The Joy of the Single

Synopsis: Pop stars, musicians and music industry experts reminisce about their love affair with the now-defunct 7" single.
60 min

# Your baby doesn't love you any more... # There is a magic in big classic singles that you can't pinpoint. It's something that gets into the psyche. All the great singles just have, from whatever period they are, constantly a great sound. It was mysterious, somehow. The black shininess of it all and how did it work? For two or three minutes, time just seemed to stand still. Just hovering and listening to the music. Everybody, every publisher, every record company, every artist is looking for the single. Yeah, always. I had 45,000 singles and 2,000 albums. What does that tell you? HE LAUGHS The 7" single is classic and beautiful and romantic enough that we'll never let it go. The single is like the sort of your, your ace card. It's a thing that you lead with. Your best idea. It's the one that's usually the shortest and the most catchy. HE LAUGHS Call me old-fashioned. In 1949, American company RCA Victor introduced the 7" vinyl 45 rpm record - a small, perfectly conceived object that would miraculously condense all the hopes, fears and experiences of succeeding rock and roll generations on its shiny black surface. Many of these small canvases were mini masterpieces, so memorable that those who love them still remember the very first one they ever owned. Blue Moon, by the Marcels. I remember it because it was such a, you know, novelty to have a 7" vinyl, 45 record. I remember very well the first single I ever bought, which was Cathy's Clown, by The Everly Brothers. # Don't want your love any more... # I played it to death, I wore it out. I've still got it. # ..That's for sure... # And, if I hear it now, I get the same feeling that I had when I first bought it, when I was a teenager. # Here he comes That's Cathy's clown. # I remember buying Island Of Dreams, by The Springfields, that was my very first record. I remember exactly where I was and when it was. It was at Whitwams, in Winchester, where I was at school. The first single I bought was by T Rex. It was Ride A White Swan. And it was in Neil and Hardy's, in Stockport's Merseyway shopping centre. I walked all the way up Piggy Lane, to Mill Lane, to an independent record store. I was after Hey, Hey, We're The Monkees. But the man behind the counter didn't have Hey, Hey, We're The Monkees, and managed to sell me Blackberry Way, by The Move. Which I went home with a bit unsure until I put it onto the Dansette, and there it was, you know, Blackberry Way. # Goodbye, Blackberry Way # I can't see you, I don't need you # Goodbye, Blackberry Way # Sure to want me back another day...# The first record that I owned was Devil Gate Drive, by Suzi Quatro. And...I've still got it, probably somewhere over there. - Suzi Quatro, Devil Gate Drive. Shall we play this? - Yeah! Cos this... This still sounds as crunchy and spunky and exciting for a 13-year-old going to a disco. 'You all want to go down to Devil Gate Drive?' ALL: Yes! Well, come on! Welcome to The Dive! ALL: One, two, one, two, three! ALL: Yeah! ALL: Yeah! My first one that I actually asked my dad for some money for was Bobby Darin, You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby. That song will imprint itself on your memory, which is quite amazing. I mean, we all do that. You could remember, as soon as you hear a single that you love, you know where you were, what you were doing. Probably one of the first things you really own that is yours, apart from toys. So that's a dramatic move. You're suddenly entering the world of art and poetry, music, things that are just so wonderful and can be yours. And you're're entering the door, you're falling down the rabbit hole, going through the mirror, the looking glass. You're doing all of that in one go with this object. Even if you lived in the middle of nowhere, not only could you find that object, it had the power to change your life. When I was a kid back in Oklahoma, I was listening to singles, and one day I heard this record come on by a kid named Glen Campbell and the song was Turn Around, Look At Me. And it went... # There is someone # Walking behind you # Turn around # Look at me... # I can remember going back to my father. He eventually did let me use the family car to drive down to the record store and buy this single. And I wore that thing completely out in three or four days. I must have played it 500 times. And I would get down on my knees beside my bed out there in that great dome of stars that was the Midwest of the United States, and I'd pray and I'd say, "Dear God, please, one of these days, "let me meet...let me write a song like Turn Around, Look At Me. "And let me meet Glen Campbell." # And I need you more than want you # And I want you for all time... # How was I to know that Glen and I had a future together? # ..And the Wichita Lineman # Is still on the line. # And there's where I rest my case for the existence of God. APPLAUSE If the power of the single could make you a believer, the place to worship at the altar of the 7" was your local record shop - crammed with new releases, undiscovered treasures, and fellow travellers, all on a quest to find the next tiny vinyl miracle. The real thing that I loved was going out to a shop to be part of a community and you take that out, doesn't work. You'd get on the bus, go into town, maybe with your mates, go into the, you know, the record store and, of course, you go in to buy a particular thing, maybe. But like