September 11th, 2008

Don't Hassle the Hoff

How CDs Killed The Album

Back in the day - and I mean, BACK in the day - all they really had were singles. You'd go into the studio, record your song, and they'd slap it onto a 45 or whatever those little mini-records were called. I'm talking vinyl, LPs, the black circle. It fit for the times, when AM radio was king.

Then along came the rise of FM radio, where they could do things a little bit different. In the 50s and 60s, bands started compiling their songs onto albums and FM radio would play these entire albums. Life was good, and the album was booming.

Then came 8-Tracks; otherwise known as clunky, pointless audio cassettes. Then they invented the little cassettes that we know and love today. This was when the album as an artform really peaked.

Of course, you were never going to get rid of singles; they were the best advertisements FOR buying albums. But, once CDs came to town, it's been a slow crawl into the heart of the volcano.

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that this is 1991 and DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince have just released an album. You've already heard the first single and it's instantly your favorite song of all time. But, that song doesn't show up on the album until the third track ... what DO you DO?

Well, if you have a cassette, you're faced with two options: be patient and listen to the first two songs, or fast-forward and hope you don't skip ahead too far in your haste, thus forcing you to backtrack, ultimately taking longer to set it up the way you like it than it would've taken to just listen to the first two songs!

BUT, if you have a CD, then badda bing, you skip the first two songs, no muss. For people with short attention spans and a complete unwillingness to try anything new, they could listen to track 3 on repeat for a month straight until they finally tired of the damn thing, ultimately never listening to it again. The rest of the album, in the end, is completely worthless because the listener either didn't give it a chance, or because the rest of the songs just weren't that good to begin with.

Either way, CDs are the heroin of the music industry. Cassettes are like cigarettes, sure they'll get you your fix, but they won't get you HIGH. CDs will fuck you up early and often. Of course, MP3s are like freebasing meth, but that's neither here nor there. The album was long dead before MP3s came to town.

See, it was a simpler time when albums ruled the Earth. The 1970s. All anyone really had to do was get high, wear really fucked up clothing, and listen to music. Life was GOOD! Of course, the go-go 80s came around with their Walkmen and their Fonda Workout Tapes and before you knew it, people were still listening to albums on cassettes, but they were doing too much other shit to actually pay attention to the MUSIC! By the time CDs overtook tapes, the terrorists had already won. Everyone was multi-tasking, mixed-tapes were easier and easier to construct, multiple CD changers made it possible for people to listen to different singles on up to FIVE different albums with the click of a remote control.

Now, look at where we are. Album sales are at an all-time low just as iTunes is selling its billionth song! You're out of your MIND if you have a full album on your iPod that isn't a Greatest Hits compilation. And more and more of this generation are completely oblivious to the Deep Cuts.

You know, Deep Album Cuts. Those songs on an album that AREN'T singles. Those rare gems you can only find by putting in an hour of your time. Believe it or not, Led Zeppelin's 'Stairway To Heaven' was never released as a single. And yet, it was the number 1 most requested radio song of the 1970s. Would that have happened if Steve Jobs was born 30 years earlier? I doubt it! Metallica released three albums and an EP with ZERO singles over a period of their first four years! And yet, by year three they were selling out stadiums with crowds chanting along to every song. Where would they be if fickle fans were out looking for a hit song and ONLY a hit song?

You know what else is a thing of the past? An album gaining momentum over the period of a few months, slowly climbing the charts to reach the top 20. Nowadays, everyone starts out in the top 10 or top 5, and it's just a free-fall from there (with Kid Rock and Mariah Carey being disturbing recent exceptions to the rule). Do you know why this was so common 20+ years ago? Because maybe a band releases an album and the first song gets marginal airplay. So, a small percentage of people go out and buy that album and they LISTEN to that album. Over a period of weeks, other songs besides the first single start to stand out. More singles are released and more people start buying the album. Until, before you know it, half the album has been on the radio over the last 5 months and it's just then starting to peak on the charts!

I dunno. I guess I just miss the simpler times. When finding out about an impending release was a rare treat you discovered by chance. When a bootleg wasn't an album that leaked online 3 months premature; it was an actual bootleg! Sold on the streets, in a crappy Maxell 60 minute tape, with the tracks hand-written. And it was released AFTER the official album hit stores!

