Although the so-called Polish Postcard singles are widely considered an aspect of flexi-disc collecting, the sheer range and novelty of available issues has established them as a firm, if difficult, theme in their own right.
Little firm data has been published surrounding these exotic issues’ origins and development. The majority were produced by the Polpress label and are sometimes inaccurately described as pirate productions, in that the music was not licensed from the western copyright holders. However, as one of the few rock music media readily available to Polish youth during the Communist era, their status as items of social history necessarily outweighs any legal issues.
Polish Postcard records seem to date back to the 1960s, when Mary Hopkin’s “Bylie Taki Dni” (“Those Were The Days”) was paired with the Ohio Express’ untranslatable “Yummy Yummy Yummy” for an issue much sought after by Apple label collectors. Other known issues from this early period include Procol Harum, the Doors and Pink Floyd.
Many of the discs (which are, of course, shaped and manufactured to the specifications of a regular picture postcard, then embossed with two musical tracks) frequently bear images completely unrelated to their subject – cartoons, street scenes, greetings and so forth.
It also appears that “new” postcards were not always produced; many postcard singles exist pressed onto cards which clearly predate the song’s recording – a 1920s view of Warsaw, for example, playing a 1970s Deep Purple song.
Neither was Poland the only Communist bloc nation issuing music in this form. The Soviet Union itself saw a number of postcard singles issued by the Moscow Photo/Cinema Organization during the late 1960s, measuring some 9 1/2 inches across and playing at 78RPM. These cards, too, tend to offer totally unrelated images on the postcard side.
Another characteristic of these issues is their extremely limited availability. Some press runs were as tiny as 50 copies. One should also be aware that automatic record players – that is, those whose mechanism automatically return the playing arm to its rest upon reaching the end of the record – are unable to play them, as the postcard record begins where a conventional 45’s label would lie.
Entire LPs were produced in the postcard medium, two songs per card. For obvious reasons, complete sets are extremely rare and highly valued today, particularly those still contained within their own original packaging. Many cards, individual and otherwise, were issued in “picture sleeve” envelopes or wrappers, bearing the artist and song title. Several Pink Floyd titles are known in this format, including the albums Dark Side Of The Moon and Meddle, and a unique compilation, Super Floyd. (Pink Floyd themselves utilized the wrapper format as packaging for the set of non-musical postcards included within their Shine On box set. )
Polish postcard releases, while actively traded, are nevertheless extremely difficult to find. Many collectors might spend their entire lives without ever finding one through their traditional record-hunting channels. However, shift one’s focus away from record collecting and into the realms of deltiology (postcard collecting) and some finds can be made. Many card dealers have sections of novelty and musical postcards and, while these tend to be dominated by mass-produced American issues, playing state anthems and songs for tourists and the like, more esoteric items abound.
Reprinted courtesy Goldmine magazine (www.goldminemag.com).