A SINGLE REGRET

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I CAN’T imagine that kids today will even remember, say 30 years from now, the first single they ever downloaded. It’s jspindleust not the same as when I was a kid, when I’d head to Caldor or to Cutler’s in New Haven and hope, hope, hope they’d have copies of that great song I’d just heard on the radio.

I’d scan the singles chart, find the the number of the song I wanted, and peek at the corresponding record slot — would it be filled or empty? It was strangely exhilarating — or maybe I was just a really boring kid. Either way, I loved music, and there was something about this physical hunt for songs that thrilled me. Not to sound like a nostalgic old fart, but it was way better than hitting the search button at iTunes.

So today’s blog entry is the request of a friend and fellow music lover who still collects 45s today (as a former DJ, I know the importance of taking requests.) He suggested a post on the first 45 I ever bought. I think he suggested it at my expense, because he knows it’s a bit embarrassing. But here goes.

First, context: I loved (and still do love) pop music. Second, I grew up in a house with no Beatles albums (although my older sister had “The Chipmunks Sing The Beatles Hits” LP — for years, when I heard actual Beatles songs, I thought they were playing at the wrong speed…) Third, music kinda sucked in the early ’70s, so my choices were limited. Fourth, I was probably 8 years old at the time — long before I learned the difference between cool and uncool music.

OK, enough stalling. orlandoThe way I remember it, the first 45 I ever bought (the first of hundreds and hundreds I would buy over the next decade) was “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree” by Tony Orlando & Dawn. (For bonus embarrassment points: I even watched their variety show in the ’70s.)

In my defense, it was the top-selling single in 1973 — someone in my house had to buy it. That May, it sold 3 million copies in just three weeks! And it’s a song that wouldn’t die (its resurgence in later years totally ruined the Iranian hostage crisis and the first Gulf War for me…)

So there ya go. Sad, I know. But c’mon, “Tie A Yellow Ribbon” is still a cooler first single than a download of “Ooops!… I Did It Again,” right? Right?

(Don’t leave me hanging here. Share your story — especially if your first 45 was crappier than mine, like “Billy, Don’t Be A Hero” or “Shannon.”)

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17 Responses to “A SINGLE REGRET”

  1. I owned 45s of all of the above that I carried around in a groovy avocado green case. But the first one I paid cash money (my own) for was The Night Chicago Died by Paper Lace.

  2. early 1980s. . .Earth, Wind and Fire. . “Let’s Groove”. . .feel better?

  3. 45vinyljunkie Says:

    My first 45 — the first of 10,000 and still buying — was “Summer In the City” by the Lovin’ Spoonful in 1966. I was just 4 years old at the time, but I knew the Lovin’ Spoonful was great. My oldest brother had their first two albums (“Do You Believe in Magic” and “Daydream”), and I listened to those LPs during the day while he was at school. I could even name and identify the four members of the group. Heck, if you check the glove compartment in my car right now, you will find a CD containing those first two albums on one disc.

    When I was 7 or 8 years old, my parents used to take me shopping with them on Saturday nights after church. They would leave me in the record department at Sears or Grants while they looked for whatever they needed to buy for the house. When Mom and Dad came back to pick me up, they would ask the clerk if I was good. I always was good, knowing that they would buy me a 45 for not being a pain in the ass while they shopped. I was probably the only kid in my school who had dozens of 45s by fourth grade.

    All those 45s from my youth are now in the local dump, sad to say. I didn’t take care of them, wrote my name on both labels, and eventually trashed them. In their place I now have more than 10,000 of those little plastic discs. In my effort to obtain a mint/near-mint original of every record to hit Billboard’s Hot 100/Top 100 singles chart from 1955 to 1979 (music from 1980 to the present really sucks), I have managed to get about 60 percent. So far this year, I have crossed nearly 600 titles off the list, leaving me about 7,000 or so to go.

    And yes, I do have a mint copy of “Summer In the City” by the Lovin’ Spoonful in my collection. I wish I had never thrown out those boxes of records nearly 30 years ago. That first 45 would be absolutely worthless to everyone else, but to me it would be priceless.

  4. “My Sweet Lord” by George Harrison in the mid-seventies. I can still see it spinning on the white and aqua turntable. I remember singing the hare krishna part with much gusto. And yes, I remember all the Chipmunk’s renditions of the Beatles’ songs. ( Why would Mom and Dad let us spend money on that?)
    As an itunes aside, some stranger hacked into my account and rang up $200 worth of downloads on my AmEx card last month. Hope they at least got some good music!

  5. 45vinyljunkie Says:

    By the way, in case you were wondering, Adam, I bought my first LP only a year or so after my first 45. It was a Gary Lewis and the Playboys album on Sunset Records, a budget subsidiary of the group’s label, Liberty.

    I wish I had the opportunity to experience Cutler’s in its heyday. I heard it advertised on several Hartford-area radio stations back in the ’70s, but I never went. I lived about 30 miles northeast of Hartford, so a trip to New Haven to buy a some 45s was definitely not something my parents would have been enthusiastic about. Nowadays, I don’t give it a second thought to get on a train to Philadelphia to go on a record-buying trip.

    When I was growing up, my favorite place to buy records was Treasure City in Manchester, Conn. It was a dump of a department store, but it had a cool record department. It carried the top 100 and more, it seemed. I bought some low-charted stuff there like “Together” by the Illusion and “She’s Ready” by the Spiral Starecase (yep, that’s how the group spelled its name). I remember looking through the store’s racks of cutout albums, many by artists I had never heard of before. Most were marked “99 cents” or “Two for $1.00.” Jeez, I bet some of those LPs are now worth three figures.

