Freaky formats: The odd-sized records you never knew existed

Freaky formats: The odd-sized records you never knew existed

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Forget the 12″.

“My criteria is… when you look at a record and go ‘WTF?’” A collector’s collector, if anyone’s got an eye for the unusual it’s DJ Food. Keeper of one of the country’s most eclectic record collections, he’s spent the last two decades supplementing his vast archive of beats and breaks with forgotten relics from vinyl’s more obscure niches.

A graphic designer with a passion for comic book culture and visual ephemera, his attention to record sleeves and packaging is second nature. Having let us into his peerless collection of flexi-discs we were blown away by the variety of weird and wonderful records that remained largely undocumented in his impeccably organised shelves.

To remedy this, we’ve invited Food to hold down a monthly column exploring the stranger corners of his collection, from mini-records to postcard novelties. Following from his eye-popping look at 3D covers and optical-art record sleeves, Food unpacks records of all sizes from 2 right up to 16″.


Words: DJ Food / Photography: Michael Wilkin & Kevin Foakes


Records come in three sizes: 7″, 10″ and 12″, right? Not always. In the 1930s, before vinyl as we know it existed, some transcription discs were a whopping 16″s, cut onto aluminium and used to broadcast radio shows. As far back as the ’50s there were 6″ and 8″ children’s stories and nursery rhymes that spun at 78rpm, sometimes on splatter or sunburst coloured vinyl.

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The late ’60s saw a brief fad for 4″ Pocket Discs in the States or ‘Hip Pocket Records’ as one company marketed them – 3.5 minutes of music that could be carried in your pocket or sent in an envelope without breaking. They spun at 33rpm, were sold at counters or from vending machines and retailed at about 50 cents.

The Japanese are especially good at pressing small sized vinyl and produced tiny ‘8-Ban’ record players complete with pitch control to play 3″ coloured discs containing theme songs from popular kids TV shows like Ultraman. These are called Triple Inchophones and were later picked up by Jack White who produced a White Stripes version of the player complete with mini replica singles that were sold on tour. (You can still buy the records from Third Man).

There were experiments with odd sizes in the ’80s from labels like A&M with a 5″ from the band Squeeze and Stiff, who, bizarrely, produced a 6″ version of Jona Lewie’s ‘Big Shot Momentarily’ as well as a 7″ and 12″. The cover bears the legend: ‘This record may not play on automatic decks. So try putting it on ‘manual’. If this does not work you are advised to invest in the seven inch version’. One wonders what difference the inch made when the cover also stated ‘Do not pay more than 60 pence’.

Radio Stars 'From A Rabbit' 6- single

Another 6″ appeared in the late ’70s, again also in 7″ form, from the band Radio Stars. ‘From A Rabbit’ came in a (Special Hip Pocket Edition) with a stickered cover and smaller labels on the disc itself.

Working our way up the scale, Sonic Boom’s band E.A.R. produced both a 5″ ‘Pocket Symphony’ single and an 8″ picture disc in the mid ’90s via Sympathy For The Record Industry and a 9″ for Ochre Records. Another famous 9″ was made by Nine Inch Nails for a limited edition version of their ‘Sin’ single in the UK.

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So far, we’ve had 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8″s to add to the usual 7, 10 and 12. So far, the only 11″ record I’ve found is an obscure glow in the dark vinyl single by Wagon Christ, released on German label, Electro Bunker Cologne in the late ’90s. Sampling ‘Withnail & I’ for the title refrain of ‘London Is A Country Coming Down From It’s Trip’, it’s drum n bass in the style of his Plug releases with no labels on the actual record and virtually no other info.

More recently contemporary artists have embraced the 5″ with Oh No/MF Doom, UNKLE, Bonobo, Tom Vek and the Equinox label all producing limited editions as promos, usually featuring heavily edited or split versions of tracks across both sides due to the minuscule running time.

Fantomas and Melt Banana even did a split single on 5″ for ‘Unhip Records’ – a nice nod to the original hip pocket records of 50 years before.

