The Stereo Singles Project, Part 4
Reintroduction of Stereo 45s (1968-70)

By Mike Callahan, Dave Edwards, Patrice Eyries, Randy Watts, and Tim Neely
Last update: February 7, 2016

Stereo singles came and went from 1958-1961, and died due to lack of interest from the general public. Stereo 33s were popular for a time with juke boxes, but faded out in favor of stereo "Little LPs." These stories are covered in previous parts of this Stereo Singles Project. Now let's go back and look at what was happening at the beginning of 1967.

Early 1967: The Ascendance of FM-Stereo Radio...

Commercial singles, as well as promo singles, were all mono, and had been for years. But stereo FM stations, including stereo top 40 stations, were gaining a lot of listeners. In a Page 1 story in Billboard on February 4, 1967 (see right), the FM stations were interviewed and almost all noted that having to wait for a stereo album to come out before getting a stereo version of a hit was putting them at a disadvantage. They had been pleading and complaining to record distributors for a while that they needed stereo promo singles or at least a stereo promo sampler album to let them play hits in stereo in a timely manner.

From the record manufacturers' viewpoint, they had been feeling a dollar crunch due to a recent slump in sales. They weren't particularly in the mood to take on the added expense of pressing up promos in another format in addition to the regular mono ones. They desperately wanted a price increase, but were afraid it would hurt sales even more. Mono albums — usually priced at $3.79 vs $4.79 for stereo — had outsold stereo 54% to 45% in 1966, but in the first few months of 1967, this ratio had moved to 50/50. There had been some vague talk about the futuristic Shangri-La of an "all-stereo industry," where life could be simpler all around, but this nirvana seemed years, if not decades away.

Technical Problems with an "All-Stereo Industry"...

There were still problems in making stereo records truly compatible with mono. These problems came under two major headings. First, there was the same problem there had been since 1957, with mono cartridges not having vertical flexibility and thereby damaging the stereo records. This had been ameliorated somewhat as the old mono cartridges were retired and replaced by new mono cartridges that did have vertical "give," and therefore wouldn't damage records. But there were still a lot of old-type mono cartridges out there, and not insignificantly, a lot of them were at radio stations. About 62% of homes were estimated to be equipped for stereo, but over a third of the home machines were mono, including a lot of $20 portable record players.

The second major problem was not mechanical, but rather electronic. In taking a stereo record and playing it mono, essentially the two sides were added together in the resulting mono output. This has been called a "fold down" to mono, as opposed to mixing a mono master from the session tapes. Although this fold-down did not affect the signals that were on only one channel, the result for sounds that were on both channels (or "in the middle" of a stereo field) was to make them about 6db louder. Although not a huge increase, it was enough to be noticeable, and make the stereo and mono experiences "different."

Jac Holzman Challenges The Industry...

In late March, 1967 [Billboard, April 4, 1967, Page 1 - see right], Jac Holzman, President of Elektra Records, made a bold proposal that would solve the industry's need for a price increase, as well as the mechanical problem with compatibility. First, the industry should eliminate the mono LP and go to an all-stereo format as soon as possible. This would have the effect of a 50-cent price increase on albums (since about half being sold were mono at a dollar less). Holzman noted that "This increase would not be apparent to the consumer," so negative reaction to a price increase would be minimized. "As long as the public does not mind paying the extra dollar for stereo, the best method for putting the increase into effect is to eliminate the $3.79 record."

The mechanical problem with compatibility could be solved, Holzman went on, by the RIAA offering a stereo ceramic cartridge for $5 with every mono cartridge turned in. An all-stereo industry would benefit manufacturers and also distributors, who would be relieved of having to carry duplicate inventories.

Then, for our purposes on this page, came the kicker. The story noted, "Holzman doesn't feel the monaural single makes any sense, either. He points out that most jukeboxes are equipped to play stereo records, but outside of records ordered on a custom basis by jukebox manufacturers, the only records available to operators are monaural.... The consumer, who buys most of the singles, will settle for monos. If only stereo singles were produced, Holzman argues, the simple replacement of a cartridge would enable any phonograph to play the record." Holzman's unstated implication was that although consumers "settle" for mono, they would probably like stereo singles better at the same price.

The Switch to Stereo-Only Album Releases...

It was an intriguing proposition that the industry as a whole took very seriously. There was still the problem of what a fold-down did to the sound, but record companies were excited about not having to do mono masters any more, which were more expensive in studio time than stereo mastering. During the rest of 1967, the industry focused on solving the technical problems with an eye to going to all-stereo, at least for albums, by the start of 1968.

