Unsafe at Any Speed
The Albuquerque Wax Museum
By Captain America
"Seven inches of pleasure/Seven inches going home."
—Grace Slick, Across the Board: 1973
Call me an elitist bitch (it's been done), a techno snob (probably) or a digital-fearing Luddite (for sure), but there's nothing like the sound, feel and package of the seven-inch vinyl record.
As youngsters, we called 'em 45s, the RPM speed at which they were played. In the past decade and a half, they might also be 33s (more grooves, more playtime, same amount of space), or both, one speed for either side; some even purposely mislabeled to laugh at the Maximum Rock and Roll review hacks who couldn't tell the difference.
My prized stack of Albuquerque seven-inchers from the '90s are of a time when shipping tapes off to be pressed to vinyl was more accessible than burning your own CDs. Many of the sleeves are smudgy photocopies since PCs weren't as common as marking pens and scissors. "Cut and paste" was literal.
The vinyl was your basic black, but a few clear blues, blood-rich reds and eye-popping oranges made the collector geek stuff them into protective poly sleeves. I wince to see DJs scratch the needle all across the grooves since I was taught by my big brother to clean my records before and after each listen, and never touch them except by the edges--damn it!--but I'll always play them, treasuring each needle-dig into the grooves, lowering the play life by one more time.
The labels that released these lo-fi locals include many not seen since, one or two still around, others passed into local legend—if anyone can remember above the unruly din represented.
Some names pop up enough in the thank-you's to be repeated here: Mike Bobroff, Bob Tower, Joe Anderson, Chris Parsons, Ryan Martino and (RIP) Brian Angel.
Heavyweight labels, relatively speaking, like Science Project released records by Starsky, Word Salad, Scared of Chaka, Bring Back Dad, Treadmill and the Golden Showers, or Resin with Elephant, All You Can Eat, The Drags and Flake (the last is pre-Shins, one you could send your kids to college with on eBay).
Pocket Protector presented the Honeys, Blastoff, the Rondelles; Discos Yucky Bus offered the Hellcats, the Chinese Love Beads and the Pet Peeves.
Still others existed for less than a handful of releases or maybe just one: PKR with the Eyeliners' first as Psychodrama, Flamingo for the great Luxo Champ, No Potential with a Smug/Fuck Taco Bell split, American Low Fidelity Recordings, the Jonnycats.
Who could forget Dogshit Records with the equally unsavory combo Feltch, Shunt and Fractured? Diabolik, Yule Log and Church Triumphant seemed to exist for each new record by the amorphous Anchorman/Jal Lure/Pavo/Roman Candle Choir continuum. And Second Grade for anything connected with the ubiquitous Second Grade Ray's poppunk projects.
Today the seven-inch label tradition continues with Dirt Culture in Las Cruces, Vinyl Countdown just blasting off and Little Kiss set to spring one by the Shine Cherries and Nels Andrews on us in very few weeks.
Keep your ones and zeros. I'm down for analog and RPMs.
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