The 7” single……….
The sale of vinyl records is growing again. In excess of 4 million records were sold last year, the highest sales in a quarter of a century. A new generation of fans appears to be taking an interest in music once again.
I do have a selection of vinyl but I am far from the most ardent of collectors. Records though, must have gotten into my psyche at an early age. So let me ruminate about it all. Maybe you will relate to and recognise some of the symptoms.
The life of the 7” single began on the RCA label during 1948/49. And it soon got into the soul. It had a magic. People that indulged in them can generally remember the first one they bought. You played it to death. You wore it out. We remember joy and pain by the 7”. They had the power to recall times and places. And the song upon it can still give you that same feeling you had when you first heard it.
The record shop felt as if it was full of treasure. You felt part of a community. You could browse through records. You saved your money to buy one. At one time they had booths where you could try before you bought it. You looked at it on the way home. It was a thing of beauty.
The logos on the record, the sleeve, its colour and design were all evocative. The label became a part of the band. You had all the information you needed on those label. The writer of the song, its producer, the publishers, the year of release, it was all there. The label and its sleeve were art and music mixed together.
But we were also guilty of spoiling them by stacking them up on the record player, so that they dropped onto each other. We wrote our names onto them so we knew whose they were at the end of a party. And we put sticky labels on them for reference purposes.
The B sides could be interesting. It could be a throw away tune or something really good. Quite often the song itself was not on an LP. The Beatles 45s were a prime example of this. We also saw 7” EP’s and double A sides.
For the early part of the 1960s the single length was kept to around 3 minutes. That was until artists and writers like Bob Dylan and Jimmy Webb changed all that. After singles such as ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ and ‘Macarthur Park’, anything went.
The early 1970s saw the 7” take a back seat to the 12” LP or album. The album generally had a theme and you didn’t have to keep changing it or turning it over. During this period some bands purposefully avoid releasing 7” singles. However Glam Rock and bands like T.Rex, Slade revived the fortunes of the 7”.
From the mid-1970s the 7” single became short and sharp again as they became the perfect medium for the punk rock movement. Not only that but accompanying picture sleeves became the norm, rather than for the odd release. And this period also brought with it coloured vinyl, picture discs or both.
Singles were released on a limited edition 12” format. But then the 12” single had also become the staple of the DJ. For the 1980s and into the 1990s vinyl extended to different versions of the same song, extended dance mixes and much more. And then as time went on they found themselves out of fashion.
Although the 7” single is now maybe a thing of the past let’s hope that the current vinyl revival continues to grow and that records of today hold the same power they had over past generations.