Friday, March 20, 2009

They say it's your birthday (and why that's a bad title)

The reason that the title above is bad is because, to my knowledge, "Birthday" was never released as a Beatles single.

And the birthday that's being celebrated is the birthday of the seven-inch single, as the Guardian notes. And while their math is suspect (many of the 2008 vinyl sales were for LPs, not singles), there's still a love for the good old seven-incher. First, the history:

In June 1948, CBS-Columbia unveiled the LP (long-player) on hiss-free, durable vinyl, and its own custom player. Nine months later, on 31 March 1949, RCA released the first commercial seven-inch single, spinning at 45rpm. Eddy Arnold's Texarkana Baby / Bouquet of Roses was on bright green vinyl, soon followed by Arthur Crudup's That's All Right / Crudup After Hours on cerise vinyl – both rock'n'roll primers. The two formats, singles and four-track EPs, were colour-coded - green vinyl for country and polka, red for classical, yellow for children's, blue for international, cerise for rhythm'n'blues.

The colors faded away, and as time went on, the single became prominent.

Until Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band came along, pop's principal medium was the three-minute seven-inch, with cheap portable devices such as dansettes built with a rack to play numerous singles in succession. The peak of seven-inch consumption was 1979, also the dawn of post-punk. It's no surprise that the vinyl torch has been passed on to the indie scene.

We've moved to less tangible forms of music, but even the non-Luddites have to acknowledge that singles had their heyday once upon a time.
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