Part 12. The Great Vinyl Shortage of 1972

It's astonishing to think that because of the international vinyl shortage no records were pressed in 1972. Vinyl, as we all learnt at school, is made from cuckoo spit and nail polish remover and several factors conspired in '72 to make this a particularly rare commodity. Firstly the rocketing cost of oil meant that many people were turning away from traditional forms of transport and embracing alternatives such as the pogo stick and the space hopper. This of course was wonderful news for the environment, as well as being awfully good for the knees, but as cuckoo spit is the chief ingredient of space hoppers it contributed to the shortage. Add to this the increasingly refined behaviour sweeping through the cuckoo population which prevented all but the most socially unaware members of the species from gobbing everywhere and it became clear that a shortage would be inevitable.

Actually, it isn't strictly true that no new records were pressed in this year. There was in fact an obscure, extremely limited edition run of a Fleetwood Mac single, but even then vinyl remained so scarce that the disc only had one side. In desperation record companies turned to recycling old records, although the process wasn't always effective and results were variable. Even with today's technology, recycling old records is quite a difficult technique. Many people think that it's just a question of melting them down and reusing the vinyl, but these people are gits and don't know nothing about the intricacies of complex audio-chemical processes. Vinyl is what is known as 'aurally porous' a highly technical phrase that has just been made up by music scientists for the purpose of this article. What it means is that it will retain sound, even in its molten state, so that any new records pressed with the recycled material will contain traces of the old recordings. You can actually hear this effect on some of the records that were released at that time. For instance, if you listen very carefully to Donny Osmond's 'Puppy Love', you can distinctly hear several bars of 'How Much is that Doggy in the Window'. Chuck Berry's 'My Ding-a-Ling' has trace elements of both 'Rama Lama Ding Dong' and 'Who Put the Bomp (in the Bomp, Bomp, Bomp)', and 'You Wear is Well' by Rod Stewart is briefly enlivened by a few lines from 'Where Did You Get That Hat?'

To try and remove this unwanted music, various anti-melody agents were mixed in with the molten vinyl to break the bonds between individual notes. This action would be repeated several times in a process known as 'remixing' which has given rise to the modern term 'remix', meaning a track which has been repeatedly tampered with until none of its original substance remains. The final result was an acoustic slurry which, after being heated to boiling point, passed through a centrifuge then filtered through a sock, could be used to make new records. But even then the process wasn't always a complete success and it was still possible to hear George Formby cropping up during an Eric Clapton solo, or Bing Crosby interfering with Freddie Mercury's mezzo-soprano. Indeed, it is now something of a fad amongst musical archaeologists to re-examine pressings from this era and carefully strip away the surface music to reveal lost gems from an earlier age hidden beneath. It was just this method that led to the discovery of several previously unheard Buddy Holly songs, an alternative 24-hour clock version of Bill Hailey's 'Rock Around the Clock', and a fascinating spoken word recording of Winston Churchill pissed out of his head and shouting at Lady Astor.

None of this is true, by the way.

Ricky Stratocaster would like to express his sincerest condolences to his landlady following the unfortunate misunderstanding last Thursday night.

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