The What Hi-Fi? team on the first vinyl records they ever bought

 Gant All Night Long vinyl cover in front of records.
Gant All Night Long vinyl cover in front of records.

What was the first record you ever bought? Do you remember, and more importantly, are you willing to be honest with your answer?

That's the question posed to What Hi-Fi?'s editorial team, who gamely shared their fond memories of the first vinyl record they bought with their own money for our Vinyl Week event. The stories below range from purchases made from a young age during vinyl's popularity to those bought only recently after being introduced to the analogue format in this century.

There's no judgement; we love music, regardless of how we listen to it, but physical formats (CD, vinyl, minidisc, even cassette) still hold a special place in any music fan's heart, and most of us have clutched on to our first physical music purchases as personal mementos of our lives.

As we celebrate the 17th annual Record Store Day today, maybe we – and you – will add to your music collection with a new record, and maybe our stories might even tempt you to buy your very first vinyl record. If you do, let us know...

Claudio Simonetti's Goblin – The Murder Collection (2014)

Claudio Simonetti's Goblin cover art and red vinyl
Claudio Simonetti's Goblin cover art and red vinyl

Becky Roberts, Managing Editor

As some guilty of the same offence may not care to admit, I bought my first piece of vinyl before I owned a turntable – partly, I think, to force myself into buying one. (It worked, by the way.) Indeed, the beguiling picture disc through the clear sleeve (released for Record Store Day 2015) got the better of any logic and became the first vinyl record I could call my very own.

With its title loosely alluding to its genre theme and compilation format, the album comprises freshly re-arranged and re-recorded tracks composed by Goblin (the apotheosis of Italian prog rock) for cult-classic ‘70s horror films by, mostly, the Godfather of Italian horror Dario Argento. He and the band had a director/composer relationship comparable with that of, say, Tim Burton and Danny Elfman.

The acclaimed title tracks from Argento’s Suspiria (which has been remade, with a Thom Yorke score), Profondo Rosso and Tenebrae feature, as does the theme from George Romero’s 1978 Dawn Of The Dead. In musical terms, that’s an hour of pummelling percussion, ghoulish whispered vocals, and discordant synth-laden melodies laid down by Simonetti’s trademark keyboard. Not one for a Sunday afternoon chill with tea and biscuits.

Queen – A Night at the Opera (1975)

Queen A Night At The Opera vinyl record
Queen A Night At The Opera vinyl record

Jonathan Evans, Magazine Editor

There are advantages to having an older sibling. Not many, but some...

In my case, having a sister two years older meant I watched Top Of The Pops a year or two earlier than I might have done. For the most part – being a rather gauche little boy – this meant I was more than happy humming along to such belters as Ray Stevens' The StreakBut I wasn't averse to some more credible early-’70s fare such as Roxy Music or T. Rex.

Inevitably, it was an episode of TOTP that drew my attention to Queen. Freddie Mercury in an incongruous fur jacket belting out Killer Queen was fascinating to this nine-year-old – and it was a song quite unlike most of the tunes I generally found myself listening to. I was sold on the group and its music.

Almost exactly a year after that fateful Thursday evening in November 1974, Queen released A Night At The Opera. It was the first record I ever really considered buying – my sister had plenty of vinyl by then, and I was generally perfectly happy with her choices. But I wanted – needed – A Night At The Opera to be mine. So down to Our Price I went to hand over my precious pocket money, and a new way of life was begun.

I would normally say "...and I've never looked back" at this point – but I find myself looking back more and more lately. Still, there are worse places to look back to than your 10-year-old self hearing this record for the first time.

Gant – All Night Long (1997) / Soundscape – Dubplate Culture (1998)

Gant All Night Long vinyl cover
Gant All Night Long vinyl cover

Joe Cox, Content Director

The first time I bought a record I almost certainly bought two.

Having saved a not-inconsiderable amount of cash, I bought two pairs of cheap belt-drive turntables from Tottenham Court Road. The life of an international superstar DJ was now surely a mere formality.

As a teenager into dance music in the mid-’90s (who lived just about close enough to the M25), that meant drum'n'bass and UK garage. I distinctly remember realising I wouldn't be able to afford to buy all the records released each week for both genres (for I would surely need them all), and choosing – after much deliberation – to focus on garage.

