Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Gnarly Symbol, Dude!

The 45 Rpm Record Spindle Adapter



Today I stopped by REI sportswear to pick up some polyprene glove liners (on doctor's orders: apparently I have Raynaud's Disease - a recurrent vasospasm of the toes and fingers resulting from stress or cold exposure that causes the fingers/toes to turn bone-white and go numb), and the Twentysomething kid behind the register spotted my 45 rpm "record spindle adapter" (aka "record insert") button -


"45rpm Record Spindle Adapter" Button

- and exclaimed, "Gnarly symbol, dude! What's that represent?"


"Gnarly symbol, man!"

I started to reply "Age," but glanced over at the gray-haired, middle-aged REI manager standing behind the kid and said, "He'd know this *symbol*."

"Oh yeah," the middle-aged manager (my peer group demographic) pipped. "For 45's, right?"

The kid looked perplexed.

"See, you're young," I addressed the kid, "But in our day, we had vinyl records and way before iTunes and digital downloads and even CD singles, there were record "singles" called 45's because they played on phonograph players at 45 rpms as opposed to long-play albums (LPs) which played at 33 1/3 rpms. They had a bigger hole in the middle for the record, so people used these plastic 'adapters' to fit them on the skinny phonograph spindle." (I didn't bother to describe the stack-o-matic adapter which people used to stack multiple 45s for use at record dance parties; he can look it up on Wikipedia and see the pic below!)



"Cool!" said the kid.

Now the middle-aged manager stating reminiscing. "Yeah, I think I still have one by The Beatles. "She Loves You" and I have it in German, too."


"Sie Liebt Dich" (She Loves You) by Die Beatles

"I love that version," I replied, and started singing "Sie Liebt Dich, ja ja ja!/Sie Liebt Dich, ja ja ja/Sie Liebt Dich, ja ja ja ja!"

Actually, the spindle adapter bears an uncanny resemblance to the late '60s/early '70s British progrock band Traffic's logo - the famous "Wheel of Fortune" logo designed by jeweler Carol Duskin (adapted from the seal of the mythical Arthurian wizard Merlin) and tweaked by Traffic flute player Chris Wood, which appeared on every Traffic album. (See "The Traffic Logo" discussion on the www.winwoodfans.com Web site.) But I doubt the kid knew this.


Traffic's "Wheel of Fortune" logo

In fact, a dealer at the recent Atlantic Coast Craftshow in downtown Baltimore saw my button and commented, "The Traffic symbol! Are you a fan?" (Indeed I am. Traffic was my first-ever rock concert at the old Baltimore Civic Center back in 1973 or 1974.)


"Mr. Fantasy" LP with Traffic logo

It's funny, but ever since I started wearing this button, it's elicited an unusually high number of responses from passersby, be they young or old. Kids usually assume it's some cool "Hindu spiritual symbol" (as one person described it) or a brand logo - the later misconception reminding me of the time I wore a Taoist yin and yang button and a "surfer dude" thought was the logo for a California surfboard company (which it is!) and had no idea it had any non-commercial spiritual/philosophical meaning at all - while old folks (my peeps) usually smile and snicker, "Ha, I remember those!"


Down Memory Lane at 45 revolutions per minute

Yes, there's no surer sign of one's age - other than carrying around the latest issue of AARP Magazine - than sporting the 45 record adapter logo, symbol of an ephemeral product so hard to come by these days that I half expect them to show up on a future episode of Antiques Roadshow. In fact, the only places that sell them now are retro kitsch outlets, like the folks at manhattanministorage. I like this pic they had of various different models of record adapters; I only ever had the generic yellow plastic ones.



The old fogies at manhattanministorage.com even attempted to de-mystify and translate the meaning of these adapters for today's digital download-savvy youth:
"Long before the days of iTunes and MP3’s, music was held in a tangible material object and had to be coaxed from the confines of it’s vinyl encasement. Back in those days a “record player” was the method of choice to make the musical noise and a very small, but necessary, accessory was the 45 record adapter.

Sometimes made of metal, but often in colorful plastic, this needed musical tool made the larger center hole of the smaller 45 record fit the smaller center hole of the larger sized records. No it didn’t make much sense. We don’t know why they just didn’t make them all the same size. It’s just the way it was. The fact is, we all had these gadgets and they were a part of life just as today everyone needs earphones for their iTunes and MP3’s."

Yes, vinyl may be making a comeback - you can even buy a phono player (the Cosley Stack-o-matic Wood Grain Turntable) at Urban Outfitters now - but even if groups like Radiohead and My Morning Jacket are releasing new albums on vinyl, the days of singles are long gone, so the need for these adapters is strictly for the nostalgic.

Of course, I'd be remiss not to mention local musician Skizz Cyzyk in any discussion of record adapters, because for years his drumkit (that is, one of his many drumkits) drumhead has been adorned with a bright red 45 record adapter icon. That Skizz - always ahead of the Retro-Cool Curve!


Skizz Cyzyk's 45 rpm adaptor drumhead


The banging man himself


Batworth bangs Skizz's "45 Record Adapter" drumkit in The Go Pills

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