Slinging Singles

Vinyl might be a dead configuration, but nobody bothered to tell the rock and rollers that

Before local plate-breaking rockers Load, managed by savvy biz veteran Bob Slade, set out for their summer tour a few weeks ago, they released a seven-inch of songs ("Does Dead Godflesh Smell?" backed with "Barbara's Bush" and "Trying to Use") culled from their full-length cassette Hellraiser Sessions. "We had to have something," Slade notes, "to send to radio and get advance word out to the places the band was playing. We had the tape, but a single's a great way to do that. They can hold it in their hands and see the band's serious about the release." What's more, Slade says, is that in some musical cliques, singles never went out of fashion. "They've always been strong in punk," he explains. "A band can put three songs on a seven-inch, and even do a 33 rpm seven-inch. And punk kids like to buy, say, ten singles and dub them all onto one cassette for their car or their box or whatever."

"Yeah, a lot of people do that," agrees Bernstein. "Vinyl might be only two percent of the market, but in certain genres, say California new hard core, the releases are primarily singles. I mean, with Lionel Richie or Whitney Houston you're not going to pick up a lot of singles. Oh yeah, and there's the emotional attachment. I buy CDs now, but when I look through my collection, what gives me that feeling in the pit of the stomach is usually on a single."

Oh yeah, that emotional attachment. There was a time period during which Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band -- who didn't really exist until the "Dancing in the Dark" single came out on May 15, 1984 -- released a series of seven-inchers whose non-LP B sides comprised a stronger set of songs than the group collected for albums such as Tunnel of Love. (With picture sleeves to boot.) Turn over the single of "Born in the U.S.A." and you'll find a haunting, war-torn ballad called "Shut Out the Light." Flip "Brilliant Disguise" and there's the faithful-to-himself Brucer "Lucky Man" (not to be confused with Lucky Town). Behind "Cover Me" was the first cover song (apart from his Mitch Ryder medley on the No Nukes compilation) made public by B.S. -- Tom Waits's "Jersey Girl." Buy the solo of "Fade Away" and you get the excellent nostalgia rave-up "Be True." Et cetera.

And whose life would be complete without owning a copy of the five-song, 33 rpm, 1982 seven-inch "Don't Sweat the Petty Things..." by SoFlo's own Spanish Dogs, members of which went on to become Rooster Head? Or, for that matter, the masterful scorch of the

"Turn Off Your Radio" and "I Don't Get"/"Johnny" and "It's Essential" single by the Essentials, alums of which formed the Chant. Or Psychic Fair's three-cut Dedicated 45, featuring the legendary Charlie Pickett....

Some bands clearly see the single as an opportunity to have some fun outside of the wax itself. CD J-cards and cassette wraparounds don't get it, and anyone with a conscience avoids CD longboxes. But a single -- cheap as a common demo to produce -- allows the always creative Screaming Iguanas of Love to put out "Nitro Burning Funny Cars" (with two non-LP B sides) on green vinyl and offer it only to fans (at live shows and through mail order). San Fran's F-Boyz (formerly based here) stuff their single package with those collectible RockCards -- it's a joke, son -- and a lyric sheet and some weird oriental writing and a sleeve that depicts a wheelchair-bound guy with earphones on and a sizable python about to enter his mouth. The record's had time to play through twice before you're done scoping the detritus that comes with.

And while local act Madonna put out a regular ol' seven-inch of "Like a Prayer" for no good discernible reason three years ago, the Genitorturers recently displayed something truly provocative, something that might even make Ms. Ciccone blush, when they slabbed "House of Shame" and "Jackin' Man" b/w "River's Edge" and "Strip the Flesh" on a lavender seven-inch cloaked in two fold-out sleeves, one of which shows a lovely snapshot of frontperson Gen -- who looks a bit like Madonna -- stretching and mashing her right nipple with forceps while simultaneously poking the fleshy point with a sharp stick.

It's reasonable to assume that Love Camp 7 had something above their shoulders -- nothing personal, Madonna -- when they decided to issue "King Sex" b/w "& Sour Old Men" on peach-color vinyl with picture sleeve.

Singles trackers can find a revolution per minute. Go back a few years to when Little Steven left the E Street Band. Though he created and got distributed three of the great all-time rock albums, he managed to sell only three copies of each. Probably more memorable to some is his "Vote that Mutha Out!" single, which precipitated his now well-known political posturing. The sleeve is a backward American flag (well, it was printed in Holland) with a distressed skull overlaid. Though dated 1984, the Reagan-dissing A-side song included this line: "To fight a communist conspiracy that does not exist." As usual, Little Steven was about five years ahead of his time. At least as far as subject matter goes.

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