Rex Records (now closed) is where I went first, even though it was more of a rock/pop specialist – the dance music shop seemed far too intimidating from a quick walk past the window. I did ultimately progress to the not-actually-intimidating Red Eye Records (now online only), Andy's Records (now closed) and the well-kept local HMV (recently reopened). I knew one of these records, while the other was almost certainly chosen because a) it sounded cool and b) was in the right section of the shop.

The DJ career never really progressed beyond my bedroom but I haven't stopped buying and mixing records, and 90 per cent of my listening remains various forms of dance music. And I still have both these records – plus the Technics 1210s I should have saved up for in the first place.

Meatloaf – Bat Out Of Hell (1977)

Meatloaf Bat Out Of Hell cover art
Meatloaf Bat Out Of Hell cover art

Alastair Stevenson, Editor-in-Chief

When I was a kid, my entry point to vinyl was my dad’s collection of 1970s classic rock. I’m going to be 100 per cent transparent and admit it was the album covers that originally got my attention and playing the records, not the music. That’s why the first record I remember putting on and playing of my own volition was either Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow or Iron Maiden’s The Number Of The Beast – check out the cover art and you’ll see why they caught my eye.

With that in mind, it shouldn’t surprise you that Meatloaf’s Bat Out Of Hell was the first record I bought with my own money, rather than robbed from my infinitely patient father. Some of you may roll your eyes at my unashamed love of “cheesy rock”, but I regret nothing. Composed by Jim Steinman and featuring the powering vocals of Meatloaf in his prime it remains a seminal album full of absolute bangers. From the opening titular track to the epic closer, Paradise By Dashboard Light, Meatloaf’s Bat Out Of Hell is a cracking record you can and should take the time to listen to from start to finish – especially given that it’s technically a concept album, telling a sci-fi version of the classic Peter Pan story.

Prince – Batman (1989)

Prince Batman OST vinyl cover
Prince Batman OST vinyl cover

Joe Svetlik, Freelance Contributor

Ah, Woolworths. As a child, graduating from the Pick ‘n Mix (though do you ever really leave it behind?) to the music section was a rite of passage. And with its shiny, gleaming Bat sign, the 12-inch vinyl of the Batman soundtrack jumped out from the shelf.

I can’t have seen the film at the time – in 1989, I was only seven, and Batman was a 12 certificate (the first film the BBFC awarded that rating to, incidentally). And this was an age where films took forever to travel from the cinema to VHS. I’m not even sure I knew who Prince was, having never knowingly listened to any of his music before. So it must have been the film’s marketing that drew me in. Boy, am I glad it did.

Just like the film, the songs still stand up well, with the single Batdance making deft use of samples from the film while also referencing the theme tune from the original TV series. And a 12-inch vinyl sleeve does a far better job of showing off the film stills than a crumpled cassette liner could ever hope to.

The album was originally envisaged as a duet between Michael Jackson and Prince, with Jacko singing ballads for the goodies and Prince funking it up for the baddies’ tunes (the modern equivalent would be a duet between Taylor Swift and Beyoncé). Sadly that never transpired, but the end product is still pretty fine, and holds a special place in my heart, right alongside the Pick ‘n Mix.

Queen – We Are The Champions / We Will Rock You 7" single (1977)

Queen We Are The Champions vinyl cover
Queen We Are The Champions vinyl cover

Chris Burke, Production Editor

Are there many tracks more anthemic than We Are The Champions? It was made to be played at football matches forever, and at the tender age of six I felt that, apart from anything else, it was written for my beloved Leeds United, who would surely be champions again (still waiting). The track is utterly bombastic in the way that only Queen could be. It spoke to the little boy me on so many levels, and I had to make my parents immediately buy the 7" single from Woolworth's. I loved the artwork of that cool giant robot on the cover, but the best surprise of all was getting it home and sticking it on my dad's music centre.

After playing it on repeat (as you could by putting the bar down on it) for several hours, I flipped it over to discover We Will Rock You, a song I wasn't yet familiar with but turned out to be even better, as the AA side. As soon as I heard that cavernously huge drum beat with the synchronised handclaps I was smitten, and by the time the guitar came in for the key change and Brian May solo at the end, it had possibly kick-started my lifelong love of guitar, bass and drums rock, not to mention vinyl!

