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The 7-inch: the best and worst of record collecting

Jack White has helped bring back the 7-inch
Jack White has helped bring back the 7-inch

Collecting records is a hobby that has spanned several generations. If you are old enough to have bought your first record in the age before CD’s or cassette tapes your first was almost certainly a 7-inch, 45rpm vinyl single. No one forgets their first but that doesn’t mean you fell in love with it either.

Music aficionados both love and loathe the 7-inch. For so many people it was the first thing they could purchase on their own and they have fond memories of that feeling. However, 45’s are also one of the most neglected collectables in history. Their small size and saucer shape attract all sorts of dangers! Being placed under a sweaty beverage glass or being hurled across a room at an unwitting victim is just the tip of the iceberg for these little guys. The dangers of being a 7-inch are one of the key reasons they have become so collectible over the years.

Quirkiness is another thing collector’s love about these diminutive discs. Especially in modern times, the 45 has become the premier vessel to reward hard-core fans. Fan club only specials, limited edition, exclusive tracks, and only-available-in-this-box are just a few of the catch phrases used to entice music buyers into purchasing new 7-inch singles. Recent examples include productions from Pearl Jam, U2, Oasis, David Bowie, and Kings of Leon just to name a few.

With so much to love why would a 45 ever turn off a record collector? First, it is worse than looking for a needle in a haystack. It is more like looking for the one straight needle in a big box of bent ones. With all the abuse taken by vintage singles finding one worth owning is often difficult. Second, they are small! It is often physically difficult to flip through them and read the labels. Finding that missing item to finish your collection truly becomes a labor of love while sifting through mountains of disorganized 45’s.

In the end, the 7-inch single is part of the game. If you don’t have any now it is just a matter of time before you find out there is one more track out there you have not heard and it is only on a 45. Even for all its flaws, the 7-inch single is close to the heart of every record collector. It is more than time you give one a spin. Just don’t forget to change speeds.