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 By the early 90s they were superceded by their larger cousins and then started being used by more experimental and enterprising labels, keen to exploit their unique format for tour EPs and cheap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

6 thoughts on “Mini CDs #1: Eric B & Rakim – Microphone Fiend

  1. I’ve got quite a few mini-CDs. Not by design, just because quite a few 80s singles were reissued in the format at the end of the decade. So I’ve got some Heaven 17, a few Prince classics, and a smattering of contemporary releases including this one and an 808 State etc.

    My crown jewels were the Japanese Propaganda ‘Dr Mabuse’ and Art of Noise ‘Close Up’ ones which, for a long time, were the only way to get digital versions of those amazing extended mixes.

  2. Great post as usual. Also enjoyed your 2020 summary, great read that.

    I’ve recently been on a bit of a hunt for some mini cd’s lately (even though I can only play them on a crappy cd player/radio combo thing instead of my high end Pioneer), but also rare cd singles from late 80’s early 90s. Some of it I already have on vinyl, but also lost singles that have been on my want list for too long. Some of them are rarer than original 12″s, it’s mad.

    I also reckon the cd revival is way overdue!

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