Long before the arrival of iTunes and playlists, there was really only two ways to accumulate your favorite songs in the 70s. Either purchase the entire (read: expensive) album, or buy just the song you wanted on 45 records. Millions of 70s kids opted for the latter, and amassed a beloved collection that they can remember to this day.
The “45,” so named for the number of revolutions it completed per minute on your trusty turntable, was introduced in the 50s, Unlike its 12″ long-playing counterpart, the 7″ 45 record only had enough playing time for one song on each side. As a result, album versions of songs were often significantly edited to fit the constraints of the media. The shortened version was usually the one that got the most airplay back in the day.
One of the perks of buying a 45 is that you got two songs for the price of one. The “A” side contained the hit while the “B” side usually had something a little more obscure or eclectic to offer. And, on occasion, they were even the cooler of the two songs.
All the recent hits were available on 45s in the 70s, and they could be found at department stores, discount stores, and, of course, record stores. Sam Goody usually had one of the larger collections on hand, with an assortment of hits that went back more than a decade. Record World was another local favorite.
Of course, 45 records were of little use without an adapter of sorts to make that big hole in the center small enough to hug the turntable spindle. Numerous gadgets were available for this purpose, but the most common variety was the simple plastic spider (seen in the first video above).
Fans of 45s kept a supply close at hand, because they often broke, and if you didn’t have one, you simply weren’t going to be able to play the record. You remember trying to center that baby just right, in the hopes that it would stay aligned long enough to make it through the latest and greatest song, only to have it come out sounding like a warbled abomination. Right?
45 records sold in the hundreds of millions throughout the 70s. Songs like “I Will Survive,” “The Hustle,” “Fernando,” “Y.M.C.A.” and “Kung Fu Fighting” each sold over 10 million records alone. The 80s were a different story, as the media format quickly lost favor, thanks to more portable methods of buying singles, such as cassette tapes, and eventually CDs.
The new decade marked the end of the era for 45 records. Sure, you can still download single songs to your little heart’s content, but its not quite the same as having that tangible product in your hands, that you obsessed over keeping dust and scratch free. Drop your guard for a minute and … well, we can all remember the sound one made when you accidentally stepped on it.
If you have fond memories of your collection of 45 records, I hope you’ll share your recollections with us in the comments section below.