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45 records provide a vintage twist

Vaseline 1 month ago

If you’re old enough to remember DJ’s Sound City, you might remember the first 45 record you bought, those iconic yellow spindle inserts or maybe just an obscure one-hit wonder like Hot Butter’s ‘Popcorn’ or ‘ Playground in My Mind,” by Clint Holmes.

Although most music these days is streamed, playing vinyl on an old-fashioned record player provides a nostalgic listening experience that can’t be replicated on any phone or tablet.

The Recording Industry Association of America recently reported its 17th consecutive year of vinyl sales growth. Like siblings, 33⅓ LPs and smaller 45s share many common characteristics, but while LPs offer listeners a relaxing, immersive musical encounter, the brevity of 45s forces a more practical, up-and-down approach. Now celebrating their 75th anniversary, both retro formats have been slow to gain public acceptance.

“People wanted to keep their 78s,” said John Johnson, who hosts “Johnson’s Improbable History of Pop” on Spokane Public Radio on Saturday evening. In the beginning, the LPs from the ’45s were sold out. “What really changed was when Elvis started selling…I think the whole rock ‘n’ roll revolution fueled the popularity of the ’45s,” Johnson said.

At the time, a number of Spokane-area musicians were working with Sound Recording Company, the only custom music pressing company of its kind in the region. Those artists included Idaho banjoist Arly Nelson and country pop group The Moms and Dads.

“Three of the members were from North Central High School,” Johnson said.

Other notable Spokane-area musicians to grace A 45’s label include Dale Miller, who released two songs in collaboration with Expo ’74, and Charlie Ryan, who recorded the classic 1955 song with Neil and Ron Livingston , ‘Hot Rod Lincoln. ”

“It was based on a race he had with a guy who came back to the old Lewiston class one night on his way back to Spokane,” Johnson said.

The single was distributed by Souvenir Records of Coeur d’Alene. A 1972 remake of “Hot Rod Lincoln” became a big hit for Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen.

Even legendary country singer Tom T. Hall connected with the Lilac City at 45 when he used the format to complain about being stuck in a local motel room with his 1973 single titled “Spokane Motel Blues.” Also floating around the vinyl universe are a number of Spokane-labeled 45s that were distributed as a subsidiary line of former New York-based music giant Scepter Records. The singles include songs from Goldie and the Gingerbreads, one of the first all-female rock bands.

Top 40 radio and cultural changes kept all records selling well into the 1960s, but by the end of that decade LPs had moved into the vinyl forefront, thanks in part to the popularity of concept albums like ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” by the Beatles.

“45s became more of a teenage phenomenon,” Johnson said. “You could take a chance on a 45 with your pocket money for 89 cents, but an LP was a big investment,” he said.

For musicians, 45s provided a quick shot at fame.

“It exposed people to bands,” said Bob Gallagher, owner of the 4000 Holes Record Store. “The ’45s were a cheap way to get the right number.”

And sometimes the only way. Artists who originally released songs as 45-only tracks include The Who, the Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones. That unique draw of 45s was enhanced by the lure of a bonus on the other side.

“It was really cool when you found out the B-side of the 45 you bought wasn’t on the album,” said Gallagher.

Especially when it became a big hit, like Led Zeppelin’s “Hey, Hey, What Can I Do,” which was on the back of their 1970 single “Immigrant Song.”

Over the years, 45 records have delivered countless social messages, but songs don’t have to be serious to be memorable. The 1970s were littered with new tunes that poked fun at pop culture, including “Disco Duck,” “King Tut” and the hit “Mr. Jaws,” which combined spoken words with excerpts from popular songs.

As music shifted to cassettes and CDs in the 1980s and 1990s, some continued to find their niche with vinyl.

“The ’90s were the heyday of ’45s, because we got all these alternative and punk bands and they went out of their way to make ’45s special,” said Gallagher, who praised the colorful picture sleeves of the era.

He recently received a new Pearl Jam 45 with exclusive material.

“It’s a bit old-fashioned, but it’s the way people like to buy records because you get something extra,” said Gallagher, who provided his own brief insight into the enduring appeal of 45s. “Vinyl-itis… sometimes you just really like records.”