Friday, August 10, 2007

Vinyl Record Day, Pt.2: The Call of the 45

Greetings, everyone, and I hope everyone has a happy Vinyl Record Day this Sunday. Todd has already explained the significance of this day, so I won't go into it again, other than to tell you to check out Jim Bartlett's The Hits Just Keep On Comin' blogsite to get a list of all the participants in the blogswarm and just to get in some fine readings. And be sure to read all the other blogs, too for even more fine musical reads. If you can, be sure to look into the MP3 postings many of them have for some great sounds that just might expand your musical vocabulary a little.

For my contribution to Vinyl Record Day, I'd like to ask a simple question: do you remember your first record purchase? For me, the details are a little hazy. I'd been collecting records for as long as I can remember, since I was at least 6 years old. Of course, I don't still have the records I had back then as I've gone through several phases throughout my record-collecting career from 45s to LPs to 45s and LPs to LPs and CDs back to LPs and back to 45s again where I am right now.

But there is one thing that even today I clearly remember. Between the ages of five and seven, I was placed on a psychiatric ward at LaRue Carter Memorial Hospital. I was told by my parents many years later that I was placed there because it was feared that I had childhood schizophrenia. Whatever the case, I had to be brought to this hospital building in downtown Indianapolis every week and stay there for the entire week, coming back home on weekends. I ate there, I slept there, I did everything there. And it was not a pretty thing. I had to spend the week with kids more disadvantaged than I was. I never understood why I was there. How could I? I was only a little kid. The most horrific memory I still have of the place was being dragged out of bed in the middle of the night one night and having soap rammed into my mouth because I had said a dirty word.

What does this have to do with vinyl? Well, the wards were all African-American except for one and a lot of times, they would bring in 45s to play. And they would often play them for us kids as well. Those wards gave me my first ever exposure to soul music. From them, I learned about Aretha Franklin, James Brown, The Jackson Five, The Fifth Dimension and many others.

One cold weekend, my father took me to the Zayre department store down the street from where we lived. He told me I could pick two records of my choice. Being influenced by what the wards played at Ward E-3 where I was staying, the two I picked were "River Deep, Mountain High" by The Supremes and the Four Tops and "Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved, Parts 1 and 2" by James Brown. I played and played them on the little record changer I had at the time, much to the chargin of my parents, who always kept trying to get me away from records. They never could. My obsession with records continued to grow. And not long after I was finally released from LaRue, I started listening to Top 40 radio. I absorbed nearly everything they played, since you know how everything is new to you when you're a kid.

I also vividly remember that whenever we would visit my grandparents in Nashville, Tennessee, we would always visit the Salvation Army store near the Cumberland River. This was always the high point of the trip for me because my parents usually let me have a little money and I'd go hog wild on the 45s. Back in those days, you could get 45s at 5 for a quarter. And I always came back with a big pile. (Years later, after learning more about certain genres of rock 'n' roll, particularly the garage rock subgenre, I think back to those times and say to myself, "If I only knew then, what I know now.")

I could go on and on about how my collecting has changed through the years, but then you'd get my whole life story and I know you don't have time for that. Right now, my collecting is geared toward 45s exclusively. I collect original 45s in the following genres: surf, garage, rock 'n' roll instrumentals, soul, funk and rhythm & blues. I've paid anywhere from just under a buck to ultra-crazy collector prices. My collection is now at over 4300 and still growing.

Why the 45? I just think it's the coolest format ever for rock 'n' roll. I'm sure most of you have experienced the power of a good single, the way its catchy hooks grab you and pull you in and make you want to dance all around the room for the three-minute duration of most singles. Indeed, I was at Las Vegas Grind in 1999 when I witnessed DJs spinning original 45s of classic garage and r&b 45s and I thought to myself, "Why couldn't I do this, too?" This love of the 45 has grown on me rabidly ever since.

Granted, there are disadvantages, such as the glut of album tracks that run for about five minutes or more edited down to three or less. And let's not forget all the times when the 45 you just bought is pressed off-center. Despite all that, I still find the 45 magical because of the fuller, louder sound they have. They come alive when stylus is pressed to vinyl in a way that albums, for me, don't always do. They're just a lot more fun. Two blasts of rockin' goodness on one 7" slab of wax. Can't go wrong. Full-on energy when needle hits groove. One of life's great pleasures without a doubt.

And all of this hearkens back to my childhood days back on Ward E-3 at LaRue Carter Memorial Hospital where I first succumbed to the call of the 45.

Hope you all enjoyed reading this. Have yourselves a very Happy Vinyl Record Day. And get those stacks and stacks of singles out! That's what I'm gonna do. How 'bout you?


Red Kelly said...

you're preaching to the choir here, my brother! The 45 is still the ultimate music format... long may it spin!


Vincent said...

interesting... it just goes to prove that music indeed the universal language. the wards must have known that when they spun those 45s for you kids. Great tale!

Enjoy your Vinyl Record Day!

Brian Marshall said...

Thanks a bunch, Vincent, glad you enjoyed reading it. I hope the rest of you did, too.

Todd Lucas said...

Yes, great story, Brian. Thanks for posting it.

Stuart Shea said...

Great, great remembrance. Thanks for posting this. I agree with you--the 45 is IT. I mean, I think it's the greatest artistic format ever.
Unfortunately, my first 45 purchase, at age 10, was Carly Simon and James Taylor's "Mockingbird."

gary said...

truly a renaissance story!. i have my own kid memories back in the sixties. dont remember which single i bought first but it might have been either kinks "all day..",beatles"i feel fine",or dc5 "come home".my intro to 45's came about thru 2 older cousin and an older playmate who lived up the steet.this was '64-'65. too long a story to tell but like yourself currently on weekends im constantly playing those "little records with the big hole".keep on rockin' 45's forever!

art said...

Fascinating story...I really like hearing people's first record buying experiences. Amazingly the two records you cited, "River Deep" and "Get Up Get Into It Get Involved" were two of my earliest purchases as well! I started buying 45s with my allowance money in November 1970 and my very first purchase was "Domino" by Van Morrison, which I bought because I couldn't find my first choices, which were "Sex Machine" by James Brown and "O-oh Child" by the Five Stairsteps. By the way, I am African-American...glad to see that you are into soul and r&b music so deeply. I got into all kinds of music myself because in those days radio had a wide open format and kids were exposed to everything.

Anonymous said...

Brian, I'm a writer working on a piece set in 60's Indy. Is the Zayre photo you posted the store at the Linwood Square Shopping Center? If so, would you mind emailing a copy to me? My address is

Thanks very much.