Designed out of necessity in the 50s, this elegant object represents several generations in popular music – and more, says Sarah Jane Coleman
I can’t remember exactly when these things first came to my attention, but I was quite small. Back then you could pop into Woolworths with £1.40 and buy a 7-inch single. It came in a plain sleeve with a dink, spider, 45 adapter – whatever name you know it by – in the middle.
When 7-inch records were produced mainly for jukeboxes, they had a 1.5-inch hole in the middle and could drop down onto the fat spindle in the machine. When people began buying singles to play at home, gramophones from the 50s still had fat spindles. However, when stereos with 8mm spindles replaced them, the 45rpm adapter was developed by Tom Hutchinson at RCA to fill that huge hole left behind. Singles could now be played without sliding around.
As a shape, it’s beautiful. Not only is it absolutely symmetrical, with the ever-comforting continuity of a circle, it has personality: little limbs reaching out for the edge of the record, and gripping firmly – ‘It’s okay! I’ve got it! Put the needle down!’
It symbolises an era in hi-fiwhen a turntable wasn’t an optional USB-enabled accessory: it was essential, and the warm organic sound of vinyl was the norm. It has the trustworthy, timeless feel of a long-established serif font. If it was one, it would be delicious Cooper Black. Representing music, dance, rebellion, record collectors and more, it’s a timeless example of semiotics: like a big neon sign that says:‘Music Spoken Here’.
Much of my life has been shaped, flavoured and directed by music. I studied it, played it and did my courting to a non-stop stream of emerging music, witnessing the birth of brand new genres. We ran a pirate radio station, made records and met some of our dearest friends through music. We put this little emblem on our first ever T-shirts, used it on our flyers, and became obsessed with the different shapes, materials and colours that this elegant object was produced in.
It was inevitable that I would end up making them, I suppose. When we discovered they weren’t produced anymore, we decided to create our own.
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