For people of a certain age, seven-inch 45 rpm vinyl records are what music was, and is, all about. They just can’t think of Elvis without picturing that signature yellow Sun record label, or The Beatles without recalling the label on all those Capitol 45s, with their trademark orange-and-yellow swirl.
Also known as singles because each side had a playing time of less than five minutes, 45s were first marketed in the United States by RCA in 1949. The format made its way to the U.K. in 1950. The hole in the center of a 45 was larger than the one for a 78 or LP, which allowed them to be stacked on spindles and dropped, one at a time, for continuous play. Immediately embraced by consumers, 45s were a big hit with jukebox manufacturers and operators, too, who liked the way the space-saving 45s allowed them to quadruple (compared to 78s) the number of songs they could offer customers.
Early adopters of the 45 included Fats Domino, whose 1949 single, “Fat Man,” is one of the most collectible 45s by any artist. Ray Charles released “I Got a Woman,” the Drifters cut “Save the Last Dance For Me,” and James Brown rocked the house with “Please, Please, Please.”
Of course, some of the most prized 45s around are those Elvis Sun singles. The first was "That’s All Right," which was recorded live in the studio in 1954. The single’s B-side was a Bill Monroe bluegrass tune from the 1940s called "Blue Moon of Kentucky." Two more Sun singles followed that year, with another pair in 1955, for a total of five Elvis Sun singles containing 10 songs.
Other 1950s acts to score big with 45s include Chuck Berry (“Johnny B. Goode”), Bill Haley (“Ten Little Indians”), Little Richard (“Long Tall Sally”), and Carl Perkins (he recorded his tune “Blue Suede Shoes” a year before The King laid down his version for Sun).
On the other side of the Atlantic, the first U.K. Beatles single was "Love Me Do," which was released in 1962 by Parlophone, whose red label was augmented by blue, yellow, purple, and red horizontal stripes on the 45’s sleeve. Other collectible U.K. Beatles singles are the title tracks from the films “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Help!”
In the United States, before Capitol Records signed the band in 1964, Vee-Jay Records released several Beatles 45s. One famous Vee-Jay typo was on the 1963 single of "Please Plea...
Late-1960s album-oriented-rock artists are generally not known for their 45s, but The Doors were a notable exception. In particular, its hit song “Light My Fire” got lots of airplay, thanks in no small part to the hot-selling, and shortened, single.
Northern Soul 45s are also in high demand. Those are the discs that were spun from the late-1960s though the 1970s by DJs at northern England dance clubs such as The Twisted Wheel and Wigan Casino. Gloria Jones, Jackie Wilson, and the Imperials were all popular artists associated with that scene. Finally, later in the 1970s, disco, dominated the charts. Disco fever, as it was called, owed a huge debt to 45s by the Bee-Gees (“Stayin’ Alive”), Gloria Gayner (“I Will Survive”), and the Village People (“YMCA”), to name but a few.
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Recent News: 45 Records
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Country legend Loretta Lynn back at Bell againThe Augusta Chronicle, August 19th
Their first 45 rpm release recorded in a Los Angeles studio was (I'm A) Honky Tonk Girl. Loretta Lynn had written the song about a woman she used to see at Bill's Tavern, where Lynn and her own band, Loretta's Trail Blazers, played regularly. Within...Read more
A Calgary radio station has given up a format that cut Top 40 pop songs ...CBC.ca, August 19th
Jones says the logic of having three- to five-minute long radio songs is from 60 years ago when radio broadcasters played 45 rpm records. The average song on AMP had been running under two-and-a-half minutes under the new format. The station had ...Read more
Peter Buck Reveals 'Opium Drivel' 7-inchExclaim!, August 19th
The vinyl plays at 33 rpm, rather than 45 rpm like most 7-inches. This allows extra music to fit on the record, and there are four songs included here. The A-side features the originals "Portrait of a Sorry Man" and "If This Is Love Give Me My Money Back."...Read more
Living legend: Marshall Crenshaw plays HermosaEasy Reader, August 19th
The musician is now in the process of releasing a series of exclusive three-song, 10-inch, 45-rpm vinyl EPs. Subscribers get a new Marshall Crenshaw EP every six months. On each EP Crenshaw includes a new original song, a reimagined version of one of ...Read more
Most Songs are Three Minutes Long Because That's How Most of Us Like ThemMother Jones, August 18th
Kelsey McKinney asks today why popular songs are almost all 3-5 minutes long. The historical basis for this is obvious: 45 rpm singles hold about three minutes of music, so modern pop music was born in an era when technology limited songs to about...Read more
Why almost every Top 40 song is between 3 and 5 minutes longVox, August 18th
In 1949, RCA introduced a 45 rpm disk that quickly overtook the 78 and made it obsolete. These 45s were better than 78s in numerous ways. They were made of vinyl instead of shellac, which made them more durable and more easily portable. They were ...Read more
Doo-wop fans revel in the oldies at New Jersey 1950's conventionsThe Star-Ledger, August 18th
I'm like, 'No, it's a 45 rpm record.' " The hit Broadway musical and recent movie "Jersey Boys," based on the lives of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, gave the Garden State oldies scene a boost. But there's always been a vibrant community in New...Read more
Peter, Paul And Mary – In The Wind [TrackList follows] – Warner Brothers/ ORG ...Audiophile Audition, July 21st
Original Recording Group's 45-rpm re-mastering of In The Wind is superb. The pristine clarity, stereo separation and tonal warmth exceed standard CD quality. The album's back cover features the stream-of-consciousness liner notes by Dylan and photos of ...Read more