It's been argued time and time again, vinyl versus CD. There are pros and cons for both formats. As a buyer of both I can conduct the debate from my own personal experiences. You, as a reader, may disagree, different generations will say different things but these are my own conclusions.
Be it the 7" single, the 12" multi-track versions, the 4 track E.P. or the album, the vinyl format was special.
For the most part of the 80s vinyl's only opposition was the tape, or cassette. In reality, you could "record" your vinyl albums onto cassettes to be an ideal companion playing in your car or your portable tape recorder. Another advantage of the cassette was recording the Top 40 on Radio 1 in the UK on a Sunday night, desperately trying to pause when the DJ talked over the song!
The fury today of people downloading music is a nonsense. I taped the Top 40 to have all the songs I liked to listen to in one go and help me decide which singles I was going to buy when I had money. As pocket money was at a premium I couldn't afford the whole Top 40 chart. So, when the pocket money arrived I would set out on the weekend to my local music store and buy an album or several singles for my £5 or £10 if I saved up!
I always looked forward to buying vinyl, the glossy or paper covers expertly designed. I would often just sit down with all my singles and albums and marvel at the covers for hours reading the inner sleeves or just choosing my favourite. They were treasured items. The sound may have crackled at the start but just having the song or album for your very own listening pleasure was brilliant after only hearing a snippet on the radio. The crackles were no problem, it was the whole exciting package for me.
The joy in seeing the stunning Debbie Harry in close up on the cover of Blondie's single "Sunday Girl". The secret embarrassment but quiet amusement at the quite naughty gatefold sleeve picture of Frankie Goes To Hollywood's album "Welcome To The Pleasuredome"! The amazing warrior image cover of Adam on Adam And The Ants' "Kings Of The Wild Frontier" and a free booklet inside! This was an art form in itself, and the whole package of having your favourite music inside photographed or specially designed sleeves brought you closer to the artist somehow. It is hard to explain.
I remember my first vinyl single as has previously been mentioned in a blog, it was Cliff Richard's "Dreamin'", my first album was more befitting of my current tastes, it was Blondie's "Eat To The Beat".
I always remember my brother doing his disco, he had a stack of 12" singles, full of extended versions, club mixes and remixes. These and the horde of 80s singles and his rock albums filled his room. I would sneak in and tape them all while he was out so I could have them too! I also bought some cassette abums because I had been given a "boom box" for Christmas one year and needed them to impress (or annoy) my friends outside!
Tapes were cheaper but the covers just weren't the same as my amazing vinyl sleeves. When I started writing song lyrics I used to design and create my own single and album record sleeves to match my songs. This of course was in readiness for my impending fame as a top pop star! (no giggling at the back please!).
The vinyl sleeves were as important as the music contained on those black circular things, it was definitely the whole package that was the appeal for me. They were like books you could just pull out at any time and just look at the covers or sing along with the lyrics and imagine you are your favourite star.
Although they did take up a lot of storage space it was worth it!
Oh and by the way, they also made picture discs on vinyl, which of mine, never got played, they looked brilliant. Bootleg buying was the highlight of my Record Fair visiting days as well.
When CDs came, it was considered a young upstart to the proven format of vinyl. I admit, it took me a while to consider these new small round things. On trying to remember my first ever bought CD I simply cannot recall what it was.
Although the sound quality is pure and crisp and the disc more durable, the packaging is incomparable to the vinyl version. You can still get CD singles, more mixes on an extra CD and more tracks when you record your own CDs. However, in the 80s the only way to own music was to record it from the radio complete with sudden stops when the DJ talks or actually buy the vinyl records or cassettes.
In the CD age, the Internet is effectively making the CD defunct. Now you can stream perfect songs, buy and download MP3s, make your own CDs, your own playlists etc. Music is openly available everywhere, PCs, laptops, tablets, iPods, Spotify, iTunes and the like. Whereas the vinyl was THE format to have, the CD is just one of a variety of ways to obtain music, so thus making it less special.
You can even make your own covers, you could never make a vinyl cover for your promo vinyl!
The booklets are all very nice but some of the new digipak albums don't even have that, or lyrics or even info about the artist. CD makers will say "it's all about the music", maybe it is, but if that is so, why are there certain talent shows ignoring good music for personality and good looks? I personally think the music buyers of today are being cheated.
If I buy a CD I'll take the front cover, the booklet and the CD, trim the back cover and put it in a clear sleeve, the box goes in the rubbish. So it's now it takes even less storage space. Unless of course it is a digipak or limited edition special etc.
I have the music, the CD or the MP3s, there's no experience with it, unless you see the artist live. Today's gig prices are ridiculous so unless you have a pot of money you don't get closer to the artists. Without seeing the artists live, in the 80s you saw the video on TV, you were excited to what original song would be the B-side, what will be on the 12" and if there's a free poster or booklet with the album and the lyrics to sing along.
The CD music quality is second to none, so I can't say they are a throwaway format. I have only bought CD singles in the past for my two favourite artists Madonna and Prince, but that's only because I have a massive collection of both. Even that has stopped now, it's just the albums.
If I like an artist I may download a song or buy an MP3. I'm a music lover, if music is available I am going to take it for my own listening pleasure. I am against people downloading songs and selling albums for their own profit, that is wrong. In my point of view, if I download a few songs to listen to, I may buy the album and/or tell other people how good this artist is, thus making more fans open to their music. It is a different age, music is everywhere you go and the artists have to realise that stopping people from listening, with the money they make already, is defeating the object of gaining fans. Even though I am a massive fan of Prince, he has, at the time of writing taken off his music from YouTube, Spotify and other music streaming platforms. He is not the only one, I find it strange, surely, as an artist, you would want as many people to hear your music as is humanly possible!
I digress, the CD has one major plus value, the CD Box sets are really nice, and I have a few, so it's not all doom and gloom against CDs!
So, all in all, the vinyl wins every time, it's the whole product you are purchasing. It's the look and the feel, and also because it had no real competition. You either bought vinyl, or settled for the lower quality cassette, or DJ commentated song endings on radio!
A resounding win for the 80s vinyl, you may disagree, it's inevitable some of you music listeners out there will, that's what music brings, debate, tastes, genres, favourites and lesser favourites. Thanks for reading!
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