We recently read Carole King’s memoirs, and as with many recollections of the golden age of rock and roll, she recounts her early experience discovering music through 45rpm singles. People often describe hearing these songs as tiny little symphonies.
In the liner notes to REM’s b-side compilation, Dead Letter Office, Peter Buck describes writes about why he preferred 45s to albums, concluding that “the things I like best about singles is their ultimate shoddiness. No matter how lavish that package, no matter what attention to detail, a 45 is still essentially a piece of crap usually purchased by teenagers.”
Some five year’s later Superchunk’s Mac McCaughan offered a warmer view of the single. “What can you do in three and a half minutes that will make us get up and put the needle in the grove time and again?” he asked. “The single must be a distillation of one’s powers, the most exciting slice of noise a person an cram between the lip of the disc and the edge of the label.”
We’ve mused about these different views of the 45rpm single before. Dead Letter Office turned thirty this year, but it collection of oddities is still evidence of the treasures to be found on the flip side of forgotten 45s, and Superchunk’s Tossing Seeds, presents the sea change due to overturn rock and roll a few years after its release in 1991. Both bands were exception purveyors of the magic potential of the sounds to be found in the inch or so of grooves on those seven-inch discs.
Here is a single from 1964 which has so many of these qualities — the tiny symphony grandeur and the shoddiness, and ultimately three and a half minutes (nearly) of magic. The label, Tuff Records, was commandeered by Abner Spector, a songwriter who had been earlier recorded by the likes of Peggy Lee, Billy Eckstine and Sammy Davis Jr. After briefly working at Chess Records in Chicago, Spector — who is of no relation to famed producer turned murderer Phil Spector — moved to New York to launch is own label, landing a hit with “Sally Go ‘Round the Roses” recorded by the Jaynetts.
Vernell Hill was a member of the Jaynetts, who are remembered as a one-hit-wonder for the song, although they did record a couple additional singles as well as some songs to fill out an LP in the hodgepodge fashion of the day. Hill was credited on that LP as Ethel Davis and appeared on the cover, but the additional Jaynetts recordings were sung by a revolving lineup.
Hill’s only single, “Long Haired Daddy,” was released in 1964. It was reissued by Roulette Records, and remains largely a lesser-known relic of the era ready to be rediscovered.