Heard But Not Read, Or, Transcription Error
Sundays and Cybele

Vinyl Is Too Expensive(!) (?)

This is a topic that has come up several times in comments on various posts, but for those who haven't seen those I thought I'd make it a post. (I assume there are people who sometimes read the posts but not the comments.)

I mentioned a while back that although I applaud the revival of the vinyl LP I'm not personally in that market--well, not counting my recent purchase of two used Joni Mitchell albums, committed because her albums were so beautifully packaged. I had not paid much attention to the whole thing till some months ago, when I was in a Barnes & Noble and was shocked by the price of new LPs--$25 and up, it seemed. 

Rob G, in a comment a few days ago, pointed out that those prices are actually not at all out of line if inflation is taken into account, and provided a link to an inflation calculator.

To the best of my memory the first LP I bought with my own money was Ian and Sylvia's self-titled first album. That would have been in either 1964 or '65. I paid either $3.98 or $4.98 for it, in a little record shop that was just around the corner from the courthouse square in Athens, Alabama. The prices were either $3.98 for mono and $4.98 for stereo, or $4.98 and $5.98. I bought the mono (I still have it, and it's still a good album).

So here's what I would pay today (click on the graphic if you can't read the numbers):

Inflation-Adjusted LP Price

Of course everything is stereo these days. But however you tweak the comparison, $25 or so is not a bad deal at all. It shocks me a little that I was willing to pay that much in real dollars for an LP. I was probably sixteen years old and can assure you that I did not have very much money. 

Speaking of LPs, I recently came this close to buying the Innocent Mission's Sun on the Square on vinyl. I wanted the tangible object, because the Innocent Mission's lyrics are crucial, but sometimes hard to understand. Also, the artwork on their albums is usually beautiful. On Bandcamp, the CD is $12.99, and the LP is $20. I kept thinking how nice it would be to have the large-format art and lyrics, but just couldn't bring myself to spend $20. So I put the CD on my Amazon wish list, thinking that if someone gave it to me for Christmas that would be great, but if they didn't I would buy the LP. Someone did. 

I haven't really gotten to know the album yet, but the song "Green Bus" is already one of my favorites among their work. Here they are on Tiny Desk. "Green Bus" is the second song. 

Dang it, how and why does Karen Peris manage to get me all teary-eyed so frequently? 


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I don't know but dang she has aged well. And Don has transitioned gracefully from blonde to white hair
I don't know if you remember but l met them a couple of times and sent them the quixotic journal we made
She was a lot shyer in dark smoky clubs
Tiny desk concerts seem more her natural habitat

Yes, I do remember that you met them. They have indeed aged well. And two of their children play on this album. I think it's great that they've been able to retain an audience. Their last four or five albums have all been very similar, but still really good.

"shocked by the price of new LPs--$25 and up, it seemed"

I can't say for sure, but I imagine you're probably paying top dollar at B&N, something like MSRP or close to it. The prices at the local indie record shop I buy from tend to run a few dollars less than that, so something that B&N sells for $25 they will have at $22, etc. Amazon's prices are generally pretty good for vinyl, but I try to avoid purchasing from them if I can help it.

I got Sun on the Square on vinyl -- preordered it from their Bandcamp page -- and it's a very nice package. Sounds great too! I've seen them live three times, and talked to them after a couple of the shows. Very nice, sincere and down-to-earth people. And yes, rather shy!

A friend of mine once said that IM is one of those groups that makes you feel glad that you're around at this time so you can hear them. Couldn't agree more.

"It shocks me a little that I was willing to pay that much in real dollars for an LP. I was probably sixteen years old and can assure you that I did not have very much money."

Me too! That's a really good observation. I did most of my record buying in the late 70s and early 80s, often buying five or six a month. It's really hard for me to believe that I was spending the equivalent of $100-$150 a month on music!

I guess I had maybe two dozen LPs by the time I graduated from high school. Maybe three dozen. Seemed like a good many at the time.