going into a bookshop, you know, you always see something else and would stop and browse. The single didn't really come into my life until I sort of smelt one in a record shop and picked it up and, you know, wanted it. And you... There's a smell to vinyl, which... It's just because it's... Well, I mean, it smells of vinyl. You might have to have to save up money, it became a thing of value. You valued it more because... there was a little effort involved. Music is about you want it. And if you want it, you buy it. You know, I hadn't got a pot to piss in. But I spent every penny that I had on the music I loved. When I got to save, my pocket money allowed to buy one single a week. I would be there on Saturday and I would spend all Saturday morning deciding what single I would buy, talking to other people. And our local record shop was a big social gathering on a Saturday morning. # Load up, load up, load up # With rubber bullets... # The person serving you was like your granddad. Now, in truth, he was probably 30 years old, but he always looked about 65. But he knew every single piece of music he sold you. And you go into a booth to listen to the record. So everybody would go in their own little booth. You'd cram in with two or three of you, in a tiny booth. You're all crammed together. And everybody's, it's like phone boxes, everybody's trying to drag people out to have their turn to play singles. You took it home and you looked at it. All the way home, you'd go on the bus going home and couldn't wait to put it on the record deck and listen to it, how it sounded. And it just gave you a thrill. But the religion of the record shop could be threatening, particularly to the uninitiated. # I want you # And I need you... # You know, I was a teenage girl. A decent record shop would have seemed too intimidating to me. You know, you must know what you want and why and have the ability to analyse why something was good. I didn't really have that, you know, I liked... Mandy, by Barry Manilow, and I liked The Smiths. But what I would do is go to the local Woolworths and go to bargain bins and stuff like that. I kind of collected a few things that way until I really decided that there were some tracks that I wanted to own. And then, I thought, right, I'm going to go to Woolworths on Saturday "and I'm going to buy this one," you know. And I bought Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick. # Hit me with your rhythm stick # Hit me, hit me # Das ist gut! C'est fantastique # Hit me, hit me, hit me # Hit me with your rhythm stick # It's nice to be a lunatic # Hit me, hit me, hit me... # It's a real kids' track, actually. I've got it, it's great, it's really... It looks really good. I was quite surprised. Look at that. Isn't that a brilliant cover? And it also was really exciting cos it's got a rude word. On the bottom... So this side is Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick, and this side is There Ain't Half Been Some Clever Bastards. It says "bastards" at the bottom, so I was really excited about it. There was something about the logos of the record labels, the colour scheme... They were branding, but they were doing it in a magical way, cos it got mixed up with the unbelievable music, so it became more evocative and more exciting than it should have been, really. In the mid '60s, when I was only two or three, my parents bought a couple of pop singles which they never played, so I discovered them for myself and played them. And I could still see them. I think I thought of them as toys, so there was one which was orange and yellow and black, and there was one which was black and silver. And that's, that's how I think of them. The idea of the label was very important. And the Parlophone label, with The Beatles, I know it was just, you couldn't imagine it being on any other label, cos that's what they were. It's like what they wore, it was part of them. And the label that they were on was part of them. You still remember it. I remember today the sleeve. I remember the colour of the sleeve for each of those labels. I remember the label, the colour of the label, and how it was written and the logo, because it was something that stuck in your psyche. Cos on that label, it told you everything. It told you who the writers were, who the producers were, who the publishers were, who the artist was but, more importantly, it told you where it came from. You would then find out that what you'd bought was an American record and, in the very early '50s, that made you very trendy. That stood you out from all the other kids in your class. Just the sheer thrill that you were responding to something that was a design... ..that was a piece of engineering, that was a piece of science as much as it was art and sex and beauty and glamour. And it was all mixed up together. I used to take a pen and scratch out the name of the artist and the writer and put Neil Sedaka in black ink to see how it might be if I had a recording myself. Is that visualisation or what? Writing your name on the label was often the only chance you had of getting your singles back at the end of an old-fashioned night out. We used to go to youth clubs as well, and we'd have a little record player in the corner of the youth club. And everybody'd bring their favourite records along. And they'd play them off and everybody would have a jive and have a dance to them. # She can't help it The girl can't help it # She can't help it The girl can't help it # If she walks by the menfolks get engrossed... # The last couple