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Record reflections as vinyl reaches its 75th anniversary

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

It’s 75 years ago this June that a small seven-inch or twelve-inch piece of black plastic, timed to rotate 45 or 33 revolutions in a minute, changed the world of popular music forever – because of June 21 1958, Columbia Records released the first ever vinyl record.

That means nothing to those born in the download and streaming era, but there was a time when the release of a new single in particular was a spectacular thing – and a time when the weekly charts were announced with the excitement of a new Pope.

We all remember the first single we ever bought even if, in hindsight, it wasn’t exactly cutting-edge rock ‘n’ roll. Mine was John Paul Young’s Love is in the Air way back in 1978, a man I haven’t seen or heard of since.

For a few years, vinyl looked to be going the way of the dinosaur and the dodo, but albums have made a comeback to ensure a new lease of life for the physical act of putting on your music as opposed to tuning in on your phone.

The single, however, won’t be coming around again because it’s too expensive to make and therefore too dear to buy.

The Beatles released a double-A-sided single from the depths of time last year – the newly unearthed Now and Then coupled with a previously unreleased version of Love Me Do – but at around €18 a pop, this was one for the dedicated fan only.

The biggest selling single of all time was, not surprisingly, Bing Crosby’s White Christmas which has sold over 50 million copies since it was first released in 1942. But those are recurring sales.

Elton John’s double-A-sided single Something About the Way Your Look Tonight and Candle in the Wind 1997 (reworked after the death of Diana) sold 33 million singles; 1.55 million copies in its first week alone and indeed 658,000 on the first day of release, September 13 1997.

These days success in the charts is determined by a combination of physical and digital sales or streams, but an average of 30,000 sales will get you to the top of the UK charts and as few as 13,000 will break the top ten. As little as 2,500 will get you into the top 40.

 

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