I slipped away from the books for a while this week and priced about 600 45s. I reckon there are at least that many more to go. You’re being very generous with your bygone music.
Let’s bring the latest generation up to speed, that speed being 45 rpm. In the days of vinyl, there were two basic kinds of record. There was a 12-inch record with a small spindle hole: it played at 33 revolutions per minute. We called that an album. A “single” was a 7-inch record with a much larger spindle hole; it had two songs on it (we called it a single because usually only one of these—the “A-side”–was worth hearing) and played at 45 rpm. The hole in the center led to these being called doughnut records, or, if you’re going to be all 21st-century about it, donut records.
Singles were frequently carried around in a small book with sleeves or box with a handle, so a person’s favorites could be brought to parties. See, you couldn’t download songs from the Internet to your iPod because the Internet had not yet been invented. People had to walk around with empty iPods for years until this was remedied. But they did have their box of singles. I have been given several boxes, a dozen or so of the little books, and three or four shoeboxes filled with singles: classic, pop, country, comedy, etc.
The collection stretches from the early 50s, when the 45 single took over from the 78 single (another blog, plum curry) to the 80s, when, in the twilight of vinyl, the industry realized singles weren’t as cheap to make as they used to be, and gave up on them. (By the way, just to complicate matters, 33s and 45s were made of entirely different materials, so it is less accurate to refer to a 45 as a vinyl record than a…yeah, I know; I lost you at “single”.) The collection is especially heavy in mid-America, mid-50s pop. We have more Les Baxter than Billy Joel, and more Georgia Gibbs than Blondie. We have Crazy Otto in English and in German, Ella Mae Morse, a really impressive collection of Johnny Cash in his Sun days, and certainly the largest assembly of polkas on 45 I’ve ever met. These are records from the collections of several different people of the same general era and interests, explaining why we have several copies of Guy Mitchell’s “Truly, Truly Fair” and Teresa Brewer’s “Til I Waltz Again With You”, both songs I happen to know, terrifyingly enough. I do not happen, however, to recall ever having heard the song “Why Did I Tell You I Was Going to Shanghai?”, of which we have three copies, each by a different artist. This was an era when cover versions of songs were the rule rather than the exception. If you liked a song, you could just wait around until you found one of your favorite vocalists had recorded it.
I think I can guarantee we have something for just about everybody in this collection. We have excerpts from the great speeches of Spiro Agnew, a reading by Fulton Sheen with background music, one single solitary Elvis Presley (so far),a bit of Bee Gees here and a bit of John Travolta (Yes, and one Monkees single, but I’m waiting to see if we need that when we rename the first floor lockers). And I am deciding what to do about this single which features a song by “Winifred Atwell And Her Piano” on the A side.
The B side has a song by “Winifred Atwell And Her Other Piano.” You could DO that in those days.