Well, here it is, The Shoestring Audiophile’s 45th entry, and today we’re visiting an old friend, the 45 RPM record. We’ll get a little lo-fi, old school, down and dirty, and just a bit scratchy as I dig through my two crates of 7-inch gems. This isn’t a technical article but much more a celebration of a by-gone format that so many of us grew up with.
First, a little history. The 45 came about in March of 1949, when RCA Victor decided to release a new competitor to the long-standing 10-inch 78 record. Higher fidelity, easier to carry, and now on vinyl (instead of shellac), the new format was poised to take the world by storm. Many of the original releases were on colored vinyl, such as deep red and dark blue, and included Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup’s tune “That’s All Right,” which a few years later would go on to become one of my favorite Elvis Presley hits. In 1955, Bill Haley’s 45 of “Rock Around the Clock” would sell 3 million copies. Like rock-and-roll, the 7-inch single was here to stay- for a time anyway. Now only in very limited production, kept alive by artists like Jack White, the format has all but disappeared. However, I found it to be a wonderful novelty a year ago that someone gave me a birthday card with a brand new 45 of the Cars’ single “Magic.”
Going back in my own history, it’s difficult for me to pin down which was my first 45. It was either Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water,” or the ridiculous tune by Clint Holmes- “Playground In My Mind” (“My name is Michael, I’ve got a nickel…). In any case, it was around 1972, and a very young me was learning to play singles on a small, brightly colored record player. I still remember the orange and white swirls on my 45 case that was already beginning to fill with records.
For me, it’s never a night of spinning 45’s without first reaching for my red vinyl copy of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ 1982 hit single “Change of Heart,” but only so I can flip it to the B-side, which is the unreleased classic, “Heartbreakers Beach Party.” I’ll use the word classic, because it is in my household. Besides being one of the best sounding singles in my collection, it’s also one of the most fun and eclectic by one of our most beloved artists. “Let’s go have potato salad.”
Normally, I listen to music and write my articles at the same time. Since I’m getting up to change the record every two or three minutes, I’m finding this task somewhat impossible, but I have to tell you, I sure am having fun! However, there is going to be a lot of “post-listening” in the writing of this article, spinning records, and circling back on this. So, I’ll open another Goose Island beer, and throw on the next platter.
I can’t help but dip back to the late 50’s for Nervous Norvus’ “Transfusion.” I used to play this song with my 6th grade teacher, Mr. Kaser, after school, as we built plastic models, and talked about faraway lands (mostly Egypt).
A few months ago, I purchased a new pack of 100 clear outer record sleeves for my LPs. In the package, the seller thoughtfully included a 45 of the Carpenters’ “Close to You.” Yes, it’s a horribly drippy song, but I just can’t help playing it tonight.
Now, I’m on a little 70’s streak as my digging hits “Brother Louie” by Stories, “Sky High” by Jigsaw, and “Bungle in the Jungle” by Jethro Tull. I’ve always admired the line “…and he who made kittens put snakes in the grass.”
The volume creeps up on my NAD preamp as the night morphs into and 80’s mode. It’s impossible to play “Pop Muzik” by M without playing it a little loud. Likewise, with my pair of Greg Kihn hits- “The Breakup Song” and “Jeopardy.” Now, I’m really beginning to have a good time with this!
It’s not a 45 night until the original Elvis pressings come out to play. “A Big Hunk O’ Love,” “Jailhouse Rock,” and “Treat Me Nice” hit just as hard today as they did in the fifties.
Sliding right up to the sixties, I throw one on for my wife, who I know can hear this upstairs. “I Will Follow Him” by Little Peggy March from 1963 is a song she sings to me all the time, though her version is much more in line with the Gilda Radner tribute from the 70’s. Lesser known, but cherished in my collection, is Chicago’s own New Colony Six. I have a couple singles from them, but tonight it’ll be “Love You So Much” since I’m already going hard into the volume levels. Finally, I’m playing one of the most valuable singles that I own, the original 1966 pressing of Napoleon XIV’s “They’re Coming to Take Me Away- Ha Haaa!” with the song backwards on the flip side. Did I say finally? Forget that, I just came across “Black is Black” by Los Bravos. My copy of this is pretty rough, but at this point, I really don’t care. I’m completely in the spirit of this night.
Just to have a little fun, I feel the urge to throw on “The Rodeo Song” by Garry Lee and Showdown. It’s that kind of night. “Well it’s 40 below and… “ You know the rest.
It’s been a great night of playing 45’s, but it’s time to wrap this up- for now. This is only going to be a first part of this adventure for me. I have so many records left to play! But for now, I’m signing off with Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain.” Though there are some clicks and pops here, this record sounds outstanding, and brings me right back to childhood again.
Thank you for taking this little journey with me. There are times where I wish that you, the reader, were here with me, hearing some of the gear that I am evaluating, but tonight is just one of those nights where I would love to be playing tunes with all of you. I was my own manual jukebox tonight, a far cry from running a playlist in iTunes, Spotify, or Qobuz, but the effort was all part of the fun. Feel free to let me know about some of your 45 gems. Happy listening!