The Sound of Colour

By Taylor Spill

It all began in 1877 when the phonograph, later becoming the “record player”, was invented by the illustrious Thomas Edison. It was able to replay recorded sounds through a metal stylus pressing on a foil-wrapped cylinder. However, Emile Berliner was the one who created disk records since the cylinders weren’t practical. And disks became the prominent form of record. Record companies realized that pressing colours onto these disk records were a great way for them to stand out and grab the attention of their onlookers. From there, the concept of the coloured record was born, which eventually led to the coloured vinyl records we know today. To learn more continue reading The Sound of Colour.

A key ingredient to creating early forms of records was shellac (in essence, a liquid that comes from lac bugs) to hold the records together as a resin. Shellac is naturally a brownish-red colour. However, producers of records didn’t want people to feel disgusted by their use of “bug juice”, so they would use ingredients such as carbon to turn the records black. These early records were known as “shellac records”.

 The first coloured record came to be when Vocalion Records wanted their records to stand out in a reddish-brown colour around the 1920s. They decided to retain shellac’s natural colour which is how they got their brown colouring. Eventually, record companies around the 1930s transitioned to using polyvinyl chloride, replacing shellac. These PVC records are known as vinyl records, colloquially. 

 Coloured vinyl records came out around the same time as their invention. Since record companies already knew how to create coloured records with shellac records, many coloured vinyl counterparts came out around the 1930s. The most notable coloured vinyl records from the time came from Columbia Records creating Royal Blue editions of some of their records in the early 1930s. Coloured records never lost their appeal, and many companies released colour-pressed versions of vinyl records for a host of reasons. Eventually, record companies would also press images onto records.

Vinyl records have withstood the changes that come with time–even with digital streaming platforms, CDs, MP3s, etc.–music listeners still enjoy their favourite albums on vinyl records to this day. And coloured vinyl records are still just as sought after. Seen as collector items, coloured vinyl records are usually special versions of an album created for either promotional or celebratory purposes. 

There have been many uniquely designed coloured vinyl records throughout time. However, these ten vinyl records stand out, in their design and concept.

10. Like a Virgin by Madonna (1984)

Like a Virgin was pop artist Madonna’s second album released by Sire Records. Madonna was one of the producers of this dance-pop album as well as she wrote six of the songs on it. The album’s title came from Madonna’s provocative exploration of the religious root of her name (Madonna being a title for the Virgin Mary) and the concept of “virgin birth”. The album helped Madonna establish her career as an artist as it was met with success. 

The white vinyl version of this album was a promotional version, and the conventional version of this album was originally black. The white vinyl was issued by Sire Records and was manufactured in Canada. It was meant to be distributed to the music press, radio stations, industry VIPs, etc. It soon became a sought-after collectable item due to Madonna and the album’s popularity. 

9.  Fair and Warner by Sandy Warner (1959)

Sandy Warner was an actress, model, and singer. She was most known for her modelling career. Warner was named “Exotica Girl”, after Martin Denny’s Exotica, and Warner modelled on 14 more of his album’s covers. Steve Allen Presents Sandy Warner: Fair and Warner, Warner’s first and only album was created for a series of albums presented by Steve Allen. The jazz/easy listening album, released by the Tops and Mayfair label also featured Martin Denny.

The rare multicoloured pressed vinyl version of this album was made around 1960. It was meant to be a promotional record and was pressed by Tops and Mayfair. Tops released the mono version of this record while Mayfair released the stereo version.

8. Salsoul Jam 2000 (Dance Your Ass Off) by Grandmaster Flash (1997)

R&B album, Salsoul Jam 2000 (Dance Your Ass Off) was an American rapper and DJ Grandmaster Flash’s first album after a nine-year hiatus in 1997. Grandmaster Flash is a renowned DJ, as he came up with innovations that still play a large part in hip-hop dj’ing (most notably, the record scratch). The album, Salsoul Jam 2000 (Dance Your Ass Off) consists of disco tracks released by Salsoul records that were turned into an extended DJ mix by Grandmaster Flash. The album was originally intended to be one continued mix played for an audience. However, it was broken into tracks to be turned into the album.

The yellow-with-orange splatter vinyl version was the first re-release of the album in twenty years. It is also the first repressing on vinyl since the original release. It is meant to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the album and is going to be released around February-March of 2023 by Salsoul Records. 