There's an independent record store here that's been around for at least 20 years, originally selling mostly used cds and lps. I think the vinyl revival, plus the fact that he's in a town with a lot of relatively well-off people (some very well-off) has been a great thing for him. I hadn't been in his place for years (having sworn off buying more vinyl) till recently, when I bought those Joni Mitchell lps. His prices are probably better than B&N but I didn't even look.

When my sister bought Psychedelic Shack when it came out (1971?) she paid $1.95 new. I remember this quite vividly because I thought it was a lot of money. It seemed that Motown was trying to milk us. I think singles were around 65c.

By the time I was buying albums around 1975 they were $4.95-$5.95. I remember when I started seeing albums for $7.95 or $8.95 (probably in the late '70s) I thought, "Wow, inflation."

I don't remember how much an 8-track cost. I never bought one. I couldn't stand the thought of a cut getting interrupted to change tracks.

I'm listening to Court and Spark right now.

$1.95 would have been some kind of sale price. That's definitely low.

I have a vague idea that LPs were still in the $10 or so range when CDs appeared in the '80s but I'm not sure. As Rob said, they were considered expensive with prices in the teens.

I don't think I've ever heard Court and Spark apart from whatever was on the radio. For the Roses is pretty good.

I was a crazy album buyer as a kid. By the time I sold all of them before my move to Seattle in 1995 I had around 500 or so. There was a small record store several blocks from my house in downtown North Miami, Fla. I would ride my bike there and make purchases with money earned from mowing lawns. The store owner knew me by name. Now I just own the first two Pretenders albums, simply as artwork; I had them back in the 70s-80s, but these are newer purchases, used at around $10 each I think.

And you probably sold those 500 for next to nothing, right? Or maybe even gave them away? Very sad.

By the way, I have found that Linda Ronstadt LPs are worth nothing now, at least not here. I have a certain number of LPs that I'm pretty certain I'll never listen to, including several of hers. They aren't even technically mine, having arrived with my wife, and she doesn't care about them. But the local record store wouldn't take them. Says he already has a stack and there's no demand.

I have got Sun onnthe Square as a CD and enjoy it.

Anyone listening to Molly Rogers?

I don't recognize the name. Bravo for rude health!

I wouldn't buy vinyl for the simple reason that back in the day I was always dropping the needle and I had scratches all over my records. I look older but in other ways Im the same 13 year old who dropped the needle all over Goldrush and Harvest.

Vinyl has a huge nostalgic appeal to me. But I can't quite go there because I can envisage 30 dollars down the drain in a couple of months, with records covered in scratches.

I wonder if 30 dollars seems very expensive whereas, even back when we had no money, four dollars seemed tolerable, because music is so much more ubiquitous, and feels 'free.' I seem to get free streaming, at least for a few listens, of nearly everything. I listen to NPR music show every Friday, and then I stream it on amazon. I guess Im paying for the amazon streaming (?), but it feels like I can very easily get the music for an intangible cost.

Remember back in the day when you got desperate to hear an old song and you didn't have the record and the tape was mangled? I remember just getting desperate to hear the Travelling Wilbury's record. It was in the early days of amazon, and I thought about it and bought the CD! That was maybe in the late 1990s, between unobtainability and ubiquity. I was disappointed because just after I bought it they brought out a bumper deluxe edition of both Wilbury albums. Today when I get that 'must listen to it feeling' I listen to the thing on youtube.

For low tech voters like myself, its probably youtube, even more than streaming, which has cured the itch to hear music, which made us pay out 30 dollars (in the old money) at a time when we earned next to nothing.

I remember when I showed my father youtube. He was generally a high tech person, but hadn't got into youtube because he thought it was for idiots. I showed him that you could get ANY song on it. He would call out - play 'One Meatball' and I'd summon it. Play some Napoleonic Symphony by some specific Russian orchestra, and I'd summon it. He was amazed and addicted.

I listen to ALL Songs Considered on NPR, and I stream the artists that I like.

