The 45 Turns 75

Some of you probably remember when your music came on vinyl discs. You brought your purchase home from the record store, placed the record on a turntable and dropped a needle into the grooves embedded in it. As the record spun, the needle, attached to a mechanical arm, transferred the vibrations in the groove to speakers.

Compact discs, storing sound electronically, replaced vinyl records. CDs, in turn, were soon made obsolete by the Internet. You now download the digital ones and zeroes, and play back the music from a smartphone.

What goes around comes around. Vinyl records have made a resurgence. They outsold CDs in 2023, the second time since 1987. Audiophiles claim they deliver better sound, warm and round compared to the cold sterility of digitized recordings.

The first sound recordings, developed by Thomas Edison in the 1870s, came on wax cylinders. These were too fragile for extended playing, though. Edison continued tinkering with the format, but others developed what we recognize as the disc record. By the 1900s, a shellac disc — very brittle — spinning at 78 revolutions per minute became the standard. A record ten inches in diameter could hold three minutes of sound per side; a twelve-inch disc, up to five minutes.

RCA Victor introduced the 45-rpm record in 1949. The seven-inch disc, with an inch-and-a-half hole in the center, carried one song per side. Arch rival CBS/Columbia Records introduced the long-playing record at about the same time. At 33 ⅓ rpm and twelve inch diameter, the LP could hold twenty minutes of sound. The LP was the medium for serious music for grown-ups.

Durable, easy to carry and easy to distribute to disc jockeys and inexpensive enough for a teenager’s allowance, the 45 became the vehicle for the rock-and-roll explosion. Portable 45-rpm record players made it easy for teens to share and enjoy their own music.

If you want to go down this particular rabbit hole, you can search for artist, title, label and year for most 45-rpm records released — they weren’t “dropped” in those days — from 1949 to 1989.

Non-Binary Potato Head

The toy formerly known as Mr. Potato Head is the latest outrage for so-called conservatives who always look for the latest affront to keep their apoplexy level up. When Hasbro, Inc. announced that after nearly seventy years they were dropping the honorific “Mr.” and “Mrs.” from their venerable toy’s name, Fox News took the story as another example of liberal cancel culture.

Mr. Potato Head was born in controversy.

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Nap Time

In my college days, decades ago, I was a regular napper. Usually in the afternoon, before dinnertime. Or if there was a break after an early-morning class following late-night socializing. My sleep patterns were more irregular and bed time—often after midnight—was generally later than now. The only consistency was sleeping until late on a Saturday or Sunday morning.

It’s good to learn that my erratic sleep habits, well, the afternoon nap anyway, were beneficial to good health. Recent research concludes that a regular afternoon nap helps mental agility, memory and verbal fluency in adults.

  • Studies show that a “power nap” of ten-to-twenty minutes is the most beneficial. This provides restorative sleep without drowsiness after waking.
  • Nap early in the afternoon. A late nap may be counterproductive, affecting your ability to sleep during the night.
  • Try to let go of stressful thoughts. Instead, reflect on why you’re napping.

Keep in mind that all these good things result from an afternoon refresher snooze of twenty minutes or so. Napping for an hour or more will likely leave one groggy for a while after awakening. So set your alarm if you need to.

Coping with sheltering-at-home or quarantine by trying to sleep the day away likely makes things worse and may result in difficulty sleeping at night. Long naps have been linked to increased susceptibilities to diabetes, heart disease and depression in older adults.

As with many things, a little is good; a lot, not so good.

Nat “King” Cole – TV Pioneer

The Nat King Cole Show premiered November 5, 1956 on the NBC television network. Cole’s popularity as a singer—he had sold millions of records—would have seemed to assure success as host of the eponymous variety show.

The fifteen-minute variety show, later expanded to a half hour, featured the suave and personable Cole hosting A-list guests such as Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Sammy Davis Jr. and Harry Belafonte. Nat Cole himself had performed on The Ed Sullivan Show, Cavalcade of Stars, and other popular TV variety programs.

Cole’s was the first nationally-broadcast program hosted by an African American. The Nat King Cole Show was canceled after thirteen months, unable to attract a national sponsor.

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Laying Siege to the Capitol

Veterans of American Expeditionary Forces in the First World War (known simply as the Great War until we had the Second World War) were promised a bonus. Such bonuses were instituted in the Revolutionary War, when soldiers were given additional compensation of money and land. (The tradition goes at least as far back as Roman times.) Its purpose was to make up some of the difference between a soldier’s military pay and what he may have been earning at a civilian job.

WWI veterans were given a paltry $60. The American Legion, formed in 1919, led the movement for an additional bonus.

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Take the Money When You Can

Bob Dylan has sold his songwriting portfolio for somewhere in the neighborhood of $300, maybe $400, million. That means that whenever “Like a Rolling Stone”, “Blowin’ in the Wind” or any of six hundred other Dylan songs is sold, streamed, played on the radio or used in a commercial, the songwriting royalty payment will go to the Universal Music Publishing Group, not Bob Dylan. This includes songs covered by other artists, such as “Mr. Tambourine Man” by The Byrds or Jimi Hendrix’s version of “All Along the Watchtower.”

Could it be that Mr. Dylan, now seventy-nine years old, decided it was time to take the money? With nobody buying CDs or records any more, and no live performances in this era of COVID 19, and Spotify and other streaming services paying infinitesimal royalties, an upfront lump-sum payment is the reverse-mortgage of the music business.

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