Acetates are undoubtedly amongst the rarest, most desirable and most expensive music collectables. I find acetates fascinating objects and I’m lucky enough to own two; each one cost me more me more than any other item in my collection and they are amongst my prized items.
In this post I want to look at some key points:
1) What is an acetate?
2) How are they used?
3) Why so rare/expensive?
4) What are the most interesting Queen acetates?
5) CDR acetates? What is an acetate?
Acetates, unlike vinyl, have a metal plate as a base. These are then coated with a fine layer of a wax like substance into which groves can be cut. If you want to get really technical acetates don’t actually contain any acetate at all, it’s a nitro-cellulose lacquer.
While they might look like vinyl records they certainly are not vinyl’s. The metal plate makes acetates much heavier that vinyl, and they have no flexibility. Acetates are notoriously fragile and after 30-40 plays will simply wear out.
Acetates are typically one sided, although two sided examples have been known, and can come in 7”, 10” and 12” sizes. It’s not unusual for a 7” record to be cut into 10” disc.
A common misconception is that acetates are flexi discs (That used to get given away with magazines). This of course couldn’t be further from the truth. How are they used?
Acetates have had a variety of uses of the years but from a Queen perspective they were used as the earliest test pressing, prior to producing vinyl’s.
Mastering engineers would have produced acetates so the band/producers etc. could hear how their songs would sound on vinyl, and also to check for any problems with the sound. Once all concerned were happy with the sound the master would be made and vinyl’s would be produced from that master. Why so rare/expensive?
Acetates are expensive to produce, and were always made in very limited numbers, perhaps no more than 10 at a time; and as we’ve already established they are very fragile. Given the limited numbers, and the fact that a lot would have been damaged/destroyed over the years you can see why they are so rare.
Perhaps the important thing about them though is what is on the disc. Acetates are the earliest pressings of any track, and many Queen acetates contain unique versions/mixes of tracks. The band might have mixed a track, pressed in to acetate and then decided to go back to the tapes and make changes. It’s these acetates that will cost the big money.
I also think acetates have some glamour. They are the closest you will get to the master recordings without breaking into Queen Productions. What are the most interesting Queen acetates?
Over the years many Queen acetates have been discovered and sold. Most contain the standard versions of tracks we will be familiar with, but some are unique. I’ll deal first with what we know to exist, and then with the rumour mill. Keep Yourself Alive
: There is an acetate containing the ‘long lost retake’ and also an edit of this track. This edit was very kindly shared on Queenzone some years ago. Killer Queen:
Most Queen fans will be familiar with the face that the Killer Queen acetate has a slightly different version of the track. The finger snaps at the start go on for about 10 seconds. Ogre Battle:
This acetate contains an edit of the BBC sessions version of the track. Liar
: Some time ago eil.com sold an acetate that contained an unique 3.36 edit. I don’t know how much in went for but I would imagine it was expensive. We Will Rock You
: A minor edit of this track appears on acetate. The vocals start straight away. Hangman
: One well known Queen collector has a 10” acetate containing the studio version of Hangman. Enough said. Hot Space
: An acetate containing the David Bowie version of Cool Cat. We know Bowie’s vocal were removed at the last moment, so this makes sense that this version ended up of acetate.
The rumour mill: Jesus:
There has long been rumoured to be a Jesus acetate with a unique mix, but as far as I can tell it has never surfaced. Breakthru
: There is a known acetate of Breakthru containing the extended mix, but one collector recently told me he owed an acetate with a unique version of the track. Who knows? CDR Acetates?
You may see ‘CDR Acetates’ advertised from time to time. Needless to say they are just plain CDR’s. So why the name? Well CDR’s really are the modern version of an acetate, and early version that you can test out before pressing silver CD’s, so I think we can forgive the naming here.
This is an excellent page on acetates on Queen Museum with some interesting pictures: http://www.queenmuseum.com/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=36
Many thanks to John S Stuart for proof reading my post.
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