of songs of the night would have to be a ballad, it would generally be an Everly Brothers, or it might be a Roy Orbison, might be a slow Elvis one. And you got the girls hooked then, because then, you could dance close to the girls. You could hold them tight, you could feel their body against you. # I feel so bad # I've got a worried mind # I'm so lonesome all the time # Since I left my baby behind # On Blue Bayou... # Your blood was rising, the sap was rising when you had a little close dance at the end of the night. To truly appreciate the sound of the classic 7" vinyl single, you had to hear it playing from within the guts of its most sympathetic, custom-built home - the juke box. Singles in a juke box really made things comparative for popular music and I'm certain that, like, Little Richard's singles, the way they were recorded and how hot they were cut to vinyl was to penetrate through the bar and be louder than everybody else's. They sounded fabulous through a juke box, because there's this big, massive speaker that boomed out and people were jiving in the coffee bar. # Lucille # You won't do your sister's will # Lucille # You won't do your sister's will... # My late grandfather, at the top of his road, there was a cafe and they had a juke box. And when For Your Love came out, by The Yardbirds, in 1965, which I wrote. He used to go up to the cafe, you know, and I think he probably made a rather incongruous figure there. But he'd be feeding the juke box and just playing it over and over. Cos it gave him pleasure. # For your love. # In the early '60s, when bands were releasing singles every few months like postcards from the front, a teenage Graham Gouldman penned classics for Herman's Hermits, The Yardbirds and The Hollies. # Look through any window, yeah # What do you see? # Smiling faces all around # Rushing through the busy towns...# Look Through The Window was written and it was given to a publisher and he took it to The Hollies. And then The Hollies said to me, "We'd like you to write another song for us." # Bus stop, wet day She's there, I say # Please share my umbrella... # I wrote Bus Stop quite quickly after being asked. I already had the idea but, as soon as I finished it, I thought, "This is perfect." # ..All that summer We enjoyed it... # In the mid '60s, things happened very quickly. They heard it, I think they recorded it within about three or four weeks and it was released within three or four weeks after that. # ..Every morning I would see her Waiting at the stop... # But then, to receive the single and it's got - Bus Stop, The Hollies, Gouldman. It's like, wow! - We haven't even talked about B-sides yet. - No! - B-sides, can we get on to B-sides? - Yeah, OK. This is my mood board, which is things to stare at when you've got no inspiration in the studio. A Northern South badge saying, "Try The Flip Side." THEY CHUCKLE The B-side is often more interesting than the A-side, kids. You don't know what they are. HE CHUCKLES Yeah, the dark, kind of magical world of the B-side. Sometimes, they were sh*t, you know, and it was a kind of... But sometimes, they were an excuse for an artist to become self-indulgent as well, so you kind of get a chance to experiment as well with a B-side, I reckon. I always loved it with Sweet, for instance, where the A-side would be a Chinn and Chapman piece of tinsel and on the B-side... I used to love confounding my friends at school in the early '70s with Sweet B-sides, cos I'd play at them, and they would go, "Black Sabbath? Led Zep?" "No, Sweet. Ha, ha, got you!" This a B-side. This is by Little Walter. This is called Up The Line. He plays a chromatic harmonica on this. And he was just like the Charlie Parker of blues, you know. MUSIC STARTS PLAYING Baritone sax in there. # You used to love me.. # And a great singer. # ..You said I was your desire... # Most people collected to B-sides as much as they did the A-sides. # ..Out, baby. # Girl, I'm going back Up the line... # A B-side was always a liberating experience to go and record, very often in a day. # ..Drive me out of my mind. # You had your favourite B-sides, and it was great to think you were in a little clique that liked a B-side and your mate might have hated it. But you had a few mates that did like the B-side. # ..Out, baby # Girl, I'm going back up the line. # They were the throwaway thing with no pressure that only had to exist because records have two sides and you wanted something else. HE HUMS The B-side, certainly on Beatles records, was as important as the A-sides. Because the B-sides never appeared on any albums, so if you were a real collector, it was the B-side that you wanted as much as the A-side. # How does it feel to be # One of the beautiful people? # Beatles were the first real group that I wanted more than their singles, because I'd bought into the ethos of The Beatles. And I guess it was the B-sides that actually got me into that. The classic single was like a fairground ride - cheap, thrilling and over far too soon. They were short - sometimes very short. But the pain of them being over so quickly was part of their joy. The single in its perfection was a kind of capsulised presentation of an artist's whole zeitgeist. # Well, since my baby left me # Well, I found a new place to dwell... # This is Elvis Presley in a gelcap. # ..At Heartbreak Hotel... # It settled down to this shape in the early '50s, And therefore, that was your canvas and then, you did everything within it. I loved the idea of having something so condensed and pure that every second