Missing out on masterpieces. (UPDATED!)

So everybody’s making a big deal out of the Beatles’ catalog being available on iTunes now. As far as that goes vis-a-vis the Beatles, all I can say is, meh. (I always thought that, along with Bruce Springsteen, they were one of the most overrated acts in pop music history. The Rolling Stones always appealed much more to me.)

But there is something about the whole thing that bugs me — the whole downloading-just-one-or-two-songs-per-album phenomenon. For the life of me I can’t understand why any music fan would do this. Whenever you get a group of fans together and a discussion gets rolling, inevitably said discussion is going to turn to “Favorite Unreleased Album Cuts.” And such treasures are going to go undiscovered with this new business model that concentrates on the song instead of the album. I can think of (almost literally) a thousand examples for myself off the top of my head; but just for one example, if I had downloaded what were then my two favorite songs from Iron Maiden’s Powerslave cd — “Aces High” and “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” — I would have missed out on “Losfer Words (Big ‘Orra),” “Flash of the Blade” and “The Duellists” — as Albatross said of that last one, “Never very popular, yet oh so good.” The title track and “Back In The Village” were also worth the price of the cd even if they didn’t end up being favorites.

And the same could be said for those thousand other examples. I don’t know what this new business model holds for the future of the music industry vis-a-vis its profitability, but as far as creativity goes I don’t think it’s going to be good. What’s the incentive for the artists and labels to spend all that money on recording 8-12 songs if fans are going to buy only two or three of them? And I know every genre’s fans are going to be different, but what of unreleased gems from other genres — like, say, George Strait’s rollicking version of the Del Reeves classic “Good Time Charley’s”? I sure hate to think recordings like that would go unmade or be phased out for more popular downloads. Thoughts, anyone?

UPDATE! Sabra with her comments made me think to Google “B-Side hits,” which yielded this link. Some of my favorites:

“Born on the Bayou,” CCR

“Not Fade Away,” Buddy Holly

“Roadhouse Blues,” The Doors

“Mercedez Benz,” Janis Joplin

“Get Rhythm,” Johnny Cash

“After the Thrill Is Gone,” the Eagles

“Love Is A Rose,” Linda Ronstadt

Now wouldn’t it have been a shame if those songs had gone unrecorded?


One Response to “Missing out on masterpieces. (UPDATED!)”

  1. southtexaspistolero Says:

    Remember when I was playing you those album cuts off of Unleashed and you were like, “Hey, these don’t suck!” And of course the best cuts off Copperhead Road weren’t the singles either, and I am still waiting impatiently to see if the couple of really good songs off of Revival are going to make it as singles or not. In fact, I think that’s half the fun of buying early–seeing if you can guess what makes it to radio.

    And of course you also have the historic quirk where a B-side becomes a hit and the single is passed over. Can’t think of any examples offhand, but it’s happened more than once.

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