Mini CDs #7: XTC – Oranges & Lemons

XTC front
This beautifully unique object is possibly the first example of a full album presented across three mini CDs, housed in a fragile cigarette-sized box. Sporting a Yellow Submarine-esque flip up cover, the discs are stacked as you see them below in tiered slots but the box is easy to crush or tear – as you can see here. I always found it odd that they did this album after two Dukes of the Stratosphear LPs but maybe they had dipped their toes in the psychedelic waters enough to put it out as XTC by this time.XTC inside
XTC 3 CDs 2 XTC back

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Mini CDs #6: The The – Gravitate To Me

Gravitate frontThe post-Mind Bomb’ single, again released on multiple formats including 7″, cassette, two 12″s and another 12″ box set with photos, postcard and stencil, it also came as a 3″ CD in downscaled fold out card sleeve with pocket for the disc. It’s horribly fragile, isn’t easy to keep in good shape 30 years on and hasn’t any exclusive material. I’m not sure whether the German stamp on the inner cover is the previous owner’s or a shop address.

Gravitate openGravitate insideGravitate back

Mini CDs #5: The The – The Beaten Generation

The The Beaten cover
The The‘s eagerly-awaited single, preceding their ‘Mind Bomb’ album and including the first fixed line up of a band Matt Johnson had assembled to tour with, including a certain Johnny Marr. Released on multiple formats including 7″, two 12″s and a 12″ box set with postcards and badge, it also came as a 3″ CD that downscaled the box set with fold out insert. It’s a cute little item but doesn’t have any material not on other formats and is hard to find in good shape.

The The Beaten inside 2 The The Beaten insideThe The Beaten back

Mini CDs #4: Yazz & The Plastic Population – The Only Way Is Up

Coldcut Only Way is front
This US CD single is unfortunately missing part of its cover, it was part of a long box as can be seen in the bottom photo. The extended UK mix and the Bam Bam remix feature from both of the UK 12″s but the most interesting thing about this release is the Acid Dub mix by Justin Strauss and Murray Elias which was exclusive to the US releases and not featured on any European editions. It all starts getting interesting around the 3.50 mark

Coldcut Only Way is back Coldcut Only Way is disc TOWIU long back

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Mini CDs #3: Coldcut – Stop That Crazy Thing

CC Stop That front

An early example of packaging that attempted to forma the 3″ CD into a 5″ size, sadly destined to fail but a beautiful attempt nevertheless. The mini gatefold sleeve housed the CD and then one flap was supposed to be inserted into the slit just below the COLDCUT logo and this would secure the cover to the plastic border. A nice idea but in practice the weak cardboard sleeve would weaken and tear at the corners, weighed down by the rest of the cover.

CC Stop That back

The plastic would bend at the corners too and it must have been a pain to assemble. This release has the exclusive ‘vocal dub mix’ of the title track and lovely design by Mark Porter using the illustration by Michael Bartalos who later also made the original Ninja Tune logo in a similar style. It was also released as a mini CD in Germany but in a mini CD case with inlay and the same tracklist as the 12″.

CC Stop That inside 2 CC Stop That inside 3C Stop That inside 4

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Mini CDs #2: Todd Terry productions

Swan Lake front:CD

A couple of Todd Terry productions licensed to Champion in the UK with unique design once again by Trevor Jackson at Bite It!. Unlike the Eric B & Rakim single last week, the Swan Lake release is in a 5″ CD sleeve with an adaptor ring to play the CD in a regular machine and the cover has just been shrunk wholesale from the vinyl artwork. A sticker has been applied over the original catalogue number with a new CD prefix and the text is so tiny it’s virtually indistinguishable. The CD repeats the regular 12″ tracklist, there’s also a German mini CD single but the artwork has been replaced with something else.

Swan Lake CDSwan Lake back

The Black Riot ‘A Day in The Life’ CD is in a mini 3″ sleeve and I’m yet to find one of these so have nicked images from Discogs. The chances of ever finding one of these in the racks is remote and it repeats the standard 12″ tracklist as well. Look at that tiny text though, you can see why they didn’t catch on, these were pocket-sized, although we can now carry our whole music collections around in our pockets if we choose. Certain CD players had a 3″ dip in the tray that would accommodate the smaller discs and with some modern day players you just fit the disc over a centre spindle.
Black Riot frontBlack Riot discBlack Riot back

Mini CDs #1: Eric B & Rakim – Microphone Fiend

CD3 logo bannerI’ve been meaning to catalogue and show my collection of 3″ mini CDs – much the same as I did for my flexi discs – for about 5 years now but haven’t got round to it. With the dawning of a new year and the impetus to start something new I thought it was about time, seeing as the CD revival still hasn’t swung round yet, although with the current price and manufacturing times of vinyl it can’t be far off.

But first, a little bit of history:
3″ or 80cm mini CDs first appeared around the end of the 80s and, for a short while at least, were a companion release to the 7″ and 12″ singles of the pop and dance music of the era before being replaced by full sized CD singles. The main problem with the discs was their size, they were so small that they were difficult to play unless you had the right CD tray or an adaptor and they disappeared in the racks. A few attempts were made to come up with some sort of standardized cover packaging including transparent plastic moulded holders the same size as regular CDs which would encapsulate the card sleeve and disc but these never caught on. In the US they were known as CD3 and the regular albums as CD5 and some came in the long boxes of the day over there which were eventually phased out due to the excessive waste of the card packaging.

The discs could hold 24 minutes of music and would generally contain three or four tracks like a 12″, sometimes with exclusive mixes or edits. With designers already complaining about the miniaturisation of the album sleeve to normal 5″ CD size, these posed an even smaller canvas to work with but some found a way to make beautiful packaging to house them. By the early 90s they were superceded by their larger cousins and then started being used by more experimental and enterprising labels, keen to exploit their unique format for tour EPs and cheap extras inside books or magazines. The Japanese especially loved 3″ CDs and there are many different examples throughout the 90s and 00s of them being used to great effect as promos.

First off I’m going to concentrate on the late 80s, mainly in the UK and then move roughly through the 90s and up to the present day with selections from my collection. This is by no means a definitive list, just examples of mini CDs I’ve picked up over the decades for their content, packaging or design.
Eric B cover

Eric B & Rakim‘s ‘Microhone Fiend’ has a miniature version of the UK 7″ for the cover, designed by Trevor Jackson at Bite It!, but has to dispense with the regular back cover for a track listing as the text would have been way too small to read otherwise. The single also includes the 7″ edit of ‘Follow The Leader’ which isn’t on any other version.
Eric B back Eric B front

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