The First Picture Disc

These days when we open up a CD, we expect to see some kind of design covering the entire top of the disc.

If you have a special type of CD burner or ink-jet printer, you can print your own designs.  But back in the days of vinyl, we had to pay extra for what was known as a “picture disc”—a 12″ LP that had a picture delicately spray-painted over the grooves in the vinyl.  Picture discs were all the rage for a number of years.  

Bands made a few extra bucks by issuing limited-edition picture discs.  But here’s a really weird bit of trivia.

Would you care to guess who released the very first picture disc?  Ready?  The year was 1934—and that’s when Adolph Hitler released a series of Nazi speeches on a flat shellac disc, which featured a picture of him and a large crowd.  It was history’s first picture disc.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

7 thoughts on “The First Picture Disc

  • November 18, 2011 at 2:38 am

    So how about cutout discs? Extrapolate that to cutout picture dics…..

    Where does my Safety Dance cut-pic disc fit in the time line? hehe


  • February 15, 2015 at 6:55 pm

    Actually that was not history’s 1st picture disc, I suggest you do more research.

    • February 16, 2015 at 4:08 am

      Oh? Then what was it? Please share. I’m always a fan of accuracy.

      • April 21, 2016 at 8:08 am

        Sorry Alan, the first picture disc was produced in the USA in the 1920s and it was a country and western number. A photo of a picture disc rather than a coloured vinyl LP might be more appropriate here. The image in picture discs is not “spray painted” on the disc, In fact, its not even painted. Might be best to delete this mis-informative post. A good reference book on the topic was published by Virgin Books in the late 80s.

        • April 21, 2016 at 8:15 am

          Thanks for the additional info! I’ll have to look for that book.

  • Pingback: Ongoing History Daily: The history of the picture disc - Alan Cross

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