Happy 67th Birthday, 7-Inch Single!

In the years after WWII, the recording industry knew that after almost fifty years, it was time to move beyond the 1o-inch 78 RPM single. Columbia, one of the industry’s behemoths, bet the farm on something they called “the long-playing album”–the LP–a 12-inch slab of vinyl that, while rotating at 33-and-a-third revolutions per minute, could store up to about 22 minutes of music per side. The secret sauce was a new substance first created in the 1920s called polyvinyl chloride. It was much tougher than the shellac compounds used for 78s and allowed for much tinier and much more tightly-packed grooves, hence the formats greater capacity.

Columbia offered to license the new technology to other labels, including their arch-rival, RCA. But David Sarnoff, the company’s head, refused to kowtow to the competition, especially after he learned that RCA had been experimenting with a similar format in the 1930s but let the patents lapse. His response was to order RCA’s R&D department to come up with its own format. The result was the 7-inch 45 RPM single, complete with its one-and-a-half-inch hole in the centre.

That new format was first unveiled to the public on January 19, 1949. Come back with me to that day.

This was the first 45-only turntable manufactured by RCA.

Was this the first 45 ever released?

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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