The vintage-inspired 45 rpm records are the perfect way to listen to your favorite tunes from days gone by. Picking one up from a garage sale or antique shop is the perfect way to add some memories to your music collection.
In this post, we’ll explore all the reasons why you should get into collecting records, from the history of vinyl records to how to find a good one at a thrift store. Read on and find out how owning a record player can take your living room back in time!
A Brief History of the 45 rpm Record
The original record was developed by Edison in 1877 as a means to play back sound. The first recordings were made on wax cylinders, which proved to be too fragile for extended use. As such, Mr. Edison designed a softer medium: the cardboard record. In fact, the very first playable records were made from paper pressed between two pieces of tin foil! Early records were brittle, which is why we don’t typically find them today.
The first “records” were 10 inches wide, and the early ones had no grooves. Instead, the recording was engraved onto the record. Edison’s recordings featured a minute or two of music, which played at a speed of about 80 revolutions per minute (RPM). This format is often referred to as cylinder records.
It wasn’t long before others developed an improved medium known as a disc record — also known as a 78 rpm record — because it played at 78 RPM. This became the standard for records as they were produced in huge numbers by dozens of companies.
In 1925, RCA Victor launched the first commercially produced 12 inch disc record. It was called a 78 rpm record because it played at 78 RPM — that is, until 1948 when the LP (long play) record was developed to play at speeds of 33-1/3, 45 and even 78 RPM.
The introduction of these higher speed records opened up new possibilities for live performances and previously impossible musical arrangements. LP records, as they were known, had a larger surface area than 78s and could hold 10 to 15 minutes of music per side.
LP records were produced in the millions until the release of the 45 rpm record.
After Columbia’s arch-enemy RCA had created LP technology in the 1930s they opted to let the patents expire because they couldn’t make it work from a business perspective. Of course these developments were extremely upsetting to them. RCA committed to establish a new format that would compete with Columbia’s, rather than accept a license from the latter.
Although it had been teased since late 1948 and early 1949 (RCA wanted to sabotage Columbia’s album sales), the 7-inch 45 RPM single had its official debut on March 31, 1949, after years of teasing.
PVC was sliced into microgrooves for the 45 like Columbia’s LP. The similarities cease there, however. The 45 had a 1.5-inch-wide hole in the middle, which spun at a different speed than the rest of the deck. A new sort of proprietary turntable was to be manufactured by RCA, and they wanted people to have to choose between it and the new record players necessitated by new LPs.
Because, as RCA pointed out, “people are used to having records with just one song on each side. In addition, the record spindle of our the turntable may be stacked! Listeners can enjoy a never-ending stream of music as the tonearm swings back and a new record falls into place! An hour and a half!”
Country albums were issued on green vinyl as part of RCA’s color-coding strategy according to format. The records of children were yellow. For popular music, R&B, classical, and so on, there were seven colors to choose from: blues and reds.
If the history of the 45 is to be believed, the first record to be regularly produced was “PeeWee the Piccolo,” which was pressed on December 7, 1948, at an Indianapolis facility. In the first batch of 45s published by RCA, this song by Eddy Arnold was included.
The owners of record stores weren’t impressed. Due to the lack of compatibility with the family gramophone, customers habituated to 78s were baffled by 33 1/3 LPs and 45 RPM singles. To make matters worse, the stylus, which was the size of a fingernail, was too large and blunt to be used in microgrooves. If you’d like to upgrade to vinyl, please let us know! After that, you had to choose between Team Columbia and Team RCA when it came to purchasing a new turntable.
RCA’s new record changers were also on the agenda. For $12.95–about $140 in today’s dollars–they weren’t cheap. RCA’s demise was prophesied by many.
A great event happened, though, something no one could have predicted.
