July 29, 2012 – 9:22 pm
I had this great idea. Around the middle of September, I’m going to be turning 45. So what I thought I would do is to blog 45 of my favourite and most influential 45 rpm 7″ singles from my life, one a day, leading up to my 45th birthday.
Fun idea, right? And one that would start nicely on the 1st of August, and end with a mixtape on the day of my birthday. One of those really cool blogging projects I’m so fond of.
But I’m not going to do it. Let me tell you why.
I’m a grown-up now
First, I have other things to do. Books to write, research to do, places to go, and the business of being a husband, a dad and a responsible adult to attend to – that sort of thing. But while those things are definitely a factor (as is my laziness), you and I know both know that’s not really it.
Had this been a more compelling “X days of…” blogging project, I’d probably have been all over it.
The thing is – had 45rpm singles been significant in my life beyond my teens and early 20s, then I probably would have made much more of a deal of this whole thing. But the truth is that I just don’t play singles and although I own a couple of hundred or so, most of the ones that were important to me as a preteen and teenager are not in my collection any more.
Nor are they particularly significant to me in 2012.
My life story in 7″ singles
The first single I bought was ‘Best of my Love’ by the Emotions. At least, that’s how I remember it. It might have been ‘Car Wash’ by Rose Royce, or possibly ‘Shadow Dancing’ by Andy Gibb. Honestly, I don’t really remember. It might have been another record completely lost from memory.
Certainly to dig through and find forty-five records that were important to me or that I can weave some blogging story around as a series of turning points in my life that led me to where I am today would kind of be nonsense.
I can think of lots more than 45 records that I absolutely love… but I can only think of about ten 7″ singles that really had any significant impact on me whatsoever. Maybe three that were actually ‘life changing’. I could name a hundred albums that make me who I am today. Very few singles.
Both too young and too old
I’m an albums guy. It has to do with the moment in history where I came of musical age, I guess. My most formative music years (also my high school years) were 1980-84. I only just caught the very end of ‘vinyl for pocket money’ toward the end of primary school – and I missed out on punk by about 3 or 4 years, and of course I was too old for cassingles when they finally rolled around. What a pointless idea those seemed. Naturally, CD singles mean nothing to me either.
For the record, my favourite 7″ all time is ‘Rhythm of Cruelty’ by Magazine. That and Elvis Costello’s ‘I Don’t Want to go to Chelsea’ are perfect slices of 7 inch vinyl. Not just great songs – great singles. There’s a difference. But they occurred at a moment that, to me, was around the point in history where 7″ singles were at the end of their importance.
The most important record
My most-played single of all time was 1982′s ‘Today’ by Talk Talk (video above). I literally wore it out. Played it non-stop, every waking moment for two weeks. It warped in the direct sunlight on my stereo in the family room, and I can still only remember that song in its vari-speed incarnation.
But other than a few gems like that – the 45rpm 7″ single has had very little long-term resonance for me. I have a box of disco hit singles and another collection of 80s post-punk (XTC, Shriekback, Siouxsie, etc.) that I occasionally play out – but the artefact itself is of little importance to me.
I did have a box of them that were handed down to me from my mother and her sisters – rock and roll gems by the Everley Brothers, Elvis, Eddie Cochrane and even Johnny Devlin – but they were not in the greatest condition when I got them, they suffered from poor treatment and neglect in my idiot teen hands – and after moving house a few times, I finally parted with them. The man from Real Groovy Records came and collected them, if I remember rightly. This was nearly 20 years ago.
It was not my music, and they were not collectors items. They’d be much older now, and possibly even harder to come by – but they’d be no more valuable.
No 45 x 45 x 45 project
So to spend the next six weeks selecting, ripping, uploading and explaining 45 different slabs of 45 rpm vinyl leading up to my 45th birthday seems like a bit of a pointless exercise in numerical play, and potentially a little bit fraudulent as a piece of narrative.
I don’t actually need to indulge in nostalgia to quite that extent, you weren’t going to listen to them anyway, and I’m more interested in music that I discover now than music that I discovered 30 or more years ago.
In fact, in the past month, I’ve added more music to my collection than I owned throughout my entire teen years, and I’m as excited about it (possibly even more so) than I was about the stuff I found out about in the 1980s. This week, I’m inhaling and acquiring as much amazing Brazilian music as I can get my hands on.
Of course, don’t let that stop you buying me vinyl for my birthday. You still have about six weeks to browse for something nice. It remains my favourite kind of birthday present. I think I’ve said this every year for the past 30 years, and most people don’t seem to believe me: Yes, I will genuinely appreciate it. Yes, I know I have a lot of records. I really LIKE records.
But the records that I really like tend to be 12″ records that play at 33rpm and have more than two songs on them.