Seven Inches of Pleasure

We are honoured to showcase the writing of legendary Manchester vibe merchant, Cath Aubergine who makes a graceful debut in Incendiary this month; talking about her love for all things vinyl.. Rock on Cath!


Seven Inches of Pleasure


Sat round the dinner table last Christmas, my mum is trying to understand why anyone would want an I-Pod and I'm struggling to explain because I've never felt the need for one myself, and the conversation turns to records. Specifically the vinyl seven inch.


"Correct me if I'm wrong..." starts my sister's partner (and I'm already looking forward to doing just that...) "but aren't they what little pop fan girls buy with their pocket money...?"  I'll let him off I suppose, he's in his fifties and probably hasn't been in a record shop since Boy George and The Thompson Twins were heading up the new releases display. So after a brief crash course in 21st century music habits covering ringtone culture, file-sharing, the rise of the Arctic Monkeys (whom even he's heard of - and my mum has, for that matter (so have I, aren't they a new band? – ed) and the fact that to the average 13-year-old boy-band fanatic even CDs are something cavemen had years ago, we get back to the subject.


It is hard to explain my love of the original single format to someone who sees music largely as a background. Let's take a look at my four most recent acqusitions. The 65daysofstatic one's the most exciting of course with its individually-numbered stuck-on Polaroid and specially printed outer brown paper wrap. It is, in short, thoroughly unnecessary. I love it. Only a serious bout of self-restraint has prevented me buying a few of them. Then there's the delightfully ridiculous YSN whose sleeve bears the same picture as their Myspace site, but I can't look at the thing without smiling. Or, nine times out of ten, pissing myself laughing. And finally Mystery Jets' Boy Who Ran Away - now this is a band who know about sleeve design.


The single, like its CD sibling, comes with not only a full inner sleeve (not even all vinyl albums had that when I was a kid!) but a lovely white wraparound card strip with the band's logo cut from it. And as if that's not enough a second version of the seven inch (remixes) has completely different artwork. Amongst their neighbours will be all human life on record. The cheap and cheerful nature of the beast means that quite often I'll just pick a couple up on my way to the checkout - well, it's healthier than creme eggs - to the point where the shelf reflects not so much my taste in music over the past 20 years but more, well, things I happen to have encountered along the way.


Smash hits from the Pet Shop Boys' West End Girls to the Killers Mr Brightside sit alongside those who never quite made it into the top 100 or past the first couple of releases - the glorious jangles of Mirrors Over Kiev's Take Me Down, fourth best local band single of 1987 according to Tony The Greek, presenter of Piccadilly's long-running indie show at the time; or the blissful second-wave suburban bus-stop punk pop of The Tours' Language School, circa 1978, a late 80s jumble sale acquisition so obscure that even John Peel was unable to shed any light on it/them when I wrote to him. He was polite enough to reply though.


Four plain black discs - without so much as even paper labels, the writing is moulded into the middle of each single - underground new-wave releases from a Poland still very much behind the Iron Curtain when Jarek, the pen-pal I'd acquired through the small ads in the Stranglers' fanclub magazine, sent them me in grateful return for the PiL album he'd been waiting years to even see. A nearly complete set of Stranglers singles with their dark-humoured artwork, largely bought second hand from the extortionate stall in the underground market (back when Market St had one, sort of where Tesco stands today) with dinner money I'd saved up by never eating.


Inspiral Carpets' debut, which I bunked off school to go into town and buy on its day of release from Eastern Bloc when Eastern Bloc was still mostly an indie shop (and Piccadilly Records was pretty dull and mainstream, and actually on Piccadilly). The Wedding Present's twelve monthly releases of 1992; September's single acquired years later, as glandular fever caused me to miss its release. Vinyl in any colour you can think of, although only Spiritualized's Run actually glows in the dark. Sonic Boom's Ecstasy In Slow Motion - peacock blue plastic with red and yellow splashes - is the only one which clearly states "Play At Any Speed". I remember playing them back to back in my student hovel, as if the very act of doing so would bring my beloved Spacemen 3 back together or at least the beautiful boy from over the hills back to me.


A playable diary of plastic circles - you just won't get that with MP3s. They have survived seven burglaries - the effort to carry them far outweighing their largely non-existent resale value - but a downloaded collection's gone in one crash of an overloaded hard drive. And then there are the almost antique-looking brown card prints of British Sea Power; the bold stripes of Forward Russia. I've probably bought more seven inches in the past two years than at any point in my life (and I'm just about old enough to remember when that's what a single was, unless you were rich and hip enough to buy twelve inches).


Why? I mean it's not like I really play them. Half of them have the same tracks I've got on CDs anyway, and seven inch exclusive tracks will get one or two spins and immediately "taped" onto the computer for CD-ification if they're good enough. But looking at this week's four seven inch acquisitions - every one a mini design classic - it fills my heart with joy that bands too young (mostly) to remember a time before the CD took over still appreciate this.(And if you think I'm obsessed with seven inch singles please don't get me started on my ten inch collection...)


Words: Cath Aubergine


Go and check out Cath's myspace page for an in-depth precis of the Manchester live scene, as she has forgotten more about the music of that fair city than dullards like us will ever know. Go on, it's worth it we promise.