RUINED VINYL, THE SEQUELS
I am shocked by Ian McCann’s answer to the letter titled “Obscured by clouds” (RC 402). Surely somebody at Record Collector would know the real reason for this damage, after all you keep banging on about bloody vinyl all the time! This damage is not caused by damp (that’s a different story); the damage Chris is referring to comes from close exposure to the PVC sleeve, which eventually degrades and releases gases which react with the surface of the vinyl leaving a matt finish, sometimes with a mottled effect. The problem is exacerbated if records in PVC sleeves are stored tightly together.
I remember 4AD sending out the promo red vinyl 12” of Dead Can Dance’s Nierika [below] in such a sleeve; any copies stored in it will have suffered this type of damage. I have replaced all my PVC sleeves with softer poly covers after damage to many records. As you can imagine, there are many types of PVC sleeves and some are worse than others – a rule of thumb is, if your PVC sleeve smells strong or has changed colour, get rid. Kev, by email
I read with interest the letters about “fogging” and “bag rash” on LPs. Recently, I took out my treasured original copy of the first Ash Ra Tempel LP to play, not having done so for years, and was appalled to discover that one side looked as if someone had splashed acid on it. It was not like that when I bought it. I kept all my LPs in hard PVC sleeves and because of the fragile nature of the sleeve, the record in its plain paper inner was kept between the outside of the sleeve and the PVC outer; the affected side was the one against the PVC. When played, there was surface noise, like tape hiss.
A few days later I was in the Music & Video Exchange in Notting Hill, London, and mentioned this disaster to one of the staff. He told me they regularly encountered records irretrievably damaged in this way; particularly new wave 45s where the covers were “protected” by PVC outers and there was no inner sleeve, as well as picture discs where the record is right against the PVC. Affected records are unplayable.
Alarmed, I worked my way through my entire collection of 4,000 60s and 70s LPs – the majority of which had PVC sleeves – removing the outers and taking the opportunity to discard soft polythene-lined inner sleeves at the same time. Fortunately, I discovered only 15 badly affected LPs; sadly one was an original Ronnie Scott on Esquire (sob), but I did find another 50 or so where there was a light “misted” patch on the vinyl where the inner sleeve opened, clearly the beginning of a disaster but this did not affect play and it looked as if someone had breathed on it. There were no issues with LPs without protective outers or with polythene outers.
In two cases, the PVC outer had reacted with the lamination of the LP sleeve it was designed to protect. It was difficult to remove it from the outer without damage; the lamination was left permanently tacky – particularly with some German pressings where the lamination has a matt finish. On a couple of DIY punk singles, the PVC outer lifted off the ink. It appears the PVC emits a vapour (a smell evocative of late-60s record shops!) which reacts with the LP and, in rare cases, the sleeve. These hard PVC sleeves represent a hazard to rare vinyl. It is ironic that something designed to protect collectors’ items seems implicated in damaging them. I now keep my LPs without an outer sleeve unless the cover is very fragile, in which case I use a 400gm polythene outer.
Entirely separately, I had become concerned about the soft polythene-lined inner sleeves that were commonplace in the mid-60s to very early 70s – the period where the most expensive collectors’ items were issued. These sleeves sometimes leave a wavy pattern on the disc which, if you catch it quickly enough, can be wiped off with no negative impact but if left, becomes impossible to shift. It doesn’t affect the playability of the LP in most cases and I have heard it can sometimes be removed with repeated trips through a cleaning machine, but I have doubts. It seems to affect Mint records left unplayed, so readers stashing swirl Vertigos and Deram LPs as investments would be advised to change the inners or the investment may go sour. Not playing the LP and packing it tightly may be exacerbating factors.
As for “fogging”, where the LP’s surface is milky, I have encountered this only with soft polythene sleeves, particularly on blue Liberty labels, red Polydor and red and plum Atlantics. It appears something went wrong at the outset as they are normally perfect. This “fog” does cause surface noise and the records look horrible. There is no known cure.
Regarding “bag rash”, my understanding is that the vinyl has areas where it looks “pitted”, but is smooth to the touch and does not affect play; I have encountered this mostly on early- to mid-60s LPs in the “greaseproof paper” sleeves or CBS LPs in those shiny paper sleeves with LP ads on them.
Perhaps these problems are caused by age. The most collectible records are more than 40 years old and weren’t designed to last that long, but maybe hard PVC outers and soft poly inners slash their lifespan. I now use the “onion paper”-lined inners available from RC’s ads and I am reasonably confident in them. They started to be used by Decca in 1974/5 for example and I’ve never found an issue with an LP stored in one. But I have a nagging feeling that, despite a risk of scuffs, I’d be better off with plain acid-free paper sleeves. Jon Groocock, by email
by Kev and Jon Groocock
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