counts. Phil Spector's records used to be one minute 21. You got this thing, it had to be an specific length. # Oh, oh Oh, oh, oh, oh... # The perfect pop song is so cruel in a way, because it gives you just a little bit, like, you know what I mean? It makes you put it on again and again and again and again and again and again... Most art, I think, that's any good operates within quite tight confines and then, you express yourself within that. And I think the single, obviously, gives you quite tight confines, really. The perfect single is something of a tease in that it catches your attention immediately, pulls you towards it, but it doesn't quite give you what you want. # Have I ever told you # How good it feels To hold you...? # Some of Elvis's especially, were 1.59, they're just... It was down to radio play, that's why they made them so short. There was an art to it. Howie and I would write a song from beginning to end that would tell a whole story - Happy Birthday, Sweet Sixteen, Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, Calendar Girl. Tied and wrapped in a ribbon and there you are, from beginning to end, no more than two and a half minutes. The radio stations wouldn't play anything that was longer. partly clouded... MUSIC STARTS PLAYING The sound quality of the 7" vinyl single was made for radio - able to punch through the atmosphere wherever you were, whatever the weather. You know you can keep your home looking nice by having your drapes and slipcovers professionally cleaned by New Method Laundry And Dry Cleaners at 321 South... The endless stream of sponsors' messages, jingles and ads on local American stations peppered right across a vast nation, making the single the perfect partner for the medium of commercial radio. Short and sweet enough to keep you tuned in. Hello? Squirrel Cage. Uh, go ahead, operator. Sea overseas operator again. In Britain, radio's love affair with the pop single reached new heights in 1967 with the arrival of pirate stations. DJs were free to play whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. And why not? They were three miles out at sea. They weren't going anywhere. This is Radio Caroline on 199... But in 1968, Jimmy Webb's MacArthur Park liberated the DJ. Its musical ambition refused to be confined by the three-minute format, expanding its running time to an unprecedented seven minutes and 20 seconds. Suddenly, radio DJs everywhere had time to kill. # Spring was never waiting for us, girl # It ran one step ahead # As we followed in the dance... # DJs did all sorts of interesting things while they were playing MacArthur Park, which I'm not going to go into, because this is a family programme. CHUCKLING But, uh... All sorts of things were accomplished while MacArthur Park was playing. CHURCH BELLS RING I heard of DJs driving home, feeding their dog and driving back. I mean, really crazy things. And so, as the clock is standing at nearly midnight, we bring to a close another day of broadcasting for Cowboy Radio. By the late '60s, it was all about the concept. News from the underground was that the album was now where it was at - where pop and rock's true artists could best express themselves. Albums, yeah, albums. I remember that phrase as clear as day, "You don't need a single to sell an album." I think it might have been the beginning of something really bad and really...insidious. It may have been the beginning of just that little bit of rot that sort of got in the gunnels, you know, of the ship of rock and roll. If you sit down to listen to a record, you don't want to get up after two or three minutes, switch over to another record... And also, your mood changes with the single. The mood changes with each single, naturally, you see. An LP has a theme. A lot of LPs nowadays of pop groups are concentrating on a particular theme. You know, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd wouldn't make singles. To see Deep Purple on Top Of The Pops was a forbidden thrill, because it was so odd to see the underground, and I really believed there was an underground, where these people lived. Jethro Tull next door to Deep Purple, next door to Black Sabbath in the underground, and they came up for light occasionally. To see them on Top Of The Pops was extraordinary, because there was this division. If the Underground had abandoned the single, the Overground of the early '70s was back in 7" overdrive. I think it was so singly-orientated, We'd make about four singles and all of a sudden discover we haven't got an album. You never thought of albums, albums were the process that came along after you'd had two or three hit singles. And then, you know, the record company let you make an album. You didn't cut an album and then start taking singles off the album. The record business didn't work like that in those days. The albums were an afterthought, really. In one year, we had five singles out, in one year. # That's right, that's right That's right, that's right # I really love Your tiger light... # Studio costs were expensive then, so we'd get a single done in a day. The Glam Rock years were dominated by songs which seemed to knowingly evoke the glory years of the rock and roll single - many of them from the pen of Mike Chapman. Mike Chapman would have a little demo of a song that he'd done all himself, with acoustic guitars and tambourines and vocals that he'd done himself. He'd play it to us and he almost became the fifth member of the band. # That's neat, that's neat That's neat , that's neat # I really love your