Aside from a few “ironic” purchases and some vintage punk jobbers, I never bothered with 7-inch releases during the earlier phase of my record collecting days. The glut of used vinyl during the early Nineties meant that most LPs could be purchased for a couple of bucks, making them a more compelling choice when it came to value for money and physical condition. Getting used to the album version of a familiar new wave standard could take a few dozen plays, but it beat risking nearly an equal amount of cash on a 45 yanked from a pile at the back end of the shop.
This attitude persisted even after I got back into the hobby in 2016. The idea was to be able to throw on some cherished favorite and let it spin while I did some housework, read a book, or relaxed on the sofa. Getting up to flip sides or switch records every three-to-five minutes didn’t mesh with that agenda. Finding space for my growing stack of albums was enough of a hassle without trying to accomodate a stack of singles in the limited space available.
Over time, however, my position began to soften under pressures from multiple fronts. My engagement drifted from “interesting afterthought” to “active pursuit.” The grind of maintaining a daily music blog had drained my enthusiasm. It had been coming back in fits and starts in the years since, but obtaining a turntable kicked the process into overdrive. The old thrill of listening and discovering returned with a vengeance.
My existing collection of records was fairly expansive, but reflected a time and set of tastes that were twenty-odd years gone. I’d evolved since then, and there were scores of omissions in need of backfilling. After filling my basket with the lowest-hanging fruit, I turned towards more elusive fare.
There were classic new wave one-offs like Robert Hazard’s “Escalator of Life” and Class Action’s “Blast Off.” Disco faves like Van McCoy’s “The Hustle” or Donner Summer’s “I Feel Love.” Old school rave and industrial jams like KLF’s “It’s Grim Up North” and LA Style’s “James Brown Is Dead.” Turn of the Millenium dance tracks like Alice Deejay’s “Better Off Alone” or Lange feat. the Morrighan’s “Follow Me.” These were essential-to-me cuts which existed apart from the full album ecology.
Single releases also provided an affordable alternative to expensive LPs, especially from the mid-Nineties to mid-Aughts span before the format came back into vogue. I’d love to have Arab Strap’s The Last Romance or Ladytron’s Witching Hour on record. But until I find affordable copies of either, I’m willing to settle for single releases of the most swoon-worthy songs for roughly one-tenth the asking price.
When it comes to the stuff of weapons-grade childhood nostalgia, 7-inchers are a wonderland-on-the-cheap. For the price of a copy of Lush’s Gala LP, I was able to score Fischer-Z ‘s “Marliese,” a copy of Styx’s “Mr. Roboto,” and Looking Glass’s “Brandy” in near-mint condition. It’s the sort of material I used to seek out on various K-Tel comps, but either the track was truncated or missed the mass market compilation boat entirely. There isn’t album’s worth of filler to skip over, just a compact blast of sonic bliss with the occasional skip or pop…
…and more disco-fied versions of Seventies movie/TV themes than can be listened to in a dozen lifetimes.