Early on (like, when I was 10 years old) I had a moral judgment against 45 singles. They were a ripoff (LPs had a much better song-per-dollar ratio); they were a shallow glimpse into an artist’s work (way too short); they were the sound-bites of their day. I don’t know how my little 10-year old brain came to this judgment, but there it was.
This is odd, as I loved AM radio at the time, and AM radio is nothing but 3 minute songs, all artfully done, all hugely appreciated by me.
I suppose part of the distinction is that radio goes on and on. A song is played in a context – a context of other hits songs, a dj with a personality, advertisements, weather reports, etc. When you put a 45 on a record player, it begins playing, and 2 or 3 minutes later it’s over. That’s it. Empty silence. The song feels small and cheap when it’s laid bare like that. An LP included and embraced the song with others, all by the same artist, in a large canvas of sound that went on and on… (for 15 minutes). I Loved, and still Love, an album of songs.
Okay, and there was one other thing that made me dislike 45s. When I was an immensely shy 11 year old, I’d somehow managed to land a girlfriend while in summer school. We went on a double-date to this guy’s house. He had a make-out room in his garage, with a record player that played a stack of 45s. The music was dumb, it was make-out music intended to make girls somehow melt. But I was frozen in fear-of-kissing-a-girl land, and the sound of this gawdawful music along with my cold-sweat fear made my stomach turn. I loved music too much to have it used in such a way. It was sleazy. Cheap. Tawdry, even.
But, like I say, my general dislike of 45’s predated that experience.
Another 45 vs. LP experience involved discovering the one-hit-wonder phenomenon. A hit song of ’70 was “Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum. I liked it. Still like it. A friend of mine had the LP which contained the song, and one day at his house he put it on. Bad LP. One good song on the whole thing. I didn’t know that there were artists who made such good and bad music at the same time. I was used to the Beatles, the Doors, Led Zeppelin – people who made good LPs.
So, what about mp3s? Are they the 45 singles of today?
Being a lover of albums of songs, the playlist “revolution” that we’re currently in is not my bag. I still love to hear a group of songs by an artist, all of a high caliber of artistic integrity, in an album format. One-hit wonders are okay, but just okay. But mp3s are not sleazy. Unlike a 45, they offer good value for the money. And, it’s so easy to put them in a playlist and surround them with other good stuff .It’s like having your very own jukebox. Which, I must admit, I did rather like when I was a lad (even if they offered very poor value for the money).