We waited anxiously for the latest release from our favorite bands. It was the time of AM radio, Cousin Brucie, the top of the pops format; some bands were one-hit wonders if that at all; most never had a hit, though they may have gotten some play time – that could be bought – only a few lasted and became stars. No one listed to FM; the album format was unheard of; the majority of the artists coming at you through your little transistor radio, didn’t even have enough songs for an album; they just had the latest desperate attempt to “break the charts”; let’s face it almost all of them would have been overjoyed to be one hit wonders.
When a favorite of ours released a single, the process of persuading our parents to buy it for us was underway. But remember these were singles, not albums, one song maybe two that the producers decided was the best thing they heard in the studio from whomever it was, and proceeded to press a few copies, pay the local DJs to give it some play and hope that it took.
Singles. One song a side. On the 45.
Now that doesn’t refer to a caliber of revolver, it is the rpm of the small pressed disk with the large hole in the center that became the coveted prize from the local record store.
Yes, record store. A store that sold records. A store that sold those little 45s with one song on each side. One could be had for sixty-nine cents or so; not a bad price when you consider that some of those songs we collected included Satisfaction, Walk the Line, Sherry, Summer in the City, Mr. Tambourine Man, and anything by the Beatles. Each came in its own sleeve usually with a color photo of the band. Everybody released 45s, usually a few weeks ahead of an album, if indeed like I mentioned the group or band had enough songs to fill one. Sometimes a record label would release the single, say of the Kingsmen, and see what the response was; if it took off, then they would get the group back into the studio and create an album full of twelve or so songs in, pardon the pun, record time.
Now to anyone who has seen a turntable, you can see where there might be a problem. The metal rod that easily holds an album in place on the platter is pretty much not going to help when you want to listen to a 45 single with its large center hole. So you had to adapt the turntable itself or you had to get yourself a 45 rpm adapter, a small plastic disk that filled the large hole on the 45 and allowed it to then fit on the rod. Amazing technology right?
Now Don and I would hear a song on the AM radio, probably on WABC or WMCA and then have to have it; beg Mom to buy it for us, run home with it, and proceeded to play it, watching it go round and round memorizing the words.
And we didn’t just play it once. Or twice. Or even five times. No, we played that little 45 over and over and over.
Some songs were born to be on 45s and nothing else. Of course, bands like the Stones and the Beatles would release their albums in a few weeks, and that single became just one of many and sometimes we liked the songs that were never released as singles better than the singles themselves.
But like I said, some songs were made for the 45. Here’s a small sampling of my favorite 45s, still in a box in the attic:
-The Letter by the Boxtops.
-Snoopy vs the Red Baron by the Royal Guardsmen-
-I’m a Believer by the Monkees
-The Twist by Chubby Checker
-Sugar Sugar by the Archies
-Big Girls Don’t Cry by The 4 Seasons
-Big Bad John by Jimmy Dean
-The House of the Rising Sun by Eric Burden and the Animals
-The Bristol Stomp by the Dovells
-Monday Monday by the Mamas and Papas
That’s just ten of them; there are many more. So to paraphrase a popular television ad for a credit card:
What’s on your list?