The end of the single

by Chris Bertram on August 1, 2003

I’m going to get a reputation as CT’s resident wistful nostalgic if I’m not careful (what with my posts on “real” sausages and what have you). Still I couldn’t help getting a Proustian rush on reading Paul Morley’s funeral oration for the single in today’s Guardian:

bq. The first single I ever bought was Ride a White Swan by T Rex. It was the first thing I had ever got for myself that wasn’t a toy or a comic. I was 13 years old and it was like buying a piece of magic. It was as if I could begin to understand what I was living for. I would slide the mysterious black disc out of its paper sleeve. I would put it with unlikely care on to a soft rubbery turntable. I would nervously drop the needle on to the edge of the disc and hear the tantalising crackle and pop that seemed to last an eternity before Marc Bolan, as if from space, as if for me only, began singing his electric folk song that seemed to be all about swans, sex and the strangeness and tender brilliance of being a teenager.



PG 08.01.03 at 7:37 pm

Albums are different too – broken up into collections of songs, the two-sided adventure replaced by meandering journeys that don’t suit pop.

At first I thought he really was missing vinyl, not the single, but apparently he really liked getting just the one perfect pop song.

This is really weird for a music critic; usually they make so much of the full-length album, the concept, the journey, the shifts of tone and meaning. I think this is the first time I’ve read praise of singles over albums.
Seems like singles are normally despised as overly commercial, necessarily abbreviated by the demands of radio.


clew 08.01.03 at 7:49 pm

What odd timing to announce the death of the single. Napsterism and the Apple music store are both single-friendly; indeed harddrive storage seems to me to make singles the only fundamental category.


Jeremy Osner 08.01.03 at 9:23 pm

Yeah it sounds to me like vinyl is what he is *really* missing — the tactile experience he describes is absent from a digital single (downloaded or on disk) — when I was a kid I lived on singles but would have bought albums happily if I had more money. My first was “I Love Rock n Roll” by Joan Jett and the Black Hearts — so sue me, I came of age in the eighties.


Realish 08.01.03 at 11:16 pm

The three vinyl singles that changed my young life:

Nena: “99 Red Balloons” (german version on the b-side)

Peter Schilling: “Major Tom” (german version on the b-side)

Duran Duran: “Reflex” (bad DD song on b-side)

That said, an earlier poster is right: the digitization of music has made the single song king, once and forever. Just no tactile experiences any more… but our kids won’t care.


pathos 08.02.03 at 2:08 am

I must be exactly the same age as realish, although my first two vinyl singles were “Puttin’ on the Ritz” by Taco and “Lawyers in Love” by Jackson Browne.

I can’t tell if I had bad taste in my pre-teen years, or just really eclectic with little access to variety.


dsquared 08.04.03 at 8:13 pm

“Pump up the Volume” by M/A/R/R/S, and another one that I am quite literally too embarrassed to mention.

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