A long time ago, back in the late 70s and early 80s, I owned a stack of 45 RPM records, or 45s. It was the equivalent of a single-song download on iTunes, in that you could buy a song–that was played over and over again on the radio, generally–without having to commit to buying the entire album. Albums were a big monetary commitment, and that usually didn’t happen unless there were multiple songs worth listening to. And again, “worth listening to” was something that was determined by radio programmers.
As I’m now slogging through my 45th year on this crazy blue marble, I have wanted to write about 45s for some time. But like a lot of other things, I just kept putting it off. And if I wait too much longer, I won’t be 45 anymore, and the silly connection that I have between age and record speed will be lost. As usually happens, I needed some random event to push things along, and today I got what I needed.
One of my 45s was “Cars” by Gary Numan. The song came out in the summer of 1979, a few days after Disco Demolition and a few months before Disco finally died. It was the first synth song I had ever heard, and it seems weirdly hypnotic to me now. But it took an encounter with the song on an FM radio station this afternoon for me to remember that I had ever owned it in the first place. And today was the first time I had ever heard the song that starts out “Here in my car…” as I was actually in my car. So I grooved along with that mesmerizing hook that was a forerunner for some of the other synth music that would follow in the 80s.
Disco was on the path to extinction when I bought this 45, even if I didn’t know it just yet. And years of the Village People and Donna Summer and Saturday Night Fever had made me interested in hearing something else. Anything else, really. And Gary Numan certainly fit that bill, even if I have no idea if he ever made any music after that. That one song was enough.