How Did 45s Get Popular
In the first month after the format was introduced, RCA sold a startling one million 45s. Walter Winchell, a gossip columnist, penned the following on October 24, 1949: It’s the aristocracy:” According to a bogus claim, RCA-Victor is going to stop using the 45 rpm format. In the last 90 days, sales of the 45 have surged by 260 percent, according to RCA president Frank M. Folsom. Because of public demand, they cannot keep up. It’s time for the source of the inaccuracy to die.
A bizarre stalemate was established. Thereafter, “excellent” and “serious” music such as classical records, broadcast cast recordings, movie soundtracks, and jazz would be released on Columbia LPs and other labels using the new technology. Adults were the only ones who could pay the five-dollar (or more) price tag for this music. That’s about the same as $60 in today’s money.
The 45, on the other hand, was an ideal format for popular music since it was inexpensive to create, lightweight to transport, and simple to distribute to radio stations. The original price was 65 cents (approximately $7 now), which even a kid on an allowance could afford. A “Red Seal” record, which is designated for special classical recordings, cost 95 cents or the equivalent of $10.50 in today’s money,
Within two years after the 45’s release, a new phenomenon known as “rock’n’roll” became popular. “Teenagers” became a new demographic, buying rock singles by the millions in the first few months of their existence. Sales of 45s overtook 78s in the United States in 1954. 3 million copies were sold of “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and the Comets on their own the next year. ” Because of rationing from World War II, it took the UK a little longer to convert over, but by 1958, the 45 was outselling the 78.
Throughout the 1970s, the 45 was the most popular method of distributing rock music. Pop music radio stations, jukebox producers and operators, and record stores all used it.
Around 1965, rock began to explore album creative and aesthetic potential, but 7-inch singles remained the heart and soul of his music for another decade. In 1974, 45 sales topped out at 200 million units.
After that, things were a little shaky. As album sales increased, the music industry grew more and more focused on making money. Longer, more complex songs began to fill the extra space provided by LPs, with many tracks exceeding the 7-inch’s capacity of just over six minutes in length. The popularity of jukeboxes began to fade as well, which decreased the market for 45s. Then, in late 1982, the CD came along.
Why Get Into Collecting Records?
When you ask someone “Why are you into vinyl?” you might get a variety of answers. Some people like the nostalgic appeal of holding an LP in your hands and hearing the “real” sound. Many enjoy the hunt for rare records, tracking down unique copies and learning about artists. Others just like to have something tangible to listen to at home, rather than streaming from their hard drive. And then there are those who collect for a specific purpose- whether it be DJing or putting together a historical collection of popular music of some sort.
Collectors are encouraged to understand the subject on which they’re focused. If you’re looking for a large collection of jazz or classical music, for example, focusing on certain artists and periods will help you narrow down what you want to collect. A good name in the jazz world might be different from a great name in rock and roll.
Another thing that’s helpful is if you can get your hands on a chronology of the original releases. There are countless numbers of guides online, some more comprehensive than others.
Finally, listening to vinyl is an experience. Owning a great record is like having a piece of history you can listen to over and over. In the rare case that you ever forget its existence, you can look back at an LP’s liner notes, retrospective articles, or even concurrent stories in the news media.
A lot of collectors enjoy delving into the music industry’s past, taking part in a culture which has been growing for more than 100 years.
Where to Find 45s
There are also plenty of vintage record sites as well as eBay and other online venues that can help you identify what’s worth your time to collect. Once you’re done with the research, it’s time to find a store that carries some of these vintage 45 rpm records.
Ebay is a great place to start, but you might want to look in the physical world as well.
There are lots of record stores around the country, or you might like to try your local flea market or antique store. You can also try Goodwill and Salvation Army stores near you.
I hope you enjoyed our brief jot down memory lane and taking a look back the history of the 45 rpm record.
And I will leave you with this little known fact: the first ever 7″ vinyl single by Elvis was released on RCA Victor in November 1955 and was produced by legendary musician and record producer, Sam Phillips. It was a cover of Big Boy Bloater’s song “Without You”, which he recorded under the stage name of “Elvis Presley.”
A little history for you to share with your friends! Questions, let me know in the comments below.