tiger feet... # I remember Mike was quoted in a newspaper article saying, "I wish I could wake up one morning and not write a hit." And, as awful as that sounds, at that time, it was true. Trailblazing Detroit rocker Suzi Quatro chose Britain and producer Micky Most for her campaign on the singles chart, made possible by the writing team of Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn. # Well, you call your mama Tiger And we all know you are lying... # They were just able to put it all into three minutes. # ..And your boyfriend's name is Eagle and he lives up in the sky... # They could take an idea and go whoo... # ..Can the can # Can the can # If you can # Well, can the can. # There's singles and there's album tracks and you know it as you're doing it. And you can't make a single out of an album track and you can't make an album track out of single. They are two different animals. Before they discovered their own writing talents, Slade's act was simply a medley of their all-time favourite singles. We could be playing a Motown song one minute, we could be playing a Mothers Of Invention, a Frank Zappa song the next minute, we could be playing a Moody Blues song the next minute. We had a huge, huge repertoire. But it was all singles, it was all based on singles, singles that we loved ourselves. # Cum on, feel the noize # Girls, grab the boys # We get wild... # Slade's love of the 7" would help make them THE singles band of the '70s - a decade which saw them chart again and again and again. We had 18 on the trot and most of them were top three, six of them were number one, three of them went to number one first day they were released. Nobody had done that, not even The Beatles had done that. # Metal guru, is it you? # All alone without a telephone # Metal guru, could it be? # You're gonna bring my baby to me... # The division between the album and the single had also been drawn along gender lines - albums were for boys and singles were for girls. I'm pretty much a single's girl, you know, I am. I like the idea of Desert Island Discs, I like the idea of making a tape for people. You're not meant to say this, it's heresy. I quite like the idea of unbundling albums and picking out the good tracks. Because, to be honest, there's not many really, really, really brilliant albums. The perfect singles, the ones for me that have been the biggest, have always been... You know, when it's gone to number one, like Bright Eyes. When the guy asked me to write that song for the movie, Watership Down, he said, "Write me a song about death." So I went home and I thought for ages, like this is the most difficult thing ever. And I thought, "Hang on, it's the easiest thing. "Because this is the biggest question in everyone's life." I remembered my granny and how twinkly her eyes were... How can they not be twinkly any more? Cos she's dead. # Bright eyes # Burning like fire # Bright eyes # How can you close and fail? # When you're writing the song, if you start to feel emotional and you're holding it back a bit, you know, you're...filling up, I think, is the expression. Then you know that it's likely to have a mirror effect. # Dream # Dream, dream, dream... # For the rock and roll generation, the single has always been there. And along the way, somewhere, somehow, it helps us to remember, not only the joy, but also the pain, of growing up. # ..Whenever I want you All I have to do is dream... # A really important thing happened, you know, with the single, cos many people, at very important moments of their life the most important thing in their life became the single. I remember very clearly walking into the record shop to buy the new Joy Division single, Transmission and my sort of boyfriend stepping forward and saying quite formally, "I would like to buy this for you." And the man behind the desk officiating over this and taking two pounds from my boyfriend, who then, handed it to me, and it felt as good as a ring. It's not about remembering your youth, it isn't that, actually. It's about remembering that record. # Johnny, remember me... # When you heard a single, you knew exactly where you were when you heard it. I mean, I can remember where I was the day I heard Carole King's, It Might As Well Rain Until September, Locomotion, by Little Eva, Johnny, Remember Me. I remember exactly where I was and the minute I heard it. I remember, when I was 15, I was a bit of a late developer. My first proper "girlfriend", I remember waiting for her on the steps of the Theatre Royal, in Winchester, and...she didn't show up. And um...I got jilted. # Your baby doesn't love you any more...# The next day, I went and bought Roy Orbison's It's Over. CHUCKLING And I took it and I played it in my bedroom over and over and over until it was completely worn out, feeling desperately sorry for myself. But, I mean, "Golden days before the end, whisper secrets to the wind, "your baby doesn't love you any more." And you're going, "Oh, my God, yeah. I feel just like him." # Golden days before the end # Whisper secrets to the wind... # People like the Everly Brothers and Roy Orbison made it cool for a guy to be able to cry over a record. # ..Doesn't love you any more... # The emotions that are described are quite often stronger emotions than you maybe have experienced yourself or they spoke to you about things that were wider than your immediate environment, they invited you out into that big world. MUSIC: "I'm Not In Love" by 10CC But, by the '70s, some male emotions on the single were a little more in check. WHISPERING: