartney as a solo artist appears at number 5 with his post-Beatles album Ram, which includes several not particularly subtle digs at one John Lennon. Bowie too pops up with a version of his tenth studio album Station to Station with a rare acetate version making it to number 8 in our chart with a value of £3,248

The chart, by its very nature, features some obscure stuff but it’s topped off by the very antithesis of the classical pieces at number 23 with a little-known classic called Sick Of Da B******t! by a US hip-hop group called Natives In Black. A quick skim down the list of tracks will confirm it’s as far removed from Bach and Mozart as is humanly possible, and it’s probably a good thing that this album was never commercially released!

The love for retro in recent years has been manifesting itself everywhere. Fashion is seeing an 80s revival with boyfriend and mum jeans and flared bottoms. Round sunglasses reminiscent of the hippie generation spearheaded by John Lennon are making a comeback too. People seek to invest a fortune in retro cars, gadgets fitted with the smell of yesterday or even retro-themed online games. From the choice of which TV series to watch (Stranger Things, anyone?) to their next hairstyle. And let’s face it, when has history ever gone out of fashion? Like a wheel, it will keep on repeating itself, picking at the most beautiful sounds or sights from a particular era and replaying them over and over again.