7" 33⅓ "Flexi disc" records were seen occasionally. One common use was as inserts in books that included audio supplements. LP recordings could be made on very thin, flexible sheets of vinyl (or laminated paper), and this was sometimes done for a mixture of practical utility and novelty appeal. At least one "magazine" was published with a spiral binding, a hole punched through the entire magazine, and four or five of these flexible recordings bound into the magazine. The magazine could be opened to one of these recordings and turned back upon itself; then the entire magazine placed on a turntable and the record could be played. In the early days of personal computers, when programs were commonly stored on audio cassettes, at least one computer magazine published "floppy ROMs," which were bound-in-thin-plastic 33⅓ rpm audio recordings of computer data, to be played on a turntable and dubbed onto an audio cassette.
Paper records were pioneered in the 1930s by Hit of the Week Records and Durium Records. Laminated cardboard records have also been produced as promotional materials, most notably on the backs of cereal boxes in the late 1960s.
Chocolate has even been used to produce promotional recordings that could be eaten once the record had been played, although the lifetime of the records would have been remarkably low - perhaps two to three plays.
16 2/3 RPM — This speed was used almost exclusively for spoken word content, in particular for the "talking books" used by the visually impaired. For this reason, the inclusion of a 16 2/3 speed setting on turntables was compulsory in some countries for many years, despite the records themselves being a rarity. Cassette tapes proved to be a far more popular format for such spoken content. Chrysler's short-lived Highway Hi-Fi format also used 16 2/3 7"s.
Prior to 1930 (particularly before 1925), a number of proprietary formats existed, with recordings made at speeds anywhere from 60 to 130 RPM (although most were between 72 and 82 rpm). Even 78 RPM was not initially a worldwide standard, as American records were recorded at 78.26 rpm and European records were recorded at 77.92 rpm.
A small number of 78 RPM microgroove vinyl recordings have been issued by smaller and underground performers, mainly as novelty items, from the 1970s to the present. Recently the Belfast singer Duke Special has released a number of ten inch EPs in 78 RPM.
The Dutch company, Philips introduced a constant linear velocity format prior to the standardised '78' where the RPM changed as the stylus traversed the record (unusually) from the inside to the outside. The actual playing speed was shown as a letter between 'A' and 'D'.
Many blank acetate discs have multiple holes (usually three or four) intended to prevent slippage during cutting. In 1972, as a factory prank, initial copies of a Linda Jones record were manufactured with no center hole.
NON's Pagan Muzak (Gray Beat, 1978) is a one-sided 7" with multiple locked grooves and two center holes, meaning each locked groove can be played at two different trajectories as well as any number of speeds. The original release came with instructions for the listener to drill more holes in the record as they saw appropriate.
In 1975 Ronco UK released a parallel groove game called "They're Off", which featured three 12" discs each containing eight possible outcomes on a horse race. It featured Noel Whitcomb, a well-known horse-racing commentator of the day and the game revolved around betting which "horse" would win the race on that occasion. This appears to have been based on a Canadian product called "They're at the Post" by Maas Marketing, which is more or less the same game with different recordings on the discs to reflect the target market.
Until the 1920s, French Pathé Records used inside start and other commercially distinctive grooving. At that time they cut all discs vertically, meaning the vibrations in the grooves were "hill and dale", as their wax cylinders had always been. The records required a special sapphire stylus and a vertically responsive reproducer for playback.
Inventor Thomas Edison, who always favoured the cylinder for all its advantages, also cut his discs with vertically modulated grooves from their introduction in 1912 until a year or two before his company's demise in 1929. Edison pioneered fine groove discs that played for up to five minutes per 10-inch side; they were very thick to remain perfectly flat and played back with a precision-ground diamond stylus. A commercially unsuccessful extension of the system introduced grooves nearly twice as fine as those of microgroove LPs, yielding playing times of up to 20 minutes per side at 80 RPM and again requiring a special diamond stylus. Even more than with Pathé discs, Edison's vertical-cut records called for specially designed equipment for playback.
To play these or other vertical-cut recordings on modern equipment, one must reconnect a stereo pick-up cartridge such that it picks up a "cross-phased" signal, and switch the sound output to mono.
Unusual colors, and even multi-colored shellac first appeared in the 1910s on such labels as Vocalion Records
When RCA Victor launched the 7" 45 rpm record, they initially had eight musical classifications (pop, country, blues, classical, children's, etc.) each with not only its own uniquely colored label but with a corresponding color vinyl. According to experts at the Sarnoff Center in Princeton, NJ, the cost of maintaining eight vinyl colors became too high, but the different colored labels were continued, at least for popular music (black) and classical (red, as in "Red Seal"). In October 1945, RCA Victor put on the market its first "non-breakable" phonograph records. Made of a ruby-red, translucent vinyl resin plastic, they cost twice as much ($2 a record) as the 12-inch Victor Red Seal. In the 1960s, a distinction was made in label colors of promotional copies of 45 rpm records as well, with pop music being issued on yellow labels and country on light green.
Red Raven released 78 rpm children's records with an animation printed onto the disc. They included a little mirrored device (an ersatz praxinoscope) to pop onto the turntable's spindle that reflected the animation in such a way that while the record plays one gets to see a little cartoon.
In the 1970s, such gimmicks started to reappear on records, especially on 7" and 12" singles. These included using coloured acetate instead of black vinyl. The whole spectrum was available, from clear transparent (including a witty transparent 12" of Queen's The Invisible Man, though German Group Faust released their debut album with transparent vinyl and cover in 1971), white, red, blue, yellow and even multi-hued. Some recordings were released in several different colors, in an effort to sell the same product to one person multiple times, if they were of the collecting bent. Currently, it is common practice for hardcore punk to release records of different colors at the same time, and press a smaller number of one color than the other. This has created a culture of hardcore record collecting based around having the same release multiple times, each copy with a different and more rare color.