Within two weeks of Holzman's suggestion, EMI announced that it was ceasing production of mono classical albums with its July, 1967, releases. In addition, both Columbia and Decca announced that in addition to eliminating mono albums, they would also be putting out "deluxe" packages at premium prices as part of their strategy for increasing prices. Mercury announced it was already experimenting with compatible stereo discs. These, initially used for Smash and other subsidiary labels, placed stereo records in mono jackets. These had mono labels, but when played on a stereo machine, played stereo. They could be identified by the matrix numbers in the dead wax, where instead of starting with "2" for mono or "6" for stereo, the matrix number began with "2/6". In October, ABC announced it was discontinuing all mono albums except for budget lines.

As it turned out, the industry's January, 1968, goal for all-stereo on albums slipped a few months, depending on the company, but most labels went to all stereo releases sometime in 1968. Some, like Columbia, generally went to all-stereo, but hedged their bets for best-selling artists, making some mono copies available around release time for a few selected releases.

The Early Months of Stereo Singles Reintroduced...

Stereo singles were a different matter, and the record manufacturers proceeded cautiously. Unlike the substantial financial benefit of the de facto price increase achieved by discontinuing the less expensive mono albums, there was no financial benefit at all to substituting stereo singles for mono singles. And there was a potential minefield with the radio stations they depended on to sell their product.

Putting his money where his mouth was, Jac Holzman announced in early February, 1968, that henceforth all Elektra singles would be pressed in stereo. And how were the technical problems solved? "The new singles would be cut with vertical limiting, so that radio stations with modern monaural equipment will be able to reproduce them without difficulty." Vertical limiting was a technique discussed ten years earlier to make stereo records compatible; it minimized damage from mono cartridges, but it "didn't allow the full stereo experience," so it was discarded in 1958. Apparently, the RIAA balked at providing stereo cartridges to everyone on the cheap, so to make this happen, a compromise was necessary. Most of the other companies followed suit with Elektra.

Holzman was widely acknowledged as a pioneer in moving the industry to an all-stereo format. In that month, February, 1968, Love's "Alone Again Or" appeared in stereo on Elektra EK-45629, and until March, 1970, every commercial Elektra single we've seen has been issued in stereo. After that, Elektra put out a few mono-only singles, but Elektra's commitment to stereo singles was early and long-lasting.

Not so much with other record labels. Buddah Records jumped on the stereo bandwagon early, also, and released "Rice Is Nice" by the Lemon Pipers (as well as a Judy White single) that same month, February. But Buddah didn't have any real commitment to stereo singles. Five more by April on their "Dual 45" version of compatible stereo singles, and one marked "Dual 45" that was just plain mono ("May I Take A Giant Step" by the 1910 Fruitgum Company). That April, Neil Bogart, who ran Buddah Records, claimed to a Billboard interviewer that Buddah was "pressing 90 percent of their singles in stereo." This statement was hyperbolic, at best, if not just plain untrue. After a mere seven "Dual 45" pressings, Buddah abandoned stereo singles for more than a year, until August, 1969.

MGM was another label that was early to the stereo single re-entry party, but like Buddah, the commitment wasn't there. In late February, 1968, sensing "the next big thing," MGM rushed out a new stereo single by the Cowsills, "In Need Of A Friend" [K 13909 SS] just over a month after releasing the group's "We Can Fly," which was still on the charts. They called their new compatible stereo single process "Saturation Sound," and indicated it by the letters "SS" after the catalog number and on some labels, a large "SS" logo. They then released most of the next 30 singles in stereo, up to and including K 13939 SS, Eric Burdon & The Animals' "Sky Pilot." After "Sky Pilot," MGM discontinued stereo singles until about a year later with "Spill the Wine" by Eric Burdon & War [MGM K-14118].

Another label to release stereo singles in the first few months was Atlantic/Atco. Between Atlantic and Atco, they released about a dozen stereo singles in March and April, 1968, then like other labels, they abandoned the stereo singles for more than a year. But Atlantic's entry into 1968's stereo single revival was different....

Atlantic Records Takes A Different Approach: The CSG Process...

To their credit, Atlantic tried to address the second problem, the electronic problem that caused "fold-downs" to have voices and instruments "in the middle" come out sounding louder than they should. Howard Holzer, of Holzer Audio Engineering Company (Haeco), developed an electronic processor called the Compatible Stereo Generator, or CSG. The source of the extra loudness of objects in the middle when folded down to mono was the addition of the sound from both channels. Holzer's CSG used phasing to partly cancel the sound from one channel so there would be no added loudness when folded down. Atlantic took out a large ad in Billboard's April 6, 1968, issue trumpeting the virtues of the CSG processing they were applying to their stereo releases (see left).

