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For some reason, I used to think that a 7" version of a song was a 7-minute long version.

Then, I started noticing that most 7" versions I came across were in fact around 3:30 long. Upon further inspection (understand "I googled the question"), I found that 7" version was another expression for the radio edit of a song.

My best guess would be that, back in the day, the vinyls used for radio edits were 7 inches in diameter (or radius?) but I can't find this information anywhere.

Surely, someone knows more about this?


EDIT (for context): I'm seeing this 7" version thing a lot in song titles.

For instance, here is Rasputin (7" version), and here is Tied Up - 7" version.

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    I'm pretty sure it was 7" version, that is, 7 inch version. The reference was to the diameter. They were 45RPM. Very few pop radio stations would play any song that was seven minutes long. – TRomano Feb 14 at 14:11
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    This question makes me feel so very old. – Russell Borogove Feb 14 at 17:29
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    @RosieF I'm pretty sure my quotes match one another. I surrounded the 7" version with single typographic quotes, because using double quotes would have clashed with the straight double quote from 7" version. – RichouHunter Feb 14 at 17:32
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    @WS2, LPs are usually 33rpm. – Roger Lipscombe Feb 14 at 20:14
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    If you want to be fancy with the Unicode, it's not a 7" version or a 7” version but a 7″ version. The symbol is a double-prime symbol rather than a double quotation mark, so it's slanted (unlike the typewriter-style double quote) and not curled (unlike the publication-style double quote). – Tanner Swett Feb 14 at 21:29
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When I was growing up in the '60s, in Australia, there were three common formats of vinyl record available. My comments below are based on my own experience and purchases of records from major bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

  1. Singles:

    • These were the primary format that was used to promote a new song from an artist. The tracks were commonly selected from a newly released, or about to be released, LP (A.K.A. Album).
    • The 'A' side had the song that was being promoted, and played on the radio. The 'B' side was not necessarily of less quality but was not promoted or played as often.
    • They were 7 inch diameter with one song per side.
    • They were played at 45 RPM.
    • Each song was usually about 3 minutes long, give or take 30 seconds. This seemed to be the preferred length for commercial radio stations.
    • This ties in with the the idea that the 7" version is the edit aimed at radio performance.
  2. EPs (Extended Play)

    • These were also 7 inch, 45 RPM discs, but with two tracks per side.
    • Again they were usually a selection of tracks from an LP.
    • I think they were, primarily, a way for the record companies to get a higher value than singles for customers (young teens) who could not afford to buy LPs.
  3. LPs (Long Play)

    • These were the major works of many artists.
    • They were 12 inch diameter and played at 33 1/3 RPM
    • Playing time was usually around 20 minutes per side.
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    That's an outstandingly good, detailed answer from "a new contributor". Kudos. (And the question made you feel as old as it made me feel, right? 😉) – Owen Blacker Feb 15 at 16:10
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    @delliotg 78 rpm records were usually made of shellac, although some were made of vinyl. They are still around now because people collect them. – Robert Furber Feb 15 at 20:45
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    @jostle One thing missing is that the use of 7" version to mean a radio edit probably rose in popularity due to the rise of 12" singles, which would contain a(t least one) longer remix of a song. This fits the examples given in the question, which come from the disco era, when this practice began. About 20 years or so, teachers and parents would always make some silly remark whenever a vinyl record appeared, saying that we kids wouldn't know what they were, when in fact we all knew what they were because 12" singles were the medium used to play music in night clubs. – Robert Furber Feb 15 at 20:51
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    The original reason for early 7" singles, including Rock'n'Roll numbers, being around 3 minutes long was that a lot of people had existing gramophones that could only play 78rpm records so the early vinyl singles were released in both 7" 45rpm and 10" 78rpm versions. For a variety of reasons only one master was cut so the song was arranged to fit on the 78. They stopped using shellac releasing both formats on vinyl but the wider grooves of the 78 meant that the vinyl 78s were still restricted to around 3 3/12 minutes in length. – BoldBen Feb 16 at 12:45
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    @Tetsujin Not a pressing die but 'cut' in the sense of the original recording, whatever medium that recording was made on. I'm not sure what medium they were using commercially in the late 40s so I used 'cut' rather than 'recording'. The point is that the production pressing dies for both the 78 and 45 discs were made from the result of the same studio session in a parallel way to that in which CD and MP3 tracks can be produced from the same original.; – BoldBen Feb 16 at 20:07
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A "7 inch single" was a 7 inch diameter vinyl record, which ran at 45 rpm, with a single song on each side; the main 'A' side the 'B' side which normally had a less popular song.

