Nothing can ruin the normally serene moment of unwrapping a crisp new vinyl and placing it on your turntable than finding out you've come into the possession of a mispressed album. Here we look at eight famous instances of of vinyl mishaps.
Guest post by Dan Reifsnyder of Soundfly's Flypaper
For audiophiles, there’s nothing quite like unwrapping the packaging after purchasing new vinyl, setting the record down onto the turntable, carefully placing the stylus at its outer edge, and floating away into the warm, high-fidelity sound of the music. After the hushed static of the empty space eventually gives way to silence, one expects to hear the introductory chords and rhythms of their favorite pop track ease in.
But then, all of a sudden… Skronk! Bang! Screech! Thunderous drums, screaming vocals, and chainsaw guitars start ripping through the speakers at tremendous speeds! Accidents do happen, and one may have just happened to you.
While for some of us listeners of a more curious ilk, this could be one of the most exciting moments of our life, for most, getting a record that has been mispressed with another artist’s music on one side is deeply off-putting and tragically unfair.
One such accident happened earlier this week to none other than the queen herself, Beyoncé, but mishaps like this are nothing new. Here are eight of the most notable vinyl manufacturing incidents in record history, and we start, with the latest.
1. Beyoncé’s Lemonade LP mispressed with music from Canadian punk band Zex
Those of you who got the new BEYONCE record 'Lemonade', may be surprised to hear what will be playing on the A-Side…. #zexbeyoncesplit
Posted by ZEX on Sunday, September 17, 2017
No, Beyoncé didn’t suddenly go punk. But you could be forgiven for thinking that if you ordered a vinyl of her recent album Lemonade. Due to a misprint, several songs from the band Zex’s recent album, Uphill Battle, replaced an entire side of the yellow-vinyl pressing from Queen B. For their part, Zex took it in stride — after all, they’re sharing an album with one of the world’s biggest pop stars, which gets them some incredible exposure. That kind of publicity just doesn’t grow on trees!
2. Tool’s 1992 EP, Opiate, found inside U2’s limited edition Songs of Innocence LP
Record Store Day is pretty much always a chaotic race to print new, limited-edition album copies for short-run promotions, and, in 2015, fans that picked up the special edition of U2’s Songs of Innocence were in for a shock when they played their purchase. Tool’s 1992 EP Opiate was accidentally slotted into the sleeve in its place. True to form, Tool is quoted as sarcastically saying, “Nice freakin’ try, U2!” and that fans that received the mixed up copies were “very lucky.”
You may remember that U2 had already received a bit of public backlash when this album was automatically added into (and impossible to remove from) Apple iPods and iTunes apps everywhere, prompting witty tweets such as this:
3. Gordi and Queens of the Stone Age’s same-day release accidental split LP
And it keeps happening. Riff-heavy rockers Queens of the Stone Age were on the receiving end of another bizarre mashup. The B-side of this year’s Queens of the Stone Age album, Villains, was somehow pressed onto the B-side of Australian acoustic singer Gordi’s new release, Reservoir. Although they were both on different labels, the mixup apparently occurred from them being released on the same day. Gordi addressed the mixup with humor, claiming she planned the entire thing. “People won’t notice, or they’ll appreciate the dynamic shift,” she added.
+ Learn more with Soundfly: Immerse yourself in the stories, music, choreography, and political commentary surrounding one of the 20th century’s greatest theater works in our free, in-depth Discover course, The West Side Story Companion, produced in partnership with Carnegie Hall.
4. Madonna’s Rebel Heart LP pressed with music from the Pulp Fiction soundtrack
Madonna’s 2015 album Rebel Heart was pressed to vinyl in Europe with some copies featuring an entire side of the newly remastered and reissued Pulp Fiction soundtrackappearing on the A-side instead of Madonna’s music. And her devoted fans were quick to collect all the relevant info to add to their official fan-updated discography. Even some enterprising Discogs user took the opportunity to update the release page for the album accordingly.
5. Lana Del Rey’s Born to Die repress jammed up with Baltimore shoegaze band Wildhoney
I’m not sure if anyone out there was keeping score, but it seems 2015 is in the lead to take home the trophy for the Most Vinyl Manufacturing Mishaps ever. A repressing of pop singer Lana Del Rey’s 2012 album, Born to Die, was mistakenly printed with music from the indie shoegaze band Wildhoney from Baltimore. Apparently, the mistake at the plant occurred in the vinyl-stamping phase, which means probably a ton of the records in this particular run, if not all, were affected with the error.
6. Rivalry Records’ accidental “root beer”-colored vinyl
It’s pretty common when you’re working with colored vinyl, and other special edition attributes, that some are going to come out a bit… wonky. Rivalry Records, it seems, has had more than their fair share of mishaps. They’ve even started an entire page on their website for all the rare occurrences that happened with one particular release. Because, hey, when life gives you lemons… the pressing plant turns them into root beer sometimes.
About 10 copies of the split 7″ release from bands Internal Affairs and Allegiance that were supposed to be presented in a limited-edition, gold vinyl “lost their luster,” so to speak, as the plant transitioned back to the regular black wax. As such, they ended up in this dirty “root beer” color. That’s only one of the bevy of inaccuracies having to do with this one. Rivalry, we feel for you, dudes.
And now to some of the more controversial episodes in this vein of rock history — banned album covers that snuck out into the public.
7. David Bowie’s half dog/half man monstrosity
Always known to push the boundaries, the original artwork for David Bowie’s 1974 album Diamond Dogs actually depicted Bowie as a pretty grotesque hybrid of man/dog with a bit too much artistic precision around the genitals. The painting was done by Belgian artist Guy Peellaert.
Somewhat understandably, the label got skittish about releasing that artwork and ordered it airbrushed over. Fortunately for collectors, this was not before some keen-eyed label employees snagged a few. Copies of this edition have been made available at auctions from time to time and fetch enormous returns. While current estimates say no more than 10 remain, those that have managed to find their way out have fetched astonishing prices — recently, one sold for about $3,550!
+ Read more on Flypaper: “How to Properly Maintain Your Vinyl”
8. The Rolling Stones’ cover commentary on police brutality
Another magnet for controversy, the sleeve for the Rolling Stones’ single, “Street Fighting Man,” featured a somewhat shocking picture of police brutality. Although it was actually printed and released, the label became nervous — the band was already associated with inciting violence and the fear was that the sleeve art encouraged it even more. Although it was recalled, some copies survive and are among some of the most expensive vinyl singles out there with one copy fetching around $17,000.
9. The Beatles’ infamous baby “butcher” cover
This bizarre mishap showcases the Beatles’ offbeat humor. Apparently unhappy with interference from the label, as well as their squeaky-clean image, the band insisted on using a rather controversial picture for their album Yesterday and Today. As you can see, it featured all four members in lab coats, covered in meat and dismembered doll parts, and has since become known as the “butcher” cover.
The label fretted about the cover offending people (which it apparently did), and the fact that it might ruin the band’s image. Although the label initially released the album with the controversial artwork, they quickly recalled it and destroyed many of the copies. The surrounding publicity created attention for the album, resulting in it flying off the shelves. Today, the recalled copies are rare treasures that would be happily at home in any true Beatles fan’s collection.
Although they don’t happen often, which is a testament to how dedicated and precise vinyl manufacturers are globally, mistakes do happen from time to time. And when they do, they are often hilarious, intriguing, and potentially profitable. Be sure to keep an eye out for them at your local record store, and, for God’s sake, never put your money towards releasing something on Record Store Day!