The Great Vinyl Purge Ca. 1985

Radio Shack's Realistic CD-1000 CD player changed everything…

Radio Shack’s Realistic CD-1000 CD player changed everything…

I saw the first trickle of import CDs reach Central Florida some time in late 1982-early 1983. The first titles were incredibly conservative; your top selling Phil Collins-type titles. Nothing to see here. But by the point where I could see Ultravox’s “Quartet” album [which was digitally recorded] under the glass case at Record City Colonial, the new upstart music format started to get personal. I remember the threshold that was crossed in the Spring of 1985 when Tears For Fears’ “Songs From The Big Chair” could earn ink simply on its merits of being released on vinyl and CD on the same day! Prior to that, even Phil had to wait for one of the three pressing plants in the far east to fulfill back orders for his titles weeks or even months after the cassettes and LPs had initially shipped.

But the CD player was an abstraction selling for a grand or more for the first couple of years. Too rich for my blood. That changed in the summer of 1985 when Radio Shack were liquidating their initial CD player model for the incredible blowout price of $500! They had to make room for the new models, I guess, so that week not just me, but two other friends as well marched into the local Radio Shack and laid our money down. I had two CD titles in the Record Cell prior to this; bought at Retro Records used for $10.oo a pop. My first titles were Kate Bush’s “Lionheart” and OMD’s “Architecture + Morality.” The day I bought that player, I went to Murmur Records and bought another used CD; ABC’s “The Lexicon Of Love.” So that first night I had three titles to obsess over. This needed to change, and fast!

longbox

The longbox lasted from 1984-1992

CDs were $12.99 on average, and still came packaged in longboxes that could fit two rows of CDs in the bins that formerly held 12″ vinyl. Some CDs were just sold in clear “clamshell” plastic packaging, roughly the size of the longbox. I suspect that most of those were just import CDs packaged in the clamshells for sale in America, where everything has to be sold in a  sealed package! Of course, what held my interest were import CDs, which typically came only in clamshells [at least in big chain stores that trafficked in imports, like Peaches]. In indie stores there was no packaging at all. The naked discs were sold as they were in their country of origin. Imports were generally $15.00-18.00 in price. To offset the price, imports often had bonus tracks where B-sides or remixes were appended to the discs way before the practice hit the domestic product. In many cases, the imports appeared long before their domestic counterparts, which, in standard industry practice, could differ greatly.

So it was 1985. I had a $500 CD player that was hungry for product. I had hundreds of records, little money, and a few CDs trickling in. How best to change this scenario? The record stores that I shopped for used records in had the answer. It was actually possible to trade in used vinyl for store credit that I then could buy CDs with. Absolutely new CDs if I didn’t mind taking the trade hit. I had lots of vinyl to amortize, so I picked through the collection and traded off titles that I felt I would be getting on CD in the coming months/years. Most of these were not part of my “core collection.” Meaning that they were artists that I didn’t “collect.” So I sacrificed them so that I could have more shiny silver discs to feed the Realistic CD-1000 with.

For the first couple of years, this didn’t bother me, but eventually, the reality of which titles made the digital transition come back to haunt me. It was about 1988 when I began to pine for the second Buggles album, long gone on US Carerre LP and still no CD either! As a last resort, I began to hunt for the vinyl copy of “Adventures In Modern recording,” but to no avail. It remained until our Japanese friends at Jimco issued the first CD in the world of this title that I could finally listen to it again. For my ears, it was the harbinger of the ZTT sound that then erupted with ABC, albeit cut with Prog chops. By the late 80s, I had begun re-purchasing vinyl titles that I may have bought for $4-5 used to begin with, had gotten $3 trade-in value for for buy CDs, and finally re-purchased in the early 90s for as little as $1-2. Titles like The Photos debut album come to mind when thinking of this trend immediately. Even so, there were casualties on that purge list that I’ve never replaced… in any format!