The one Im streaming now is Maggie Rogers


Grumpy: I remember just getting desperate to hear the Travelling Wilbury's record. It was in the early days of amazon, and I thought about it and bought the CD!

that sounds like a no brainer but I struggled for a long time to figure out the name of the band who wrote the song which kept popping up in my mind. The name of the song? Or the name of the band? I searched and searched on the relatively new internet

Good turntables have a little mechanism that lowers the needle gently for you. So no dropping and scratching. But you do have to position the arm horizontally over the beginning of the record, or whatever track you want, so there's still a chance to break it.

Come to think of it, I seem to remember turntables in days of old where you didn't have to touch the arm at all. Push a button or something and the arm would lift off its rest, swing over to the record, and drop more or less gently at the beginning. Then at the end it would automatically pick up and swing back to its rest. I don't think I'm imagining that.

In the very early '70s I saw Pink Floyd in some kind of live performance on TV. I don't know what the program was. It was strange because you didn't see rock bands on tv very much. They did a song which had a chorus "It's high time, Cymbeline." I'd never heard it before and it really stuck with me and t wasn't on any PF album I had heard. Years went by before I found that it's on the somewhat obscure soundtrack album More. I still wondered where that tv performance came from but figured it was gone wherever old tv shows go. But now of course--just go to YouTube and search for "pink floyd cymbeline" and there it is. They spell it "Cymbaline" but YouTube handles that, naturally.


With another clip of the same show I find this info:

"Abbaye de Royaumont, Royaumont, France.
15 June, 1971.
Live performances of Cymbaline and Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun were filmed for the TV program Cinq Grand Sur La Deux.
Broadcast on ORTF2 on 12 July, 1971."

Not everything is on youtube. There are some TV performances that were quite memorable to me: the Cowboy Junkies singing "Sun Comes Up it's Tuesday Morning" on Leno; Eurythmics singing random songs while sitting on the state with Arsenio Hall; Joe Jackson doing two "new" songs from an album on SNL where the audience was asked not to applaud because they were being recorded. Of course things fall out of YTube, however that works...okay, I found Eurythmics, but not the other two.

There was a lovely recording of the Stones singing 'Winter' with a boy and girl standing around in the snow in Spain which used to be on youtube and disappeared. It wasn't a special recording, actually. It was just a nice video that came and went. But the point was that those 4 olde buckes, or 30 contemporary bucks went for sole access to the item. Buying the record was the only possible way to hear that album on demand.

I remember in my early teens hearing something I liked on the radio and thinking I'd never hear it after it dropped off the charts. unless it was resurrected a year or two later as an "oldie".

Copyrighted stuff comes and goes on YT all the time. Somebody in Romania puts up a clip, MegaCorp notices it and asks YT to take it down, so it goes. TV shows like Leno are probably policed pretty closely.

" unless it was resurrected a year or two later as an "oldie"

*And* I happened to be listening when it was played.

Imagine if milk was pretty much free. You could download it off the cloud pretty much whatever you wanted. But the supermarket was selling for the same cost as back in 2019 when you had to buy it from the supermarket and there was no other way of getting it except for buying it from the supermarket. In that sense I would say that vinyl is overpriced

I don't think it is, really. But everything is overpriced compared to free. Seems like that can't go on indefinitely.

Look I still buy CDs! I would buy vinyl if I had that kind of supersonic hearsight that Rob G has that he can hear the difference between tapes and CDs and vinyl. As it is, I may end one of the last few buying CDs

I really cannot hear the words on the new Innocent Mission.


If you had a turntable one which you could stack records, it would have to have a mechanism like you describe.


Of course! Duh...and the reason I remember it is that my first stereo worked that way.

I know you do, Grumpy, I wasn't criticizing you, and anyway I use streaming services too. Just pointing out the problem.

"Push a button or something and the arm would lift off its rest, swing over to the record, and drop more or less gently at the beginning."

I have one of those now, vintage circa 1979. Got it as a graduation present. Loaned it to a friend in the early 2000's then got it back a couple years ago when he moved to England. It's a Technics direct-drive, semi-automatic, but not a record changer. I don't use the automatic feature anymore though, because the damper thing that slows the needle drop stopped working.

