For years this was the default record size:
The Japanese Sandman: Arties Shaw and His Orchestra, Vocalion 1938. 10″ 78 rpm shellac disc
In Love: Ruby Murray 78 rpm 10″ single, Columbia 1956. The format is still going strong.
The 45 single and the seven inch single are interchangeable terms. When singles were launched, the size was optimum for the number of grooves. Long Players, or LPs, were in two minds, with ten inch (the size of a 78) competing with the new twelve inch format for several years. The advent of the extended play 7″ EP with microgrooves allowed either longer songs, or a smaller disc. By then the seven inch size was set. Many record players had auto-changers which relied on a constant size. If you look at some discs from the 80s onward, you’ll see that the grooves only take up half the possible area. The Charly label often did this, which means they were cutting singles at EP size with smaller microgrooves.
The vast majority of 78 rpm shellac records were 10” in diameter. Some were 12” to accommodate longer material. HMV called 10” the “B series” and 12” the “C series.” However, size variation didn’t matter much, as until autochangers arrived, the needle was always dropped manually. I call it a needle though by the 50s, there were styluses for 78s too – the stylus could be flipped over on record players between a 33/45 stylus and a 78 stylus. Even so, enthusiasts who record their vinyl on to CD call them ‘needledrop recordings.’
78 and 45 values see-saw, basically with the rarer version being worth more, whichever it is. However, it’s the later material by rock artists that commands the highest values, virtually all of it from the 1950s period when 45s and 78s co-existed.
Early LPs came either as 12” or 10”. When LPs arrived, The Decca group briefly divided 33 1/3 records into LPs (long play) for 12” and MPs (medium play) for 10”. Then someone pointed out MP meant other things.
Twentieth Century English Songs: Peter Pears . Benjamin Britten. Decca 10″ Medium Play disc
The Duke Wore Jeans: Tommy Steele, LP 1958, 10″ 331/3 rpm. Pop music went for ten inch LPs
Songs For Swingin’ Sellers: Peter Sellers, 1959, Parlophone Long Player, produced by George Martin. Adult fare, so 12″
In Summer of Love: The Making of Sergeant Pepper, George Martin says:
I was ‘very twelve-inch’ in Ringo’s memorable phrase. Back in the fifties, we used to issue ten-inch and 12-inch vinyl records. The ten-inch were the ‘rhythm-style series’, what we now call pop, and the twelve-inch were the cantatas and symphonies: the classical. Ten-inch was “common”; but twelve-inch – that was a cut above!
George Martin was working for EMI. So even though much of his production was novelty / comedy, it was directed at the 12″ older audience.
Images: Sarah Vaughan, 1955 Oriole /Emarcy 33 1/3 rpm 10” LP
Some of the 10” 33 rpm popular LPs are highly collectable. There was a school of thought that eight tracks of high quality were better than twelve with filler, as on Sarah Vaughan’s eight-song Images from 1955.I bought it for the sleeve in a charity shop.
10” discs also fitted on the shelves, or in the collectors’ boxes neatly with 78s. It seemed the natural size after half a century of 10” 78 rpm records.
The Sound of Fury: Billy Fury, Decca 1960 10″ LP
The Sound of Fury from Billy Fury in 1960 goes for £200 in mint condition. It was recorded in one day, 14 April 1960. Joe Brown played guitar, Andy White played drums as he later did on Love Me Do, Reg Guest played piano. It was a self-written and excellent 10” album, now thought of as one of the very best early British rock recordings. Half the tracks are credited to Billy Fury, half to Wilbur Wilberforce … who was also Billy Fury. After it was done, Larry Parnes (aka Parnes, Shillings and Pence by his artists) put Billy Fury back on cover versions, stifling an obvious writing talent.
Decca were quite explicit with Tom Lehrer in 1960, issuing the same album as More of Tom Lehrer on 10” and An Evening Wasted With Tom Lehrer on 12” and explained the difference:
The ten-inch 45 rpm single has cropped up repeatedly over the years. The retro / novelty appeal is being the same size as an old 78, and people keep rediscovering the idea. Some actually are 78 rpm which is bizarre considering that few decks nowadays can play 78 rpm.
The example is a 1969 78 rpm disc on the Reprise label. Reprise was launched after the 78 record had died in the UK and USA, so it is an oddity. Then look at the artist. Tiny Tim. It’s a conceit to gain attention right down to the thin, worn brown paper sleeve. The B-side has a medley of There’ll Always Be An England and Bless ‘em All.
As 12” singles sound louder than 7”, and are considered higher-fidelity, then 10” should too, without going to the full twelve, and also maintaining a physical LP / single distinction.
A 12” single has a purpose and became the default DJ format for dance.
A 10” single is a novelty item, sold on appearance.
