The Mysterious Allure of the 45 RPM... (A Story By Kevin Beacham)

September 21, 2012 5 min read

 I'm DJing tonight at Ginger Hop in NE. I'll be playing a wealth of music, including some 45s... DETAILS


The first record I ever got was a 45 RPM of Carl Douglas “Kung Fu Fighting”, at the height of its popularity. It was my favorite song at the time, so for my 4th B-day my parents got me the record. My family always had vinyl around, so a 45 was not specifically more exciting than an LP to me. In fact, I can admit that I don’t even think the idea of vinyl was particularly fascinating to me. I had always been more intrigued by the music. I’ll take it in any format that I can. That was my science back as a child when I was begging my parents for records or scheming to dub peoples tapes. Ultimately, it is my same philosophy now when I’m digging thru old stacks of vinyl at any random spot or straining my eyes for hours clicking thru endless pages of blogs D/L-ing elusive and unknown treasures from the past.

However, somewhere along the path vinyl did shift to become a preferred method for hearing music. It’s likely that credit should be given to Hip Hop. The act of touching the music and controlling it, even slightly, as a DJ created a unique bond with the medium. Even further, when I got my first true sampling drum machine, a SP-12, in 1990, I went straight for my Parents vinyl collection. I didn’t have anyone around to teach me any so-called producer ethics, but I had a basic understanding that the sounds in my favorite Hip Hop beats were coming from music I recognized from my parents collection. I loved skipping that needle across an LP searching for a special moment.  I would become giddy when I discovered things that I heard before courtesy of Marley Marl, Ced Gee, DJ Mark The 45 King, DJ Pooh, Paul C, Prince Paul, Howie Tee, Bomb Squad, or Hurby Luv Bug. But, the true excitement came when finding something that I couldn’t believe no one else had used...few moments later I’d be truncating.

All that in mind, I found myself spending years focusing on the LPs, but I had the 45s there too, all stacked up in various corners, closets or whatnot. Every once in a while I would go thru a handful of them if I was looking for a particular sound if was drawing a blank on finishing a track. The 45s were the back up…like the time I found the nice flute on a David Ruffin 45 that perfectly finished an otherwise incomplete beat.

By the time the 90s were winding down, so were my days as a “Producer”. Needing something else to do with that extra time of not making beats, one day I just looked around and was like, “Whoa, I have a lot of records…” Ha, I hadn’t really thought about it. I just was buying them for listening pleasure.  Starting my Time Travel radio show in 1995 had also accelerated my purchasing passion. I decided maybe it was time to give this DJ thing a real shot.

I always liked to play what I felt was being overlooked, so in my search to find those songs I went meticulously thru my collection. I was stunned to find that some of my most rare selections were right there in my stacks of 45s and had been in my possession for…well, ultimately my whole life. Then I started revisiting all those record shops I had visited for years, but never explored their 45s and lo and behold there were some amazing gems that I walked right past for years and years. On top of that, the 45s were always super cheap, as this was slightly pre-Brainfreeze with DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist, which I generally recognize as the initiation for the 45 craze that started to drive prices up.

My attempts at DJing were less than fruitful in Chicago ak.a the gigs were not pouring in. When I did spin, only a few people seemed surprised when I pulled the 45s out. However, a few years later I moved to Minneapolis and during my packing of records I pulled aside a bunch of 45s that I needed to listen to and figured that would be a great project for when I got to my new place. The great hospitality of the Twin Cities had me getting offered more DJ gigs in my first couple months here than I did in about a year, maybe two, in Chicago. I was mostly doing short guest spots at first, so I decided that was a perfect time to test out these 45s. They were very portable so I didn’t have heavy crates to worry about. The songs were short so I would be forced to play more music in less time. It was really about the convenience and the challenge to myself, but without even planning, it became a thing. I started getting recognized as the “45 man” or when I would show up people would ask, “Did you bring the little records?” Sometimes the people booking me even requested it. That provided some extra encouragement to continue to dig for the 45s.

Over the last couple years I have started slowing in my DJ outings and in turn, I had slowed in my 45 searches. I do the music ordering for Fifth Element and I have seen a significant increase in 45s and I always buy a few for the store and they always look very intriguing, but I rarely get around to listening to them. On top of that, they are not the easiest to market. They asy to pass by and they hide without even trying. It’s really a thing for people who are in the know, so to speak. Today, in honor of my DJing tonight at Ginger Hop and picking up a few other gigs, I decided to flip thru some newer 45s downstairs and I blew my own mind with some things that I now have to empty my wallet for. The search is reignited and so continues…

Some favorites that caught my attention today in the Fifth Element Crates:

-Khethi-Rainbow b/w Umqumbothi(African vibes with a reggae feel)

-Mucca Pazza: I don’t even know how to describe this. It’s instrumental and soulful with a touch of latin… Another great Electric Cowbell     release.

-IOU “Chill Out”:Great 80s Electro Vocoder type jam!

-Jungle Fire “Comencemos” b/w “Tokuta”: All I will say is throw it on and make some space…B-boys/girls will likely appear from thin air!

-Del “Catch A Body”:nice funk joint that sounds like “I Wish My Brother George Was Here” 2012…on purple vinyl

-MelloMusicGroup: Besides just killing it non-stop with great music, they also have a great 7” series going on. Today I listened to the Has-Lo, yU, and Gensu Dean (featuring Homeboy Sandmand & 7even Thirty)…I need them all…

-Flickk “Want You On The D Floor”: Funky 80s disco in effect!

-DJ Format “Marisco”: One Part 80s/One Part 90s and all-around funky! Featuring Saint and Emskee. On clear blue vinyl

-Trinity “Sunshine”: collaborate project from Sadat X, A.G., and DJ Jab, produced by J Dilla!

I still need to commit to buying the “Ric & Ron Records Rare and Unreleased Recordings 1958-1962” Boxset and the “Never To Be Forgotten: The Flip Side Of Stax 1968-1974” Box Set, both sound pretty bonkers….

That’s just what I grabbed in a quick flip thru. There are many hidden gems. Don’t believe me? PEEP THE 45s!

Written By Kevin Beacham, now I'm off to dig for more records for tonight's set...

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