The Long-Player Goodbye/The Vinyl Countdown

The Long-player Goodbye:
The album from vinyl to iPod and back again
(Sceptre, July 2008)

And published in the US as The Vinyl Countdown: The Album from LP to iPod and Back Again (Soft Skull, May 2009)

For nearly 60 years, since the arrival of the long-playing record in 1948, the album has provided the soundtrack to our lives. Our record collections, even if they’re on CD, or these days, an iPod, are personal treasure, revealing our loves, errors of judgement and lapses in taste. Self-confessed music obsessive, Travis Elborough, explores the way in which particular albums are deeply embedded in cultural history, revered as works of art or so ubiqitous as to be almost invisible. But in the age of the iPod, when we can download an infinite number of single tracks and need never listen to a whole album ever again, does the concept of an album still mean anything? THE LONG-PLAYER GOODBYE is a brilliant piece of popular history and a celebration of the joy of records. If you’ve ever had a favourite album, you’ll love Travis Elborough’s warm and witty take on how vinyl changed our world.


‘Elborough has the passion of a true enthusiast… But he’s also an indefatigable researcher, who has somehow seen a clear path through the vast amount of material he has accumulated to write a book that reads not only easily and well but wholly coherently… I’d like to think the long-player has a little life in it yet. Anyone who agrees will relish this richly enjoyable book.’

Marcus Berkmann, Mail on Sunday

Pleasingly compelling… The Long-Player Goodbye will remind music lovers of a certain age how much these things used to matter; Elborough is a charming, funny and frequently fascinating guide.’

Andy Miller, The Telegraph

‘Elborough is no musical snob and dutifully records how Hot Hits LPs of crummy covers outsold serious-minded acts. He collects some cracking quotes (Cliff Richard on a genderbending Bowie: “He upsets me as a man” … punk-inspired hack Mick Farren’s kiss-off to the prog-rockers: “The Titanic sails at dawn”). And best of all, he sends you back to the original albums, or onto Amazon to fill in the gaps in the digital DNA of your very own pop life.’

Aidan Smith, Scotland on Sunday

Readers concerned that The Long-Player Goodbye might offer nothing more than a slew of rose-tinted reminiscences will find much to allay these fears… The abundance of physical detail which is requisite in any memoir of a 1970s upbringing is certainly present and correct: the “woodlouse dampish” smell of a record sleeve, the “biscuit-crunch bump” of the tone-arm hitting the edge of the disc. There are also jokes about the confusion caused in impressionable young minds by early encounters with the sleeve to Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here (“This man shaking hands was obviously on fire, why had no one called 999?”). But there are other things too, which elevate Elborough above the massed ranks of Nick Hornby wannabes, vainly trying to cobble together something universal out of the specific cultural conditions of their own extended adolescences.

The first of these vital attributes is actual research. Not just the kind of research which allows you to inform people that shellac was made from a resin secreted by Asian tree insects, or that Indiana’s limestone reserves helped to make that state the centre of early LP production, but the expansive general reading which gives a whole book a reassuring air of cultural authority.

There is also an impressive depth of perspective… If the album offered the listener’s imagination “a chance to become entangled in a narrative”, what happens when the boundaries which defined that narrative vanish for ever? Elborough’s forensically detailed investigation of the process by which those now distant parameters were set maintains an admirably persuasive grasp of the broad sweep of cultural history, balancing clear and focused accounts of technological innovation and corporate infighting with thoughtful consideration of the album’s developing aesthetic hinterland.’

Ben Thompson, Independent on Sunday

‘Wagnerian epics to triple quadrophonic concept albums: the LP brought it all home. A smart history of listening, from 33 beating 78, up to the iPod uprising. Great details – his charity shop theory of tastelessness, the scandalous first edit (an operatic high C), even the well-worn pop stories feel fresh.’


‘Elborough is a genial guide and voraciously knowledgeable about his subject… Most importantly, though, this should become crucial (though secret) reading for the iPod generation – a necessary dose of context for their brave new world.’

Jonathan Gibbs, Metro

‘… entertaining to read, plenty of nostalgic comment, irresistible snippets of history and great good fun.’

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