For the past 25 years and likely for the rest of my life, books will be the staple item in my shopping cart. But one of the first purchases I made (okay, that Mom and Dad made for me, but I think I pointed it out) was not a book. It was, in fact, a record. And not just a record, but a 45rpm single.
You had to have held vinyl records as a kid to understand why they’re just so much more appealing than compact discs and mp3 files. 45s were almost kid-like in their size, manageable, with the large hole in the middle that you had to fill with a “45 rpm record insert.” For a link to a discussion of the history of 45s, competing technology, and record insert names click here. Now, you’ll only see them on the occasional t-shirt and held out as a recognition of vinyl’s purity by the occasional DJ. (Not so crazy as it sounds — the 2nd most likely design I considered for a tattoo was the 45 rpm record insert.)
The 45 I wanted was Stevie Wonder’s Master Blaster (Jammin’), a great piece of funk that contained lyrics unintelligible to our recently immigrated ears and a damn cool bass riff that I couldn’t get out of my head. I found it at Sears, during a shopping trip in search of Geranimals and other necessities for a 5 year old.
I still have the record, slightly scratched, with the original, generic paper cover ripped away and replaced by another generic cover. There was no artwork. Stevie has drifted off into the twilight of his musical career, but he put out some might fo-ine music. He even funked up my hallowed Beatles’ “We Can Work It Out,” which I heard the other day with some friends at a bar here in Kolkata. In recognition of that first 45, I’ve added it to Boxnet if you want to listen.