Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Singles Night

What began as randomly copying a few songs as a means to getting my noggin around all this new technology has turned into an inner debate on the current status of the music industry and the grim reality of facing my own mortality. 

When I was a younger man, the single was the be all and end all of music for me. Not only did it have the freshest music, (singles always come out before albums) but it was a condension of all the best bits the album had to offer. Between the ages of 18 and about 28 I went to my local record shops (wherever I happened to be living) every 'new release' Monday without fail to see what gems the weeks slew of releases would throw up.
However, as the years advance and the need to keep up with each and every new release dissipates, and the pleasure found in getting to know the intricacies of a complete album increases, I find that I have more or less stopped buying 7"'s altogether (save for the yearly Not Not Fun Records singles club I always sign up to).

Is it the changing nature of the way we consume music? The idea that it's just not "worth" buying something for 3 or 4 quid when you can just download it for nowt in a matter of seconds.

Is it the notion that as we mature our appreciation of art requiires a deeper level of communication that the superficiality of the 3 minute pop single is unable to provide?

Is the reason altogether more functional? That the constrictions of adult existence; a full-time job, running a household, appeasing partners etc leave no time or room for manouvere that a teenager with no responsibilities cocooned in their private space does have. It takes time and effort to phsyically get up every 3 minutes and change/turn over the CD/record.

Am I just turning into an old git?!!

Is it all irrelevant in these "shuffle" happy times?

I'm not sure of the answer but as a means to avoid forgetting what made and indeed still makes these small discs of wax so special I have been spending a lot of time with my 7" collection over the last couple of weeks.

- As an aside, that is one of the things that I love about RR/The 'Spill - as well as getting turned on to new kinds of music, and it seems, for me at least, that new musical vistas are being revealed on an almost daily basis - it also forces you to take a closer look at youir own collection. If you are someone (like most of us here) that buys/downloads a lot of music, it's so easy for some records to get one listen then get forgotten about for months or even years at a time.

Whilst being by no means a definitive list, here is a random selection of favourites from the records I have with me in Japan (I have another couple of shoeboxes full in the UK but I can't even remember what's in them - lots of early Twisted Nerve releases maybe?!)

Let's have some nominations for YOUR favourite singles (EP tracks and B-Sides are allowed but it has to have been released as a single and sound best in the context of a single).

Mclusky - Lightsabre Cocsucking Blues
State River Widening - Unsung Couples
John Callaghan - I'm Not Comfortable Inside My Mind
Graham Coxon ^ Freakin' Out
M'n'M's - Knock Knock Knock
1910 Fruitgum Company - Goody Goody Gumdrops
The White Stripes - The Big Three Killed My Baby
Riff Randells - Who Says Girls Can't Rock?
Nish - Jwel
Clinic - Distortions


debbym said...

The only single I own is John Otway & Wild Willy Barrett Really Free/Beware of the Flowers. I bought it a couple of years ago on ebay, but I haven't got anything I can play it on!

debbym said...

P.S. It's the only single I've EVER owned. Back in the days when I still had the time and the inclination I only ever bought albums, although most of my money went on experiencing music live (jazz clubs, pub gigs and the like)

Abahachi said...

Interesting. Like debbym, I almost always bought albums (and the only singles I ever bought were cassettes rather than proper 7" singles - the only one of those I ever owned was Robert Plant's Big Log, received as a special offer from cornflakes or a shoeshop or something like that). I tend to spend my time bemoaning the impact of download culture on albums: the tendency now seems to be to take tracks randomly out of any sort of external context - we get interesting juxtapositions with other bits of our own musical taste, but we no longer get to appreciate or decry a carefully-designed album running order. Then again, I still complain about the fact that cds did away with having different sides to records, and never much liked the whole Now That's What I Call Another Bloody Compilation phenomenon, so my views can clearly be dismissed as conservative in the extreme.

Japanther said...


I feel the same way about download culture, which is why i've stuck to vinyl and held out on getting an iPod until now. I see the album as an art form and if we just pillage willy-nilly and discard what doesn't give as maximum stimulus the first time we hear it, it is monkeying around with an artists work, like taking Mona Lisa's eyes and sticking them on a Picasso...which appeals to me on a punk rock, 'fuck the man' level. but does take away from the experience of a complete album.

Although, as I said above, I still believe in the awesome power of the 3 minute single...

steenbeck said...

I like Push Barman to Open Old Wounds. Isn't that an album full of singles? The best of both worlds!!

Thinking about your reflection of how growing older changes your listening habits--having children has definitely changed mine. They broke the needle on our record player, so records are right out, and it's hard for me to concentrate on music for any period of time, so the best time for me to listen is actually in the car.

goneforeign said...

Good topic, one I've thought about posting. I used to go to Jamaica a lot, every year, sometimes several times a year; the 7" single was the ONLY form of music there. I once asked a bloke if he had such and such album, he answered "we don't buy albums, we can't afford 'em." So on every visit I'd go into one of the record shops in Kingston and ask the bloke behind the counter to recommend whatever was currently popular, what he thought was good; they must have looked forward to my coming! There were also 12" singles and dub-plates and every single had the 'version' on the B side. I'd walk out with a bag of singles, many by people I didn't know, couldn't wait to get back to LA with dozens of new ones to play. Then on a visit to UK I saw an ad. in the paper, 100 assorted English/Jamaican 7" reggae singles for 20 quid, so I got one of those also. So I have a fair number and there's a lot of favorites amongst them, I'll sort a few out.

treefrogdemon said...

