The Long-Player Goodbye, the album from vinyl to ipod by Travis Elborough, £8.99 ISBN 978-0-340-93411-1
When I got into this very readable book, I started wondering about the author. Does he exist? Is he a front for Brian Matthew or George Martin? No. He does seem to exist and has his own MySpace to (probably) prove it. I also made another false assumption - that he was a contemporary of myself: somebody is about as old as the LP, and went through our heydays at about the same time as the LP went through its golden era.
No, Travis, appears to be a learned gentleman with a sense of fun and the book reflects this being well referenced, footnoted with an extensive bibliography. While scholarly (I mused on going back to university and doing an MA in applied vinyl or similar as I read this) the author resists pomposity in style or going native with the Fanzine writers who assume their readership understands only the present tense. The book is written in a comfortable colloquial style which will however have you at times pondering foreign phrases and classical references.
The book takes us through the vinyl wars between the big companies which brought on the death of the breakable and heavy 78 rpm discs which had served throughout the 20th century. The main rivals 45 rpm seven inch vinyl and 33 rpm vinyl LPs (at 10 or 12 inches) both won.
The new plastic medium brought a great improvement in quality (no longer the sound of bacon cooking in the background) and longer playing time enabling whole symphonies to be carried in one sleeve.
The sleeves of course became an art form sometimes more noteworthy than their contents. The kids bought records in their millions while a few of their peers obtained celebrity, wealth, and in many cases, a drug habit.
The author covers this in fascinating detail from the perspective of both sides of the Atlantic. He obviously enjoys wide musical tastes but succeeds in distancing himself from any one style or artist, avoiding the trap of similar tomes of the musical past by attempting a hagiography.
If I have any criticisms of this 452 page paperback they are to do with omissions. I would have liked more on the impact the LP had on the jazz world. The author deals with the coming and going of other FORMATs and the convenience and ubiquity of the mp3. He allows, in this reader's eyes at least, the death of the LP to remain largely unchallenged. In the hifi fraternity there are many who vehemently maintain that the LP still provides the best route to audio excellence and continues to remind us of a time when recordings were simply and well made before the days of over-digitisation and audio compression.
At a stocking-filler price, The Long Player Goodbye is for anybody interested in the evolution of popular music in the past fifty years regardless of their age and preferred medium. An excellent book that is difficult to put down even to turn over the LP playing in the background......
Don Lodge November 2011
Here's the MySpace reply from the author:
I do indeed exist, and thank you so much for your thoughtful review.
So glad you enjoyed the book and went to the trouble of posting this on your forum.