How did Tops Records squeeze two songs in each 78 rpm side?

  • From this question about soundalikes, I went to this article where I learned about Tops Records which business was to sell cheap records with soundalikes of current time hits.

    Additionally, they somehow managed to

    squeeze an extra song on each side of a 78. “4 Hits On Each Record,” the label screamed.

    Tops Records record

    Then "6 Hits on Each Record" on 45 rpm discs.

    enter image description here

    I'm really curious about how they achieve this, and why the other record companies couldn't.

    Somewhere in my mom's collection (she grew up in the 50's) she has an Elvis 45 with 2 tracks per side. So, Topps isn't the only one to do it, although they probably did it with greater frequency.

    I actually have a 45rpm single somewhere

    Another example would be (and how the heck did I forget this???) Queen's First EP. I've got the original UK 45 kicking around somewhere in my vinyl collection.

  • Tetsujin

    Tetsujin Correct answer

    6 years ago

    As these records were made before the age of computers & also really before even relatively simple modern vinyl cutting techniques were invented, they only really had two things they could play with...

    Length.
    Quite simply, it would be beneficial to them to be able to shorten each track as much as possible. Miss out a verse, shorten the number of choruses at the end, make the fade-out very rapid, etc.

    Volume.
    Because a vinyl record is a purely analog device, whereby each groove moves left/right for mono or left/right & up/down for stereo in relation to a pure circle [or spiral] when read at the stylus, the actual loudness at which the record is cut will affect how wide each groove will be & how close together they could set the grooves.
    They could also apply a simple EQ curve - turn down the bass, as bass requires larger movement of the groove than treble does - to further reduce the width of track.

    In modern computerised cutting, the computer can read ahead one or even two revolutions of the disk, & adjust the groove gap automatically, on the fly, if duration maximisation is required, or even to be able to get more volume in the cut.
    In the days these records were cut, either someone would be guiding the track separation by hand, as the cut ran, or more likely it would just be set & left static for the entire duration of the cut; except for a slightly wider gap at the track borders.

    Using some simple arithmetic -
    t minutes equals n revolutions, which requires minimum track to track gap g.
    At volume v, which produces a track width of w, can we fit n revolutions onto the side using track gap g.
    If not, & assuming t is already as short as we can get it, then reduce volume v until we can.

    Great stuff in this answer!

    this is not really correct about bass — a record is being put through a standard pre-emphasis filter before cutting vinyl, which reduces low frequencies (a "tone corrector" is used while playing for inverse transform). there is little gain in further reducing bass because it already takes little part of groove movement because of that filter.

    Yeah - I was kind of ignoring the additional complexity of RIAA curves, just to keep it simple. Though perfectly true, the curve is already there to attenuate the lower frequencies & narrow the potential track width, there's nothing stopping the cutter employing an additional EQ curve to further reduce that width. We are talking seriously low budget pressings here, after all:/ tbh, I'd like to hear one, so I could see for myself, but I don't have a turntable connected to anything these days.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM

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