The Ron Kane Files

Writing About Music

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

12" Singles

11-5-08 12” Singles

From reader Jim D: “12" singles/remixes. What's your history with them? I was baffled by the first import 12" singles I saw.”

I think the first one I ever actually saw / heard of was by the Salsoul Orchestra, in the mid-70’s. “This type of music does not apply to my experience”, I remember thinking. Who the hell wants a 12” single when you can have an LP or a 7” single? Oh, it’s a DJ thing – easier ‘handling’ for a DJ? Whatever. Still doesn’t apply to me.

I think the first one I ever got was “Slow Down” by John Miles – from his brilliant “Stranger In The City” LP. I do not remember how / why I ‘tried’ it. I remember slapping it on and – BOOM – dang, it was loud! Uh, no cover art – just a generic “London Records Disco 12” Single” sleeve. Yeah, whatever.

I was working at a record distributor from 1978 onwards. It was the time that I started seeing promo 12” singles – “We really want you to try and hear this song!” type of stuff. Again, doesn’t apply to me. Uh, unless it’s a group that I like. By 1980, I was being offered 12” singles from England – at least these had cover art!

The best advantage of 12” singles from England – if the 7” had 2 songs, the 12” often had 3 songs. How long did I buy both 7” & 12” singles? By 1981, I think I started only getting the 12” single – Simple Minds comes to mind – “Sweat In Bullet”, perhaps. The 7” was a double-pack (4 songs), but the 12” was more convenient, sounded better etc. – and it still had all 4 songs!

I must’ve tried to decide which groups to collect – who do I want everything by? I continued to buy both 7” & 12” singles by The Stranglers, for instance. I would buy whatever I could find by Frank Zappa, Gruppo Sportivo etc.

I was always most taken with 12” singles that offered at least 2 or 3 non-LP tracks – never so much into a 12” that was ‘merely’ a “remix” – Remix? What the hell is that? Louder drums? Some silly ‘intro’? Boom boom boom – is it just about the beat?

Later, the game became “Get the 12” single! It has a B-side that didn’t make it to the CD!!!” How many of those can you name in 2008? Plenty, I bet. Non-CD/LP XTC, Stranglers etc. Oh, and 7” singles started having B-sides not on the 12”! Yikes!

As the 90’s approached, the 12” seemed to wane. I was only getting 12” singles by A Certain Ratio – a more dance-oriented group, I might add. It would be another decade before 12” singles made it to the ‘used’ bins, for $1-$3. Now I buy ‘em for the aesthetic value – and I still enjoy the B-sides, big sound, cover art etc. Complete the set! “I never saw this before!” etc.

So, humble 12” single – thank you for the many decades of loud entertainment.



Anonymous Jim Donato said...

Ron, Ron Ron. The 2x7" of "Sweat In Bullet" had a compelling live "Premonition" totally absent from the 12"! A song I consider their first "classic."

6:09 AM  
Anonymous Jim Donato said...

My take of a classic 12" single has a remixed, extended A-side. The same B-side as the 7" and a 2nd B-side only on 12 inch! When that was the status quo, I was fairly happy. I also dropped 7" unless I collected, or if the 7" had unique material. 7"ers are cute, but 12"ers are more substantial. And they sound a heck of a lot better without the spectre of groove cramming. When digitizing

When I first saw 12" singles, I mistook them for import LPs with different packaging! The stickers said "import." What's this? Ultravox "Vienna" in a different cover? I'm not sure if I should buy this. Wha... three tracks? Only $5? That was early '81. By late '81 I was all over this wonderful new format. Around the same time US 12" singles started to get their own section in the stores I frequented. These were much less interesting than imports, though I saw that they could often differ dramatically in terms of contents from UK pressings of the same singles - kind of interesting. And in the early days, the US mixes really were better. Oft times more adventurous than the UK remixes. But soon enough, all remixes went to hell when the trends in dance music turned away from my tastes! By the late 80s I got kind of sick of "house" mixes, which were never interesting to begin with! By the early 90s I could no longer reliably collect groups I had scads of releases from because I began to balk at what I was paying money for.

Some groups, like Pet Shop Boys, Depeche Mode or Erasure started releasing 2 CD singles around 1993. One with a moderate extended A-side and some non-LP b-sides, and one with foul DJ remixes that sucked! When I had to pick and choose what releases I was buying by groups I collected - it was a quick step to simply stop buying ANYTHING by these groups from whom I had previously collected EVERYTHING by. All or nothing, baby!

7:01 AM  

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