Monday, October 8, 2012

Thousands of Old Singles, Looking for Some Love: The 45 Room at Record Exchange

Posted By on Mon, Oct 8, 2012 at 1:45 PM

The 45 Room in The Record Exchange - BRIAN HEFFERNAN
  • Brian Heffernan
  • The 45 Room in The Record Exchange

The rooms where music is made and experienced affect everything from the sound of the instruments to the mood of the people in them. Each week in Space Explorer, Brian Heffernan will tell you about a different room with significance to St. Louis music.

To enter, you must first pass the five cardboard Elvis cut-outs standing guard on the staircase. The 45 room at The Record Exchange is dim and long, like a South City shotgun-style house. It's three times lengthier than wide and smells like your grandpa's old suit-coat. In a room with a half million records, my fingers fall into the B's--Bo Diddley's "Ooh Baby."

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I linger for two hours, thumbing through rows and racks of antiquated wax. In an era of ephemeral stars and viral YouTube hits, this roost of jukebox singles and b-sides is as much a museum as it is a salesroom. The collection is alphabetized and organized by genre, spanning '50s and '60s-era Rock & Roll to obscure Northern Soul, Country & Western to kiddie tunes.

If there's a singular strength of the 45, it's the medium's inherent ability to outlast its makers (artists, labels) and original listeners. It offers seemingly permanent documentation that, yes, this band, scene and performance existed. No doubt, that's part of its attraction to contemporary artists and labels.

Last month, Big Muddy Records released a seven-inch from the Hooten Hallers, the first in a series that will also feature 45-rpm releases by the Rum Drum Ramblers and Lonesome Cowboy Ryan. Tower Groove Records is offering a Singles Club for 2013, where subscribers will receive a seven-inch record each month featuring a pair of the label's bands. The series begins with a Demon Lover and Old Lights split in January.

However, don't expect to find many of those releases here, at least not for a while. Jean Haffner, owner of The Record Exchange, says he appreciates what the local labels are doing, but his store sells only second-hand items. You'll be hard-pressed to find anything pressed within the last decade here (though, oddly, I did spot a Kelly Clarkson "Miss Independent" single from 2003).

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