Crackle And Pop: Flexi Discs for Your Flexible Taste In Music!

2012-03-23 9

When you like many different genres of music it is said you have flexible taste in music. What about when you own actual flexible music? Read on to know more about the wonderful object that is the flexi disc!

Like the tape in a cassette which is so thin and fragile but plays perfectly, I’m amazed at how you can actually play music on something as thin and flexible as this:

Vinyl records, cassettes, CD’s, they are all really common formats but I’m always astonished at how and what makes them work and produce sound. Much like thinking of how analogue photography works, it all seems like magic to me!

The flexi shown above is a 1983 promotional Duran Duran disc which features about 1 minute excerpts of five tracks taken from their first two albums. It was given away for free with some UK magazines at the time:

The history of flexible discs is mostly undocumented but from what I’ve understood by researching, they have been around for nearly 100 years and have come in many many forms: postcards, advertising records, playable books, give-aways, political records, religious records, promos for albums, movies, etc. etc, the list is endless.

In the Soviet Union, they were used as an underground method of distribuiting jazz music because jazz music was prohibited after World War II. These flexi discs were called “bones” and “ribs” because they were recorded on discarded x-rays, resulting in these really striking and compelling visual objects:

pictures via ( taken by Hajdú József

Flexi discs rose to prominence in the 80’s largely due to the launch of Flexipop! magazine in 1980. It was a monthly magazine which only lasted 2 years and every issue came with a free colored flexi with previously unreleased songs by some really great bands.

In the words of Hue Collingbourne (a writer for Flexipop! magazine) in an interview he gave for Stylus magazine:

“Other music mags may have dabbled in flexis, but Flexipop! made a career of it. We had singles by the top bands of the day—everyone from The Jam to Depeche Mode. A really good flexi would make the magazine fly off the newsstands.”

And they did fly off the newsstands, particularly their fourth issue, released in February 1981, which came with a flexi disc featuring Adam & The Ants’ very own version of Village People’s Y.M.C.A called A.N.T.S.

After Flexipop! other magazines took on the flexi disc trend, one of those being Trouser Press, which started giving away free flexi’s in 1982 to their subscribers only. I was lucky enough to come across the first issue that came with a flexi disc: Issue number 69, January 1982, with a yellow Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark flexi.

This and the fourth issue of Flexipop! are the only two 80’s magazine I own and I really love them; the flexi discs are amazing. The problem with liking mostly 80’s bands is that, as much as I love music, I can never really find any music magazines that I like to read. I do listen to some more recent bands, but everytime I pick up a music magazine it will have about one or two features — if any — on bands I like.

Reading an 80’s music magazine was a whole different experience because for once, I could read a magazine that featured loads of bands I love (and great bands for that matter). These two magazines also have a nice slightly D.I.Y zine feel to it, which I know a lot of us analogue lovers like. Check out Trouser Press:

Once regarded as disposable, flexi discs are now higly sought after by collectors and while some are relatively cheap others are sometimes sold for ridiculous amounts of money. Collingbourne, in his interview for Stylus magazine said “I’m amazed, I never guessed at the time that anyone would ever want to collect stuff that we regarded as cheap throwaways.”

When you think of it, they are kind of like Diana cameras and all the Diana clones which were given out for free in the 60’s and thrown away most of the time only to be worth quite a lot today!

In the 60’s The Beatles sent out flexi discs at Christmas to their fan club members. I imagine they must be worth quite a lot nowadays.

In 1980 a Joy Division flexi disc with three previously unreleased songs was given away for free in record stores. You didn’t even have to buy anything at the record stores, you just had to go over and ask for it and you’d get it for free! Side A has “This is a free record” printed on it, and side B says “This record should not have cost you anything, wherever or however it was obtained”. Nevertheless, to own it nowadays, it will of course cost you.

Like I said, flexidiscs were made out of various materials. There is even a 7" vinyl record by The Psychadelic Furs, released in 1981, that while it isn’t a flexi-disc, the actual cardboard cover it comes in is. You not only play the actual vinyl record, but you play the cover to hear excerpts from other three songs taken from the same album as the song in the 7" single. It’s a great way of promoting an album.

So, imagine if you could make flexi discs out of your own photos, which photos would you choose and which songs would each of them play? I’d love to know so leave a comment below with links to your photos and your choice of songs for each of them. If you own flexi discs I’d also love to know which, so write it all in the comments!

