Back in the eighties, way before the Internet as we know it was born, the only way to keep up to date with the latest news from your favourite bands was by reading one of the popular music magazines. Â There were many magazine vying for your attention, such as Smash Hits, New Musical Express and Melody Maker, so they often tried to woo new readers with covermounted goodies.
Whilst posters and lyric books were always popular, the ultimate lure was to give away some actual music, and the way in which this was often done was to use a Flexi-Disc record stuck to the front cover.
For the most part Flexi-Discs looked just like a normal single vinyl record, but they often came in various bright colours (yellow, green and red were always very popular). Â The biggest difference was that unlike a vinyl record, Flexi-Discs (as their name suggests) were flexible. Â Really flexible! Â They could be carefully rolled up into a tube if you so wished, although doing so was not really to be recommended if you want the thing to lie flat on your record deck!
Sometimes they were printed with a background image rather than just being a single colour, and they could also be made in different shapes. Â One popular use for the Flexi-Disc for a time was as a postcard, with a picture of some tourist attraction on the disc, and various sounds and information about the location recorded on the disc.
Being more into home computers than music as a kid I even came across the odd Flexi-Disc that contained recordings of computer programs. Â Obviously listening to these on a record player was not normally that pleasurable an experience, but you had to sit through it at least once as you recorded the screeches and warbles off the disc onto a cassette tape to load into your computer.
So far then they sound like a pretty nifty little free gift, but there was a drawback. Â Actually getting one of the damn things to playback seemed to be almost impossible, or at least I could never get my Dad’s record player to play them, and I know several of my friends and cousins had similar bad luck. Â If you did manage to get some kind of sound out of them it was often hissy and almost unintelligible.
Finally, a quick word of thanks to the rather excellently named Cats Don’t Eat Space Dust, where I got the picture from that accompanies this post.