Why the devoted still play the singles scene: Forget CDs, and even LPs . . . the only sounds worth searching out are on 45rpm. Magnus Mills takes his Sixties cred for a spin at a record fair

It was the Ten Years After single that made the difference. These dealers always seem to be impressed by a bit of insider knowledge.

We were talking about B-sides when I noticed 'Love Like A Man' up in the rack. 'That one's got the same song on both sides' I said, 'and the B-side plays at 33rpm.' He seized the record and examined the label closely. 'Hey, you're right,' he said. 'LIVE VERSION, 33rpm. I never knew that.' At a stroke my credentials were established. Only a singles freak is interested in B-sides.

Now that the dealer knew I was genuine he would let me play as many records as I liked on his turntable. There were dozens of us at this record fair, sorting through old boxes lined up on trestle tables until our backs began to ache. Record fairs are hard work. Apart from the backache there was also the din. Most of the stall-holders had turntables at hand, all blaring out different kinds of music in competition with each other. The only way to hear a record you were testing was to put your head down by the speaker and sort of 'tune in' to it. Everyone seemed happy with the arrangement, though.

The great thing about these record fairs is that there is so much to choose from. Who cares what happens to the price of compact discs when there is all this vinyl available?

In order not to be overwhelmed by the vast choice, some record collectors work to a strict regime. Barry Steele, an ageing rocker with an ear-ring, was working through the rock 'n' roll boxes, discarding everything except records on the London label.

He was seeking Chuck Berry, Eddie Cochran, Carl Perkins, Clyde McPhatter, Little Richard, Julie London, etc. 'Who do you like best?' I enquired. 'Elvis,' he replied. 'But I've already got all his records.'

In front of me was an ocean of Sixties singles. That decade was the heyday of the pop single, the time of million sellers. After that they went into decline, apart from a brief respite during the New Wave era. The culprit, of course, was the long-playing album.

Well, I think albums are boring. Singles are best. What I like about singles is the minimalism they enforce on musicians. A song has to be reasonably short to fit into the single format, so many great performances were compressed into these 7in gems. Even the behemothic Led Zeppelin cut a few singles in their time, which says a lot. Mind you, some bands took brevity to the opposite extreme. The Small Faces once released a single entitled 'Just Passing' which had a running time of barely a minute. The Byrds also had a penchant for short songs, with 'So you want to be a rock 'n 'roll star' clocking in at two minutes, four seconds.

I have been after this one for ages and I picked it up the other day for pounds 1. You are supposed to clean them with lighter fluid but I just stuck it under the tap and used washing-up liquid.

The record was 27 years old but it played just fine as soon as the stylus found its groove and ploughed through the static. A lot of collectors would not touch a record that needed cleaning. Some don't even play them, which I think defeats the object somewhat.

I have a copy of the Yardbirds' 'Shapes of Things' which I bought new in 1966 for 6s 8d (33p). If I had kept it all that time and never played it, it would be worth twenty-odd quid now, but what's the point in that? Records are for listening to, not banking.

I like to spice my collection of rock, pop and soul records with other more obscure sounds. I have New Orleans zydeco (black cajun) recordings, a tabla recital from India, even Beethoven's Egmont Overture, all on 7in discs. And everybody knows about Pavarotti's big hit single during the 1990 World Cup.

Even Nasa released a single once. It featured a staccato conversation recorded in-flight between the orbiting astronaut Alan Shepard and mission control back on earth. Wow]

Meanwhile, back at the record fair . . . Flipping through yet another box I came across a stray copy of 'Memphis Tennessee' by Chuck Berry.

Enthusiastically, I called Barry over. He looked gloomily at the record. 'No good to me,' he said, 'this is on the Chess label. I only buy London records.'

Some people are so fussy.

(Photograph omitted)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.


ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

    £18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: £20000 - £25000 per annum + c...

    Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a number ...

    Recruitment Genius: Graduate Sales Consultant - OTE £45,000

    £15000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you want to work for an exci...

    Day In a Page

    Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

    Solved after 200 years

    The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

    Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
    Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

    Sunken sub

    Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

    Age of the selfie

    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
    Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

    Not so square

    How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
    Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

    Still carrying the torch

    The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

    ...but history suggests otherwise
    The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

    The bald truth

    How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
    Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

    Tour de France 2015

    Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
    Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

    A new beginning for supersonic flight?

    Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
    I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

    I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

    Latest on the Labour leadership contest
    Froome seals second Tour de France victory

    Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

    Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
    Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

    The uses of sarcasm

    'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
    A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

    No vanity, but lots of flair

    A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
    Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

    In praise of foraging

    How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food