These are my picks:

Credits: carlota_nonnumquam

Photo 1: The Cure – Primary
Photo 2: Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart
Photo 3: Pet Shop Boys – Always On My Mind
Photo 4: Sisters Of Mercy – Walk Away
Photo 5: B-Movie – Nowhere Girl
Photo 6: Tears Of Fears – Mad World

If you want to learn more about the fantastic and fascinating object that is the flexi disc head on over to The Bendable Sounds of Flexi Discs, Disposable Pop: A History Of The Flexidisc, The Internet Museum of Flexi/Cardboard/Oddity Records, Jazz On Bones: X-Ray Sound Recordings, and Flexi Disc on Wikipedia.

Crackle And Pop is a weekly series written by Carlota, a Portuguese graphic designer and vinyl record lover and collector. It is aimed at everyone who can’t get enough of vinyl records and that wonderful crackling and popping sound old vinyl records make!

written by carlota_nonnumquam on 2012-03-23 #lifestyle #regular-contributors #analogue-lifestyle #analogue #vinyl-records #lomography #flexi-discs #regular-series #crackle-and-pop


  1. neanderthalis
    neanderthalis ·

    We had some of those around the house when I was a kid. :)

  2. iloveyousummer
    iloveyousummer ·

    I never saw one until now. I like this article it brings back again good memries. nice one.

  3. bernizt
    bernizt ·

    This is a great article! Thanks

  4. carlota_nonnumquam
    carlota_nonnumquam ·

    @neanderthalis You are so lucky, there weren't many in my country (Portugal) at the time so the first time I saw one was last year!
    @iloveyousummer and @bernizt Thank you so much :)

  5. stratski
    stratski ·

    I had one as a kid! It had a sort of mix of a radio drama with children songs on it. It was my favourite record (well, to be honest, my only record). Ibbeltje, it was called, by famous Dutch writer Annie M.G Schmidt.I can still recite parts of it by memory... Ha, thanks for bringing back this memory!

  6. fivedayforecast
    fivedayforecast ·

    There'll be flexies for sale in this years Record Store Day! My band was trying to get our music released on 12'x2lp flexie. Don't think it's going to happen.

  7. adam_g2000
    adam_g2000 ·

    I recall, as a kid, getting a computer program on one. You recorded the disc to cassette, then loaded it into the computer. Great article!

  8. megzeazez
    megzeazez ·

    <3 Love this article. I host a minimal wave and industrial radio show, and I'm a huge flexi-pop fan. Thank you for this!

  9. raghu240880
    raghu240880 ·

    This really new to me as we normally don't see this in india. i want to know that how could i make flexi discs out of my own photos ?

More Interesting Articles

  • Lomo’Instant Wide Tip No. 11 - Multiple Exposures

    written by Lomography on 2015-10-23 #gear #tutorials
    Lomo’Instant Wide Tip No. 11 - Multiple Exposures

    We love multiple exposures because no matter what scenes you choose to combine, the end result is always spectacular! Double (or triple) yourself up in a self portrait, or experiment with different patterns and objects when you shoot with your Lomo'Instant Wide and watch your amazing creations develop before your eyes!

    2015-10-23 2
  • Take Two's 'In Your Arms': Light Painting Music Video Using Pixelstick by SNAP Productions

    written by karenatsoi on 2016-02-22 #videos #people
    Take Two's 'In Your Arms': Light Painting Music Video Using Pixelstick by SNAP Productions

    An indie band from Singapore, Take Two, released a music video for their song 'In Your Arms' earlier this year. The video was shot and produced by SNAP productions with the Pixelstick to create stunning light-painting effects. Read on to know more about the production of the video and what the people at SNAP Productions think about the Pixelstick!

  • Film Format Fun: Rapid Film

    written by Maaike van Stratum (@stratski) on 2016-02-08 #gear #tutorials
    Film Format Fun: Rapid Film

    We all know about 35mm and 120 film, right? And since Lomography re-introduced 110 film, we have another film format to play with. But in the years past, many more film formats were in use. Let me introduce you to a few golden oldies and tell you about my experiences with them. I'll start with Rapid film.

    2016-02-08 3
  • Shop News

    the perfect surprise for every analogue loving enthusiast

     the perfect surprise for every analogue loving enthusiast

    Let your loved one pick the gift of their dreams. Lomography Online Shop Gift Certificates are the perfect present for every analogue devotee on your gift list

  • A Tactile Trip Through Town with the New Jupiter 3+ Art Lens

    written by Lomography on 2016-01-23 #news
    A Tactile Trip Through Town with the New Jupiter 3+ Art Lens

    What makes an engaging image? What makes a photograph seem more like a memory than just an image? How is it able to make you feel as if you were right there, in that moment, experiencing the scene first hand?

