/ Texarkana baby, RCA Victor, 1949
So, for sanity’s sake, I’ll concede that 45s are a product of a bygone era, beautiful and desirable as they are. The heart of a cultural revolution, though, they will survive in the collective memory as more than just the snuff boxes of the mid-20th century.
That’s the conclusion of Bob Stanley’s excellent article celebrating the 60th birthday of the 45 rpm vinyl single. The piece taught even this vinyl fetishist a few things he didn’t know, though Bob’s notion of a mid-eighties ‘Shakespeare’s sister’ 7 inch vs Brothers in arms CD format face-off seems a little revisionist – not many people round my way were such early adopters of the shiny new technology. A sentence from Bob’s opening paragraph is also on the contentious side: ‘Few would argue that [the 45 rpm single’s] rise and fall mirrors pop’s golden age.’ Few vinyl fetishists of a certain age would argue that, Bob. But a fourteen year old beginning their exploration of 21st century pop’s vast multiplicity – or a twenty-four year old already deep into it – might well beg to differ.
The first ever 7 inch, ‘Texarkana baby’ by Eddy Arnold, was released 60 years ago today by RCA Victor – on green vinyl. ‘RCA figured that, in the format wars, they needed a novelty, and so they pressed country music on green vinyl, children’s music on yellow, classical on red, and ‘race’ music – rhythm and blues – on ‘cerise’, or what looked like orange to the average Joe. Straightahead pop was released on straightahead black.’
The flip of ‘Texarkana baby’ was ‘Bouquet of roses’ – the first ever 7 inch B side. Both songs had already been US country chart number one hits in their own right on 78 rpm. And both still sound great, each with sharp, simple couplets or quatrains delivered in Eddy’s solidly-textured vocal, underwritten with steel guitar possessed of a Hawaiian degree of freshness and sinuosity. The format could not have had a finer beginning.
- Texarkana baby (YouTube)
- Bouquet of roses (YouTube)
- More on the early history of the 7 inch in B/w no. 3, ‘Guess the baby’s weight’ by the Young Knives
- Guardian blog on the 60th birthday of the 7 inch single by Owen Adams