Phasing is an important consideration for stereo records. When the two channels (A&B) are "in phase," they add arithmetically when folded down to mono (A+B). If one channel is completely out of phase with the other (180 degrees out of phase), the stereo recording will sound somewhat "hollow," but when folded down to mono this addition will result in things on both channels disappearing in the fold down (A-B=0), although things only on one channel or the other will still be heard. [This is the same concept used for so-called "Vocal eliminator" devices, or as was done by hand by collectors to achieve "OOPS" (out of phase stereo effects) in the 1970s and 1980s by temporarily rewiring the stereo cartridge.] The CSG process took the signal on one channel and rendered it "slightly" out of phase (say, 90 degrees), just enough to compensate for the extra loudness heard in a normal fold down.

This "solved" the extra loudness problem electronically, but aesthetically, it caused a slight "out of phase" distortion which affected things in the middle of the stereo field (including, regrettably, lead vocals). On records where the bass was mixed in the middle, it also cancelled some of that sound, resulting in a kind of "tinny" sound for the record. The unnatural effects were enhanced when listening on headphones.

With these unfortunate side effects, why do it? The real benefit of using the CSG process for record companies was that they no longer had to do any true mono mixes from scratch. Just mix the stereo master, put it through the CSG process, and fold it down to mono - no more messing with those pesky multitracks to get a mono master!

Instead of using CSG for stereo singles — which Atlantic had already quickly abandoned partly due to criticism of the sound anomalies — Atlantic/Atco started proudly stating "CSG Processed Mono Master" on their mono singles starting in February, 1969. But this process of making mono records soon also drew criticism, and they stopped advertising it on record labels after October, 1969. (To audiophiles who disdain even regular fold downs, this was the worst of all worlds: a distorted fold down instead of a true mono mix).

To be fair, not all mono or stereo releases by Atlantic/Atco employed the CSG process. Like "electronic reprocessing to simulate stereo", it seemed like a good idea at the time, but history has not been kind.

In addition to Atlantic/Atco, several other companies used the CSG process, including Warner Bros/Reprise, MGM, and A&M. By 1970, it was falling into disuse, at least partly due to its unfortunate side effects, but it still showed up from time to time even as late as 1979. Today, digital programs such as Adobe Audition can sometimes reverse the effects of CSG processing on a stereo record by re-rotating the out of phase channel the appropriate number of degrees. But for CSG-Processed mono masters, you get what you get.

The Inevitable Mono Backlash...

Almost predictably, as soon as stereo singles were re-introduced in any quantity, there was a backlash of complaints from AM radio stations. The whining was loud and obnoxious enough to force record companies to continue pressing mono promotional copies, although the manufacturers fired back with the accusation that if the AM stations were "losing half the record" when they broadcast stereo fold downs, they most likely had their equipment set up wrong.

The response differed. Elektra, for example, usually furnished both mono and stereo promo copies, anyway. Capitol, for their part, pressed a lot of mono promos but with corresponding stereo commercial copies. But many labels just gave up, acceding to the pressure and abandoning stereo singles, at least for a while.

Near the end of 1968, in the face of all the negative feedback from radio stations, Atlantic's Vice President Nesuhi Ertegun gave his take on why Atlantic (and others) stopped issuing stereo singles after a few months: "We're ready but the market isn't." [Billboard, 12/14/68, Page 3 - see left.] He noted that the CSG stereo record worked satisfactorily only on "modern equipment," but that a lot of consumers and radio stations were using dated equipment which loses the full value of the CSG disk. Most of the stations, he noted, were using a cheap $9 cartridge, whereas a modern cartridge would cost about $25, and would provide much better sound. They even considered taking up Jac Holzman's idea of starting a fund to replace cartridges, but they quickly realized it would be a huge money loser, so they scrapped the idea. So Atlantic decided to play a waiting game, figuring sooner or later everyone would catch up to them (and by implication, I suppose, catch up to their brilliant pioneering lead).

Eventually, starting in 1969 or 1970, the major labels began pressing mono/stereo promos with the "plug sides" on both sides. That, finally, seemed to quiet the radio station static. And for collectors, those mono/stereo promos are sometimes the only place to get a 45-version in stereo.

Stereo Singles in the 1970s...

We have tried to capture data on this page that will give the collector a good idea of what was available as a stereo single from 1968-70, the first few years of the introduction. In general, more and more labels jumped to the stereo bandwagon between 1968 and 1975. Cadet started issuing most singles in stereo in late 1968 (sister label Chess a few months later). RCA and Metromedia began in February, 1969, followed by Capitol/Apple in March, 1969, and Decca/Brunswick in March/April, 1969. Columbia started stereo singles in October, 1969 (Epic a month later). Reprise was a relative latecomer, waiting until 1970.

