This weekend the BBC broadcasted an excellent show on the single, as in a vinyl record. It featured the usual cohorts of Paul Morely, Norman Cook, Richard Hawley and Pete Waterman. Interestingly among others they also spoke to Graham Gouldman, Suzi Quatro, Holly Johnson and Mike Batt. For me the hour-long programme breezed by too quickly but it did get me to write down my own notes on each segment of the programme as to what happened to me in each case. What you’re about to read isn’t what transpired within the show but what affected my life I guess.
For me coming from a family whose parents record collection didn’t amount to more than a couple of record cases, one for albums and the other for the seven-inch single. The one record in those boxes that I can remember always playing was John Leyton’s single ‘Wild Wind‘ with it’s B-side ‘You Took My Love For Granted‘. I can remember vividly the red and white label which had the Top Rank logo, a man banging the large gong, on it. My other early experience with the format came in the shape of the jukebox at the local working man’s club that we went to every Sunday lunchtime. There I was fed on a staple diet of The Mama’s & The Papa’s, Roy Orbison, The Everly Brothers and of course The Beatles. The first single I bought was Slade’s ‘Cos I Luv U‘, as result of me receiving my own record player for Christmas that year. The neighbourhood was never the same after that.
Thereafter I would then spend most of my pocket-money on singles from the bargain bins of the local Woolworth’s, John Menzies and the H.M.V., that would soon close in Corby. Every now and then I’d buy a single immediately as it was released after hearing on the radio. Usually this would be a power-play on Radio Luxembourg 208, one such record was Joe Walsh’s ‘Life’s Been Good‘, that comes to mind. My other main source of course was the John Peel show that meant I had real trouble securing a copy of a said track locally. I didn’t buy many albums in those days, in fact the only one I played often was E.L.O’s ‘Out Of The Blue‘ or one of those compilations as advertised on TV.
By the end of the Seventies, my collection was growing at a vast rate, like Norman Cook, I would catalogue all my records. Discovery Records opened later on I was to start working part-time. This gave me access to all those punk and indie records the high street outlets didn’t stock. Though strangely enough I do remember buying ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead‘ by Bauhaus from the local Boots, along with a packet of condoms. The reason I remember it so well was because I was served by my mate Ashley’s older sister, very embarrassing. Around this time singles would come in coloured vinyl or even picture discs. The latter though always seemed to highlight more the crackles before the song would begin. A&M artists like The Police, Squeeze and The Dickies seemed to release all their singles in every colour but black.
I mentioned earlier the B-side, something people who have grown up in the digital age knows nothing about. I often found some great songs notably The Jam released some classics on the flip-side for me for example, ‘The Butterfly Collector‘, ‘Smithers Jones‘ and ‘Thick As Thieves‘. Like most people who had collections I would often make up tapes for friends or girlfriends. This would often include adding a B-side or an album track to make it interesting enough. Speaking of girlfriends I can remember very well a girl called Tracey singing to me on the local nite-club dance-floor Soft Cell’s ‘Say Hello, Wave Goodbye‘, which seemed strange at the time, but later on that night it had a much bigger meaning, she dumped me!
As the Eighties progressed the single mutated by way of various DJ mixes and formats (the advent of the CD). But the essence was always still there, usually an under three-minute song being played via various mediums including the now obligatory video. The first video for a single I can remember, like alot of people, was Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody‘. As shown in the programme the Frankie Goes To Hollywood one’s do come flooding back to me. I have to totally agree with Pete Waterman when he described the download age of today in that they’re only buying the single tracks in general. But for me you can’t beat holding a disc be worn out, scratched, wrote upon or used as a beer mat – it is visible.