This year marks the 60 year anniversary of the seven inch single, the 45rpm record that was originally introduced by RCA Records back in 1949 with the release of Eddy Arnold's double sided mono record, "Texarkana Baby" b/w "Bouquet of Roses."
The then new format, at first treated by many with a degree of suspicion, was embraced by RCA as a more compact and more durable replacement for the heavy 78rpm shellac-based records -- the ones known as wax records that would break into many pieces if dropped on the ground.
After witnessing the success of this new format for RCA, Columbia Records followed suit two years later in 1951 and from there demand just snowballed into the sixties and seventies and eighties by which time the format began to lose momentum. There have been several interesting articles written about the 45rpm's 60th birthday, including a wonderful piece written by Robert Benson published on the website JustPressPlay this week which traced the format's history and also noted how, "British trade journals have been reporting that single song 45rpm records are now outselling their CD counterparts and how many American bands are now releasing music via this historic audio medium."
A visit to Amoeba Music in Berkeley, San Francisco, or Hollywood, where there are boxes and boxes and wall displays of 45's (new and old), will also quickly confirm that the once seen as deceased 45rpm is very much alive and well. As you know, vinyl in general (45rpm's, 10" records, 12" singles, and vinyl albums) has been going through a renaissance in recent years.
But lately that interest has reportedly accelerated quite a bit. Speaking earlier today, Orion from the Hollywood Amoeba Music store said that interest in vinyl, " has been going bonkers lately. Vinyl has seen a real resurgence recently."
At the Sunset Avenue Amoeba Orion has noticed a whole new wave of audio fans, musically weaned in the digital age, discarding MP3s and discovering the superiority of the fat, rich analog vinyl sound, especially 45rpm seven inches. "We have kids in their teens to early twenties coming in here regularly and digging in the $1.99 and $2.99 and $5.99 boxes of seven inches and buying them up like crazy," he said. Orion noted that there are many other types of 45rpm seven inch singles customers too, including ones that you wouldn't necessarily consider. "There are still a lot of people who still have jukeboxes out there and they need singles to fill their jukeboxes, which hold about 300 records."
Among Amoeba Hollywood's seven inch singles on display there is an Elvis Presley wall of singles, a wall of half Beatles and half Rolling Stones singles, and a lot of indie rock stuff -- especially punk and post punk, some of it rare and expensive. "There's a Germs seven inch, 'Lexicon Devil,' for $600," said Orion. "But most of the early punk seven inches collectibles are in the $20 to $30 range." Another popular seven inch with Amoeba customers is The Smiths box set (12 singles) that sells for $84.98.
Meanwhile, in the newly released seven inch singles, which typically sell for $6.98, the new U2 single "Magnificent" and the new Dead Weather (Jack White's other other band) single "Treat Me Like Your Mother" are selling quickly. Also popular, but selling for $9.98, is the new Modest Mouse single "Satelite Skin."
Even though the seven inch single is 60 years old, Amoeba Hollywood's Orion, like many of us, believes that the format is far from dying. On the contrary, it is getting a new lease on life, he notes, as a swelling group of, "new audiophiles continue harking back to a better sound from vinyl."