I was born in 1981 to children of the 60s who were just starting to recover from their 70s hangovers. The music of the time was absorbed into me via the kind of osmosis that only the early days of “oldies” radio could provide an 80s child. Luckily, I grew up in a pre-Clear Channel landscape where the canon of what’s considered “the sixties” wasn’t firmly in place and whittled down to the handful of hits program directors have voted to keep immortal.
Even beyond that, I grew up further on the programming of the last-90s with shows like “Friday Night Poker Party” to help deepen my knowledge of the arcane, esoteric and probably-shoulda-been forgotten tunes, many of which made it into the box of 45s I carted with me to the Northrup King building.
How did it go over? Like gangbusters, baby! You would’ve thought we’d dug up a Model T Ford and started driving it down 35W. The art-revelers of a certain age were taken almost literally aback to see actual records played on actual turntables by actual human beings. They helped themselves to the 45 box to browse through vinyl they clearly had not handled in a very long time.
Even during this new Jack White-driven renaissance, spinning records and digging for the best copies of the best songs can feel intentionally anachronistic. To be honest, the gig could’ve been easily pulled off by plugging a smart phone with Spotify into a cube speaker and saved my back a lot of grief, but being able to interact with the people who truly lived with this stuff the first time around and relate to each other over such a physical, visceral format is something no sound card can ever truly reproduce.
It’s important to remember that the 45 was conceived as a fairly disposable medium for delivering popular music on the cheap. These things were made to be loaded up on an automatic turntable, plunked on top of each other and generally abused until you were sick of the song or had worn down your copy to where you needed to buy another one. That we are able to bring this sort of ephemera back out into the world and let the grooves command the party again is almost miraculous. We will never congregate around hard drives and bits in the same way 40 years from now.