Another weekend comes to a close, and it’s Monday and that means it’s time for a history lesson. Today’s topic is history for me, but likely nostalgia for many of you reading this. I almost discussed the start of the War of 1812 & the Battle of Waterloo, but I like to discuss historical events that sometimes get overlooked as notable events on that particular day in history. By the way, feel free to comment and disagree with my take on today’s historical event — the introduction of the Long Playing (LP) record.
That’s right, on this day seventy years ago the LP record was introduced by Columbia records at a press conference at the Waldorf Astoria hotel. For the music industry this was significant because it allowed pop artists to release an entire album on one disc. Columbia’s creation of the LP was meant to change the use of the 78-record. Previously, the 78-rpm record allowed only songs less than 5 minutes on each side. These disadvantages produced by the 78-record were caused by the unique construction using shellac type material and a much larger groove than the LP. The LP record was produced in the 12-inch diameter and 10-inch diameter sizes to compete with the 78-record that was also 12 inches in diameter.
The LP record was revolutionary not because of its diameter or material, but because of microgrooves that were not as susceptible to static and destruction as the 78-record. Columbia’s invention of the LP spurred their competitor RCA Victor to produce the 45-record, and even though the 45 had more advantages over the LP, the 45 or Extended Play (EP), was only able to replace the 78-record as the preferred format for singles, and the LP was for full albums.
LP records quickly supplanted 78-records in less than five years, and become the standard for a full album, and as mentioned before the EP was the main format for singles. Both the LP & EP formats continued their dominance their dominance into the late 1970s and were supplanted by cassette tapes.
The LP proved to music marketers that consumers wanted a format that allowed for multiple songs on one disc instead of the compilation album of discs that equaled a full album. This revelation in the music industry led to each successive format that contained more than one song on the format. Following the LP’s success, the cassette tape was an attempt to resolve issues with record player styluses and vinyl decay. Cassettes took only a little time to challenge records as the format for automobile radios, but only were able to be competitive with records towards the end of the 1970s. Cassettes enjoyed only about a decade as the preferred format and were knocked out of the market by Compact Discs (CDs). CDs much like their predecessor the cassette were the major format for almost a decade until the mp3 format was able to become an alternative.
There are still music aficionados who value LPs and keep them with other valuables and collect them like unopened action figures and other collectibles. These aficionados also prefer the pops and clicks of vinyl as they contribute a more organic version of the artist than the sanitized and overproduced music of the current generation. Although, I seriously doubt that they will ever change from anything but a collectible and may sadly be disposed of by those unaware of the LP’s significance. I wouldn’t be surprised if CDs eventually become much more like LPs and EPs and artists just release their albums as mp3s only and the tangible product goes away. It seems almost inevitable as everything becomes digital. I’d hate for that to happen obviously, but I’m just proffering my hypothesis.
What about you, how many LPS (or Eps) do you have in your house? Do you like original LPS or the remastered digital formats on CDs and mp3s?