Fives and sixes
Children’s singles often came in odd formats. The earliest childrens’ series were Bubble Books, running from 1917 to 1930 in various versions. They were produced by Harper-Columbia in the USA, with versions by Hodder-Columbia later. They were acoustically recorded and are on one-sided 78 rpm five and a half inch discs. The initial series ran to fourteen volumes, each consisting of a book of nursery rhymes with three discs inserted in wallets. The first series from 1917 to 1924 ran to fourteen volumes. Victor took over for another six acoustically recorded volumes, then Columbia re-did albums with more discs between 1924 and 1930, recorded electronically. The illustrated one was on sale at £15. I got home, looked it up and ones in similar condition run to £79.99. But this is a book collector area, and the illustrations create the value, not the discs.
Selcol’s Nursery Records were six inches and 78 rpm (but many were in rectangular bags, nearly 7” tall). Kiddietones were 78 rpm and five inches. It is surprising that these records persisted with 78 rpm for several years after it was dead as a popular music format. It combines inertia (we’ve got the masters already) with the advantage of children’s publishing: the market is continually refreshed with a new batch of consumers, and children’s tastes are predictable. That means you can keep recycling the same products.
Kidditunes suggest you can ‘use any needle, plays on any gramophone’ which suggests a plastic wind up device, or maybe one with a battery.
For rock, five and six inch singles are a novelty item. Examples come from 1978, and from a similar background. A guess would be Chiswick did the six, Stiff outdid them with a five.
First is Chiswick with The Bishops on a six inch single, the other is Stiff with Jona Lewie on a five inch. The Stiff was also produced on 7″.
Stiff has a text on the cover warning the buyer not to pay more than 60p, and that it may not play on automatic turntables. If you want to play it on an automatic turntable you should buy the 7″ version.
A& M produced a Squeeze 5” single in 1981. It came free shrink-wrapped with the Tempted / Yap Yap single and the 5” disc was American pressed. An example of a major label taking cues from Stiff and Chiswick.
Novelty should stop being new. But examples kept cropping up. Geffen tried it in 1983. Not content with being 5” in diameter, the Wang Chung disc plays at 33 rpm. It was sold in a transparent PVC wallet. The 5” / 13 cm size looks very much like a CD (12 cm). In 1983, this was deliberate.
Go Beat released a five inch in 2005. Things Are Here To Stay by Tom Vek, with the track split between sides. This was promotional, not a serious mainstream release. Notice the ludicrous proportion between centre and playing surface. It’s like having a thin LP track wrapped round a centre label.