arts & culture


Columbia announces the new LP format 1948
                         Columbia announces the new LP format 1948

On June 21, 1948, Columbia Records held a press conference in New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel, to announce a new way to hear music.

The long-playing record became the industry standard for the next 40 years, and is still preferred by many music lovers.

The Lp, as it became known, held more music in better sound quality, and didn’t break as easily as the 78 rpm shellac discs in use since the 1910s.

The new discs had many more grooves cut into their surface, and spun slower, at 33-and-a-third rpm. You could fit 22 minutes of music on each side – the 78s could only do four minutes.

It was a bit cheeky of Columbia to call it a “new” format. Their rival, RCA Victor, had experimented with the long-player as far back as 1931.

Records then were made of shellac – a resin secreted by the lac bug, found in the forests of India and Thailand. Shellac records had a lot of noise on them – hissing, crackling, rumbles. And the records broke easily.

The breakthrough for Columbia came with the discovery of a new material – vinylite –  a mixture of vinyl chloride and vinyl acetate. It was harder, tougher, so the discs could be cut with 224 grooves per inch, much more than the 80 or so on the old format.

The first Lp record released by Columbia in 1948
The first Lp record – Columbia 1948

The first Lp released by Columbia was Nathan Milstein doing  the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E minor.

The Lp was a great boost for classical music, Broadway musicals, and jazz. You could fit a whole performance of these long-form musical styles on one Lp – it used to need five or more 78s for the same amount of music.

Their successful launch of the Lp gave Columbia Records a big     commercial advantage. But RCA Victor hit back, launching the 45rpm single the following year – and those two formats ruled well into the 1990s.

The man who made the Lp breakthrough for Columbia was one of the great 20th century inventors – Hungarian born Dr Peter Goldmark.

Dr Peter Goldmark

Peter also developed early colour TV broadcast techniques and home video recording devices.  If you watched pictures from the Apollo moon landings, they came to you via one of Peter’s inventions.

The launch of the Lp came at an opportune time for Columbia Records – they had one of the greatest stable of recording artists ever assembled on one label.

Here’s a Spotify of songs from Columbia albums 1948 -1970. Enjoy        

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