Monday, June 15, 2009

What goes around comes around

Did you know that the 45 rpm record, that durable but archaic 20th century recording and storage medium, turns 60 years old this year? A visit to the record store suggests they're becoming very popular again among current artists.

The trusty 45s didn't become a staple in my family until 1963. It had to be then, because I still remember the first three records -- including the labels and flip sides -- that started the Smith family collection. (The numbers below reflect Billboard's year-end Hot 100 ranking and strongly support the theory that we bought what everybody else was listening to:)

3. End of the World/Somebody Loves You, Skeeter Davis, RCA
4. Rhythm of the Rain/Let Me Be, The Cascades, Valiant
24. Walk Like a Man/Lucky Lady Bug, The Four Seasons, Vee Jay

We probably played each of these records, conservatively, a thousand times before we flipped them over and began to wear out the grooves on the B sides. No song, no matter how bad it might have been, went unplayed. Hey, it's all we had. The collection would grow as allowance money permitted (I recall "I Will Follow Him'' by Little Peggy March joining the stable fairly early), but those were the original records.

And there would be plenty of borrowing and swapping of 45s among our friends. I don't know where he found them, but my buddy John was playing Little Stevie Wonder's "Fingertips (Part 2)'' and Del Shannon's "Little Town Flirt'', which weren't receiving airplay in our small Midwestern town but would strongly influence our ever-broadening musical tastes.

Many artists today are recording and releasing music in the 45 rpm format, which is cool but problematic, since you need a turntable to play them. And that's just way too old-fashion for me.

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