At the cutting edge with bolan

‘Acetates’ of Marc’s early work are among the most sought-after items in the world of record collecting. George Rab tells the story of these rare hand-cut demo discs

Record collecting encompasses various formats but one that is hardly ever mentioned is the acetate record, so called because it consists of a thin lacquer or acetate coating on an aluminium disc. Some readers may not be sure what exactly an acetate is, what part it plays in the process of record production or why they are now viewed by some as the pinnacle of record collecting.

To mark the 30th anniversary of Marc Bolan’s untimely demise, just a few days before he would have himself turned 30, let me cast some light on this fascinating topic by conducting a tour around his enduring legacy of hand-cut records. In the 1983 book Making Music, edited by no less a musical genius than Sir George Martin, we have this succinct definition: “a reference or demo disc usually cut for technical evaluation purposes”.

It further explains that a “cut” is the process of “making a master disc from which finished records can be pressed; so called because the master tape sounds are transferred to a lacquered disc by a cutting machine which uses a needle to draw the sound patterns into the acetate”.

There you have it. The acetate is the intermediate stage between the (rough) mixed recording on tape and the vinyl records shipped to retailers. The first incarnation of a finished record but one which can …

by George Rab
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