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    Just to support this answer, a typical song on this size of record would be roughly three and a half minutes. You can fit up to 4:30, but the sound quality suffers when you tightly pack the grooves in the record (more info – Snow Feb 14 at 15:49
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    Songs also came in 12" versions. It might be also worth pointing out that " is not the symbol for minute. – JdeBP Feb 14 at 17:32
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    @RichouHunter, yes, 33 rpm records (also called "LPs" or "albums") were typically 12 inches in diameter. There were also 33 rpm 7" records, but the main use for these (AFAIK) was for spoken-word recordings for children. – The Photon Feb 14 at 18:17
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    @RichouHunter, a 12" single (often called "EP", meaning "extended player") is the same physical size as a 12" album ("LP", meaning "long player"), but is played at 45rpm. So it's around 10 to 15 minutes long. – Toby Speight Feb 14 at 18:43
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    Less popular B-Sides: Beach Boys "God Only Knows", Queen "We Will Rock You", Beatles "Hello Goodbye"... – LarsTech Feb 14 at 19:44
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I think the point being missed in the otherwise good answers so far comes from a later distinction.

Yes, the 'seven inch' was the format of a 'pop single', potentially though not necessarily shortened from a longer album track - but until the 80's no-one would have called that single a 'seven inch', they would have just called it 'a single', as opposed to 'an EP' [Extended Play] 'an album' or earlier 'an LP' [Long Player].

The 7" distinction comes from when people first started making 12" singles - longer cuts intended for the dance floor. Often they would drop for minutes into deconstructed sections not really suitable for home listening & certainly not for mainstream radio. A 12" single would still be played at 45rpm unlike an album; the reasoning being that using all the available space for a 10 minute track as opposed to the 22 minutes of an album at 33rpm, you could space the grooves wider & therefore cut more bass into it.

So the distinction initially came about to differentiate the two physical formats & incidentally their intended audiences.

Later distinctions have come about as more & more different 'mix' versions of tracks became popular, hence the rise of the term 'radio edit' - as for the past few years vinyl formats haven't been so popular, so a lot of those simple 'distinctions by physical size' have been blurred.

  • Nice answer but I'm unaware of a 10" version of New Order's Blue Monday, in fact reputedly it was the best-selling 12" of all time. I can't see a 10" version listed on Discogs.com. Are you sure about that? – matt freake Feb 15 at 15:23
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    @mattfreake - It does seem I'm mis-remembering. My friend agrees that it was 12" only, not 10". I think I must have had a mental wire crossed somewhere. I'll pull that paragraph from the answer. I think it survives without it. Thanks for the heads-up. – Tetsujin Feb 15 at 17:55
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    Possibly relevant: the Aerosmith song "Big Ten Inch Record." @mattfreake – David Conrad Feb 15 at 18:24
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    It's the wrong era; 'too early' in effect. 10" had been around a long time, it just became a bit of a 'thing' in the 80s. OMD's Electricity was apparently a 10", & Dire Straits' Walk of life - but i think I was simply mis-remembering Blue Monday as a 10 rather than a 12. – Tetsujin Feb 15 at 18:30
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    An excellent explanation. – Fattie Feb 16 at 15:46
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More typographically precise would be to write 7″ (using a double prime mark) instead of 7" (using a generic double quotation mark).

The OP's initial speculation about 7″ possibly meaning seven minutes seems to be rooted in a misunderstanding of one of the meanings of the double-prime mark. It does not refer to minutes, but rather to seconds:

  • 7″ means seven inches or seven seconds.
  • 7′ means seven feet or seven minutes.

(Minutes and seconds written this way can be measures of time or fractions of angular degrees.)

As other answers have mentioned, in the context of song titles, 7″ Version does not refer to time; it is just another way of writing Seven-Inch Version, meaning a version which was intended for release on a 7-inch single, a.k.a. "a 45".

As compared to the album version of a song, the 7″ version was often edited, sped up, remastered, or sometimes a completely different mix, especially in the 1980s.

You may find that compilation albums and radio stations nowadays often use album versions instead of the original hit single versions; it seems no one remembers or cares what version was actually the one you would hear on the radio at the time.

  • I have a friend who worked for many years as a record librarian for the BBC [he's now a producer there] who would most heartily disagree with your last statement, though it's not far off the mark for some stations. – Tetsujin Feb 16 at 11:31
  • an outstanding point ! – Fattie Feb 16 at 15:46
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Historically, music was sold as either singles (one track often with another track on the "B-side"), EP with 3-6 songs, or LP or full album with 8-15 songs.

In vinyl records, LPs and later EPs used a 12” (300mm) diameter disc. Singles used a 7" (178mm) diameter disc. Notably, the 7" format was used on jukeboxes, and it was also liked by radio stations.

So the 7" version is the mix of the song intended for radio broadcast. It may have different fade-in/out, may be shortened for brevity, or had its dynamic range altered to suit radio and its listeners' less quiet environments (office, car, etc.)

The term 7" version became critical to distinguish from a new use of the 12” single format, for DJ's at nightclubs. They contain a variety of (often outlandish) long-cut remixes of the song, with differing styles or beats optimized for different dance music styles (and not radio). Often the 12" single was the only single release, and the 7" version is one of the tracks on it.

protected by RegDwigнt Feb 16 at 19:47

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