Retrocon 2024

12 Best Picture Disc 45 Record Singles From the '80s

In case you don't follow me on Instagram, you might not know that I've been collecting vinyl over the last several years. My habits are pretty unique from most record collectors in that while I occasionally buy full albums, I typically look for 45 singles. This all stems from when I was a kid and would spin my mother's 45 records on our home stereo. Those memories are what really drives my collecting today.

The 45 singles I typically look for are the records with picture sleeves. What I've discovered over the last few years is that the art used on picture sleeves is generally different than what you see on the full album. There are also differently styles where an image wraps from the front to the back like a mini posters. I've also collected a folded sleeve that when unfolded creates a larger poster (Corey Hart's "Never Surrender" is one as seen in the picture to the right.) There are other variants like the style of paper used for the sleeve and top or side openings.

While I enjoy looking at the art on picture sleeves, there are also the unique records referred to as "picture discs." This is where the manufacturer actually imprints an image directly onto the record itself. While some debate that the audio quality suffers on picture discs versus regular vinyl, I think they are pretty fun to spin and display. I actually own a few LPs (more recent releases) that have unique images on the disc, but I have yet to add a 45 single picture disc to my collection.

Most of my vinyl research is done over at Discogs and recently I went on a deep dive into the world of Picture Disc 45 singles to see what is out there. To my surprise, there have been some really cool designs over the years and not just images but the shape of the record as well. Thanks to Discogs, here is a (wish)list of my favorites that were produced in the '80s.

"Africa" by Toto

Released in 1982, it seems only fitting that the picture disc for "Africa" by Toto would be in the shape of Africa! And if that wasn't enough, this release featured another hit "Rosanna" on the flip side.

"Message in a Bottle" by The Police

Here's another release that just makes sense. This 1980s release of "Message in a Bottle" by The Police is shaped like a police badge! The B-side (gold) was a live version of the track.

"Hi, How Ya Doin?" by Kenny G

You say your music is all about the saxophone? Well, why not put it on your record! The UK release of "Hi, How Ya Doin?" by Kenny G did just that so you knew exactly what you were getting when you spun it.

"Falling in Love" by The Fat Boys

There are plenty of options if you want a heart-shaped picture disc but this one from 1987 is my favorite. Nothing says love like a heart-shaped chocolate cake from The Fat Boys!

"Ghostbusters" by Ray Parker Jr.

The Ghostbusters logo was slapped on just about every type of merchandise when the movie came out in 1984. As a vinyl collector now, it pains me that this picture disc was only released in the UK.

"The Flame" by Cheap Trick

This was a hot song that that went all the way to the top of the charts. It's only fitting to have a picture disc that looks like it is on fire! I like the way the record looks like it melted. This was another UK exclusive from 1988.

"Sleeping Bag" by ZZ Top

This was is more on the comical side but still a great design. Billy a sleeping bag...on a record. They did the same thing for two other singles, "Stages" and "Rough Boy", and put Dusty Hill and Frank Beard in sleeping bags.

"The Touch" by Stan Bush

This Transformers picture disc was only released in the UK featuring the Stan Bush and Weird Al double A-side single. What I don't get is why they choose Superion for the disc which wasn't even in the movie!

"For America" by Jackson Browne

When you're releasing a song "For America", you might has well put the Statue of Liberty on it!

"Knock Me Down" by Red Hot Chili Peppers

Some band logos are just instantly recognizable. Shaping a record into your logo seems more like a marketing ploy, but when you are the Red Hot Chili Peppers it looks cool too.

"Sweet Child O' Mine by Guns N' Roses

This one is probably my favorite on the list. This rare Guns N' Roses picture disc was released in 1989 to the UK and features the familiar Appetite for Destruction album cover image. Notice that the disc is also in the shape of the cross. 

"Paradise City by Guns N' Roses

I take it back, this special edition "Paradise City" picture disc that was released in the UK is my favorite. Not only does the picture disc feature a shaped pistol but it also came with a holster picture sleeve.

So I'm really just scratching the surface with these dozen records. There are many more unique picture disc records out there and I'd love to hear about some that you have seen (or collected) through the years. Let me know in the comments!

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