Friday, October 21, 2016

45 Revolutions Per Minute

I come to sing the praises of a good pop music single. I mean no disrespect to all of the great albums that have been made over the years. It's just that I grew up listening to singles and buying them.

A well made single is a joy to behold for people who can appreciate it. It's a seven inch piece of vinyl, with two songs on it. The so-called "B" side is sometimes a throwaway song that the singer or band really doesn't care about. But sometimes you get lucky and the "B" side is just as good as the "A" side.

I'm thinking of records like ""Penny Lane / Strawberry Fields Forever" by the Beatles, and "Bring It On Home To Me / Having A Party" by the late, great Sam Cooke.

Of course, most pop singles of years gone by were mixed in monaural sound and mixed to sound best on AM radio. Some groups even went so far as to simulate AM radio sound when mixing by playing the sound through a car radio speaker. The Beach Boys went one step further by using a low powered transmitter and having someone listen to the mix in their car on the car radio. That person would then share his thoughts with the rest of the band.

As you may already know, by the early 1970s, stereo had begun to take over. There are some notable exceptions, however. The Grass Roots mixed all of their singles in mono right up to the day they stopped recording as a group. Motown Records and CBS records, most notably, also continued offering some of their single releases in mono as late as 1972, although these were usually the promotional versions sent to radio stations. I have a lot of these and every single one has great sound.
Over the years, sadly, a great many of these mono mixes became difficult to find. I've spent a lot of time going through bins of used records in search of something classic. My very best find ever was a first pressing of "I Want You Back" by the Jackson 5 that was in mint condition. I paid fifty cents for it. The record was pressed in 1969 and I found it in 1989.

The good news is that several well run reissue labels have taken the time and spent the money to give us great sounding reissues of singles by classic artists. These are usually very reasonably priced, going from around $15 to $30 or $40 at the most. The less expensive ones tend to be single disc collections while the pricier ones are two or three disc sets. These collections often also have really well written liner notes.

Three labels I've never had a problem with are Sundazed, Real Gone Music and Rhino Records. Rhino was the pioneer for this sort of thing; I still have all 25 volumes of their "Have A Nice Day" series that presented classic pop hits of the 1970s. Back when these were released, Rhino felt they had to publicly apologize for using several mono mixes in cases where they couldn't license stereo versions of songs. That was in keeping with what was then considered normal.

To serious collectors such as myself, this was and still is a good thing.

I've also had the good fortune of reading posts online where others graciously share their knowledge of where to find mono mixes of hit records. These often show up on the least expected sources like movie soundtracks and low priced collections of songs by various artists.

Over the years I've spent a lot of time and a very large amount of money putting together a collection I'm proud of. As of the time I write this, I have 2000 records on my hard drive. About 500 of them are ones I've ripped from compact disc or needle dropped from vinyl. The rest are MP3 files from legitimate sources such as Amazon and Rhapsody (when they were still called that and were still selling songs).

As always, I do hope you've enjoyed reading this post.

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