Majors Celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the 45 Single With “Digital 45” Campaign

In what seems to be a gobsmackingly obvious move, the major labels in conjunction with digital music retailers like Zune Store, Amazon, Rhapsody and iTunes have announced “Digital 45s” on the 60th anniversary of the 7″ 45 record.

The big announcements are really in conjunction with Apple’s iTunes Store that they are calling “D45” and use that nifty logo pictured on the left. Digging through the press-releases shows that Warner Music Group is represented by Rhino which should represent the full compliment of WMG labels which includes Atlantic/Atco, Elektra/Asylum, Warner Brothers, Reprise and Sire– so this should bring a very wide and deep catalog and the first releases are already showing some promise.

EMI stepped up with a press-release as well although they don’t have a site dedicated to their Digital 45 initiative. EMI stable of labels include EMI, Apple, Capitol, Virgin, Blue Note, Manhattan– and interestingly, Caroline, Mute, Definitive Jux, and Astralwerks making for some potentially interesting releases.

The Concord Music group has titles released as well, but no press release. According to the Wikipedia article on  Concord, UMG handles the physical distribution of Concord, but I don’t think that would apply here. Concord includes Fantasy’s labels– Fantasy, Stax/Volt and a number of jazz labels (Riverside, Prestige). There is a Sam & Dave Digital 45 of “Soul Man,” I hope this means we see some interesting Creedence Clearwater Revival releases– they were on Fantasy. There has been a long-standing Stax/Volt Singles box set with b-sides, but these Digital 45s would allow someone to pick and choose if they released the whole Stax catalog.

SonyBMG have brought some Digital 45’s as well, but I couldn’t find a press release on it. SonyBMG is a significant collection of labels as well with Sony, Epic, Columbia, RCA, Arista and all of their associated spinoff labels. One of the first Digital 45’s is a Michael Jackson single for “Billie Jean” b/w “Can’t Get Out of the Rain.”

A quick review of the online retailers shows a pretty impressive participation– iTunes, Amazon.com, Zune Music Marketplace, Rhapsody mp3 store, but eMusic seems to be the lone holdout– or shut out. Sony just signed an agreement with eMusic to be able to sell older titles, but apparently this doesn’t extend to Digital 45s, yet.

Comparing the offerings between the retailers shows that mostly everyone is adopting the $1.49 for 2 tracks, with the individual tracks at standard pricing of $0.99. Zune Marketplace has the 2 tracks at $1.69, with individual tracks at $0.99. The Sony titles seem to be priced differently– “Billie Jean” 2-track is $1.99 with “Billie Jean” at $1.29 and the b-side at $0.99. Right now it looks like iTunes is the only retailer who has the SonyBMG titles. I’m not sure what the future holds about this situation, since all of the retailers have other SonyBMG titles.

All of that detail aside, there are some pretty cool titles available already and based on an interview with Rhino Marketing Veep David Dorn by Billboard, they will be releasing “bundles” of Digital 45’s monthly, so there will be many more to come!

Some releases of interest to me:

Prince and the Revolution- “Kiss” b/w “Love or Money” (Warner Brothers) This is a single I own in 7″. Interestingly this was a B-Side left off of the 1993 3 CD compilation The Hits/The B-Sides, so its existence here is welcomed.

INXS – “What You Need” b/w “Sweet As Sin” (ATCO) During their heyday, INXS used their b-sides to provide songs that were a bit more experimental. “Sweet As Sin” is a two-steppish country tune. Not a bad track, but certainly didn’t fit on Listen Like Thieves. One of my favorite b-sides from INXS from this period is the jazzy instrumental “Begotten” and the really out-there “I’m Coming (Home)” from the “I Need You Tonight” single.

Erasure – “A Little Respect” b/w “Like Zsa Zsa Zsa Gabor” (Warner Brothers) Another great bubbly dance track from Erasure. Could have easily been on  The Innocents, really.

The Cure – “Just Like Heaven” b/w “Breathe” (Elektra) The Cure is a veritable treasure trove of b-sides. This is most evidenced by the amazing 2004 Rhino/Fiction box set Join the Dots : B-sides and Rarities, 1978-2001. I had this on cassette single. According to one of the reviewers on iTunes, the “Just Like Heaven” mix is the mix by Bob Clearmountain used in the video.

Steve Martin and the Toot Uncommons – “King Tut” b/w “Hoedown At Alice’s” (Warner Brothers) I have this 7″– in fact you can see it in the header picture on this blog. With Martin’s new 5-string banjo album The Crow out, it makes sense for this b-side to show up as it is a banjo workout by Martin.

The Cars – “Let’s Go” b/w “That’s It” (Elektra) The lead single from Candy-O in 1979 had the non-LP track “That’s It” with Benjamin Orr on lead. This track was included in the 1995 Just What I Needed : Cars Anthology.

What I would like to see for singles (which is really about the b-sides)

INXS – “Listen Like Thieves” b/w “Begotten” (Elektra) I mentioned this one above.

Terence Trent D’Arby – “Sign Your Name” b/w “Greasy Chicken (Sony) My brother Steve was a big fan of TTD when Introducing the Hardline came out. He had the cassette single to “Sign Your Name” with the really funky workout “Greasy Chicken” as the b-side.

Bruce Springsteen – “One Step Up” b/w “Roulette” (Columbia) The Boss is pretty famous for having some really great songs “in the can” that eventually showed up as b-sides to singles or elsewhere. “Roulette” is a great example of this. Recorded in the Spring of 1980, it is a galloping song about nuclear holocost that just never made it to an album. This song eventually showed up on the very cool Tracks boxset. In fact, you can download it now from Amazon.com and other places.

