For twenty years, Norton Records has been aggressively out of step with popular music, choosing instead to safeguard the rock that arose from the rockabilly craziness of Buddy Holly. Though the torch passed through the years to some unlikely candidates, the music represented in I Hate CDs: Norton Records 45 RPM Singles Collection Vol. 1 shows the evolution of rock from garages and high school gyms to the darkened clubs of the punk scene. It’s an important historical document of music that otherwise might be lost to history, and, even better, it’s an enlightening exploration of the backwoods and fringes of the rock ‘n’ roll world.
The Ramones are present with two songs that show very different aspects of their sound. “I Want to Be Your Boyfriend” is pure nostalgia in Joey Ramone’s nasal twang, while “Judy Is a Punk” is an example of the energy that defined the band’s early catalog.
In addition to the more well-known bands, Norton gives ample time to niche artists, such as Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and the 5,6,7,8’s, who blow through “Harlem Shuffle” with all the gusto they showed in Kill Bill. But the collection is short on curiosities and long on quality rock.
Other highlights include the hillbilly stomp of Hasil Adkins on “Chicken Shake” and Dictators’ rousing “Who Will Save Rock and Roll?” Perhaps the find of the collection though, is “September Gurls” by Big Star. Though the song is at least two levels quieter than the rest of the collection, the lo-fi guitars and sweet chorus remind us not only what was so good about the band but also what a joy it can be to find an unknown treasure. I Hate CDs is overflowing with these moments.