OMD-junkcultureUKLPAThe one thing I used to do that has really come back to haunt me was the practice of trading in vinyl of titles that I subsequently bought on CD! I did this even for “core collection” bands! Your OMDs. Your Ultravoxes. Your Simple Minds. Ouch! I had nice import, copies of the OMD albums through “Junk Culture” and these were fine, Peter Saville covers! I eventually got the die-cut blue/orange copy, which I never previously had of “Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark.” Losing my US Virgin/Epic copy of “Dazzle Ships” didn’t sting since I bought the deluxe, UK die-cut, fold-out pressing of the same when I finally saw a copy for sale at Wax N’ Facts in the early 90s, but my copy of the second edition OMD sleeve, plus “Organisation,” the die-cut cream sleeve for “Architecture + Morality,” and “Junk Culture” all got traded in. To my chagrin. A small victory ensued when I recently found a UK pressing of “Junk Culture” in Washington D.C. for a good price. One down, three to go.

ultravox - lamentUSLPAAnother traded LP that haunts me to this day is the import copy of Ultravox’s “Lament” that I bought new in Crunchy Armadillo Records in 1984. It had the black on black sleeve that only the import copies sported. US copies had a blue overprint on black which was somewhat déclassé. But this import version had a die-cut window on the front where the Callanish standing stones printed on the glossy card inner sleeve showed through, much like the design that Peter Saville created for OMD’s “Architecture + Morality.” That went out the window for a few bucks in trade value when I bought the UK CD of that title.

Years later, I managed to buy one of the first printing silkscreened LPs of “Lament” which had gloss black ink on flat black paper for an ultra-classy effect and no visible color at all on the outside. Posh, but I still lack the same copy I once owned. What’s worse, all of the collector references I can find online don’t even mention the die-cut variation that I once had, so I can’t really buy it simply because no one is offering it!

I.R.S. | US | LP | 1987 | IRS-5862

But that’s just a warm up for the worst trade-in story I have. In the late 80s, there was a mail-order dealer called Sound City-2000 in Portland that might have started with another name, but I can’t remember. They sent me catalogs full of import CDs from the UK, Germany, and Japan. One day, I saw a holy grail CD being released in Japan: Torch Song’s “Exhibit A” compilation. I ordered the nearly $40 CD since it was the only way to get cult faves Torch Song on CD, compromised as it was. I had the LP of that title and it was a compilation of tracks from their incredibly scarce “Ecstasy” sophomore album, paired with remixes of cuts [that only appeared here] from the wondrous “Wish Thing” debut album. As was often the case with Sound City, they were not able to fulfill my order. But I had traded away my vinyl in the weeks before that salient fact became known, and it took me years to track down another copy of “Exhibit A!” The CD is out there, but it is in the high three figures. Be my guest if you have a spare £273!

As of the early 90s and my transformation into a “record collector” I never got rid of any vinyl for any reason. It just kept building up! Until last year, when I had the revelation that if I wanted any cash to buy all of the many new items that I had no money for, I’d better amortize that large, but not absolutely necessary record collection. So lots of vinyl and CDs of no longer collected bands have been on the chopping block since last Spring and if you click the banners and links in my right hand  sidebar, you will see what is currently deemed surplus in the Record Cell. I sincerely hope I have no regrets on this issue and so far, it seems a good thing… but you never can tell how these issues work out in time.

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About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | media design • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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21 Responses to The Great Vinyl Purge Ca. 1985

  1. jsd says:

    That brings back memories. One of my first 3 CDs was also Kate Bush! I got The Dreaming, Jarre’s Oxygene and Mike Oldfield’s Crises at an overpriced store in Cambridge, MA. My first player was a Sony Discman that I got from an internet pal. I used to cut up the longboxes and use them as ersatz posters on the wall of my college apartment. I also used to do the trade in dance. I remember buying Scritti Politti’s Provision LP on vinyl from In Your Ear in Brookline then quickly trading it in a week later for the promo CD single of Boom There She Was. (Still think I made out well on that trade). Good times.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      jsd – You were lucky! You got a much better Kate Bush CD! Near the end I started saving my longboxes. Not that I ever bought too many things that had them. But it did help that I was able to recently sell a Duran Duran 3″CD with its longbox. That couldn’t have hurt the final bid price! Man, I’ve not heard “Oxygene” in about 35 years!

