If you bump into me out in the real world, chances are you’ve seen a button I wear on a couple of my jackets. After some recent misunderstandings and quick assumptions, the clarification of this button might turn out to be a bit of public service announcement that will help me from receiving any more stink faces. I mean lately people are a bit...fiery at everyone, about everything. Quick and snappy. If that’s to continue for the foreseeable future, I certainly don’t want people hating me for lack of understanding of such a simple thing. So, I’m going to try to set the record straight (oh man, that was a real good one).
I actually can’t believe I’m sharing this lesson. It’s weird to be the first one ever to explain something that was a major part of the music world. The subject item is not as useful anymore as much as it is a symbol: an emblem to represent those who deeply love music, everything connected to it, and all that’s to be preserved in its world. This thing is basically our version of the "Bat Sign."
The thing in the picture next to this article; what's on my button is not an evil logo. It’s not “that Nazi thing” as I’ve been asked repeatedly (millennials, there must be fifty documentaries about Hitler on Netflix. Stop streaming Portlandia and Sons of Anarchy for five minutes and stream some history lessons. Netflix and educate!).
That roundish yellow thing for those unaware, is called a “Spider” aka “45 Adaptor” aka “Recoton Adapter” aka “Hutchinson Adaptor." Originally it was called “The Webster," but that version didn’t last long. I’m sure they’ve also been called, “where’s the damn thing” once or twice. Let’s stick with “spider” for brevity's sake.
What is the "Spider?" What does the “Spider” do? Well without it, you weren’t able to hear 7” 45 rpm records properly if you didn’t have the right record player. Prior to the arrival of the 45, when the 12” 33 rpm record was the most popular basic form, there was no need for a “Spider." The 33 always fit properly on all turntables.
So, what was wrong with all records having the same inner circle? Why not leave well enough alone? What was the reason for the “Spider” and the creation of the 45 rpm records it tended to? According to most historians I’ve read over the years, it was all about business.
Back in your great grandparents time (maybe add an extra great for some of you), Columbia was the heavy hitter in the record market. They made the 33 rpm record a major success. Other companies followed quickly. RCA was jealous and frustrated trying to win at the record manufacturing game. So, in brilliant business spirit (and lousy customer concern) RCA invented a new record player and a new type of record that could only be played on that record player. Nice right? Can’t win the game, create a new game and the products needed to play that game.
The new RCA record player would play its records on a new speed, 45 rpm, and it would allow you to stack these small 45 records so that one record would drop and play after another for a longer period of listening time. It allowed you to hear more than one artist in one siting. This, rather than one Columbia record playing for maybe 20 minutes tops. In a way, RCA invented the jukebox when you think about it! I probably should have said playlist rather than jukebox for the freshmen out there.
So, RCA has people only using their turntables to play 45’s. That was the only way to play them. Unless something was invented by a crafty company that allowed them to be played on all turntables. Business strikes again! The “Spider” is born! You put the “Spider” in the middle of the 45 allowing it to be slipped onto all turntables that played 33‘s. The “Spider” kept the record in place so it wouldn’t go all wobbly.
Playing field is leveled again and the music industry’s nasty ways are cemented for future generations to follow and mirror.
As time went on and rock n‘ roll became the thing, the world got introduced song by song to new stars heavily by the 45. Radio loved the 45 for its smallness and easy stackability!
When I was real young, I had a bunch of 45‘s. They were still being made into the early 80’s only to give way to cassingles! That’s another story though for perhaps... never. I still have a pretty solid collection of them and I still buy them at certain times. (I almost bought a jukebox last year so I was on a rampage).
So, that’s the story about what’s on the button I wear. When I talk to interested younger people who ask me what it is, they usually start to drift after a line or two of explanation. So, I started cutting it down to assist the future generations mostly all living with A.D.D. to, “it’s a thing that helped you play records many years ago." Sometimes that still came off as wordy to some of them. Nowadays I usually just say, “It means I love music.” Luckily that lands most times.