The 45 rpm Single turns 70

The format that revolutionized the music industry was first introduced in 1949

The 45 rpm Single turns 70

The 45 rpm vinyl Single hasn’t always been around. There was a period that this was not a music format, but it changed on March 31, 1949, when the first 45 rpm single was made. RCA Victor introduced the 45 rpm single record, which had been in development since 1940.This was mainly done in order to compete with the Long Playing record introduced by Columbia a year earlier, and both offered better fidelity and longer playing time than the 78 rpm record that was currently the standard in use. The single revolutionized the music industry, especially during the turn of the 1950’s to the 1960’s. songwriters and performers increasingly tailored their output to fit the new medium. The 3-minute single remained the standard into the 1960’s when the availability of microgroove recording and improved mastering techniques enabled recording artists to increase the duration of their recorded songs. The breakthrough came with Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone”. Although CBS tried to make the record more “radio friendly” by cutting the performance into halves and separating them between the two sides of the vinyl disc, both Dylan and his fans demanded that the full six-minute take is placed on one side and that radio stations play the song in its entirety. As stereo recordings became popular in the 1960’s, almost all 45 rpm records were produced in stereo by the early 1970’s, ending that way the monaural releases and productions. One of the interesting aspects of that era, was, that record labels started to release often two versions of some songs when for example, one that was included also in an album, with a duration that exceeded the recommended airtime on radio, had to be cut or mixed in order to fit 3 minutes on the single and that way having more chances for the radio to play it. Of course, this also became a marketing strategy, as the single, for a while, became a companion to an album, meaning that, often record labels would release an album and then a single featuring a song that was not on the album, so the artists could sell more. The 7′ records of 45 rpm also became very popular as an EP, often a 4 track release (two on each side), and in Europe, this was the best selling format during the 1960’s. All this changed during the late 1960’s, by then, almost every song released on a single was also included on an album, and by the 70’s, it became common to put a weaker previously unreleased track (often rejected songs from an album) on the B-Side. Nowadays, in music, the word single does not refer to vinyl only, digitally released singles, are today the most popular format, by streaming or download, but with the vinyl records resurgence in recent years, after decades outside the record stores shelves, the original single format has made a comeback, in special for collectors.

Watch a clip about the history of the 45 rpm single



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