Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: It seems the three-inch CD mini single format pretty much flopped, but I find them cute, collectible, and, best of all, inexpensive.

For five bucks I picked up the Beatles “Love Me Do” and “P.S. I Love You,” a 1988 release. The seller said it was among the first CD3s issued in the U.S. True or false?

How many mini discs did the Beatles have, and do they all have just two songs?

Any idea how many CDs total were made before this format went the way of pre-recorded reel-to-reel and 8-track tapes?
—Charlene Applebaum, Evansville, Ind.

DEAR CHARLENE: Since “among” is not a specific quantity, I'll just provide some facts to help you decide the true or false issue.

This short-lived saga began in 1987, when a few promotional samples were made to introduce the media and distributors to the new format. The first five commercially-issued CD3s also went on sale that year, and Dunhill led the pack with two consecutively-numbered selections:

Harry Chapin: “Remember When the Music” (Dunhill DZS45-001)
Ray Charles: “America the Beautiful” (Dunhill DZS45-002)
Frank Zappa: “Peaches en Regalia” (Ryko RCD3-1001)
Scala Featuring Bill Nelson & Daryl Runswick: “Secret Ceremony (Theme From Brond)” (Restless 72269-3)
They Might Be Giants: “Don't Let's Start” (ESD 1)

Over the next two years, nearly 500 CD3s came out in the U.S., covering nearly every genre from the 1950s to present. CD3 discs, which can hold about 20 minutes of content, vary from one to six tracks with most having either two or four.

The number of American CD3s made in 1990 is about the same as 1987 — a mere handful — and the chapter soon closed on this experiment.

Your Beatles disc is but one of over 200 mini singles issued in 1988, making it quite a stretch to say it's among the first.

In 1988 and '89, EMI-Parlophone-Capitol issued about two dozen Beatles CD3s, far more than any other artist. In keeping with the vinyl single tradition, each mini has two tracks. Most have the same tunes as the original 45s (e.g., “Can't Buy Me Love” and “You Can't Do That”), though a few surprised us with an uncommon pairing (for the U.S.). Among those is “A Hard Day's Night” backed with “Things We Said Today.” In 1994, Capitol-Cema even produced a vinyl single of this unlikely coupling of 1964 songs (S7-17692).

For just a fin, you paid roughly the same as the then-overpriced retail cost 23 years ago. Now it seems like a bargain.

DEAR JERRY: I just heard a blip during the Entertainment Tonight music news that reminded me very much of something you would be writing about.

It seems someone recently had their album, digital of course, claim the No. 1 spot on Billboard, without the benefit of ever having a hit single.

I know it is more traditional for performers to establish themselves first with one or more hit singles, but I can't believe no one has done it before 2011.

What say you?
—Eddy Kirkendall, Tulsa, Okla.

DEAR EDDY: Having not heard that blip, my reply can only assume your interpretation of the facts to be accurate.

With that disclaimer stated, I definitely agree with your assessment.

Uncommon as it is, in researching just the first two decades of vinyl LPs I still found nine No. 1 albums by artists with no previous chart singles.

Many original cast and soundtrack albums topped the pop charts, but are obviously exempt from this discussion. Chronologically, those nine are:

1950 Yma Sumac “Voice of the Xtabay” (Capitol 244)
1954 Jackie Gleason “Tawny” (Capitol 471)
1954 Jackie Gleason “Music, Martinis, and Memories” (Capitol 509)
1955 Jackie Gleason “Lonesome Echo” (Capitol 627)
1960 Bob Newhart “The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart” (Warner Bros. 1379)
1962 Allan Sherman “My Son, the Folk Singer” (Warner Bros. 1475)
1962 Vaughn Meader “The First Family” (Cadence 3060)
1963 Frank Fontaine “Songs I Sing on the Jackie Gleason Show” (ABC-Paramount 442)
1969 Blind Faith “Blind Faith” (Atco 304)

In the case of the two spoken-word albums — by Bob Newhart and Vaughn Meader — neither comedian had ANY single releases before their first LP.

Likewise with the British all-star group, Blind Faith (Eric Clapton; Steve Winwood; Rick Grech; and Ginger Baker).

IZ ZAT SO? For the first 16 full years of vinyl LPs, an amazing 62% of the time the nation's No. 1 album was either a movie-TV soundtrack or an original cast recording.

From 1949 through 1965 — specifically, “Words and Music” to “The Sound of Music” — one collection or another of show tunes topped the charts for 516 weeks. This includes both 10- and 12-inch discs.

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