Be quiet. Big boys don't cry. Big boys don't cry. Big boys don't cry... # I'm not in love # So don't forget it # It's just a silly phase I'm going through... # None of us realised the commercial potential of it. We just thought it was a great track. # And just because I call you up... # We developed this way of doing these 250 odd voices that became one of the main hallmarks of the record. # I'm not in love, no, no # It's because... # Of course, also, we knew when to stop. Part of the art is in saying, "It's done." Walk away from the tape machine, sir. # Ooh, you'll wait a long time for me # Ooh, you'll wait a long time. # I used to number them. So this is the 20th record that I ever bought, Monochrome Set, He's Frank. - Do you want to hear it? - Yeah, yeah. MUSIC PLAYS In 1976, when things got angry, it was the single, and not the album, that best expressed the blank generation's rage and frustration. Everything becomes short and sharp. And so, the single is the absolutely ideal form for punk. It's a blurt or a shout. It felt like just the right form for this new scale and speed of life. I mean, I kind of came of age during punk rock and that was a great time for the 7" single, and for vinyl junkies and for picture sleeves, and for independent record labels. It was all about the single. Albums were for hippies who want to sit around and smoke weed and talk about it. The 7" single, you put it on, dance to it, pogo to it and put another one on. # White riot I wanna riot # White riot A riot of my own # White riot I wanna riot # White riot A riot of my own... # Part of the joy of the single has always been the primitive ritual of putting it on - an ancient physical activity far removed from the quick click of the download, or the iPod Shuffle. There is something exciting about holding that 45 and putting the needle, diamond, of course, a diamond needle on the recording. It was, it was a tangible, exciting feeling. The arm with the needle. # Listen to the rhythm of the falling rain # Telling me just what a fool I've been... # Dropping the needle on, making sure you hit the right place so you didn't go too late, you know, flipping it over, miming to it in your bedroom. If filled your head. I'd sit in my bedroom with piles of singles and just learn them, and putting the needle on and off the record, learning the chords, trying to write down the lyrics off the record. It was the only way you could get the lyrics, off the record. You could stuck seven singles up on the Dansette record player and one would drop down and play and then, the next one would drop down and play and there was something amazing about that, something mechanical, yet magical. I like the mechanics of it, that you actually watch something going around a bit, you know. I must be just simple or something like that, I think. But it's... I quite like the fact that you can physically watch something going round from where music is coming out. I've had enough of that. It always sounds like old codgers are being nostalgic about, but it's a historical fact. That's how you got your music - you dropped a crappy little needle on a record that was already a little wobbly, and it went boo-boo, boo-boo, and you'd go on. This is a tune. To be able to put a single down on a turntable and drop the needle, this is a beautiful thing, you know. I always... I think parents really need to have that moment with their children and show them how to do that. It's too beautiful to pass. It's almost like saying I never took my kids to a movie theatre. I like the idea of the record nerd. We are going to play some, spin some discs tonight, children. Come on, kids. And then going, "Oh! I remember this, this is fantastic!" Not a lot of know. And there's record covers and things all over the shop. My kids still play them. A lot of their friends come round and they're freaked out when they see a record on a turntable. They say, "What the hell is that?" I mean, the funny thing is, you know, some of the happiest moments of my entire life on this planet have been spent finding, looking through records and eventually going, "Ah! I've have got it!" You know, that kind of eureka moment. Ah... Sad, I know, but... - HE LAUGHS - But it's true, you know. I mean, part of the charm was, I even liked the scratchiness on the 45s. Gggrrrr! And the needle. It's like foreplay, you know, you hear the noise, "Gggrrr," and you know something good is coming. # Don't ever lose your temper # When you've been out all night drinking booze... # Good advice - "Don't ever lose your temper "when you've been out all night drinking booze." - HE LAUGHS - I'll remember that one. I mean, I hear a tune, I'd play that tune 25 times. I mean, everybody walks out of the room, I'm still like that kid in my bedroom that gets a record and just plays it and plays it and plays it. We had a box gramophone and I sort of camped out beside it. I just remember spending as much time beside it as I possibly could and then, as soon as I could, because no-one else seemed interested, lugging it off to my bedroom. On an album, you can put an album on, drop the needle, have a cup of tea, walk around, talk a little bit. A 45, I always picture it you sort of like, you know, kneel down on a carpet and you put it on and you're listening to just that song, which is very reverential. Singles, to be really effective, do have to have a little bit of sort of cultural impact, you know. Somehow, they resonate with people at that particular point in time. Few singles are as timely as that of one-hit-wonders