As an index, in 1968, less than 3% of the top-40 records were released as stereo singles. In 1969, that jumped to 18%, followed by 1970 (27%), 1971 (31%), 1972 (53%), 1973 (76%), and 1974 (92%). After 1975, essentially all the hit singles were stereo, with exceptions few and far between.

We have tried to include all the labels that had records on the Billboard Hot 100 or Bubbling Under charts, as well as important C&W and R&B labels, during 1968, 1969, and 1970. A comprehensive label index to all the labels listed on the Reintroduction of Stereo 45s (1968-70) pages is available for your convenience.

We would appreciate any additions or corrections to this discography. Just send them to us via e-mail. Both Sides Now Publications is an information web page. We are not a catalog, nor can we provide the records listed below. We have no association with any of these record labels. Should you be interested in acquiring the 45s listed in this discography (which are all out of print), we suggest you see our Frequently Asked Questions page and follow the instructions found there. This story and discography are copyright 2015, 2016 by Mike Callahan.


Label Scan

Number - Release Date - Artist - Songs


Smaller independent labels from 1968-70, including:

Abnak, Audio Fidelity, Avco Embassy, Bang, Big Tree, Cotique, De-Lite, Diamond, Dynamo, Fraternity, GNP Crescendo, Gordo, Hickory, Laurie, Mainstream, Musicor, Polydor, Shout, Steady, Tetragrammaton, USA, Twinight, Vegas, VMC, White Whale, & many small labels issuing only a few singles during 1968-70.


A&M, CTI, Ode


ABC, Back Beat, BluesWay, Command, Dunhill, LHI, Probe, Senate


Atlantic, Atco, Alston, Astro, Clintone, Cotillion, Dakar, Dial, Flaming Arrow, Karen, San Francisco, SCG, Shama, Shove Love, Stone Flower, Track


Bell, AGP, Amy, Amos, Crewe, Direction, Elf, Goldwax, Hot Line Music Journal, Mala, Maxwell, New Voice, Page One, Philly Groove, T-A, Windfall


Buddah, Kama Sutra, Curtom, Eleuthera, Harbour, Hot Wax, Pavilion, Royal American, Skye, Super K, Team, Thomas, T-Neck


Capitol, Apple, Amaret, Blue Thumb, Chips, Fame, Hot Biscuit Disc Company, Invictus, 1-2-3, Shelter, Tower, We Make Rock'n Roll Records


Chess, Cadet, Cadet Concept, Checker, All Platinum, A&I, Aries, Neptune, Rare Bullet, Stang


Columbia, Epic, Barnaby, Date, Gamble, Immediate, Okeh, Thunder [Spindizzy]


Dot, Acta, Dynovoice, Ranwood, Steed, Viva



Jamie, Guyden, Arctic, Dionn, Phil-L.A. of Soul, Sundi, Top And Bottom


Janus, Westbound


Jewel, Paula, Ronn



Liberty, Imperial, Minit, Soul City, World Pacific, World Pacific Jazz


London, Deram, Hi, Parrot, Press, Sire, Threshold


Decca, Brunswick, 4 Corners of the World, Kapp, Congress, MTA, Revue, Uni


Mercury, Fontana, Intrepid, Peachtree, Philips, Smash, Wayside



MGM, Colossus, Forward, Heritage, L&R, Lionel, Spring, Together, Verve, Verve Forecast


Monument, Rising Sons, Sound Stage 7


Motown, Gordy, Rare Earth, Ric-Tic, Soul, Tamla, V.I.P.


RCA-Victor, Calendar/Kirshner, Chart, Colgems


Roulette, B.T. Puppy, Calla, Josie, Jubilee, Moon Shot, ZEA


Scepter, Wand, Bamboo, Bunky, Pepper, Scram


Amazon, Honor Brigade, Plantation, Silver Fox, SSS International, Sun International


Stax, Volt, Enterprise, H.I.P., KoKo


United Artists, Abbott, Solid State, Veep


Vanguard, Vanguard Apostolic


Warner Bros., Reprise, Brother, Deity, Loma

Thanks to Jim Abbott, Reg Bartlette, Ed Bishop, David Clark, Dave (Copyright60), Steve (Hykker), J.R. Nelson, Sr., Luke Pacholski, and Gianni Puccio

Back to Introduction and History

Back to Part 1. Early Stereo 45s (1958-1961)

Back to Part 2. Stereo-33 Singles (1959-1964)

Back to Part 3. Little LPs (Jukebox EPs) (1962-1975)

Back to the Discography Listings Page

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