"In that sense I would say that vinyl is overpriced"

I think you can say the same thing about books vs. Kindle. Depends on how much you like the actual "thingness" of the book or LP or whatever.

I still buy CD's, but mostly classical music. For me, the fact that I buy a lot less music than I used to pretty much balances out the higher cost of vinyl. Plus most of the time nowadays when you buy an LP you get either a free download of the album or a free CD with it.

"I really cannot hear the words on the new Innocent Mission."

Yeah, I always have lyric sheet in hand on the first or second listen. I love Karen's voice but she's not the most understandable of singers.

Recent Tiny Desk find. This is a year old but I just stumbled across this group a couple months ago somewhere, then a few weeks ago saw they had a Tiny Desk performance. I like the first and third songs best. Singer reminds me of Sandy Denny.


Just to say: I haven't had time to listen to either of these Tiny Desk things, but I will when I get a chance.

For me the unusual event in listening to the Innocence Mission is when I *do* understand the words. That's why in their case I want the physical package, though I think at least some of their lyrics are available on their web site, or the record company's.

Glad to know I'm not alone.



I'm slightly horrified that I didn't remember having the auto-changer mechanism on my first stereo. It comes back to me now that one of the marks of higher-end turntables was that they did not have that. It was pointed out that stacking records that way was a good way of scratching them.

I used to go to sleep every night with about 8 or 9 records stacked on my stereo. I am sure it was not good for them, but they got stolen before they were too scratchy, so I'm glad I got to enjoy them. It would be nice to have the needle mechanism even if you didn't stack.

I had actually forgotten that I had to put the needle on the record on my dad's stereo.

And then there was that horrible thing where the needle went skidding across the album.


Oh yeah, that was horrible. And the awful things that could happen if the needle stuck and was left to keep going over the same circle for a long time. I lent my high-school girlfriend my copy of Bringing It All Back Home and she did that. The result was a deep ugly cut. "Scratch" doesn't come close to doing it justice. I still have the album and when I last tried, at least 20 years ago, I was surprised to find that the track is playable, though missing a few seconds.

I guess it's a tribute to my devotion that I didn't hold it against her.

Moreover, she dumped me.

It was guilt.

I'd like to think so but actually it was that guy.

I think that some of the record players that I have owned or had access to has such a mechanism. Thing is I just dumped the needle straight onto the record. Because impatient. It was also the inly means of teack selection before CDs. Question is; Has my character changed since then? Or would I just ruin a new set of $30 records? Thing is, answer is probably No and yes.

Record changers date back to the days of 78's, when the most music you could get on a side was five minutes. Stacking was the only way you could hear 15 or 20 minutes of music "non-stop."

I got my first record changer when I was in fourth or fifth grade. It was a portable that folded up into a suitcase-like thing. Used it almost exclusively for 45's, because I had few if any LP's. The first LP I ever bought was CCR's "Gold," and that was when I was eleven or twelve. I can remember wanting to buy Bowie's "Diamond Dogs," and my dad saying no because of the cover. A wise move on his part which I did not appreciate at the time.

Stacking I never heard of or performed

It seemed like no matter what precautions I took eventually the albums would end up scratched in some way, and I'm pretty OCD with my stuff. I thought it was a great day when CDs appeared. Other than the artwork becoming smaller, it was all good. Since that time, I think around 1989 or so, I can only recall 1 or 2 CDs ending up with some kind of repeat issue that forced me to throw it away. I just don't hear the difference that audiophiles do when they say albums sound better.

Don't get me started.... :-) I had a somewhat similar reaction when CDs appeared, except that I couldn't afford to buy a player at the time and the disks were way too expensive anyway. No more surface noise! Hooray! Aside from actual scratches, there is nearly always some number of pops and assorted noises with an LP.

