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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Mary Cain Is Growing Up Fast
New York Times, March 4th

Like watching a turntable with one record spinning at 33? r.p.m. and another at 45 r.p.m., it scrambled the brain. Cain completed her first lap in 58 seconds, only half a second slower than Roger Bannister ran his first lap at Oxford on May 6, 1954...Read more

Jimmy Page revels in new Led Zeppelin re-masters
Salt Lake Tribune, March 3rd

They were for the most part self-taught, Page said, and the technology they relied on was primitive indeed: They would buy singles of American songs designed to be played at 45 rpm and played them instead at 33 rpm, the speed designated for long...Read more

the Art of Speed Leisure
The Atlantic, March 3rd

Films shown in movie theaters by and large stuck to the convention of 24 frames per second. Even when consumers could control the playback speed of their analog media, it wasn't perfect—anyone who has ever accidentally played an LP at 45 rpm knows ...Read more

Frontier Circus lassos box of singles
NWAOnline (subscription), March 2nd

Among the other 45 rpm singles, however, "Wild Side" is actually pressed at 33 1/3. "There's this great dub sound at the end of it," Dan says. "It's almost 5 1/2 minutes long and we didn't want to cut it. At 33 1/3, I can't put it on my jukebox, but...Read more

Jimmy Webb, the pen and piano behind 'Wichita Lineman,' 'Galveston' and ...
cleveland.com, March 2nd

"When I first got into this business, I noticed that on a 45 (RPM) single, it would say 'GLEN CAMPBELL,' and in parentheses in very tiny letters it would say, 'Jimmy Webb,' '' Webb said. "You knew from Day One that you were not considered to be the...Read more

Classic rock lives on at Lacey's Boomerang Music and Video
TheNewsTribune.com, March 1st

Raymond, Gary Lippincott, co-owner of Boomerang Music and Video in Lacey, remembers his first connection to popular music. He had gone shopping in Aberdeen with his mother and bought The Beatles' “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” his first 45 rpm record...Read more

Frank's Place: Lamenting the decline in bowling as a societal glue
Philly.com, February 28th

When I think of bowling, and I rarely do anymore, it's as a curious relic, like 45-r.p.m. records or paperboys. Odd as it now sounds, bowling was once a vital strand of society's connective tissue, an American activity nearly as commonplace as churchgoing...Read more

ON THE RECORD: Vinyl stays in the groove
Press-Enterprise, February 27th

There are two “hidden” tracks under the labels that play at 45 rpm and 78 rpm; one of the album's sides contrarily tracks the needle from the inside to the outer edge of the record. And did we mention the hologram? “Over the Christmas holiday we had...Read more