Friday, October 22, 2010

45 Caliber Records

I hear them now on the radio and I can practically recall what they looked like in their physical form.

Record labels called Capitol, A&M, Columbia and Mercury.

They were my 45 records and I had a bunch of them.

I hear the songs now and I smile to myself. Suddenly I remember what they looked like, spinning on the turntable---with the yellow plastic thingie in the middle so the disc can play on the narrow spindle of your parents' stereo.

The list comes to mind now.

"Kung Fu Fighting" by Carl Douglas, who should be inducted into the One-Hit Wonder Hall of Fame.

"Fire" by the Ohio Players.

"Philadelphia Freedom" by Elton John.

Plus tons of tunes by the likes of The Monkees, Stevie Wonder, the Brothers Johnson, Barry White, and Neil Diamond.

Can't forget the novelty songs, such as "Shaving Cream" by Benny Bell, and "Earache My Eye" by Cheech and Chong.

I can just about see the labels in my mind---their color, the logos, even the font style.


I recall playing my first 45s on a small, portable player when I was five or six years old. I kept them in a box especially made for 45s, with a metal latch. The box was white and was festooned with different-sized musical notes.

Funny what sticks in your mind.

When I got older I would buy my 45s at K-Mart, whenever my mom would shop there. By the time I was 15 years old I rode there by myself on my bike. They were 96 cents each (plus four cents tax made it an even dollar) and they hung on racks behind the clerk in the Hi-Fi section of the store, where they sold albums, phonograph needles, and those aforementioned yellow things that looked like plastic pretzels.

The 45s were usually in the order---generally---of where the song currently stood on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart. There was typically a list on the counter, wallet-sized, that was updated every week.

So you'd choose your 45(s), and the clerk would slide it/them into a plain white sleeve. Sometime in the 1970s, it became more popular for record companies to accompany the 45s with their own sleeves, which featured either the album cover or another photograph of the artist/band with that particular song title on it.

If you needed the yellow plastic pretzels, they were in a bin and probably went for something like a nickel each or 10 for a quarter.

Sometimes I'd get a 45 that skipped like a stone across Lake Michigan, which was maddening beyond belief. A 3:30 minute song would go by in 35 seconds.

Speaking of song length, in those days rare was a song that was longer than 3:30. Four minutes was practically a full-length concert. Most songs came in between 2:45-3:15.

I rarely listened to the "B" side of a 45. In fact, I don't know that I ever played a "B" side, unless I heard that it was an OK song, too. Sometimes, as in the case of some Barry White songs, the "B" side was merely the instrumental version of the "A" side, which I kind of liked. Gave me an opportunity to sing the song myself, like primitive Karaoke.

I still have some of those old 45s, and my wife has a bunch, too.

The songs are still played on the radio in their crystal clear CD form on occasion. When I hear them, it's impossible to keep the corners of my mouth from curling upward slightly.


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