I've talked before about liking music from an earlier era (ie the Fifties) that you couldn't buy any more - but now you've reminded me, Japanther, that I used to haunt the record stalls of Enfield Town market (where I went to school - no, not the market, the town) and buy ex-jukebox records with those little plastic centres that you fixed in the middle to make then fit the record, some early Everlys which I've got in a box somewhere. And, not from the market but from an actual shop, Leader of the Pack which I've been playing today. Not the single though but the CD which FINALLY arrived from this morning, the first of what are probably going to be several Chrismas prezzies from me to me..

Shoey said...

Great post. The only 7 inch single that I have on this continent is a freebie that came with Low's Drums & Guns last year - & nothing to play it with.

Used to buy a lot back during the punk period when singles started coming dressed in pretty picture sleeves. There were some great B-sides during that period, that never appeared on any album.

Think of was the advent of 12 inch singles in the 80's with extra tracks and better sound quality that were the beginning of the end for the traditional single.

saneshane said...

This is as joyful as a little disc of black vinyl for me...
but I have to go away in the morning.. arrrggg
(that's right no RR or spill... possibly)

my 7" selection might get a few 12" in too.. but

it will wait..
it wont be cool
they will jump

and be scratched.
sort it after the weekend.

Japanther said...

Thanks for your thoughts everyone, it's definitely interesting to see the different perspectives and hear the stories....and it's true that certain genres not only lend themselves better to singles (especially the humble 7") but basically rely on in the case of reggae and early punk as pointed out by goneforeign and Shoey...which I hadn't thought about.

Maybe it's simply a matter of changing music tastes that has prompted my abandonment of the 7", hmm.....

p.s. would love to hear some of those obscure Jamaican 7"'s.....!!

ejaydee said...

Maybe I came up in the CD age, so apart from the song from AstroBoy on vynil a few CD singles in the early 90's, it's mostly been albums for me. I do remember that the last single I bought was Jolene by The White Stripes, and the one before that, probably Flowers by Armand Van Helden.

goneforeign said...

Yesterday I sorted about 50 odd, now I need to get serious, that's on today's agenda. One thing that I realised was how many were handed to me in the street by the artist like "Man, see if you can get this on radio when you go home". Names you've never heard of, reminds me a lot of 'The Harder they Come'
I'll sort about 10 and do a post of them.

Proudfoot said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Proudfoot said...

My love of glam and then punk/new wave meant that buying singles was always good value for money. Many 45s were not on the albums and even if they were, most glam albums were packed with fillers and cover versions. People tended to take quite a lot of care with B-sides too as, for these genres, the single was the main form of currency.
Sweet's wig-wam-bubblegum singles were backed with surprisingly heavy rock songs as they desperately tried to prove they were more than a Chinn/Chapman novelty act. Bolan & T.Rex released some outstanding tracks on the flip side (Sunken Rags, Thunderwing)and there's no such thing as a crap B-side by the Fall (if you like The Fall that is). The Smiths made B-sides which often sounded better than the A side and, as the double live album was considered to be a bit proggy or heavy metal for the new wave (and later 'indie' bands), the B-side was a rare chance to hear them live.

As shoey notes our youth co-incided with picture sleeves, coloured vinyl and even obscure messages etched into the run off groove (remember Porky Prime Cuts?)

I've picked these from the late 70s/early eighties mainly for their great B-sides.

The Undertones- Jimmy Jimmy / Mars Bars
The Fall - How I wrote Elastic Man / City Hobgoblins
The Buzzcocks- Love You More/ Noise Annoys
Ian Dury And The Blockheads Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick/There Ain’t Half Been Some Clever Bastards
The Monochrome Set - He's Frank/ Alphaville
The Vapors Turning Japanese/ Here Comes The Judge
The Smiths - Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want /William It Was Really Nothing

cauliflower said...

Lovely stuff to think about... My best singles are my fist, aged 8, Return of Django by the Upsetters... Sugar, Sugar... a 12" intorduction to Johnny Guitar Watson singing Gangster Of Love, and two recent highlights - a gift from a workmate of the Only Ones - Another Girl, Another Planet... and Louie Louie (could be the Kingsmen, can't be sure without digging it out of the room where people are asleep. The last one was one of the wonderful singles gifted at my 45th, with a 45rpm disc an entry requirement - people found all sorts of gems in charity shops, a fine harvest and a great night! If you haven't passed 45, I recommend it. 33 and a third wasn't bad either ;-)

DarceysDad said...

BRILLIANT idea, cauliflower. RR/Spill's resident Deep Purple freak hits that mark in 3 weeks ... I'm off shopping !

Japanther said...

- great list! And I know it's pretty nerdy, but I always check the run-off groove messages. Idlewild's "Chandelier" 7" had the memorable description of the music " A flight of stairs falling down a flight of stairs" etched in there.

@Cauliflower - what a great idea for a party!

ToffeeBoy said...

Just trying to catch up on some Spill posts. I was intrigued by this one and started to think about what I would list.

Then I read debbym's opening comment indicating that she only owns one single and that it's Really Free by John Otway & Wild Willy Barrett. There is no way anyone can compete with the brilliance of this fact! Debbym, I doff my cap to you - that is pure genius. I will now retire quietly into the wings...

Blimpy said...

i have two of the singles you posted. and they are perfect little packages and no mistake.

(coxon and mclusky)