    Oh, if I could only go back…

  6. Since we’re about the same age, Adam, it’s strange that I don’t remember buying 45s. It was either LPs or eight-tracks, although I can remember going to Grants with my friend to buy a 45 of “Sir Duke” by Stevie Wonder. We must have played it 50 times straight.

    My first LP purchase was a doubleheader: Led Zeppelin VI and “Brain Salad Surgery” by Emerson, Lake and Palmer. My parents were so pleased.

  7. I think I’m a contender: Short People by Randy Newman.

  8. 45vinyljunkie Says:

    Yes, Adam, you did pick a bad time to buy your first 45. Last night I looked at the Billboard Hot 100 chart from April 21, 1973 — the first of four weeks at No. 1 for “Tie a Yellow Ribbbon” — and the No. 2 song that week was (drumroll, please) “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” by Vicki Lawrence. Jeez, that’s almost as bad as any chart from the 1980s or later. Apparently the spring of 1973 was not a milestone period in rock and roll.

    But there were some good ones on the chart that week, including “Natural High” by Bloodstone, “No More Mr. Nice Guy” by Alice Cooper and, a personal favorite, “Hocus Pocus” by Focus.

    Well, at least you didn’t wait three or four more years to make that first 45 purchase. Then it could have been “Disco Duck” or “You Light Up My Life.” Yikes!

  9. You are all a bunch of old bastards.

  10. My brother, who is six years older, and I used to go to the Music Box at the Hamden Plaza every Friday night with my mom. I believe it’s still there in a slightly different location at the center of the Plaza or it was a few years ago. It used to be on the left hand side in a strip separated from the main part of the Plaza.

    They had the top 50 singles on the wall in little metal racks, one rack for each song. Although I loved lots of white bread stuff such as Ricky Nelson, and later Bobby Vee, all the the Philly singers and so forth, we were also turned on to all those wonderful black groups, male and female, of the late 1950s and early ’60s, and, of course Elvis. I remember an EP with Heartbreak Hotel and Long Tall Sally.

    But above all of them, I loved Chuck Berry and used to listen to Murray the K every night and hope Chuck’s latest would make it to the top of the Submarine Race Watchers Top 10 that Murray played on WINS.

    So my first purchase with my own money was one of my favorite Berry singles, School Day. “Up in the morning’ and out to school.” Just loved it, still do. Had to be 1956 or ’57.

    One of the great two-sided Berry singles, which came a little earlier and was one of my brother’s was Brown-Eyed Handsome Man b/w Too Much Monkey Business. Tough to beat that as an A and B side.

    We bought a lot of records at the Music Box. I’m so glad my mom loved music.

  11. Boy, this is bringing back a lot of memories. I used to go to the Music Box in Hamden a lot in the ’70s and ’80s — I had no idea the store had been around since the 50s.

    I vividly remember Joan’s copy of “My Sweet Lord,” and I owned a lot of other singles you guys mentioned: “Short People,” “Hocus Pocus” and “Disco Duck.” And I had a Led Zep 8-track too!

    So do any of you folks get the same pleasure out of downloading tracks or albums?

  12. 45vinyljunkie Says:

    Downloading?!? What’s that?

  13. Me, I was an LP kind of gal, but I definitely think the kids are missing out on the vinyl experience. I spent many hours brooding over album cover artwork and liner notes in my room while the same album played over and over again. (By the way, what do you call that part of the record player that holds a stack of records in place on the centerpost spindle? The thing that you cock back in order to replay the album until your dad threatens to smash it? One of the greatest 20th century innovations, in my opinion.) The opening bars of “Sexy Sadie” still has the power to summon intense feelings of adolescent desire and despair that I no longer experience with the same acuity in any other situation. And what about lying on your back on the floor next to the speakers in order to feel the bass line of “Cowgirl in the Sand” hammering on your sternum? Try that with an iPod.

  14. Fred Googles Says:

    In case anyone still reads this, the Music Box in Hamden closed a couple of years ago. The reincarnation was a store for golf and tennis fashion. Jesus. … No obscentities here, Joanie.

  15. THERE WAS A TIME !

  16. Joe Cohn Says:

    I am now 82 years old and I was the owner and manager of The Music Box in The Hamden Plaza, Hamden, CT. I opened the store in 1956 and it was always busy for 46 years. In my later years my son Rick took over the ownership and management of the store. Although he perservered, he saw the writing on the wall and we decided to close the store in 2002 because of the downloading, burning, and defication of the retailing of recordings. Ultimately, by 2003 over 900 record shops across the country closed up. However we thank our old customers who gave life and vitality to our business. The first 45 I sold when I opened the store was Presley’s “Hound Dog.”

  17. Charles Appledore Says:

    I collected 45s for years – the first was (I think) Beep Beep Little Nash Rambler by the Playmates or Splish Splash by Bobby Darin. I augmented my collection by buying lots of 45s from a used record store in Bridgeport CT. These were the records removed from juke boxes and they would be sold at bargain prices. I also bought 45s when I was in the Army in Germany during 66-68. Of course by then the LP was taking over. I’ve got Dave Masons’ Only You Know” in psychedelic colors as well as Janis Joplin/Big Brother’s “Piece of my heart”. I’ve got the British Beatles Magical Mystery tour on two 45s with two songs on each side – eight songs total. Sadly my 45 collection was sold a few years ago for $20 by its custodian.

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