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  2. Echorich says:

    I wish I could remember the model number of my first cd player…it was single disc drawer style SONY – 13″x13″x2″, silver with and LED read out and 20 individual track buttons which could be expanded by pressing another button simultaneously. I can’t seem to find it on the web to verify the model # but I must have bought it in early to mid 1984. My first cd’s, in order were Ultravox – Rage In Eden, Japan – Oil On Canvas, Kate Bush – Hounds of Love and ABC – How To Be A Zillionaire.
    I never took part in the purge… I decided pretty early on to only duplicate particular albums on CD and in many cases purchased those bands in the core collection on vinyl and cd so as not to have an incomplete vinyl collection.
    By about 1988 purchasing vinyl was moving toward 12′ singles and house music, and cd’s took over for album purchase. 1987’s Music For The Masses by Depeche Mode was the first core collection album purchased only on cd.
    In more recent years, I have duplicated a good deal of the core collection on cd as an easier way to listen to some of those albums and in many cases to get the expanded edition work on cd as well.
    2014 is a year where I plan to revamp my vinyl display to give it more prominent pride of place in my world.

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  3. I cannot recall for sure what was my first-ever CD purchase with my own money: I have a feeling it was Anne Richmond Boston’s brilliant The Big House of Time from Wax n Facts, but it might possibly have been a Wonder Stuff EP I found cheap in Mableton (City of Tomorrow) GA. I know I held out against CDs for quite a while because of the cost of the equipment and the discs (a war I am currently fighting with Blu-ray!).

    I cannot even tell you how many times I have bought a copy of Anne’s album from Danny Beard his own self at his store: it has become something of a ritual, and I did it again on my most recent visit. I know that after I started buying CDs, I too stopped looking at vinyl much and made up for lost time in a big way after that.

    Side note: the copy of Big House of Time I got on this most recent occasion was still in its original 1990 longbox. I’ve never kept longboxes since they were only anti-theft devices, and always seemed an ill-fitting cousin between the original 12-inch artwork and the shrunken-head 4 ¾-inch CD artwork worlds.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      chasinvictoria – Yeah, now that I think about it, I have no recollection as to when you “went CD,” which is strange, since I absolutely know when that happened for many of my friends.

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  4. Brian Ware says:

    I was very late to the party. I was finally given my first player for Christmas of 1988! As a hardcore Split Enz collector I already owned U.S. CDs of “True Colours” and “Conflicting Emotions”, but they were purchased at the time more as collectible pieces of memorabilia. I don’t keep meticulous records like you guys, but I’m pretty sure INXS’s “Kick” and Icehouse’s “Man Of Colours” were among my first. My first import came from across the other big pond – “Fundamental As Anything” by Mental As Anything.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Brian Ware – Thanks for suggesting this topic. Actually, on the subject of records, I actually used to write down everything I bought, where I bought it, and how much I paid for it from roughly 1983-1993. I thought I kept those notes, but the last time I looked in my big box of ephemera, it wasn’t there! I only re-started that practice when I started this blog. I would hate to stop keeping that interesting and useful record a second time. I am chastened that I ever stopped that practice in the 90s! 17 years of data, missing!

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Brian Ware – Sonnuva… Now that you mention it, I gave you “Kick” on CD to help start you off!!!

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  5. Brian Ware says:

    I’ve enjoyed this discussion. Echorich brings up another interesting topic – display vs. storage. How do we integrate our vinyl and CD collections with our home decor? Are they prominently displayed or hidden in back rooms or closets? What’s the best kind of shelving or racks? Might be an interesting topic to discuss.

