The Appeal of a Single Record
never had the experience of buying, playing and enjoying those wonderful old records. I used to have a player that would hold up to 20 of these round goodies,and they dropped one at a time, and the arm would plop on the surface and play the record.
They were a great improvement over the old 78rpm records because the 78’s broke much too easily. (Although I have been known to play some cracked and broken ones in my day, I can tell you it did nothing for needle life!) I guess, for all the newbies, I should say that the records were played by a cartridge arm to which you would supply a needle from time to time. The needle moving in the groove produced the sound. If for some reason you scratched the surface or let it get dirty, then the sound
would include surface noises…or little clicks if the record happened to have a tear in it somewhere, which happened frequently. These records could also be stacked on a turntable, which then dropped each record in turn when the previous one finished playing. After the last groove, the arm would pick itself up, move
to the side, drop the next record, and then the needle arm would plop on to the surface and play the record, but I have also seen that drop cause a break in a record…rare, but it did
record from handling it by holding it from the center hole and the end of the recording (very easy to do). This is NOT the case with modern cd’s and dvd’s; it is much too easy for your fingers to slip and mark the surface, and I am sure you know what that does to the playing. (Ever watched a movie that suddenly stops because there is some surface dirt on the cd/dvd. Not fun.)
There were lots of reasons to like 45’s apart from the wonderful sound; there was even an appeal in looking at them. Each 45 came in an
individual sleeve…most of the time these were just plain brown or white in color. Often, they had pictures of the artist printed on the outer sleeve. I am lucky…I have saved all those sleeves, and some of them are as much a
collector’s item as the records themselves.(This is especially true of my Doris Day and Elvis Presley 45’s).Actually, in some cases, instead of
a black sphere, some companies produced see through colored records along with the colorful
Each label was different, according to the company which produced it. That gave them
distinction and easy detection. You could always tell where the records came from. In my case, I particularly remember the most popular label, which was the pretty red color for Columbia Records (Doris Day, Jo Stafford, Frankie Laine, Rosie Clooney, etc.) It was a red label with
black type). It remained that way throughout the 50’s and into the early 60’s,until they
eventually changed to a bright yellow with black
The next biggie was RCA Victor (the source for the most popular male singers of the 50’s…Eddie Fisher, Perry Como and Elvis.) This label had a black background with white printing. I
also recall the neat picture of a gramophone in brown with a white dog sitting in front of it looking into the horn on the left side of the label. I believe the dog actually had a name,but I have forgotten it.
The Capitol labels (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole) were done in purple and white and had a picture of the capitol building which was centered at the top in the middle of 4 stars. The label name came directly under that
capitol logo. These were around for a long time, but they totally changed their labels once the Beatles and Beach Boys got to the top of the charts. They went from purple to yellow and orange swirls with black print.
If you were a record collector (like me) and you had hundreds of 45’s (like me), you were looking at rainbows of color and print, because each
label had its own distinctive color and print. Although Columbia, RCA and Capitol were the BIG 3, I quickly recall the bright yellow for MGM (Joni James), the golden yellowish orange for Coral (Teresa Brewer, Don Cornell), the solid black for Dot with the yellow red and blue colors for the label name (Pat Boone, Billy Vaughn). Decca, too, had black labels with silver printing (Bing Crosby, Peggy Lee, The Four Aces.) As you easily see, I identified certain artists with a particular label, even though some of them changed throughout the years. (This became very handy in those days when records were sold for 10 cents when they
were pulled off of jukeboxes and sold to the public at reduced prices. It was easier if you were looking for a certain artist, just to go through the stacks to find the label you wanted, and then look for the name and song once you got to the right label colors.
Doris Day, Frankie Laine, Rosemary Clooney and Jo Stafford remained with Columbia throughout most of their careers. Frank Sinatra moved from Columbia to Capitol, and eventually began his own label, Reprise. Peggy Lee started with Decca and moved to Capitol. Dinah Shore moved from Columbia to RCA.
I actually had friends who would decorate their bedroom walls with various 45s, but that would eliminate the hope of playing them again
because they drove nails right through the top of the 45 in order to hang it. (Yes, I even had some friends who used them as Frisbees or toys for pets.) NOT ME. I have always respected my
records way too much; that is why I have so many today, and I would not part with them.
Finding a neat way to carry them became interesting. A stack of 45’s was easy to drop (although it didn’t really hurt them if they did drop…not like 78’s which would break.) If you were interested in protection, it was available for all records (78’s and 45’s). At one time, I had little boxes which would hold the records in their sleeve separated by little slots and name cards in a metal or cardboard box with handles, easily portable. I had as many as 75 metal boxes filled with 45’s (each box held from 50
to 100 records), Yes, I still have a few of those today, but not nearly as many. Storage of so many little boxes creates its own problems!
Before you ask, I DO remember my very first 45 rpm record purchase. Of course, it was Doris Day. The “A” or popular side was “Orange-Colored Sky”. The flipside was, “A Load of Hay”. I have every record she ever put out on 45; the same is true of Frank Sinatra on Capitol, beginning with his first release, “Lean Baby”, backed by the orchestra of Billy May. And No, I cannot say that for most other artists. I have some of their 45's but not all. Wait! I take that back, I do have the complete Pat Boone, who was my favorite male singer.
The excitement of buying a 78 or 45 single, and watching the record climb the charts dissipated throughout the years because CD singles never really took off. I am not sure, today, how top songs are determined. I know it is not because of single sales because most stores do not even stock single cds. One of the biggest in recent years is from Train, “Hey, Soul Sister”. I suspect that came about through album/cd sales and the fact that this particular song is the one most played on the radio/tv/mtv. But it is not because of a single song that sells and rides up the charts as it was at one time. To me, that is not progress.
Part of the fun was purchasing a weekly tabloid of record sales (Cashbox, Variety, Billboard, Record World) and watch your favorites climb up
and down the charts. Local Record Stores (what is that, you ask?) used to keep HOT TOP TWENTY billboards. Or we even tuned in to our favorite radio or tv show (Casey Kasum, WFBR Baltimore)to hear the Top 10 or 20 countdowns.
No more…that, too, is part of a lost era. Just saying: here I sit, with a hand full of 45’s, and the memories just keep flooding back. Some people will never know what they missed!