The Buggles. In 79, you could feel that a lot of things were about to change, and I could feel that. # I heard you on the wireless back in '52 # Lying awake intent at tuning in on you # If I was young, it didn't stop you coming through... # When Video Killed The Radio Star was going to be released, they weren't going to make a video and then, suddenly, they were. # Video killed the radio star # In my mind and in my car... # I loved the start of it. I thought the whole start was quite iconic. I hated the rest of it and still do to this day, kind of. Cos I think I look like a dick. # ..Put the blame on VTR. # both from future systems and from a new consumer lifestyle that preached the politics of plenty, far removed from the scarcity of the early '50s. Singles weren't just 45s any more. Now, we had pop promos, in-car music systems, cassettes and something called The Walkman. The brand name Walkman. HE LAUGHS You know, that was fantastic, you know - the headphones and getting killed crossing the road because you couldn't hear what was going on. Yeah, what an amazing development for mankind(!) But The Walkman's ultimate achievement was to send everyone back to their favourite singles, so they could be with them anytime, anywhere. Walkmans were quite a big part of our lives, really. There were quite a big deal. The fact that you could take, you know, take all these records, put them on a tape, illegally, and then put them in your Walkman and go off and listen to them on the bus was big deal. Cassettes were nice to love if it was a mixed tape that somebody else had made you. If you're going out with someone, the first thing you do is you make a mixed tape for them. And then you'd find out a lot about them because of their taste in music. I, being a record collector, could always impress the girls with my mixed tapes. The idea always was that you did a seduction tape. So you started off with something quite dancy, and then, you slowed it down to the end. And then, maybe, maybe go a bit jiggy. By 1984, the opportunities for the single seemed limitless. But for Holly Johnson, it was still THE defining form. I thought it was important to disregard every other single that had ever been made. Forget The Beatles, forget David Bowie, this is going to be it. There is an aspect of that, although you admire those people that love them. As soon as you go to make a single, you're putting yourself on the same ladder as them, you know. And this ladder stretches all the way to heaven. # Relax, don't do it When you want to go to it # Relax, don't do it When you want to come # Relax, don't do it When you want to suck, do it # Relax, don't do it... # Paul Morley and Trevor Horn at ZTT Records also had big '80s plans for the single. Multiple remixes... of the same song. I like the idea that you could take a song, a single, and for a while it could become a whole sort of superstructure, in a way. HE CHUCKLES Oh, look, it's got the same picture on either side, that's interesting. So there's the 7" with a great picture sleeve. There's this ludicrous 12" version of it, that is almost like a kind of uncut version. Some of the sound effects on the 12", on the sex mix, were quite vulgar, because I'd been using vegetables and a bottle of water. I don't know what was in my head at the time. Well, I do, but I'm not going to tell you. The guy that was running Island kept ringing me up and saying, "Can you do me another mix? "I'd like to keep it at number one for another week, you now." People would go into record shops, they'd buy two 12" and a single and a cassette, you know, and they'd all be of the same record. So what had the single become? The single is just a receptacle for the song, really. And that's why I think it's so intense and important that it's your essence as an artist instilled into that one thing. With Frankie's follow-up Two Tribes, ZTT produced so many versions of the single that the industry was forced to step into the ring to create some new rules to protect the number one position. # When two tribes go to war # A point is all that you can score # Score no more, score no more # When two tribes go to war # A point is all that you can score # Working for the bad guys # Cowboy number one... # We did like seven mixes, which kept us at number one for nine weeks cos every week you went out and you bought a new version of Two Tribes. The boys in the backroom were cobbling together, yet another 12" mix to extend the life of the record. # When two tribes go to war... # I think we've got up to 75 minutes or something, if you put all the Two Tribes together. # Score no more, score no more # When two tribes go to war A point is all that you can... # But we still clung really faithfully to the idea of the excitement of the single. # Respectable # Respectable, respectable # Respectable # Tay, tay, tay, tay... # Pete Waterman's passion for the single prompted him to set-up an '80s-style hit factory to corner a market that the mainstream record industry thought, even then, was in its death throes. - Oh! - Another one. - Oh, oh! No, no, wait a minute, you just... I mean, the point is absolutely spot on. If you are a singles and the single is the thing that drives you by Christ, have you given yourself a task. Back in '84, '85, everybody told me the single's dead. Everybody. I mean all my mates thought I was nuts. I went, "Nah! The record industry don't want it, I'll have it." # It's easier than learning your ABCs # So come on, come on Do the locomotion # Come on, come on Do the locomotion # Come on, come