The first generation of “picture discs” was literally a disc put into a picture. They were called Gramophone postcards. These buggers were made up of small celluloid discs containing audio information, which was then glued to postcards. A hole went through the disc and the postcard and it played at 78rpm. Voila!These showed up around the turn of the century, first in Germany, although they made a comeback in the Soviet Union in the 1950s because hey, everything old is new again, right? Plus they were dirt cheap to produce, unlike vinyl records.
Here’s where it gets wild. The early generations of picture discs were not just pressings for the latest romantic crooners or hot jazz tunes. Nope. Starting in the 1920s and moving forwards, there was a certain amount made for fascist propaganda. Fun times with Hitler and friends becoming early adopters of the latest fad technology.
Around the 1940s, picture discs made their way into people’s homes in a cardboard format. Larger than the Gramophone postcards, these “discs” operated on the same principles: a plastic coated card with information grooves able to be played on your average record-playing device of the time. And, of course, it had a picture on it. You may have had versions of this as they continued to be made into the 1980s and printed on the backs of cereal boxes. The Archies’ “Sugar, Sugar” hit was a natural to sell sugar cereal and the Monkees were famously “heard” on boxes of Post’s HoneyComb, Alpha-Bits and Rice Krinkles cereals starting in about 1970. [Note the Don Kirschner connection there.] Teen idol Bobby Sherman and the Jackson 5 also saw their music printed on cereal boxes.
The glory of the Vogue Records discs!
A commercial for the Monkees records that were printed on the boxes of several varieties
of Post brand cereals.