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I Can't Drive....45! - Blather. Rants. Repeat.
A Møøse once bit my sister ...
I Can't Drive....45!
I was trying to answer a question. Settle a bet, if you will.  Right after the Mets' improbable four-game sweep of the Chicago Cubs, the team with the best record in baseball (two weekends after being swept by the Atlanta Braves, with one of the worst two records in baseball), a friend mentioned one of those horrible old 70s songs that seemed fitting.

This one:

The question was, what was on the B-side of that 70s single? Before getting to that, I'll answer the two questions that are no doubt being asked by many:

What's a B-side? For that matter, what's a single?

Well, Timmy, until sometime in the 1980s, when the mommy recording artist and the daddy record company loved each other very much, the daddy would screw the mommy. (That part is largely still true.) The hard currency of their union was a "single" vinyl record, played at 45 revolutions per minute and sold in stores for under a dollar- as their descendants still sort-of are to this very day, preserved in the concept of buying a 99-cent "song" on iTunes. These records were preceded by larger 78 rpm offerings, and in time supplemented by longer collections of songs on "long playing" record albums spun at 33⅓ rpm. Although LPs existed back to the late 1940s, they didn't really become the standard of artist production for more than 30 years; only singles were sold in any measurable quantity, and only singles got airplay on the radio stations of the day.

The only other songs that had a feasible chance of beating this system were the ones pressed onto the flip side of the single that was recorded and promoted and destined for stardom. These were the B-sides. They were normally chosen for their suckiness, because if a song was any good, the label wouldn't want to give it away for free. Some relatively rare cases, particularly involving the Beatles, resulted in both sides getting airplay. But in even rarer instances, one of these B-sides would become the "hit" in spite of the label's intentions.

Perhaps the most famous of these was the still-used stadium anthem "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye." A foursome of session musicians got a studio to pick up four of their tracks for release as singles, but they needed B-side filler, and thus dragged out a silly old song from their doo-wop days and added the infectious "Na Na" chorus just to make it fit, only to have it go the 60s equivalent of viral in radio stations around the US. Most B-sides, though, are seldom heard and even more seldom worth listening to- but they exist.

And in an odd twist of fate and weather, they now represent exactly half of my tiny vinyl collection.


Back to Chicago.

My recollection was that "The Night Chicago Died," by a one-hit wonder 70s band, had a B-side called "Billy Don't Be a Hero," which around the same time was made famous by another one-hit wonder 70s band.  I don't just know this from a trivia game; I have memories of hearing their specific version of the song back in the day. And since no radio station would ever have played it, I must've owned the single at some point- and, if I had, there was a good chance I still did.

I was never that much of a record collector until college, and most of the albums I did collect before college were drek. (The original Jesus Christ Superstar, Let it Be, and a Chicago album or two are about all I'll admit to.) They were expensive on an allowance-slave or paper-boy budget- often costing more than five bucks!  Singles, on the other hand, were in the territory of impulse purchases; they'd only cost between one and two dollars with the tax, leaving enough for baseball cards, or an egg cream at the Modell's donut stand.  They were really the only cheap way to have a song "collection" in the sense that iTuners now take for granted; the only other way was to record songs off the radio, usually with deejay banter or the station jingles cutting in at the start or finish. I had many of these on very funky early-day cassette tapes, and to this day associate specific songs, from David Bowie's "Fame" to BTO's "Takin' Care of Business" to particular radio stations I recorded them from. 

These are memories with a big hole in the middle.  Higher-end hi-fi equipment was disdainful of 45s, and you needed a spindle adapter to play them- either one for the turntable-

-or, more commonly later, one inserted in the record itself which you now often see on social media LIKE AND SHARE IF YOU KNOW WHAT THIS IS posts-

Somehow, only a handful of these treasures made the move with me to college; they were unsleeved (most stores sold them in generic blank envelopes if they put them in anything other than a bag) and in a pile in the foot locker that moved with me 12 times in the next 10 years and then three times since, ending up in our cellar.

