My first couple of years in Portland was spent serving lunch to the business class, in a restaurant 30 floors above the city street. Like the food, the money was mediocre but I had the advantage of having my nights free to explore the local music scene. In short order, I discovered Pink Martini, Storm Large and The High Violets. Following those bands around, I discovered Kleveland, Kaitlyn ni Donovan, Morgan Grace, and The Starry Saints. The first time I saw the Bella Fayes was opening for The High Violets. When I learned that their dynamic front man, Lael Alderman, had gone out on his own, I caught his shows every chance I could. Lael and I became friends over time, discovering a fondness for wine and records. Lael’s a winemaker himself, and we’ve worked together on the Boedecker bottling crew a couple of times. We bought our Led Zeppelin reissues almost simultaneously (he beat me by a week), and we both played them through vintage Marantz receivers.
So when I discovered a new company that offered one-off records, I was curious and immediately contacted him. Would he send me a couple of songs that I could have cut onto a 7” single? It didn’t take much to talk him into it, and within a week, I had a new 45 RPM single by Lael’s new band, The Loved, on my turntable ready to go. With a glass of 2012 Boedecker Cherry Grove in hand, I sat back on the couch ready to let my geek flag fly. And found I’d made a drastic mistake.
The horror of starting 45 RPM singles at 33 1/3 was thought to be of times past, but that is not the case. It’s not the biggest problem I’ll deal with in a week, but those who have seen my single speed, 1976 Linn Sondek have been amazed by the chore that goes with playing 45 RPM. Remove the platter, pull back the rubber belt, insert the 45 RPM pulley, replace the belt and the platter and you’re ready for 45. I do it every Christmas when I play my two singles: David Bowie and Bing Crosby’s “Little Drummer Boy,” and “Hey Hey What Can I Do,” by Led Zeppelin. After that, I’m good for another year. It actually takes less time than reading this paragraph, but I still needed to refill my wine glass.
However, lowering the needle on that little record offered a thrill I hadn’t expected: I’ve known many of the musicians in my music collection and it’s always fun to listen to a friend’s music—especially getting it before it’s in stores. But a 45 is old school, and it turns out that old school is a hell of a lot of fun. Recall the scene in That Thing You Do when the band first hears their song on the radio, and you’ll have a good idea. Of course, part of the experience is getting up and flipping the thing over every three minutes. I did that at least a dozen times that night and never tired of it.
While completing this article, Lael texted me, saying he’d put me on the guest list for his next show. All I had to do was give him the record. Looks like I’m going back to listening to 45s once a year. I can’t be the only one who has all the fun…