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The Good Old 45

in 7" Singles, Blog by Mike Warth

I am impressed how popular the 7″ single continues to be. Whilst the vinyl resurgence tends to be looked at from the album perspective there is no doubt that the single is just as popular nowadays.

It’s interesting because ‘when I were a lad’ the cost of an album was nearly always just out of reach (until sufficient pocket money had been saved or your birthday or Christmas provided funds from relatives). So we had to be content with buying singles and plenty of them were released on a weekly basis.

To put it in context I’m talking about the late 60’s/ early 70’s. It was a great time for music and every week a leaflet was produced and could be picked up at no cost from record stores that listed all the week’s new releases. So on a Saturday when me and my mates met up for our weekly tour of Reading’s record shops we would pick up these leaflets and spend the week listening to the radio to hear as many  of the new releases as possible and swap notes. Then it would be down to town the following week to make the purchase – one new single!

But which one?

Well we all had our favourite type of music or bands/singers – so that was a good starting point. Mine however was the record label. It became apparent that with some labels you could almost guarantee there would be something good even if you hadn’t heard one of Radio 1’s dj’s playing it. I was into ‘underground’ sounds so John Peel or Pete Drummond were a good bet – always playing something different. But as far as labels went Harvest was my first port of call. I was lucky really ‘cos this was the time when the standard labels – The EMI group, Decca, Philips, Pye were opening up new frontiers with ‘progressive rock’ labels like Harvest, Nova, Vertigo, Dawn, Middle Earth etc and interesting independents like Charisma and Virgin appeared.

So a scan down the list for any of these came first for me.

Interestingly not all of the record shops stocked the more obscure label releases relying on the safety of the majors but one that did, perhaps a little surprisingly, was the Co-op in West Street, Reading ( where Primark currently  stands). As a result it was always the first stop on the Saturday tour. ‘Anything on Harvest, this week?’  I would ask and sure enough out would come one or two of that week’s Harvest releases. I reckon they only stocked one copy and if it sold they would buy in a few more. I bought some gems like that – Syd Barret’s ‘Octopus’, Michael Chapman’s ‘It Didn’t Work Out’ – I just love that electric guitar work as it closes, and my favourite – Boredom by Tea & Symphony. It wasn’t until some time later that I discovered it was a Procul Harum song and only mediocre really but in the hands of the Symphs it is something special with a huge range of instruments all working superbly together. The band made two albums but this fabulous song can only be savoured on the 45. I still have my original copies of all these three Harvest gems along with a fair number of others.

The Co-op even had listening booths and often had a bargain bin of obscurities that they clearly couldn’t sell. So from here I bought Kaleidoscope’s  ‘Jenny Artichoke’,  Love’s ‘Daily Planet’ and Skip Bifferty’s ‘On Love’. What a shop! After the Co-op it was on to Rumbelows and then Hickies both in Friar Street. (Hickies had listening booths too).

But whatever your musical taste Reading was a great town for record shops – no doubt local readers of this ramble have their favourites – please do let me know.

 

About the Author

Mike

Mike Warth – Retired teacher and Education Officer, old rocker, lover of prog, psych and folk – the latter for which I sometimes take some stick. (Why?) Currently having a ball working in The Sound Machine, Reading – independent Record Store par excellence and now working with Vernon Joynson on an update to Dreams, Fantasies And Nightmares.

One Response to “The Good Old 45”

  1. Martin Wade says:

    Mike, many thanks for transporting me back to my childhood and teenage years. My memories of record collecting in the early go late 70’s mirrored by your blog comments.
    My son is soon to turn 17 and whilst I have now asserted the beauty of vinyl to him, he will never have the pleasure of making the weekly 45 journey that we experienced. Oh to have that time machine!

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