Originally posted January 2, 2008
I never bought many singles. By the time I began listening to and buying rock and pop, the era of the album was upon us. Even though singles were routinely issued from most albums – there were some exceptions – the focus of music was on the album and the overall sense (or message or allegory) that the listener could gain from the forty or so minutes of music on the album.
I remember the first time I bought a single. It was during a shopping trip with my family to downtown Minneapolis during what must have been the summer of 1969. I made my way to – I think – the seventh floor of Dayton’s department store and rummaged through the singles until I found the 5th Dimension’s “Aquarius//Let the Sunshine In,” which had impressed me enough the spring before on the radio that I wanted the record. (This was still a few months before I began listening regularly to Top 40 radio, so the record must have impressed me a great deal, indeed!)*
As I found my record and made my way to the cash register, I looked at the expanse of records around me, singles and albums alike. I remember feeling as if I’d walked by accident into a clubhouse where I did not belong, one from which I would be ejected without ceremony if the others there realized that I did not know the password or the secret handshake. I don’t recall if I thought then and there about becoming a member of the club, but within a year, I was shopping for records – almost always albums – with a growing assurance that, if so challenged, I would be allowed to stay.
Over the years, a small collection of singles has made its way onto my shelves. A few of them were in the boxes of 45s that I received from Mr. Rau, the man across the alley who owned a string of jukeboxes in the St. Cloud area when I was growing up. Some date from purchases in the late 1980s when I began making mix tapes for friends from my growing record collection and I didn’t want to lay out the money for an album with, say “Oooh Child” on it, so I bought the single instead. And quite a few date from a few garage sales in the early 1990s when I found metal carrying cases for 45s and bought them, gaining the singles inside as an afterthought.
So I probably have about a hundred singles, as opposed to more than 2,900 LPs, and a good number of the singles are quite obscure. I have some set aside as the ones that I enjoy the most, with the rest organized only by grade. Just to give an example of the range of stuff, I’ll list here the sixth record in each section:
“Do Wah Diddy Diddy”/“What You Gonna Do?” by Manfred Mann, Ascot 2157, 1964
“A World of Our Own”/“Sinner Man” by the Seekers, Capitol 5430, 1965
“I’m Gonna Make You Mine”/“She Sold Me Magic” by Lou Christie, Collectibles 3529, 1985
“The Return of the Red Baron”/“Sweetmeats Slide” by the Royal Guardsmen, Laurie 3379, 1967
“The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”/“Race Among The Ruins” by Gordon Lightfoot, Reprise 0121, date unknown.
“Rock and Roll Rhapsody”/“I Wish I May, I Wish I Might” by the Four Aces, Decca 30575, date unknown.
“Love My Lady”/“Just A Little Lonesome” by Bobby Helms, Decca 30557, date unknown.
The Christie record is a reissue of two of his 1969 hits on the Buddah label. “I’m Gonna Make You Mine” charted in the U.S. and the U.K., but “She Sold Me Magic” charted only in the U.K., according to Wikipedia.
The Lightfoot single collects two tracks from Summertime Dream with the legend “Back to Back Hits.” “Wreck” was released in 1976 as Reprise 1369, and “Race” was released later that year as Reprise 1380, so this is a later reissue, but I’m not sure of the date.
I’ve seen a date of 1958 for the Four Aces record, and that’s likely correct, as their last Top 40 hit, “You Can’t Run Away From It,” was Decca 30041 in 1956. Based on its catalog number, the Helms single likely comes from 1958 as well.
That proves nothing except that the few singles I have in my carrying cases run from the very well known to the very obscure. But the single I remember most clearly is tucked away on another shelf, with a few other singles next to the Beatles’ albums. My dad bought it for my sister and me in February 1964, and it still sits in the original picture sleeve showing the four mop-topped Beatles smiling directly at the camera. I haven’t played it for a long time, but I think it’s still in pretty good shape. And I think we’ll start today’s Baker’s Dozen with the B side, which did pretty well, reaching No. 14 on its own.