I thought "Billy" might be down there, and I was right and wrong.  From a movie about a Billy, but not a hero:

We actually sang this one in church folk group for the grownups at least once, leaving out the boss karate moves and the "I....just...go....berSERK!" dialogue from the film itself.  It really fits all of the categories that made up my early musical indoctrination: novelty and/or one-hit-wonder.  Even the disk itself had considerable artwork, something lost in the iAge- althought I couldn't for a moment tell you why they were so damn proud of being from Beautiful Downtown Burbank.

Only nine remain.   These are the other eight:

I eventually picked up Los Cochinos, the full C&C album from which this was the hit (and only) single. I have no idea what compelled me to write the Warner catalog number on there.

Now this is a B-side, and yes, that's the original Dumbledore on there.  It's the flip of his immortal rendering of Jimmy Webb's "Mac Arthur Park," spelled that way on the label (and sung through the entire song as "MacArthur's Park" over the producers objections).  I have no recollection of buying this or of why; I do remember we played the piece in high school band, and I might have wanted to study the bass lines which I still hear in my head.  Yet I do not think I have ever listened to this particular piece, also by J-Webs.  But of course I now can;  it's on the internet.  There's Brexit porn on the internet.

I mentioned, earlier, a later BTO song from my radio signal-pirating days (WPIX-FM still burns in my head over the opening chords), but this one I actually bought for some reason. It was their first hit, and I must've liked it enough to have spent a whole dollar and 40 years of accidental preservation on it.

No clue. That discoloration on top of Kit Lambert suggests a missing ID label and possibly theft from someone or something else.  I've never owned the whole Tommy soundtrack and it's middle-or-lower in my overall Who preferences, but somehow I've had it for more than 30 years since my last pinball game.

Back to the novelty record theme. I can probably still recite the lyrics verbatim, which is something I doubt CD has wanted to do, given how he comes across very hippie-druggie-anti-redneck in this piece.  Also a great piece of album label art.

Ah, this one. Jazz.fm plays it now and again, and Eleanor has tired of me explaining that I know it from being Don Imus's "entrance music" bumping in and out of newscasts on WNBC in the mid 70s, when he was actually funny and not racist.  I must've gone to one of the bigger record shops, probably in Hempstead, to find it.  Its B-side was a much slower and more soulful piece called "Mosadi" (Woman), which I used to enjoy speeding up to 78 to make it peppier. And yes, that's on the internet, too.

Again, no clue. I love and loved S&G, and I've always loved this song, but I have no recollection of why this one song of theirs stood out enough to secure a copy of it.  It might have been my late sister's; whoever's it was, from the scratches it's clearly not in good shape. But then, neither am I.  Or is she.

And ending with one final head-scratcher:

Not her first, not her best, no idea at all why I chose to spend a buck on it.  It, and the one before it, are probably the only ones we have in the popular new compact disc format.  The B-side of this one, "Love is a Rose," is one of the few in this (or any) sample that's pretty good in its own right.

Any vinyl albums we might've had containing any of these songs got transferred to cassettes which are now hissing piles of ancient magnetism. All of our original vinyl albums got stowed in our last Rochester cellar, and then all of them drowned when the dreaded 1991 ice storm there flooded that basement and took tons of memories with it.

Just not these.
2 comments or Leave a comment
platypus From: platypus Date: July 4th, 2016 08:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've never seen those adapters that fit right into the 45's center hole! I had a disk that went in the spindle of my record player. Still do, actually, but we're finally about to discard the old compact stereo now that the tape player AND record player are broken, and the radio dial doesn't move (though it still does tune). I went through my LPs last night... and still kept half of them.
weebleswobble From: weebleswobble Date: July 5th, 2016 02:31 am (UTC) (Link)
my parents had a record player when i was young and we had that little yellow plastic thing to put in the 45's to play them on the record player. and you could even check out records at the library! as a kid i grew up with cassettes and recorded the songs i like off the radio. but then in my early teens, my mom won a cd player at some work function right when cd's first came out and we happily switched over. even though cd's cost around $20 each back then.
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