Comments (26)

  1. Jo Mitchell 2 years ago

    Our label did a 5″ vinyl for MZ. 412 ‘Vault’ box in 2011: https://www.discogs.com/MZ-412-Vault/release/2755182

    NIN also did a 9″ for March Of The Pigs: https://www.discogs.com/Nine-Inch-Nails-March-Of-The-Pigs/release/4686308

    • iainl 2 years ago

      It seems to have been a running joke for Reznor; I’ve got The Hand That Feeds in 9″ size, and Discogs list a release for Only as well.

      • Graham Needham 2 years ago

        NIN released commerical 9″ singles in the United Kingdom for Sin (1991), March Of The Pigs (1994), The Hand That Feeds (2005), Only (2005), Survivalism (2007) and Capital G (2007). There are also very limited UK fan-club only 9″ box sets to hold the 2005 releases and the 2007 releases. There are also UK 9″ 1-sided PROMO editions for The Hand That Feeds and Only with stickered PVC sleeves!

  2. The Herb Whisperer 2 years ago

    Alien Sex Fiend released an 11″ record in the early 80’s:

    http://www.discogs.com/Alien-Sex-Fiend-EST-Trip-To-The-Moon/release/390361

  3. dj_iyf 2 years ago

    I released a 6 inch in yo mama last nite

    Sincerely,

    A profoundly smart and subtle man

  4. Fred Johansen 2 years ago

    I used to sell the 16″ transcription discs. Not very difficult to find, I used to use pizza boxes to ship them !!

  5. G L Wilson 2 years ago

    There was a record pressing plant quite recently that offered 13″ records as an option. Apparently most decks *would* be able to play them as it’s only an extra half inch radius. I think Pirate’s Press put out an Oi! compilation as an 11″. Also what about some of the tiny postage stamp records from Bhutan?

  6. Randy Riddle 2 years ago

    I have some 17″ radio transcription discs made in the early 1930s, pressed for syndicated radio shows. There were also rare 20″ Pathe discs pressed during the acoustic era.

  7. Darrian Mitchell 2 years ago

    John Tefteller at one time had on his site(tefteller.com) several 7″ 78rpm records on the Modern label

  8. Sentinel DJ 2 years ago

    I have a square small vinyl and two bendable floppy vinyls, mad as cheese !!

    • ufg 2 years ago

      the bendable vinyls are hell cool and pretty common really! I think they came with old guitar magazines and stuff like that

      • Mircea W. Gutu 2 years ago

        i remember having a thin vinyl foil from a mickey mouse comic – whale sounds were on it!

      • Sindroid 2 years ago

        Are you talking about flexi-discs?

        • ufg 2 years ago

          yeppp

  9. Peter Stupar 2 years ago

    A&M released a 5″ from Yellow Magic Orchestra.

  10. Colicub 2 years ago

    There’s also been a few CDs or DVDs with a playable vinyl side too, I know Fightstar and The Rumble Strips released some.

  11. Tianna Setser 2 years ago

    Hey discussion – I Appreciate the specifics . Does someone know if my company might obtain a template a form document to work with ?

  12. Stefan Prokop 1 year ago

    Not true, Alien sex fiend- est is released on 11″ too

  13. Tim Campbell 1 year ago

    What i wish to know is how can one play these records .

  14. Umberto Sorrentino 1 year ago

    I think that one more format was forgotten: the 2″ format, that was used as the voice of the dolls (http://th.toysblog.it/PIY-LEj0MpAGp6MTuQmGdAGXmjU=/fit-in/655xorig/http://media.toysblog.it/b/b66/Bambola-Michela-Sebino.jpg)

  15. John Paul 11 months ago

    Mostly everyone over the age of 40 or who collects records has already seen these odd sized discs. Its no big news – and few of us say ever say WTF when we see one.

  16. Anthony Langan 4 months ago

    alien sex fiend also released an 11 inch record
    Est
    Est
    Alien Sex Fiend – Est
    Alien Sex Fiend Est (1984 VG+/VG+ UK Anagram 11 INCH – 3 Track E.s.t. B/w Bone Shaker Baby And I Am A Product With Backing Card Some Surface Scuffs (11ana25),

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