60 years ago this week on June 21
, at a press conference in the luxurious Waldorf Astoria Hotel
(former home to such 20th century luminaries as Lucky Luciano, Bugsy Siegel, Nikola Tesla, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Cole Porter, and former President Herbert Hoover), Columbia Records
unveiled their latest concept; the “LP
.” This choice in dates was by no means a random selection. Columbia picked the summer solstice because it’s the longest day of the year and “LP” stands for "long playing."
The new “LP’s” played at a speed of 33⅓ rpm, and came in two sizes: 10in (25cm) and 12in (30cm) in diameter and were pressed out of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or what we now simply call vinyl. This new material was more durable and much less brittle then the shellac used in the previous 78rpm format. (By the way, ‘shellac’ is a substance obtained from the secretion of a Southeast Asian beetle). The LP’s audio quality was better and the playable length of time for each side increased dramatically. This new format was revolutionary.
Although they released approximately 50 records simultaneously to help push the fledgling LP market, the first popular music catalogue number for a ten-inch LP, CL 6001, was a reissue of the Frank Sinatra 78 rpm album set from 1946, The Voice of Frank Sinatra. (Initially the 12in format was reserved for higher-priced classical recordings and Broadway shows, though that would change just a few years down the road). Not only was The Voice Sinatra’s first studio album, but many music critics claim it holds the distinction of being the first concept album … no way dude!