“Hold me close, you turn nighttime into day.”
I can’t hear America’s “Today’s the Day” without thinking of two things. And of course, I can’t help but think a few other things about those two things.
One was how I used to take song titles and make little sayings out of them on the backs of my notebook tablets when I was in 5th and 6th grades. I distinctly remember writing “Today’s the Day and Tonight’s the Night” in the lower left corner, encircled by double wide blue ink. Not one of my better ones, but certainly what passed for my wit, and a moderate hit (peaking at number 15 on the elementary top 40) with my friends (I only accidentally alluded to the rod stewart song…..was not a big fan of rod the mod). By the way, yes, my penmanship sucked at that early stage too, although I was careful enough with my sayings so that people would be able to read them. Probably the last time I made an effort with my handwriting (thank goodness for computators, eh?) What I wouldn’t give to have just one of those cardboard tablet backings today. I might have to cast my memory back and see if I can’t catch something else out of that particular lake.
The other particular memory associated with that song is a vision of a 45 (that’s a vinyl single, miss Jackson if you’re nasty). Grey with overplay (no virgin black vinyl sheen there), mis-sleeved (I’m thinking RSO sleeve), clicks and pops abounding when played. The singles back then were almost all courtesy of my older sister, Eve. She was so lucky, she’d get used singles from her friend Glynne Hubbard (and no, I didn’t have to consult the yearbooks for that, btw) whose father owned a vending company that stocked jukeboxes, so when singles cycled out, Glynne would get a pile of 45’s and pass them on to my sis. . I bet I could sit right down and list out about 80% of those singles she had back in the day, so well played and remembered by me. And if you are thinking that’s where my fascination/obsession with the b-sides came from, you would be right. Also, I should be thanking my classmate, Brenda, Glynne’s sister, who provided me with a few stacks by the time we got to 7th grade, when my sis moved well into high school and beyond the pale of pop singles.
However, as much as I loved the catchy melody of “Today’s the Day” (even though America’s songs were usually keyed just a little too high for me to comfortably sing, they wrote the greatest earworms) and endlessly optimistic lyrics, the thing I remember most about that particular single was the lovely California themed label on the 45. Warner Brothers in the mid to late 70’s had this awesome artwork on the interior ring of the 45 (and lps as well although I was still a few years away from long player purchasing); radiantly green palm trees, blue skies and a road that seemingly went on forever that somehow. Talk about branding your product, particularly if your product is southern California rock (Fleetwood Mac pretty much HAD to be on warner brothers now, didn’t they?).
On Saturday Afternoons in 1963
Chuck E's in Love
The label artwork could be vanity, inspired, and genius. I was always particularly impressed with Elektra. There was the caterpillar; there was the butterfly (or was it a moth). I’m almost afraid to know who got which theme on their single and why. But of course, Queen would be a worm (caterpillar) and bread would be a beautiful butterfly (moth). I don’t want to know if it was random or linear (ok. 1976, we are going with the butterfly (moth) theme this year. In any case, I was delighted when I stumbled upon this little insider joke waiting for me in the stacks of my sister’s 45s.
RCA (the dog? Really? Well at least they don’t go with the flavor of the weak), Capitol and even A&M labels are similarly boring and corporate. Although at least the A&M label tried a little bit with the lettering graphic.
Now vinyl is coming back and although I don’t buy vinyl (unless there’s some download code associated with the vinyl buy that will get me downloads to bonus tracks and b-sides) it’s kinda neat to see the retro labels pop up. Clearly Warner Brothers isn’t bringing back that boring white label. It’s palm trees, blue sky and that never ending road. Kinda cool that the record company marketing gurus are finally understanding what they had (long after they lost everything unfortunately). Not that the hubris of record companies is the point of this anyway (well…maybe small point, cos they had it all, pissed it all away, and besides blaming their customers for their downfall, they never really appreciated the art for which they were indirectly responsible.)
Who knows, if this vinyl thing works out (again, it won’t be me, as much as I can appreciate the romance of the brilliant vinyl sheen, I’d take the clarity of a compact disc that plays in my car and never wears out any day) maybe instead of shutting down, maybe a new generation of labels will rise from the ashes. Phoenix records…ya…I like the sound of that.
One last label before i go (another personal favorite):