Wednesday, June 6, 2018

12"

The early 80s saw a rebirth of the three minute pop song, a throwback to the 60s after so many years of AOR. Songs like The Cure's "Boys Don’t Cry" didn't even hit the three minute mark. Yet it was the British 12" that was unique to new wave. Independent artist labels like Factory (Joy Division, New Order) and Mute (Depeche Mode) established the 12" single as a truly 80s icon in what would prove the last vestige of our tactile love of vinyl. In LA we'd pound Melrose Avenue at Flip and Cowboys and Poodles (Whitey and Paul) for vintage slacks and paisley shirts, then wander about Neo80 before hitting up Pink's for chili dogs. The ritual destination though was Vinyl Fetish, 7035 Melrose Ave., home to the import single, a virtual candy store with all the vinyl hanging from the walls in clear plastic sleeves. There we'd hang for hours listening to the new Endgames remix or "Girls On Film." Like those stores on Melrose, mostly gone now, replaced by Alexander McQueen and Johnnie Rockets, the 12" is a part of our past. Among the best:

"Love Will Tear Us Apart Again" (AM10) by Joy Division (FAC 23.12, 1980). The first iconic 12" cover. Voted in 2002 as NME's best single of all time. No difference in the 12" or the 7" with the exception of the cover (the 7" has no graphic, just the printed title - still with some Peter Saville swag). The single version is the A side with the B side containing "These Days" and an alternate version of the title.

"Primary" (AM8) by The Cure (Fiction Records, 1981). The sound quality here is exceptional spread over one side in its extended form. As an early 12" release there is little to it; the extended release of "Primary" with "Descent" on the flip side. It is nonetheless an unusual mix with both Smith and Simon Gallup playing bass with extended instrumentals intermixed.

"Let Me Go" (AM8) by Heaven 17 (Virgin, 1982). Not a hit for the band in the UK, "Let Me Go" became a dance hit in the US and was a staple in alternative clubs in L.A. (The Lhasa, Seven Seas) and New York (Danceteria, the Milk Bar) through the summer of '83. 

"Blue Monday" (AM10) by New Order (FAC 73, 1983). The biggest selling 12" single of all time, "Blue Monday" introduced the concept that synthesizers, drum machines and Indie music could live happily ever after, and that a Top 40 record didn't have to fit into a three minute soundbite. In hindsight it's simple to see how this track has affected music trends in the last 30 years. At nearly 7:30 secs, "Blue Monday" is one of the longest tracks ever to chart in the UK or the U.S. B/W "The Beach."