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Private pressings have always been sought after by record collectors. Despite often being relegated to runs of less than 300 copies, despite the sometime amateurish performances or sub-par recording and engineering, and despite their almost total lack of name recognition for the artists therein, the importance and value of the private pressing to the culture of recorded music cannot be overstated. Private pressings are almost literally that; a non-commercial run of vinyl meant to be given away as promos or sold in extremely limited quantities at gigs because 300 or less copies is all the artist, producer or relatives and friends could afford to have recorded, mastered, cut and pressed. Many of the private pressings coveted today were produced in the ‘60s, ’70s and ’80s… in the purely analog realm when real instruments and performers were required before digital media turned the process of putting out an album into the equivalent of scratching yourself.
And because of this, this very nature of the private pressing being cut in such limited quantities, in an age when if there was a backup to the master tape it was most likely a cassette (half-inch tape was, and is still, prohibitively expensive), practically all traces of these records simply vanished from existence over the intervening decades, along with the artists, producers, engineers and small labels who made them possible. Those that survived were rediscovered in the early ‘90s by a motley assortment of collectors and college disc jockeys around the world who realized they had inadvertently stumbled upon rarified veins of music culture gold. But again, these LPs or 45s were sold and traded mostly on private mailer lists, and like the selectors of Jamaica decades previously, the album identities tended to be closely guarded secrets. But then the Internet happened, and online bulletin board threads began documenting crate digger’s finds as people started using open source to figure out something about these fantastical, unknown albums which had begun to turn up in record shops, boot fairs, thrift stores or garage sales.
The rest is history. From America to Zanzibar and all points in between (I touched on ‘70s Japanese jazz private pressings HERE), rare grooves that had been relegated to bargain bins the world over suddenly started fetching four-figure sums via online record sales and auction sites. So, when I stumbled across this list chronicling a deep dive into hundreds of private pressings, I wanted to share it with readers as a source of information, or a starting point for their own explorations into this lesser-known space of record collecting.
Access the Notable Private Press Albums list HERE.
Article courtesy of Rafe Arnott - Resistormag