on Do the locomotion with me... # I've had fights like you can't believe with artists, You go, "This is your next single", they go, "I don't like it." I don't care what you like. We're in the record industry here, you know, the fans want this. But, by 1987, the record industry had been invaded by small shiny things. CDs, they were just a little bit insipid. They were kind of, there were just all shine and no substance. They claimed to be indestructible and they patently weren't. This should be it, let's see how it sounds. SCRATCHY SOUND The CD, I just pick it up, chuck it in, you know... it gets swallowed into a machine, you don't get to see it going round. Yeah, it's....kind of, it becomes more impersonal. Forget the CD single, Norman. You need something much bigger. By the '90s, it was the 12" vinyl single that was the darling of the dance floor and the DJ. You put your hand in like that, you take it out without touching, only touching the label. Then, if you're looking at it, you hold the edge and you spin it like that. And you kind of... This bit is sacred, the grooves are sacred. You couldn't even scratch with a 7" single. Or could you? Interestingly enough, here is a 7" single that I wanted to scratch, you glue it onto a 12" that you don't like very much and you still control the edge of it. The 12" would simply be all the elements that were in the single, so, you know, the piano and a kind of beat and maybe a bit of guitar and vocals, which will arrive all at once in the single. It would start over here and then 12 bars later, in would come the next bit. And I kind of think, "Well, that's just rubbish. I may as well have the single, really." For younger generations oblivious to the power of the single, its ability to define a career, even in the 21st century, can come as a surprise. # I waited till I saw the sun # I don't know why I didn't come # I left you by the house of fun... # I don't know, I'm not the greatest person for a singles interview, probably, cos I don't listen to singles. I don't listen to the radio because there's not, you know, stuff on it that I want to hear all the time. # ..When I saw the break of day... # The fact that Don't Know Why became a big single was kind of crazy for me, because I didn't grow up buying singles the way some people did. I remember getting kind of sick of playing it and thinking, "Why can't we do another song on this TV show? "Why don't they want to hear something else?" And so, the concept kind of took a while to sink in for me, of having a single. # I don't know why # I didn't come. # I think nowadays people still buy individual songs, but they don't necessarily buy only the single. They can have access to the whole album and buy whatever songs they want to buy. So I guess that's the biggest difference about today versus when people used to buy the 7" inch. Cos that's all that was available at the time. MUSIC PLAYS You're in straight away. When you offer people the choice, of just downloading a single track, you know what they do? They take the single track for 40p. Because that's what we all are, we're all single buyers in truth. I'd quite happily pay a few quid for that, you know what I mean? Fair exchange is not robbery, you know. I mean, it's definitely my age, but I'm just not daft enough to just pay over money for something that don't physically exists. You know what I mean? It just seems to you're a muppet, a right mug. Not having a tangible item that you can touch, just having it virally. It's not the same. It's not the same as owning it, touching it, putting it on the turntable. That's it. Downloading songs has helped to retain something of the idea of the single, but nothing of its physical reality. The 7" vinyl 45 as an object is now an expensive relic. And the yearning and the nostalgia for the single is part of an overall, deep nostalgic sickness. The physical states and objects are disappearing, and being replaced with other things. At first, when that happened, I would wake up at night worried about where the record was. Where is it? You know, I've done all this work on it. Where does it exist? Out of a kind of a fear, we're clinging even though the 7" doesn't exist any more to 7" shapes and lengths and the same with the album. People still release album-sized collection of songs, even though the thing itself is gone. There's no point in really owning music and investing in something like this, because all of this would now fit on a memory stick this big. But a memory stick isn't able to hold real memories, memories that the vinyl 45 has captured and fixed in our minds for ever. Everybody remembers their first record. Everybody remembers their first kiss to their first record. Everybody has these memories. They're ingrained in us all, everybody knows what was the first one they went out and bought with their first pocket money or whatever. There's lots of reasons why you remember certain records, they're snapshots. Instead of photographs of time, they're snapshots of time. These great songs that were singles, they float off into the universe and they become the history of this planet, so that when we die out, if anybody wants to know what happened to our civilisation, they just listen to great singles and they'll be able to piece it all together. You're going to kick me out now, aren't you? THEY LAUGH # I see a red door and I want to paint it black # No colours any more I want them to turn black... #

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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