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  6. Simon H says:

    Great topic. The UK was a bit slower off the mark with CDs I think, my first memory of them came from a tv show where the presenter smeared one with jam(!) and then after some cleaning proudly showed it would still play! Still at that time it was all Dire Straits, Brothers in Arms CDs being bought… I first persuaded my dad to get a player and over a year bought, two Sound CDs (tough to find) and Starfish by the Church. Eventually later in 1988 I picked up a Phillips boom box type cd player that you could also plug in to your system, can’t recall what the sound quality was like!
    I recall it being quite hard to get more ‘alternative’ type stuff on cd as shops were cautious and at best would only stock one copy. I remember going to the Our Price chain in Wimbledon on the day of release to get New York by Lou Reed and the staff scrabbling around to find their one copy!
    I too purged my vinyl and made many mistakes I’m sure, however I don’t have the space for vinyl and ultimately am happy with CDs although do cringe to think of the lovely original releases I carelessly sold for very little…
    On the subject of keeping records of acquisitions, I’ve kept a list of all purchases plus all gigs attended for 33 years now, my dad had been given a kind of book/folder wonderfully called, ‘Gramofile’ he had started to use but gave up, so I’ve used that all these years cutting paper to make new pages, it’s pretty ramshackle!

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    • Tim says:

      Beacuse, you know, you can’t smear jam on a vinyl LP and it’ll still play……
      First CD “Lexicon Of Love.” I was tired of buying new copies on vinyl. I was late to the game, too. First cd player was sometime around 87 or 88.

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      • postpunkmonk says:

        Tim – You use a phrase “late to the game.” I used to be an early adopter of all new technologies. I used to drop serious coin on A/V technology and don’t miss doing that at all. I stopped playing that game 20 years ago and let me tell you I love it!

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Simon H. – Wow! It sounds like all of the interesting CDs were being imported over to America! I was shocked early on about how many things that I wanted to buy were available as imports. But yes, Dire Straits was the standard bearer of the “new format” for years. I first saw CDs on the Merv Griffin talk show and they tossed them around like Frisbees® – a trick inadvisable with LPs. To this day I treat a CD like an LP – except that I never had a car that played vinyl!

      I am envious of your purchase/gig notes! I have all of my ticket stubs but that’s only abut a third of the gigs I’ve seen. Most were cover at the door type of events. I am very thankful that I keep everything on the blog now [including what I’ve gotten rid of], but there was almost 20 yeas where nothing happened, and that makes me regretful.

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  7. Taffy says:

    Great blog entry. I think i was later than most to CD conversion – I didn’t buy a CD player til early 1990! I recall the last new release album I bought on vinyl was Debbie Harry’s Def Dumb and Blonde in late ’89. The next year I had a CD player and bought Reading, Writing and Arithmetic by the Sunday. Kind of an odd first disc to buy, but I remember wanting something that had not been released on vinyl as well, so it would feel “extra special” to hear it for the first time in this new format.
    I spent most of 1990 buying as much stuff on CD that I already owned on vinyl as I could afford. That included a lot of Chrysalis label titles – by Blondie, Ultravox, Spandau, The Specials – I can recall how pleased I was that the spines all matched up when shelved. I’m OCD that way.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Taffy – At least you didn’t have to wait for much of the Blondie catalog on CD like I had to! For years it seemed like there was “Parallel Lines” and not much else! I think it was 1988 when Chrysalis finally released the full set of albums. I wasted no time at grabbing “Eat To The Beat” and paradoxically, “Autoamerican.” I say paradoxically for “Autoamerican” because I bought a copy when it was released, but never really took a shine to it. As much as I love eclectic albums, that one was the exception to the rule for me.