Tom Waits – Closing Time (1973)

Tom Waits Closing Time vinyl cover
Tom Waits Closing Time vinyl cover

Kashfia Kabir, Hi-Fi and Audio Editor

I didn't buy my first vinyl record until I started working at What Hi-Fi?. Growing up in the era of CDs and cassettes, there wasn't much vinyl in the house apart from my dad's old records (including Garth Brooks and Eurovision 1991 winner Carola... yeah). So when it became imperative to have at least one piece of vinyl of my own that I knew inside out (for testing hi-fi kit at work), there could be only one.

I love Tom Waits. I love his voice. That gravelly, raspy, whiskey-soaked croon full of cynicism and unexpected tenderness. His storytelling is sublime in its down-to-Earth-ness, wrapping you up in smokey-blue nostalgia for memories you've never had and lives you've never lived. I first discovered Closing Time at university and fell madly in love with every song. I Hope That I Don't Fall In Love With You is bittersweet, and if those piano notes on Martha don't bring a tear, you're dead inside. To this day, I still can't believe it was Waits' debut album. He was only 24.

No matter how many times I hear it, this album still unearths so many emotions. It's a poignant, heartfelt, deeply affecting record, one you can just sink into. I technically lost the original record I bought during an office move, but have since replaced it when sifting through my favourite Soho record stores... and I'm keeping this one safe and sound. I blame Tom Waits for this sentimentality.

The Telescopes – Flying 12” single (1991)

The Telescopes Flying single vinyl record
The Telescopes Flying single vinyl record

Ainsley Walker, Staff Writer

I had a few cassette tapes when I was very young, and then CDs from the age of seven or eight, but it wasn’t until I was around 18 in 2011 or 2012 that I got my first vinyl records. My dad has an extensive range of records and regularly plays music on his turntables in the living room, but CDs were the main format when I first got into music and were what I collected until streaming came into full swing towards the end of the 2000s. It was only as I got older and started delving deeper into the history of music that I cared about collecting vinyl, and it was around this time that I was particularly interested in what many labelled as ‘shoegaze’ – “the scene that celebrates itself”.

One particular track that I came across, Flying by The Telescopes from 1991, was a favourite. The chaotic cacophony created by layers of swirling distorted guitars underneath the male-female vocal pairing had me entranced. Many ’90s guitar bands were certainly projecting a lot of nostalgia for ’60s psychedelic rock, something which we saw again in 2012 (when I discovered this track) with albums like Tame Impala’s Lonerism leading the pack.

It was around this time that I discovered Discogs through my dad, and ended up inheriting a few vinyl records of my own. When I saw a 12” single of Flying listed for a very reasonable price, I ordered it to my friend’s house for testing. It wasn’t the first record I owned (I think that award goes to De La Soul’s Three Feet High And Rising), but it’s the first record I remember buying with my own money.'

The 1975 – Being Funny In A Foreign Language (2022)

The 1975 vinyl album next to plant pot
The 1975 vinyl album next to plant pot

Lewis Empson, Staff Writer

The first vinyl in my collection will probably set some hardcore hi-fi enthusiasts' teeth on edge, and I'm perfectly willing to accept that this is likely one of the less warmly regarded records on this list – but hey, it is genuinely the first vinyl record I bought. Back in 2022 after releasing the stellar album Being Funny In A Foreign Language, popular (not always for the right reasons admittedly) British indie-pop group The 1975 announced that they were going on tour. Now, I was already enamoured with this record on first listen via Tidal, but I knew I had to hear it live after missing out on their 2020 tour for obvious reasons, so pre-ordering the record to grant me pre-sale access to the tickets seemed like a no-brainer.

So that's exactly what I did, ordering a groovy clear record from their website with an exclusive code to access the ticket sales before the general public. I'm pleased to report that the concert was excellent, however, I cannot speak to the quality of the record as I don't own a record player (yet). I have listened to it briefly at a friend's house as she does have a turntable, but my personal copy has sat looking pretty on my shelf for over a year and a half without being spun. I'm willing to accept criticism, but bonus points for honesty, right?


Read all our Vinyl Week 2024 features, reviews and advice

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From voice to vinyl: how records get their groove

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