A Baker’s Dozen of Capitol singles
“I Saw Her Standing There” by the Beatles, Capitol 5112, 1964
“Little Deuce Coupe” by the Beach Boys, Capitol 5009, 1963
“Sweete Peony” by Bobbie Gentry, Capitol 2295, 1968
“Wildflower” by Skylark, Capitol 3511, 1974
“Galveston” by Glen Campbell, Capitol 2428, 1969
“What About Me?” by Quicksilver Messenger Service, Capitol 3046, 1971
“Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again” by the Fortunes, Capitol 3086, 1971
“I’m Not Lisa” by Jessi Colter, Capitol 4009, 1975
“Sukiyaki” by Kyu Sakamoto, Capitol 4945, 1963
“I Am Woman” by Helen Reddy, Capitol 3350, 1972
“Fisherman’s Blues” by the Waterboys, Capitol 17527, 1988
“Pray for Surf” by the Honeys, Capitol 5034, 1963
“Every Beat Of My Heart” by Josie & The Pussycats, Capitol 2967, 1971
Well, it’s an interesting mix. A couple of No. 1 singles – the Reddy and “Sukiyaki” – and several singles that didn’t hit the Top 40 at all: The Gentry, the Quicksilver, the Honeys and Josie & The Pussycats. (And I don’t recall adding that last to the collection!) I’m not sure if the Waterboys single charted, but I don’t think so. [It did not.]
It’s worth repeating here that in my labeling system, songs for which I have the entire album are labeled with that album title and not as a single. That means that a lot of songs that were released as singles on Capitol over the years do not come up when I sort the collection. Still, it’s an interesting list.
The A side of “I Saw Her Standing There” was, of course, “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” which went to No. 1 in the early months of 1964. It continues to amaze me that both songs – like much of the rest of the Beatles’ catalog – remain vital and fresh forty years later.
Despite the Beach Boys’ place as America’s chief proponents of fun in the sun – and despite the admitted brilliance of Brian Wilson as a writer – the group has never meant much to me, either in its cars and surf incarnation in the early to mid-1960s or when the lyrics and music became more adventurous in the later part of that decade. “Little Deuce Coupe” is what popped up randomly; if I were to choose a Beach Boys single to represent the group in an anthology, I’d probably go with “California Girls.”
“Galveston” was the second Top Ten single for Glen Campbell and was his fourth great single in a two-year period, following “By The Time I Get To Phoenix,” “Gentle On My Mind” and “Wichita Lineman.” (He also charted with “I Wanna Live” and “Dreams of the Everyday Housewife” during that time, but those seem like lesser records to me.) Of all Campbell’s hits – and he had nineteen singles reach the Top 40 between 1967 and 1978 – I think “Galveston” is his best. Like many of Campbell’s hits, it was written by Jimmy Webb.
The spare and slightly spooky “I’m Not Lisa” was Jessi Colter’s only Top 40 single. Until the record was released, Colter was better known as the wife of country music outlaw Waylon Jennings.
I know that “I Am Woman” makes many people groan these days, not least the Texas Gal. But there were reasons it was No. 1 for a week, whatever they might have been. (Of course, “Sukiyaki” was No. 1 for three weeks, so I’m not going to go all cosmic here.) Whatever its merits, “I Am Woman” – as I’ve said here before – is one of the prevailing aural memories of my early college years.
As always, bit rates will vary.
Go Take A Look!
My friend caithiseach – who has frequently left comments here – launches his own music blog, The Great Vinyl Meltdown, today. He plans to post twice a week, taking a year to examine his own collection of 45s, most of them – based on our conversations – fairly obscure. Make sure you check it out!
*As it happens, “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” turns out not to have been the first single I ever bought. As noted in a later post, my first 45 I purchased was actually Dickie Goodman’s 1966 opus “Batman & His Grandmother.” Still the 5th Dimension single remains the first musical 45 I ever bought. Note added June 1, 2011.