In 1972, the Kingdom of Bhutan released several unusual postage stamps that were playable plastic phonograph records. These miniature 33 1/3 RPM recordings feature either regional music or tourism information. While they are sought-after as novelty postage stamps, they were not practical for postage use because of their size, and cancellation damaged the grooves, rendering them unplayable. Also, the small circumference of many of the stamps made them unplayable on turntables with automatic return tonearms.
The 1977 release of the 45rpm single of "Strawberry Letter 23" by The Brothers Johnson was produced by A&M Records with a slightly pink center label (as opposed to the usual buff color that A&M uses), and had strawberry scent embedded into the plastic to make the record give off the odour of strawberries.
Kraftwerk released a 12" single of "Neon Lights", made of glow-in-the-dark plastic. Penetration released a luminous vinyl limited edition of the album Moving Targets in 1978 and the "Translumadefractadisc" (Han-O-Disc) punk sampler picture disc (which had a silk screened luminous ink under the litho on Mylar film image of Medusa) was released by The Label (U.K) in 1979. The Foo Fighter's debut single 'This Is A Call' was available on 12" glow-in-the-dark vinyl, and Luke Vibert also released a glow-in-the-dark 11" EP in 2000.
The Canadian pressing of DEVO's Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are DEVO! album featured spattered-color vinyl, with a grey/white marbled base with splashes of color on the top of that. The US pressing came in multiple (solid) colors of vinyl, while the UK pressing was a picture disc and came with a flexi-disc.
The 1980 A&M Records LP of Split Enz's album True Colours was remarkable not only for its multiple cover releases (in different color patterns), but for the laser-etching process used on the vinyl. The logo from the album cover, as well as other shapes, were etched into the vinyl in a manner that, if hit by a light, would reflect in polychromatic colors. This same process was also used for the 45 single of the band's song "One Step Ahead" from the album Waiata.
Also in 1980, the British band Squeeze released a 5-inch 33 1/3 RPM vinyl recording of "If I Didn't Love You", backed with "Another Nail In My Heart" (A&M Records AM-1616 / SP-4802). Due to space restrictions of the grooves, both songs were mixed as monaural.
The Japanese rock band Boris is also known for their unique LPs. Their 2006 album Pink was recorded on pink vinyl. Their other 2006 album, Vein, is recorded on transparent vinyl. It is see through, and has laser-etched artwork on the outer two inches of the record. This causes problems with auto-start phonographs, as the actual grooves of music do not start where the needle is designed to drop. This can cause damage to the needle and record artwork.
Adolf Hitler even released a 7" picture disc of this type with one of his speeches. Known as the Patria (Fatherland) picture disc, the obverse bears an image of Hitler giving a speech and has a recording of both a speech by Hitler and also Party Member Hans Hinkel. The reverse bears a hand holding a swastika flag and the Carl Woitschach (1933 — Telefunken A 1431) recording In Dem Kampf um die Heimat - Faschistenmarsch.
Invented in the forties by Tom Saffady, Vogue Records (picture discs) were manufactured in Detroit, Michigan, at Sav-Way Industries during 1946 and 1947 and sold for 50 to 75 cents each. With 74 titles featuring artists like Lulu Belle, The Charlie Shavers Quintet, and Patsy Montana they were 10" in diameter and made of an aluminum platter covered in vinyl.
Following introduction of colored vinyl, picture discs started to appear in the 1970s. The first serious pictures discs (with acceptable but still inferior sound quality) were developed by Metronome Records GmbH (a subsidiary of Polydor Records). These new picture discs were made by creating a five layer lamination consisting of a core of black vinyl with kiln dried paper decals on either side and then outer skins of clear vinyl film (manufactured by 3M) on the outsides. In manufacture, one layer of the clear film was first placed on the bed of the press on top of the stamper, then a "puck" of hot black vinyl from the extruder was placed on top of that. Finally the top print and vinyl film layer was added (held by a retracting pin in the upper profile usually employed to retain the upper paper label) and the press closed. Problems with poor vinyl flow caused by the paper texture and air released from the paper (that had not been removed in the kiln drying process) plagued the process. One of the first rock picture discs was British progressive rock band Curved Air's first album, Air Conditioning.
On some picture discs, the images used were meant to create an optical illusion while the record was rotating on the turntable (as in the B side of Curved Air's Air Conditioning), while others used the visual effect to add to the music — for example, the 1979 picture disc of Fischer-Z's The Worker featured a train which endlessly commuted around the turntable, reinforcing the song's message. Later picture discs included liquid light show style fluids between the vinyl, Rowlux 3D effect film, defraction rainbow film, metal flake, (examples can be found in the lenticular printing section of Wikipedia) pressure sensitive liquid crystals that changed color when the record was picked up, a real holographic record (the first ever), and even a real "live album." Made as a demonstration for Stevie Wonder's "Journey through the Secret Life of Plants", it featured a layer of blotting paper between the clear vinyl layers that contained Alfalfa seeds. A tag of the blotting paper protruded below the record, and resting the disc on a glass of water with the paper in the water allowed the seeds to germinate and grow inside the record. When the prototype was taken through customs in Canada it was seized by the Department of Agriculture, making it not only the only real live album but the only record ever banned by the Department of Agriculture (alfalfa being a prohibited import).