Slinging Singles

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

About that same time, the dead middle of the Eighties, a Leeds, England, band formed, calling themselves the Wedding Present. They began issuing independently a series of singles that garnered them a spot on a New Musical Express compilation, which brought them U.K. chart action, which helped them land a deal with RCA in England. Then, after RCA in the U.S. dropped them, they signed with First Warning. At the start of 1992, the Wedding Present initiated a project that has them releasing a seven-inch single on the first Monday of every month in the U.K. Each features a new original on the A side and a cover on the flip. "And now they've set a record in Great Britain," reports First Warning's Jerry Liebowitz. "Seven consecutive Top 30 hits over seven months with seven different songs."

Even more interesting is what happens to those other-side-of-the-pond singles upon their release, chartwise. Almost every copy is scooped up by Tuesday, so their mid-week chart numbers are way up there, around number two or three. The end-of-the-week numbers drop, and, because no more copies are available, the song disappears from the chart in the second week of release. First Warning has now compiled the first six of these anomalies and distributed them as the CD Hit Parade 1 in this country. Naturally, there will be a Hit Parade 2 at year's end, when the single-a-month campaign ends.

First Warning is also distributing the Diesel Only label's compilation Rig Rock Jukebox. Organized by a Brooklyn band called the World Famous Blue Jays, Diesel Only issues nothing but 45 rpm vinyl singles intended for jukebox play, all of them exploring truck-driving-related topics. According to reported figures, 36 million of the 40 million singles released annually are consumed by the jukebox industry.

Of course, that leaves four million for individual citizens' home use. A number of labels besides Sup Pop and Diesel Only have calculators in their possession and sense in their heads. Amphetamine Reptile, Regal Select, and Bob Mould's S.O.L. (yes, it stands for Singles Only Label) specialize in the seven-inch configuration. Bellingham, Washington-based Estrus Records issues comic books with soundtrack singles included.

None of this trivia is going to put the CD manufacturers out of business (unfortunately). "Singles are not stronger than they once were," says retailer Rich Ulloa, owner of the Yesterday & Today chain. "Only in a few formats: straight-edge [a form of clean-living punk] records, for example. And with independents the format is stronger than ever. But as far as domestic major labels, everything is cassingle, not vinyl. The indies are different. The really great underground labels do it."

And, on rare occasions, major labels do, too. When Social Distortion began their latest tour on April 11 in Phoenix, Arizona, they brought along a little gift for their fans: a seven-inch single featuring "Cold Feelings" and a live, acoustic version of "Bad Luck." You can't buy it. "No, it was promo only," says Dave Gottlieb, director of alternative music at Epic Records. "They were passing it out at their shows. The reason we did it was that because they've been around since 1979, their roots were with the original punk scene, whose motto was D.I.Y. [do it yourself] -- press your own records. We had tried the same thing with other bands and shouldn't have. But it was appropriate for them and the point they were at in their careers."

Gottlieb says the ploy was jointly decided on by the label and the band's management. At least 10,000 copies were pressed and handed out. "It served two purposes," Gottlieb adds. "It was a) a fans' piece and b) for people who got dragged along to the show, the logic being to give them something, like a seven-inch, that they don't get every day, so maybe they'd make the effort to listen to it."

Any other singles on the Epic release schedule? "We're lucky if we release a vinyl album," Gottlieb says. "Up until three years ago, Epic was still releasing a fair amount of singles. Now they're the rarest of the rare.

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