The Stiff label played around with formats. In 1980, Stiff released One of its rarer oddities, Bueno by Joe “King” Carrasco and The Crowns. Mr Carrasco performed wearing a large crown and a red cloak, and he was described as Nuevo-Wavo Tex-Mex, and had the cheesy organ sound to match. In spite of being in Spanish in bits here and there Bueno sounds like infectious and chirpier glam rock to me. The B-side (Side Dos) Tuff Enuff is straight punk rock, with the addition of that cheesy organ again. The fun part was releasing a 78 rpm version, one of the last genuine 78s, released as it was in 1980. Bueno (or “Side Uno”) is described as ‘Deep in the Heart of Stereo’, a Texas reference, and it says for “For Genuine Quality Use Hi-Fi Tonal Stiff Needles.” Every copy I’ve seen is mint, because most turntables don’t have a 78 rpm setting. When they did, you had to flip the stylus from “LP” (33 / 45) to “78” before playing a 78 rpm record because they won’t play with a conventional stylus. This disc is definitely vinyl, so it may play with an LP stylus at 78 rpm.
The 10” format surfaces from time to time. In 1983 Rickie Lee Jones’ Girl At Her Volcano appeared as a seven-track 10”, no one was sure whether it was a short LP or a long EP. Rickie Lee Jones did it as a 10, not having an album’s worth.
Stiff did a Tracy Ullman 10”. The B-side was “The B-side” which can best be described as “low fidelity spoken voice.”
Elektra marked the ghoulish electronic pairing of Natalie Cole with her deceased father, duetting on Unforgettable, with a beautiful retro stitched 10” sleeve round a 10” single playing at 45 rpm.
Capitol reissued the Beach Boys’ first hit, Surfin’ Safari, on gatefold 10” (at a whopping £9.99) to mark their 2012 reunion tour, and put both sides, Surfin’ Safari and 409 on the A side, with two tracks to promote their new album on the back. They neglected to print the speed on the disc (33 rpm) and the grooves only occupy the outer edge of the disc, so not giving the benefit of wider grooves.
Record Store Day brings EPs and singles on the 10” format with increasing regularity. Prices are high … £9.99 for Surfin’ Safari. An absurd £14.99 for Sly & The Family Stone’s I Want To Take You Higher (which is from an old TV show, and is not very good at all)
The 10” Los Lobos disc in 1987 was a “double groove” with concentric tracks so it was chance which one played. Monty Python had done the same with a comedy record years earlier. They used a retro London-American inner label:
Stiff issued Desmond Dekker’s Israelites as a ten inch. In 1993, the Jesus and Mary Chain did The Sound of Speed on a 10” for Blanco Y Negro.
Elvis Presley: 2007 reissue series on 10″
RCA issued all the British Elvis Presley singles as a 10″ special edition collectable part-work in 2007 … one a week. You could buy a box to store them in. RCA marked the 40th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death with this series of archive records, released on both 10” and 7”. The early ones look great. The later ones in outsized late 60s / 70s designs (as here) are less appealing. They were never 78s in the first place. The 7” version was a facsimile of the original hit and B-side. There were eighteen releases.
They went well past the era where the originals were ever on 10″. They tried to reproduce the sleeves and all the discs played at 45 rpm. They got permission to use the early HMV sleeves too. They utilised the extra length by putting two tracks on the B-side, the original B-side plus a rarity: an outtake, a film version, an alternative mix. This helped sell them. They’re on heavy vinyl and the quality is first-rate.
The Chris Rea 2008 box set The Return of The Fabulous Hofner Bluenotes is a sumptous package with 3 CDs and two ten inch LPs (in 12” sleeves fixed into the binding).
The Arctic Monkeys released a 10”vinyl single, My Propellor, exclusively through Oxfam in 2009, which is why a year later every Oxfam Books and Music had a few, still at issue price of £4.99.
Here’s an interesting one from 1990. A 45 rpm / 78 rpm hybrid 10″ single:
The King of Love: Dave Edmunds. Side One 45 rpm, 10″ Capitol 1990
The King of Love: Dave Edmunds. Side Two 78 rpm, 10″ Capitol 1990. Note colour tone change,
The 10” format has become a Record Store Day staple in recent years. It’s a very popular special edition. I’m not sure why. Maybe it was just that artists had done 12″ and 7″ and wanted novelty. Mostly they’re 45 rpm with two, three or four tracks. They would have the fidelity of a 12″ single on normal song length – 12″ singles started with extended disco mixes. Maybe 10″ is just a more practical higher-fidelity format.
She’s A Rainbow: The Rolling Stones, Live in Paris 2017. Record Store Day 2019, on yellow vinyl. One-sided disc
The thing about She’s A Rainbow is it’s an instant collectible. A one sided 10″ disc at £14.99? I can’t find any trace of the speed rating printed on label or sleeve. So is it 33 1/3 rpm, like a 10″ LP, or 45 rpm as an extended quality single? Trial and error. The grooves only occupy half the available area on its one side. So I wonder if they expected anyone to actually play the thing?
Live At The Tin Tabernacle: Trevor Moss & Hannah Lou, Heavenly, 2011. A 10″ “Medium Play” at 33 1/3 rpm as in the 50s.
The 10″ format is perfect for what Decca originally called it … Medium Play. Folk artists are fond of the format for 10″ discs for sale at gigs. It works.