Amoeblog

Vinyl Confidential, 2.1 -- The Brief History of 45’s, Part One

Posted by Whitmore, May 28, 2009 08:42pm | Post a Comment

The whole brief history of 45’s comes down to about two and a half minutes of heartbreak and a music industry coked up on millions of nickels and dimes from ten year olds spending their allowance. Aaah! But the joy in the weird, seemingly up the arse, off-the-cuff business decisions arbitrarily slung together.  
Why seven inches, and not six… phallic compensation? Why a big whole instead of a small one … phallic compensation! There must be some kind of underlying order and logic to all this, I guess. Then again, I'm no expert on logic and order-- I spend most of my thinking time in the absurd, geeky universe of 45's.   
 
The 7” 45 rpm record was introduced in 1949 by RCA as a smaller, more durable and marketable way to sell records to teenagers. In between crashing jalopies and begetting the next generation at lover’s lanes across the nation, all the flattop cats and the dungaree dolls were done playing Dad’s deadsville 78 rpm shellac platters at sock-hops. The Second World War brought new technology into the marketplace, the unbreakable disc was born, changing and dominating the industry for the next 40 years.
 
The first 45 rpm records were monophonic...and probably should have stayed there in its sepia toned aural perfection. But a few years later technology once again wielded new brawn, cutting a swath through the new middle class’ piggy banks and their want for shiny new electric toys. In the 1950’s and 60’s stereophonic sound looked too fancy to ignore, capturing the imagination by way of graphic designs carving up the backs of entire album covers with a geometry textbook fill of charts, dials and numbers. To starry eyes, this was the conduit to the modern world, chock-full of jetpacks, personal robots, self guided automobiles and scrumptious TV dinners. Except for the occasional monophonic promo record pressed for AM radio play, by the early 1970s almost all 45 rpm records were produced in stereo, though coincidentally, we’re still waiting on everything else promised by those rosy sci-fi prognosticators. I suspect color TV was invented specifically to take the edge off all the disappointments.  
 
Records, like bodies, like the Earth, are not necessarily made to move smoothly on curved orbits by a force called commerce. The cheapest and quickest way for record companies to track the newest new thing in a curved space was always 7” singles. Etched into each side is the shortest distance to a musicians sound, the fastest way to contemplate their muse, value, and the least painful way to navigate the unknown until the slow fade at grooves end has left your head either bopping or shaking. But sometimes the manufactured pre-determined length of a 45 was woefully insufficient. Old school set of natural law insisted three minutes was more than adequate. (Though on occasion editing could be conspicuously delicious, slicing out the unnecessary crap to get to a song’s hook: for example, the original single versions of "American Pie," "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" and "Thong Song"...) Eventually 12” 45’s, unhampered by space and time, boogied down the pike and unhinged the pulse, setting off the ballroom floor, teaching matter how to dance and in particular small objects traveling along the straightest possible lines in curved space. Anyway, the cosmos continues to evolve in its typical way; Earth continues to revolve -- though not at 45 revolutions per minute -- and my blather continues to dissolve in its typical way ...

Vinyl Confidential, 1.1 – the odd order of oblong boxes

Posted by Whitmore, May 26, 2009 08:34pm | Post a Comment

Why the record boxes? Why the art work? Why the hell don’t I write more about dumpster diving? Many questions are piling up here on the ol’ TV tray…
 
The theory goes: Disorder increases with record collecting because we measure collecting in the direction in which disorder increases.
 
Any theory is always provisional, in the sense that it is only a hypothesis: you can never prove it, no matter how long you may scream into somebody’s contrarian ear, or pound your fist into a table or a disagreeing face. And no matter how many times the results of experiments agree with some theory, you can never be sure that the next time around the result will not contradict your precious little theory. But as philosopher of science Karl Popper has emphasized, a good theory is characterized by the fact that it makes a number of predictions that could in principle be disproved or falsified by observation and survive.
 
For example, each time a new box of records with distinctive artwork is observed to agree with the predictions, like selling quickly, that’s a good thing. The theory, ‘art covered record boxes are cool', not only survived but found revival. Hallelujah and pass the collection plate! Our confidence is increased! But if a new box, covered in great artwork, is put out on the floor yet contains only random, scratched, dusty and chipped records, sprinkled with rat poop, the resulting observations may be a bit negative. We may feel obligated to abandon or modify the theory, even though this collection of records didn’t match the usual criteria. Nevertheless the theory of ‘artwork on record boxes’ is still solid. However, amending our assumptions is not out of the question, especially if we have to deal with irate customers and a significant berating by management. A slight re-adjustment in the theory might conclude that the art work is just the carrot, and yes, you can lead a record geek to water, but without any water in the 45 box to wash down that rat poop stuck in his throat … well, you know … anyway, next time around we should just toss those ruined, scratched records in the dumpster and note; disorder increases because we tend to measure in the direction in which disorder increases.