Men At Work – “Who Can It Be Now” b/w “Anyone For Tennis” (Columbia) Another favorite around the house. My brother had this 7″ and played the b-side all the time. For some reason Sony Legacy omitted this song from the bonus b-sides appended to their 2003 remaster. “Anyone For Tennis” is a quick-tempo slightly ska-ish track demonstrates how much Men at Work owed the Police.

The Rolling Stones – “It’s Only Rock ‘N Roll (But I Like It)” b/w “Through The Lonely Nights” (Rolling Stones Records) When you’re a kid and your mom picks up records for you– you play the crap out of them. In my mind the flip side of the rocker “It’s Only Rock N’ Roll” is as notable as the A side. “Through The Lonely Nights” is a slinky, almost funky country rocker. Mick does his best American drawl. An absolutely gorgeous classic and largely ignored. This song was resurrected in a 2005 remaster done for a Starbucks compilation that is now out-of-print called Rarities 1971-2003. Really, I think that a box set of singles similar to the Singles Collection : London Years should be done for the post 1971 period.

Prince – All of the Warner singles! While it’s true that the 3 CD version of The Hits/The B-Sides is relatively available, they don’t seem to be available for digital download! So, this would be an inventive way to remedy this! Plus, there are still songs that didn’t make that 3rd disc– “Alexa de Paris” for one. In fact, maybe it’s time to reissue the Prince protegee bands’ singles as well!

Click Here for Rhino Records’ Digital 45 Page

Click Here for the press release from EMI which lists the initial singles they will be releasing.

B-Sides in the Bins #48 – Best Buy & Half Price Books – Cedar Rapids 5/19/09

I was at Best Buy for the release of the Iron and Wine collection of rare and b-sides called Around the Well.  I had a $15 Reward Zone certificate. But, since the 2 CD release was $9.99 I needed to buy something else to bring it over the $15. I picked up Woman King by the Iron and Wine as well which was $7.99.  Ever since I picked up the live Iron and Wine Record Store Day release, I’ve been trying to get caught up with Mr. Beam.

Since I was on that side of town anyway, I stopped in to Half Price Books to see if anything interesting was in the bins.

BestBuy Purchases:

Around the Well – Iron and Wine (2 CD, SubPop SPCD 808, 2009) ($9.99) Great collection and replaces the need to try to track down all of the singles, soundtracks (The “Twilight” soundtrack… “In Good Company”… yikes) as well as the iTunes Exclusives, which have now been pulled down, presumably because of this release. Lots of great songs on here– Sam Beam is so prolific that even his b-sides are quality tracks.

Woman King EP – Iron and Wine (CD, SubPop SPCD 665, 2005)($7.99) This is probably my favorite release next to 2007’s The Shepherd’s Dog. Every song on here is a keeper.  Jim Becker from Califone is on this release which helps fill out the sound of the band.

Half Price Books Purchases:

The Bumper Crop – Pell Mell (LP, SST 158, 1987)($2.98) Holy crap! Certainly wasn’t expecting this in the bins. A corner-cut cut out. The bad cut job also caused a tear in the cover. You might know me in my other internet job as the guy who runs the official Pell Mell website so I collect things Pell Mell. The work for this album started in 1982 after the remaining members of Pell Mell moved to Berkeley, CA following the tour for their debut EP Rhyming Guitars. The songs for this release came from some outtakes recorded for the EP and some new material with new members Greg Freeman and Steve Fisk. This trio of Fisk, Freeman and Bob Beerman would form the basis for the remainder of Pell Mell’s career which ended after their 1997 album Star City. Pell Mell was influenced by the instrumental rock bands of the sixties and a lot of the instrumental rock bands around today (El Ten Eleven, The Six Parts Seven come to mind) owe Pell Mell for blazing the trail for them.

(self titled) – The Cars (LP, Elektra/Asylum 6E-135, 1978)($2.98)

Candy-O – The Cars (LP, Elektra/Asylum 5E-507, 1979)($2.98)

Panorama – The Cars (LP, Elektra/Asylum 5E-514, 1980)($2.98)

Shake It Up – The Cars (LP, Elektra/Asylum 5E-567, 1981($2.98)

Heartbeat City – The Cars (LP, Elektra/Asylum/Nonesuch ST-E-60296-1, 1984)($2.98) This was a pretty impressive haul! Someone dumped their Cars collection apparently. All of the records were in  fantastic shape with little to no cover wear. All inner sleeves were intact and the vinyl was pristine! There was actually two copies of Heartbeat City there, so I picked the best-looking one. The copy of Heartbeat City that was around my house when it came out was a cassette. The vinyl version was a very nice gatefold sleeve. The only records that were missing were the Greatest Hits and their last record Door to Door.

We also had Candy-O on cassette at the house.  With its combination of pop and New Wave sensibilities coupled with the Alberto Vargas pinup cover it was an intriquing album. That was their second album, and  it had the big singles “Let’s Go” and “It’s All I Can Do.” It seemed that the Cars were all over the radio and movie soundtracks. Some of the big hits from The Cars are still some of the great pop songs of all time. This selection of albums represents the peak of The Cars creative output. Just looking at the track list from 1985’s Greatest Hits album proves it: “Just What I Needed,” “My Best Friend’s Girl,” “Good Times Roll”– all from The Cars; “Let’s Go” from Candy-O; “Touch and Go” from Panorama, “Since You’re Gone” and “Shake It Up” from Shake It Up; and “You Might Think,” “Drive,” “Heartbeat City” and “Magic” from Heartbeat City. Quite a run of singles!

Out of these, however, Panorama is probably the one that faired the worst. It only had one single– it was considered The Cars’ “experimental” album. I picked up an 8-Track version in some cutout bin a long time ago and listened to it maybe one time and dismissed it. I think that I’ll give it a fair shake now to see what I think.

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