7. Room on Fire by The Strokes (2003)

Room on Fire is the sophomore studio album released by the American rock band, The Strokes. Formed in 1998, The Strokes were one of the pioneers in the early-2000s indie rock revival. Room on Fire was released by RCA Records, the title coming from a lyric in their song, Reptilia. The album reached the US Billboard 200 chart and was critically acclaimed.

The coloured vinyl, in “Meet Me In the Bathroom” (one of the album song’s titles) tile is a yellow, red, and blue-coloured record. It is an original art print, and it was pressed exclusively by VMP. It was released in 2021 for Strokes fans to enjoy both the music and the art going into the record. 

6. Etta James Rocks the House by Etta James (1963)

Etta James Rocks the House is the first live album recorded by Etta James, an American singer who performed in genres such as blues, R&B, jazz, and soul. She is legendary as she has won over 6 Grammys and had a long career. Etta James Rocks the House was recorded for two nights in the New Era Club in Nashville, Tennessee in 1963 under Argo Records. The vision for the album was to capture and share one of James’ fiery performances.

The coloured vinyl version of this album was released in 2021. The vinyl is made from clear vinyl, and Newbury Comics was behind this exclusive blue colour pressing. This vinyl was limited to 500 copies, to celebrate this album being regarded as one of the best live albums. 

5. 3 Feet High and Rising by De La Soul (1989)

3 Feet High and Rising by American hip hop group, De La Soul was their debut studio album released by Tommy Boy Records. This album was met with success, and it was eventually added to the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry in 2010. The title, 3 Feet High and Rising was inspired by Johnny Cash’s song, Five Feet High and Rising. What made De La Soul and this album unique was the fact that it exuded positivity at the height of “gangsta” rap

The coloured vinyl version of this album was released around 2019 by Vinyl Me Please. The record is clear with orange, blue, and green splattered throughout. This record was a remastered and reissued version of the album and was a limited edition. It was exclusive to Vinyl Me Please. 

4. Mylo Xyloto by Coldplay (2011)

Mylo Xyloto by the British rock band, Coldplay was the band’s fifth album. Coldplay was formed in 1997 after they met at UCL and were signed by Parlophone in 1999. Their first single, Yellow was met with success and eventually, they were regarded as the most successful band of the 21st century. Mylo Xyloto is a concept and thematic rock opera that tells the story of a war against sound and colour, set in a dystopian future. 

The heavyweight graffiti vinyl for this album was released in 2011 by EMI. The vinyl was a part of a limited album pop-up box and was designed by David A. Carter. The pop-up box was catered towards devoted Coldplay fans as it included exclusive photographs and notebook excerpts from the band, as well as a variety of graffiti pop art to accompany the vinyl. 

3. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Clubs Band by The Beatles (1967)

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Clubs Band by The Beatles was the Liverpool-based band’s 8th studio album released by Parlophone. The rock/psychedelic rock album was considered a more experimental album as it mentioned topics such as fashion, mysticism, drugs, and empowerment. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Clubs Band was reflective of the counterculture as well as contemporary youth.

The coloured vinyl for this album was released in 1979. It is a limited-edition reissue picture disk. The concept of the picture on the vinyl was designed by Peter Blake and Jann Hanworth. The photo, consisting of cutouts of historical figures was photographed by Michael Cooper.

2. Innuendo (Explosive Version) by Queen (1991)

Innuendo (Explosive Version) by Queen was the British rock band’s fourteenth album and the last album to be released with Freddie Mercury alive. It was released by Parlophone in 1991. Queen, formed in 1970 originally started as a band influenced by heavy metal and rock but turned to more pop rock music as they became more popular. However, Innuendo was a hard rock album and was a sort of tribute to the band’s roots. 

The coloured vinyl was a limited-edition picture vinyl record. The design was created by both Queen and Richard Gray (the official cover artist for Queen’s albums). The vinyl was released by Parlophone in 1991 to celebrate the release of the album.

1.  Dandelion Gum by Black Moth Super Rainbow (2007)

Dandelion Gum by Black Moth Super Rainbow was the American band’s third studio Indie-electronica album. The band, BMSR for short, is a psychedelic electronic Indie rock band, that is a solo project by Thomas Fec (also known as Tobacco). Tobacco writes, produces, and records the work independently, but other musicians join for BMSR’s live performances.

The vinyl is a picture vinyl with their album cover on it. The picture is a cropped version of the “Stinker Belle” Garbage Pail Kids card that was found on Tumblr. This vinyl was made in 2011 by Grave Records, and it was a limited-edition reissue with only 1,000 copies. It was sold on the band’s website and on their 2011 tour. 

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