The Fascinating DNA of Old Vinyl Records

I always loved vinyl records. My first years of music collecting were during the late 1970s and early 1980s, and it was all about records and the occasional cassette. When I was in college, I was a DJ on Boston College’s amazing radio station (WZBC 90.3 FM) and in a nightclub across the Charles River at Man Ray in Central Square near Cambridge. While CDs and CD mixers were certainly in full swing at the time, my favorite format was still vinyl, hands down.

Spatial and financial constraints have prevented me from nurturing a vinyl collection today, and I’ve surrendered to the full digital/streaming experience with Spotify, iTunes, internet radio, etc. I digitized my entire CD collection and gave away all my records to a DJ friend of mine years ago. But I totally get the vinyl thing.

My friend Steve Lippman is a filmmaker who’s built an incredible body of work around music (I posted about his stunning collaboration with David Bowie back in January), and his love of music is manifested in his sick collection of vinyl, one of his pet passions.

A few weeks ago, Steve showed me photos he had taken of some of the records he had acquired from dollar bins in shops and flea markets over the years. The images showed really interesting pieces of cover art, revealing traces of previous owners from things like handwritten notations, cataloging “property of” stickers from radio stations, promotional “not for sale” stamps from record labels and things like that. The pictures inspired romantic notions and wonderings of where these records had been, who played them, what they meant to previous owners.

Linda Ronstadt: Hasten Down The Wind Asylum (1976)
Linda Ronstadt: Hasten Down The Wind Asylum (1976)

Steve wanted my suggestion on how and where to put the images online. I immediately thought of Tumblr. After tinkering with a theme he had bought, I worked with him to create a worthy online showcase for these wonderful pictures of the “DNA” of vinyl records.

Sammy Davis, Jr. and Carmen McRae: Boy Meets Girl Decca (1957)
Sammy Davis, Jr. and Carmen McRae: Boy Meets Girl Decca (1957)

One of his old records came from an imprint of United Artists, which was primarily known for releasing movies. On the label, United Artists Records had one of the greatest taglines I’ve ever seen: “Recorded for the talented listener.” With that, the name of Steve’s Tumblr blog was born. Enjoy (and follow) The Talented Listener.

Tumblr: thetalentedlistener.tumblr.com
Instagram: instagram.com/thetalentedlistener

Tony Bennett: Tony Sings For Two Columbia (1961)
Tony Bennett: Tony Sings For Two Columbia (1961)


  1. David Gebel Reply

    I love being part of your “boutique” audience, George! I love this story not just about vinyl, but about the passed on history recorded on the album covers. Include in that drink spills or bent corners from an event you know you caused. I once saw an album of mine (my name on the corner) being sold on the street by some street guy in Columbus Circle in the late 80’s. I had tossed it, he had grabbed it and now it was on display on a blanket on the sidewalk for the next owner in the chain. I was oddly proud to see my crap album for sale in NYC!

    • George Reply

      It’s fascinating, isn’t it? I love that story of your record. I love to think that someone somewhere is enjoying some of my old vinyl.

  2. Thank you George! I am getting equally obsessed with taking these photos – of course, while music plays from the turntable. Thanks again for the shout out and the lovely work you did helping getting the blog started. BTW, I’ve also started an Instagram page of the same photo entries, so anyone who wants to follow me there, just find me at https://www.instagram.com/thetalentedlistener/

  3. I definitely need to dip into some vinyl myself … I just need to pick up a record player, hit the flea market and I’m set!

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