by Jennifer Hudak
My husband and I bought a record player last year. All of our childhood favorites are represented in our collection of LPs — the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd for him, Peter Gabriel and Duran Duran for me. But, as in most cases when the present attempts to recapture the past, things aren't quite the same as they used to be. I didn't actually own a lot of LPs when I was young. Mainly what I owned were 45s: shuffled and traded with friends, spread across my floor or lined up on my bookcase. My kids never tire of hearing me explain how I listened to one song at a time, carefully re-sleeving and switching discs between tunes. (Haha, just kidding — they're totally sick of the whole conversation.)
I've been thinking about 45s a lot, because this summer I turn 45 years old. This seems like a significant age to me, and it's made me spend many nostalgic moments pining not only for the music of my youth, but also for the ritual of the 7-inch single: the paper sleeve with its album artwork in miniature, the smell of the vinyl, the satisfaction of snapping a yellow insert into the large hole in the center of the disc.
These were the 45s that spent the most time on my turntable when I was a kid. When you click on the videos, pause for a moment before each song begins, and imagine the soft pops and hisses that emanate from the speaker when needle touches vinyl.
"Call Me" by Blondie
"Call Me" was the first 45 I owned. I was 9 years old when I won it at my brother's bar mitzvah, probably for the limbo contest. This single lived on my record player for months, even though I giggled every time Blondie sang in Italian and French ("the languages of love"). I'd even occasionally flip it over and listen to the instrumental version on the B-side.
"The Warrior" by Scandal (featuring Patty Smyth)
This song made me feel powerful at a time when I was at my most awkward and insecure. I loved Patty Smyth's voice: a bit raw and ragged, but still strong and defiant. And then there was Patty Smyth herself on the sleeve, with her hair spiked up, and red and blue flame makeup on one side of her face. The amazing video, which I watched on MTV, was just the icing on the cake.
"Strut" by Sheena Easton
Another record that I won at a bar mitzvah (I was really, really good at the limbo). At the time I had no idea that I was listening to a feminist anthem ("I won't be your baby doll..."). I loved the funky drum beat, and I dreamed that someday I'd look as beautiful as Sheena Easton did on the sleeve of the record, with her dramatic makeup and her artfully distressed clothing.
Read more: I'm Still Listening to Prince and Now He's Starting to Tell Me Things
"Leave It" by Yes
One of my best friends absolutely hated this song, and I absolutely loved it. She somehow wound up with a copy, so I traded her for it. To this day I can't remember what 45 I gave her in return, but whatever it was, it was worth it. There's a tinny quality to this song that sounded absolutely perfect on the small speakers of my record player.
"Let's Go Crazy" by Prince
The B-side to this 45 was "Erotic City," which was wildly inappropriate even for a girl such as myself who knew all the words to "Darling Nikki." Such was my love for the song "Let's Go Crazy," however, that I rarely turned the single over, and thus my 13-year-old self never realized how explicit the lyrics to "Erotic City" really were.
"Glory of Love" by Peter Cetera
Because KARATE KID PART II, DUH! Oh, Daniel LaRusso, I will always love you. Seriously, watch the video. It will give you all the feels.
Bonus: "On the Line" by Peter Cetera (B-side to "Glory of Love")
I wasn't a real B-side girl (see "Let's Go Crazy" above) but for some reason I adored the flip side to "Glory of Love." I played this song until the record scratched, at which point I freaked out and realized I should transfer the song to cassette pronto. I accomplished this by pushing my tape deck next to the record player, pressing the record button once the disc started spinning, and deftly moving the needle at the skip. It worked almost flawlessly, except for the fact that my parakeet, Poncho, wouldn't shut the hell up during the whole process. To this day, when I hear the song, it doesn't sound right without a skip at 1:40 and lots of chirping in the background.
My old 45s are long gone, victims of The Great Record Purge that occurred once I learned how to tape songs off of the radio. And even though I miss them, I'll probably stick to LPs this time around. Changing the record every three-and-a-half minutes was fine when I was 13, but who has the time these days? Instead, on my 45th birthday I'll put my '80s mix on shuffle, and toast to great years — and great music — ahead.
Jennifer Hudak is a writer and yoga teacher who lives in upstate New York. Her personal essays, creative nonfiction, and fiction can be found in TueNight, Literary Mama, and HYPERtext, and she's currently working on her first novel. She tweets as @writerunyoga.