But nowadays, you've got record labels consolidating. You've got them making less money, which means they're employing fewer people, which means they can afford to discover fewer new bands, which means popular music will become even more homogenized than it already is. Oh sure, people like to point to MySpace and say that new bands are breaking all the time; but that's the problem right there! Instead of more new bands getting discovered, too MANY are clogging up the arteries, and most of them are god-awful shitty! It's impossible to seep through the muck!

So, where does that leave us? Well, eventually, albums will be phased out entirely. Bands, if they so choose, will be able to make them and release them on their websites if they like, but what's going to rule the day once again will be the singles. A new ice age will be upon us, wiping out all the dinosaurs it once gave birth to. Fortunately for me, I'll most likely be too old or long dead before the album follows in my wake.

Yet another example of how we're destroying the Earth and leaving it ravaged for our grandchildren.
  • Current Music
    Smoosh - Organ Talk

But You, You Had To Move To The City

Ah to the city where it all begaaaaan!

Me and Nate Myles Long, together again. It's like that movie Serendipity, or ... An American Tail! You know, the one with the rats who move to America from Russia and Fievel gets separated from his family so he befriends Dom DeLuise and they live in squalor in old-tyme New York City having adventures, until finally Fievel finds his family again and they all live happily ever after.

Now to find out if Nate is Dom DeLuise or if he's Papa Mousekewitz.

I'll be living in Beacon Hill, a mere 3 miles from where I work, and even less than that to Safeco and Qwest Field. Which, if nothing else, means that I'm pretty damn close to some sports bars adjacent to the stadia. Other than that, though, I really couldn't tell you what all they have in Beacon Hill. I just know that it's a cheap cab ride to Downtown, an easy bus ride, or a managable 3-mile drunken stumble home through some real roughneck neighborhoods. Fortunately for me, I have the roughest neck of anyone I know.

It came down to Beacon Hill or Capitol Hill - and mind you, we were offered both apartments on the exact same day. What clinched it, really, was the $200 per month less we'd be paying in the B-Hill. Plus, we get a garage space included for my car and his motorcycle. PLUS, I dunno, it's nice and open and has a view of Safeco and Qwest Field. $1150 per month. That's including water/sewer/garbage.

We move in October 1st.

Onto more pressing matters: I need to buy a bed as SOON as possible. After I move, of course, but still, I want a real fuckin' bed. As of right now, I have an Ikea chair, a dining room table with no chairs, two computers, some clothes, and a matress that's been sitting in my dad's garage for the last year. I need a bed.

I also need to figure out how I'll be getting to work. It's a difficult choice. I could walk, but that's supposed to take me 36 minutes to get to the free bus zone (if I were to believe Google Maps when it says it takes 36 minutes to walk 1.8 miles). That's 36 minutes, plus another 10-15, meaning I'd want to leave my apartment by a quarter after 7am. Which means I could wake up AT 7am, quickly shower, quickly get dressed, and I'd be golden. I don't know how awesome that would be in the winter when it's raining all the time, but I've always been a fan of umbrellas.

That means, for those of you keeping score at home, I'd be getting an extra hour's sleep every day, PLUS I'd be home an extra hour earlier as well. Plus I would've walked four miles each day.

And here's an even AWESOMER notion I just notioned: there's a rumor going around that on the 12th floor of my building, there's a shower in the men's room ... you like apples?

Really, it's all coming together right here, folks. Let's say, I get up, and instead of showering, I put on some shorts, some running shoes, and RUN my ass to work. That gets me there early enough to shower and change into proper work clothes (which would have been safely stowed away in a backpack - or better yet - stowed away in a filing cabinet at work every Monday morning). Then, when I'm done with work, I change into my running clothes, and RUN my ass home! Two runs for the price of one, PLUS I'm home quicker than I would be if I walked the 18 minute miles!

This is where I tap myself on the side of my forehead with a smug smirk on my face. Brains! I've got 'em; you want 'em! That's right, I've already thought and re-thought and re-RE-thought this whole shebang.

Of course, meanwhile, Nate will be working three blocks from our new place. I could literally punt him like a football every morning to his worksite.

  • Current Music
    William Hung - Big Dumb Sex