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!
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!
The 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.
Another 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!
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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