When I was a kid, we had a record player that had four settings: 16, 33, 45, and 78. These numbers, as anyone over a certain age will remember, determined the speed at which the disc would spin while it was read by the needle. The slowest setting, 16, made the disc rotate at 16-2/3 revolutions per minute. The other end of the spectrum spun the records at the blazing speed of 78 revolutions per minute. This was the 1980s, so those two settings were pretty much archaic at that point, since 78-rpm records faded away in the 1950s, and from what I can discover online, there never really were many 16-rpm records to begin with. But those settings were always fun. Put a record on at sssiiiixxxttteeennn aaannnddd iiitttt ssssooouuunnndddeeedddd llliiikkkkeeee ttthhhiiisssss. And 78? Well, how do you think Dave Seville discovered the Chipmunks? Comedy gold to a 6-year-old!
So we certainly had records intended to play at 33 (well, 33-1/3, but who’s counting?) and at 45. I still have a bunch of my parents’ records today, but nothing to play them on. I owned a few myself. I had a 33 LP of Superman stories, and another of Batman stories. But I think the only honest-to-goodness LP of music I owned was Michael Jackson’s Thriller. What an album! “Beat It,” “Billie Jean,” “Human Nature,” and of course, “Thriller” itself. But I had a handful of 45’s. Let’s see how many I remember.
- “Thriller” by Michael Jackson (this was in addition to the LP — and it was a disappointing 45; no Vincent Price on this version!)
- “Eat It” by Weird Al Yankovic
- “Like a Surgeon” by Weird Al Yankovic
- “You Can Do Magic” by America
- “Run Runaway” by Slade
- “I Feel For You” by Chaka Khan
- “Believe It Or Not” (Theme from Greatest American Hero) by Joey Scarbury
- “Axel F” by Harold Faltermeyer
Oh my goodness. I swear I had more than that. But wow, what memories this is bringing back. Playing those songs over and over again. Listening to the B-sides over and over as well, thinking they were just as good. And then I graduated to cassettes. A bunch of Weird Al cassettes, and the soundtrack to Top Gun.
But there was always something special about those early 45’s. I didn’t understand music yet, but I was starting to discover things I liked. It’s a long way from the Beatles and Pink Floyd and Barenaked Ladies. But that’s for another number — maybe.