At the time I was somewhat obsessed with upgrading my audio system but unable to afford to. That $1000-1500 I mentioned earlier was spent over 10 or 15 years. I read a certain amount of audiophile commentary. There was a CD-vs.-LP war raging there, with some purists/snobs insisting that there was something wrong with CD sound (which apparently there was in a lot of analog recordings re-issued on CD), and others scoffing. Once I got a CD player I tended to fall into the scoffer category. How wonderful to start the disk and hear music emerge from absolute silence!

My more or less settled opinion is that it mostly depends on the particular recording and the equipment. A good system playing an old beat-up LP will sound better than a CD through crummy speakers. When I hear people say vinyl is "warmer" etc. I think most of them are really just preferring the background noise, a sort of "authenticity" that clicks and pops suggest. And the preference for the whole physical package of the LP, which I very much get. I really missed that when CDs took over.

Dropping the needle "was also the only means of track selection before CDs. "

Yeah, and when I listen to LPs now I really miss that. Even more, the pause button, if I'm interrupted while listening. And of course those conveniences must be available in a remote control, so I don't have to walk across the room.

Rob, I haven't heard Diamond Dogs but yeah, your father was probably right. Other issues aside, I find (found) the cover repulsive.

Diamond Dogs is an awesome album, and I did have it as an album back in the day. Now I need to get up and go look at the CD packaging...

"This ain't rock'n'roll, this is genocide!"

Record played in an enormous part in my childhood because they played them All the time in my mother’s shop which was downstairs from our family apartment. Later as a teenager records were like talismans or Durkheimian symbols of some kind. Cassettes and CDs could never function like that I don’t know why but they could not.

Right now I owe you one album. It is by the revolutionary army of the infant Jesus. I got it by mistake from Amazon. I didn’t know what to do with it and then a hipster guy pointed out to me that it could function as decoration. So I use it decoratively.

I own one album. I don’t owe it to anyone

"Stacking I never heard of or performed"

I just meant the stacking of multiple records on a record changer rather than having to play them one at a time.

"(which apparently there was in a lot of analog recordings re-issued on CD)"

Yeah, a lot of early analog-to-digital transfers on CD sounded tinny or had an exaggerated high end. It wasn't until pop records started going DDD that they regularly sounded good. I remember waiting patiently for Roxy Music's "Avalon" (1982) to come out on CD, and when it finally did it was terrible!

"My more or less settled opinion is that it mostly depends on the particular recording and the equipment."

Very true. I think the "warmth" thing has to do with certain CD's perhaps sounding overly crisp or processed, but I don't think it's an across-the-board thing one way or the other.

For a while I blamed on CDs what I'm pretty sure is actually a result of the "loudness wars"--excessive compression flattening out the sound.

True about the talismanic quality of LP covers, which I guess is mainly because of their size. I have two framed album covers on the wall of my study/office, for inspiration (John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman). I don't think anybody does that with CD covers.

I remember those two albums being in your office at SHC too, Mac!

As you may or may not know, Stu, I never was much of a Bowie fan. Though actually I can claim to have liked him before liking him was cool: when Hunky Dory came out. I liked it, probably still would if I heard it again. I remember recommending it to a gay friend, which I guess was a bit patronizing, because although the gay Bowie had not fully flowered there was some evidence of it on that album. I don't think he liked it much. I think that was followed by Ziggy Stardust which I didn't much like.

A couple of years ago when Bowie died I had a funny and slightly annoying conversation on Facebook about him. When I said I wasn't much of a fan all these young people started telling me that was because it was a "generational thing", i.e. "you're too old." I'm a year younger than Bowie.

Cross-posted--yes, it's the same two albums. A Love Supreme and At the Golden Circle (volume 2).

Never a Bowie fan. I dont think its age exactly. Its the rise of disco and glitter in the mid 1970s. It was a different culture

It was, but more fundamentally for me was that I just didn't much care for the music. I was working in a record store at the time and heard Ziggy a lot, because it was very popular. It just never made a big impression on me as music.

Yes. I like Heroes but thats about it.

Yeah, I love that one song. I've never heard the whole album though. Even though I bought it on mp3 when it was on almost-free sale somewhere a while back--never have gotten around to listening to it.

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