These days, people stream single tracks before an album is released. Sometimes, when the album is available, they still prefer to stream, or download, one or more tracks from it, rather than the whole thing. In 1957, the music business may have been less sophisticated, but Ricky Nelson fans were demonstrating some fascinating consumer behaviour with a modern parallel.
The teenage sensation’s debut album Ricky had given him his first appearance on the Billboard LP chart on 11 November that year. It would eventually become a No. 1, but not until January of the new year. Meanwhile, Nelson was climbing the singles chart with the double A-side ‘Be-Bop Baby’ and ‘Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?’
But the custom of the time was for audiences to be served with a third, intermediate “product,” as it would now be called. This was in the cherished form of the fondly-remembered EP, or extended play. So it was that Ricky’s fans, offered the Ricky Part 1 disc featuring four tracks from the album — a cheaper purchasing option, of course — gave him a No. 1 on the Billboard EP chart of the time on 25 November, before he had either a No. 1 single or album. Customer power was alive and well even then.
The lead track on the EP was the Bob Merrill composition ‘Honeycomb,’ which was also track 1 on the album. Supporting it were Carl Perkins’ ‘Boppin’ The Blues,’ the single top side ‘Be-Bop Baby’ and its flip ‘Have I Told You Lately That I Love You.’
In a remarkable piece of marketing, the EP was followed by Ricky Part 2, with four more songs from the album, then by Ricky Part 3 with the four remaining tracks. All 12 songs had thus been released on three EPs, and then there was even a Ricky Part 4, which featured the A- and B-sides of his next two singles, the lead tracks of which were ‘Stood Up’ and ‘Believe What You Say.’
Believe it or not, all four EPs used the exact same cover photograph of Ricky that you see above, which was also the one on the album cover. One picture, and four EPs, were worth a thousand words in the teenage world of Ricky Nelson.
The Ricky album can be bought here.
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