Like most men of a certain vintage, I remember well the first album I ever owned. Age around 10, I found myself in possession of Back In Black by AC/DC.

I got it from my big brother. Well, I was made to buy it from my big brother after I scratched it while listening to it when he was out.

So when it came to directing BBC Four’s documentary When Albums Ruled The World, plenty of memories came flooding back. Good ones of course: Back In Black is a classic.

Noel Gallagher, Slash and others on the rituals around vinyl LPs

These days, an album is a click on a mouse, its tracks soon dispersed into the ether by playlists and the shuffle button.

Back then, an album still meant getting a thick slab of unwieldy vinyl stuffed inside an intriguing cardboard sleeve.

The album was the package: two sides of music listened to in order, while digesting the sleeve notes.

When we were told we had 90 minutes to fill with the story of the 'golden age of the album', we had to ask ourselves two questions: How are we going to fill 90 minutes? And what golden age exactly?

The second answer came first: we soon discovered that from around the mid-60s to the late 70s, the vinyl album – the LP – turned music into America’s most popular entertainment industry ahead of Hollywood and sports.

In these years the vinyl album let artists think about music in new ways, and the albums they recorded – from The Beatles' Sgt Pepper’s to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon not only turned popular music into an art form, but sold by the truck load.

So that was our ‘golden age’ – we’re not talking about albums in general, but the original album - the vinyl album.

Record shop memories from the documentary

Once the second question was answered, the first was turned on its head: it’s not how do you fill 90 minutes? It’s how do you fit all this in to 90 minutes?

Between the mid-60s and the end of the 70s, tens of thousands of albums were released, hundreds of millions sold, and billions of dollars made by record companies and artists.

Where do you start?

We ended up filming with around 40 contributors – from musicians, to producers, to record company executives, to journalists. And still we felt like we needed more.

We tried to keep our own tastes out of it: this isn’t a documentary about the ‘best’ or our favourite albums.

It’s about the albums that had the biggest impact, those that changed music history, forged careers, or set new artistic standards.

In the end, hopefully the story of the vinyl album is a gripping one. It was a privilege to work on a project like this, and I know my music tastes came out of it expanded.

My favourite album discovery? Well, that would be a toss-up between the Small FacesOdgen’s Nut Gone Flake and In The Court Of The Crimson King by King Crimson – two records that weren’t in my collection before.

Put the needle on the record... where?

Neither of these fantastic albums is covered in our documentary – we felt that despite their amazing music and packaging, they didn’t help tell us the bigger story of the LP. I’ll be interested to see which other classic albums you may have missed from the story we told.

Of course vinyl is making a relative comeback today, but one moment on the shoot reminded what a thing of the past it is.

One of our researchers – in his mid-20s – went to put an LP on a turntable and asked whether you put the needle on the outside or inside groove of the record. I laughed thinking he was taking the mick.

He wasn’t.

Steve O'Hagan is the producer and director of When Albums Ruled The World.

When Albums Ruled The World is on BBC Four at 9pm on Friday, 8 February. For further programme times, please see the upcoming broadcasts page.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

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  • Comment number 21. Posted by steveoh

    on 21 Feb 2013 19:39

    Thanks for all your comments – really good to hear what people think of the show.

    I think the questions regarding (lack of) female contributors are absolutely valid, and the truth be told we would have liked some more female voices in there. We tried very hard to get more of the right kind of female voices – whether artists from the era, journalists/broadcasters from the era, or even contemporary artists with an affinity with the music we were discussing. Sadly, we received knock-backs from the vast majority we approached.

    The other reality of course is that in terms of the ‘album era’ this was a male dominated world. There were very few if any female record producers, sound engineers, record company executives or even album-oriented rock stars (and from those there were you’d be hard pressed to name one we didn’t ask for an interview).

    So yes, I share some of the regret that we weren’t able to include more of the right kind of female voices in the show. But at the end of the day, please be assured we're always striving!

  • Comment number 7. Posted by popdoc

    on 9 Feb 2013 17:31

    It might surprise the BBC to know that there are women out there who study, teach, and even write about popular music. Some of us even publish articles and books and things about boys' genres like progressive rock, and heavy metal, and punk. Some of us can even remember buying our first vinyl copy of Dark Side of the Moon. Most of us have copies of Tapestry, and Rumours as well, but we don't need to talk only about them.

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  • Comment number 4. Posted by WordBird

    on 9 Feb 2013 10:28

    Why could your production team only find TWO women - Grace Slick and Pauline Black - to be commentators on this programme? But then again, that's not really surprising, as the bias towards middle-aged blokes on BBC Four's music programming is breathtaking. The Danny Baker album shows were largely middle-aged blokes and young women in their thirties, chosen from whoever's writing for the broadsheets preferred by the young researchers. The TOTP documentaries invariably feature a couple of blokes from the broadsheet press, and barely any female commentators; bizarre for a programme which was such a female phenomenon.
    Why do the teams which make these programmes seem unable to find any female journalists over 40 (and those under 40 who really know their subjects in depth) to appear on their music programmes? They do exist, honestly, and us women viewers in the same demograpic also deserve to have our views heard - why aren't they represented? I'd be very interested to hear from any producers or researchers as to why this is so.

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