Thursday, December 20, 2007

Playing Santa is always fun this time of year. When you are selling one-of-a-kind items like we are, you need to make sure they get down the destination chimney, and we thank the U.S. Postal Service for doing what they say they will do. At the same time we've been adding new items from interesting collections, and today I'd like to focus on the once ubiquitous 45 rpm single.
In the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, it was quite usual to go into a store and buy 2 songs for 99 cents or less-- cheaper than iTunes? (I wouldn't know, we play records, tapes and CDs around here). The kicker was, they had what was called an "A" side and a "B" side. If the promoters had their ducks in a row, the "A" side would have been heard on the radio, getting you to buy it. And the "B" side was just there because it cost not much more to manufacture 2-sided vinyl records than it did to make them one-sided (which they were back around the turn of the 19th-20th century).
If you really wanted your money's worth, you might actually play the "B" side. It might be horrible, or it might be awesome. There was no telling.
There were also 45 rpms that seem destined for radio stations instead of stores. The radio station might think it was a normal record, and they might be encouraged to play it, but there was no intention of pressing mass quantities unless the record hit big on the radio. Today these can be found in various collections and they are called "promos," or "white label promos" or such (many had white labels instead of the consumer-color coded ones).
If you're familiar with the Charles Manson murders, they occurred at the home of Terry Melcher, who started life as Doris Day's son and became a record producer in his own right. We have acquired some white label promos of some of his rarest psychedelic rock issues, by Glad and Grapefruit (not sure what's with the one-word "G" names).
Psychedelic garage rock was all the rage in 1960s and band names reflected the freewheeling spirit: Crome Syrcus and We Ugly Dogs are 2 great ones.
And, behind ordinary names are some very unusual records. What ever became of Don Thomas, who sang what could only be described as a gringo "corrido" imagining what it is like to die slowly in the jungles of Vietnam.
And, for those of you who think "Dazed and Confused" is a Led Zeppelin song, perhaps you haven't heard the original by Jake Holmes.
Moving on to immortal 45 rpm singles that made history and are still treasured 40+ years later: how about an original Volt white label promo of Otis Redding's "Dock of the Bay." Or an original Beatles Yesterday/Act Naturally, one of the most perfect singles of all time, recalling Top 40 radio, a format which could accommodate bland, string-padded pop (Yesterday), and Buck Owens style Bakersfield country (Act Naturally), as long as it was by the Beatles. And conveniently, these tunes were on opposite sides of the original swirl-labeled 45 rpm single. How about a virtually mint copy of Theme from Shaft by Isaac Hayes.
There are many more than I can list here, but let's end with a couple of doozies: can you guess who did the original of Black Denim Trousers and Motorcycle Boots?
And, as much as I love the A side by Captain Paul and his Seafaring Band, the B side is actually better: I wanna be a life guard.
Outside the snow is falling and friends are calling "yoo-hoo"

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