  • LomoAmigo Luka Tacon: Demasiado Sabor!

    written by katphip on 2016-02-10 #people #places
    LomoAmigo Luka Tacon: Demasiado Sabor!

    We met our new LomoAmigo Luka Tacon as we danced to the hypnotic beats of his music project Heartbreaker at our Lomo'Instant Wide Launch Party in NYC. Now, the brooklyn-based DJ and electronic music producer is preparing for an epic Lover's Ball at House of Yes with his friends at Might Get Weird, experimenting with the La Sardina and LC-A, and feeling the Latin rhythms of Costa Rica. Read more about his inspirations and analog adventures. As a special bonus, you can listen to his exclusive Heartbreaker set!

  • The Beauty of Black and White

    written by lomographymagazine on 2015-11-18
    The Beauty of Black and White

    A popular quote by photojournalist Ted Grant goes, "When you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in black and white, you photograph their souls!" Indeed, the lack of vibrant color forces the viewer to see beyond what is on plain view and recognize the atmosphere surrounding a photograph. In this post, we've handpicked black and white shots taken in various situations and exhibit different moods.

    2015-11-18 5
  • Shop News

    LomoLab Europe has moved!

    LomoLab Europe has moved!

    The LomoLab EU has moved and is now open for business! Analogue lovers from Austria, Germany, Spain, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxenbourg, and the rest of Europe can send their films to: Lomographische AG LomoLAB Kaiserstrasse 34/12 1070 WIen Austria However, if you're based in Germany - and you don't mind a longer waiting time, you can still send your rolls for processing to: Lifesmyle Store Berlin - LomoLAB Friedrichstraße 133 10117 Berlin Germany

  • Long Exposures Around Europe with the Minitar-1 Art Lens

    written by antoniocastello on 2015-12-10 #gear #places
    Long Exposures Around Europe with the Minitar-1 Art Lens

    One of the things I like the most about the Minitar-1 Art lens is how sharp the focus can be when you shoot with a small aperture. So if you are one of those that like to shoot at night, get a tripod, add this to a late dark winter afternoon, and you will end up with a bunch of beautiful long exposures. This is what I did on my last trip to Europe.

    2015-12-10 4
  • From Road to Street with Acey Slade

    written by katphip on 2016-02-20 #people #places
    From Road to Street with Acey Slade

    Our new LomoAmigo Acey Slade has a pretty cool job. He's a touring bassist for musicians like Joan Jett & the Blackhearts. Even though music is his whole life, Acey still considers his photography to be much more important work. In this interview, Acey talks about his favorite cameras and a mysterious disposable camera lying around his band's tour bus—the developed pictures were nothing like his bandmates imagined!

    2016-02-20 2
  • Searching for Bright and CMYK-Tinted Photographic Prints

    written by lomographymagazine on 2016-09-30 #culture
    Searching for Bright and CMYK-Tinted Photographic Prints

    Soak your film photographs and let them bleed in radiant CMYK hues for brilliant color photography.

  • Shop News

    The New Petzval 58 Bokeh Control Art Lens now ready to ship!

    The New Petzval 58 Bokeh Control Art Lens now ready to ship!

    Great news! Our previous KickStarter success, the Petzval 58 Bokeh Control Art Lens, is now in stock and ready to ship! What are you waiting for? Go to the shop and grab yours now!

  • Cinematics Rumble: Tearjerker

    written by Lomography on 2016-10-01
    Cinematics Rumble: Tearjerker

    Don't worry, we'll be keeping our box of tissue close.

  • Around the World in Analogue: Ladakh, India

    written by Lomography on 2016-09-30 #places
    Around the World in Analogue: Ladakh, India

    "Around the World in Analogue" is your bite-sized guide to the most amazing travel destinations across the globe, as documented by the members of the Lomography community. Today, lomographer Rachel Levy shares her memorable trip to Ladakh, India.

  • Karolin Klüppel: Kingdom of Girls

    written by lomographymagazine on 2016-09-30 #culture #people
    Karolin Klüppel: Kingdom of Girls

    The recent photo book of Karolin Klüppel is a unique portraiture collection of young Khasi girls.