      So having gotten rid of all on my Blondie albums during the Great Vinyl Purge, because surely Blondie albums would be put out on CD right up front, I was frantic to hear ETTB again and was very curious about how my thoughts on “Autoamerican” might be eight years later. Little did I know that Chrysalis would drag their feet on the bulk of the Blondie catalog!

      Sidebar: To this day I never had “The Hunter” on CD again. I was never motivated. What are your thoughts? Can you convince me otherwise? Also, I never got “Koo Koo” on CD either.

      Heck, now that I think about it, I only cherish my promo flicker cover version of “Def, Dumb, And Blonde!” Now THAT was an album. Definitely Deb’s best since ETTB! Thank goodness I saw that tour! I next bought the “Debravation” album but it made no impression on me, so I traded it in. I’ve not heard anything since then, Blondie or otherwise.

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      • Taffy says:

        Well, you know i lose all sense of objectivity just talking about Debbie, but…I do like the Hunter. Don’t love it, and most others rated it somewhere between mediocre and turd. There are some perfectly lovely “Blondie-esque” (I know, how utterly redundant) moments, like English Boys and For Your Eyes Only, but some of the songs are simply retreads of older, superior ones. The Hunter was darker and a lot less accessible than other Blondie albums.
        As for the post-reunion albums, I’ve enjoyed all of them, but non-fans would probably be happy owning the singles Maria, Good Boys, and Nothing is Real But The Girl.
        As for Koo Koo – I think it was damn clever (and ballsy) to work with the guys from Chic, and adore Debbie’s sassy, funky persona.

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        • postpunkmonk says:

          Taffy – I should revisit “Koo Koo” the next time I see a copy for sale. As for anything Debbie did after that track date I caught in 1994 [mentioned elsewhere], I’ve judiciously avoided it. I even passed on Blondie in my own town and [looks on web] Debbie Harry solo in 2007! That would have been inconceivable pre-1994 but those scars went deep.

          P.S. – I never heard “Rockbird.” Having the great single “French Kissing” on “Once More Into The Bleach” I felt was good enough. Missing anything there? After all, with Seth Justman [?!!] producing I didn’t want to push my luck!

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          • Taffy says:

            Rockbird came out in 1986, and sounds like it, in the worst possible way (production-wise). Some of the songs are almost kiddie-playground sing-songy simplistic. If it wasn’t for Debbie’s name on it, I probably wouldn’t own it.
            Second single In Love With Love was radically remixed by somebody at Stock Aitken Waterman for the better. Yes, for the better! As far as I know, the 12″ version (the extended mix on UK singles, the London extended mix on US singles) is only found on vinyl, and the 7″ edit is on vinyl and the Debbie solo compilation from the UK entitled Most of All – the Best of Debbie Harry. I love this remixed song – you might find it a bit too fluffy girly dance-pop (a la early Kylie).
            For what it’s worth (and it’s worth a lot to some), the art design for the whole Rockbird era was gorgeous. Warhol, Stephen Sprouse,and Debbie equaled stunning.

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            • postpunkmonk says:

              Taffy – That was kind of what I was thinking at the time. But damnit, I love “French Kissing!” I think it’s one of her best singles. I have several mixes of “In Love With Love” and none of them did too much for me. Popstand did better work with Double Duran, I think. Make of this what you will, but I have successfully avoided ever hearing Kylie Minogue… with the exception of her duet with Nick Cave on “Murder Ballads.” Which I have in the car for listening to on the way home today!

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  8. postpunkmonk says:

    I should mention that the Radio Shack CD player depicted at the top of this post had an amazing quality that no other CD player I ever had shared. The ASMA [rewind play] key enabled amazing stutter remixing while playing a disc live! When briefly clicked, it backed up a split second and breakdance remixes would result by jamming on the button for as long as you kept pressing it! Press it slightly longer, and it would go back longer for bigger loops. Be The Art Of Noise in the comfort and safety of your own Record Cell!

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