…which is CALLED, appropriately, “New”.
I am of course referring to Sir Paul McCartney, whose latest album is due out soon – and he has released a “single” from it.
Except there is no longer any such THING.
You see, for over a CENTURY, popular music relied for its popularity on plastic discs, containing analogue recordings of sound. You would put them on a player, place the arm at the beginning and watch it traverse the disc, the playing surface of which would flash and pulsate with the sound that emanated from the player – it was a PHYSICAL experience.
But then along came CDs.
And you would simply place one onto a drawer, push a button and it would disappear into the player. Then, without hiss, crackle, or any other sound, music would suddenly come out. And when it was done, rinse and repeat. Apart from watching the time count, it was a STERILE experience.
When CDs first came out, no-one considered singles to be OVER – they had come up with the “mini-disk” to replace those.
However, since many players lacked a two-stage drawer, these disks came with an adaptor, to enable them to fit into a one-stage drawer. But since this actually made them cost MORE to manufacture than the full-size disk, the practise was quickly abandoned, meaning CD singles were now just SHORT CDs.
And since, in the early Nineties, many people had not yet replaced their stereos with ones containing CD players, these “singles” were released on audio-cassette. As with the CD singles, they contained three tracks (in both directions) – but were comparatively expensive to produce, so were also abandoned as soon as possible.
Plus they were no more sexy to watch than CDs anyway.
Thus by the mid-Nineties, all you had were these three-track CDs that merely required you to get up to change them more often.
Unless you were into the REAL Pop of the Nineties – which was TRANCE.
Trance anthems came in two forms. First, for the enthusiasts, came the VINYL – in the form of a twelve-inch 45 RPM single. It would generally contain two mixes of the full, club version – plus a “radio edit”, which was effectively the single (most even had accompanying videos).
This analogue, high-dynamic format eclipsed the CD for sound quality (no “compression”).
But for the regular schlubb, it was a non-starter. They could only be obtained – for a limited period – from specialist shops (although a few major record outlets had a department for them, where you could even PLAY them – like in those Fifties booths). But unless you were technically adept, only the radio edit was practical.
No, for Joe Public the best bet was the 80-min pre-mixed COMPILATION CD (usually sold in twos, for the price of one) which contained the latest hits, mixed by PROFESSIONALS. But it was not the same as mixing tracks YOURSELF, as in days of yore, sitting on the front room carpet with your Dansette, surrounded by 7″ 45s.
All of which reduced Trance to a “niche market” – instead of it filling the mainstream, as it should have.
Naturally, the record industry did not care – it was too busy RE-selling the schlubbs their old records in the new CD format. Dusting off the tapes and giving them to The Boys In The Basement to “remaster” was a HELL of a lot cheaper than recording NEW material (production costs, studio time, mixing costs, publicity, organising promotional tours, etc.)
And so the single DIED – and with it, Pop Music.
But at 71, Sir Paul is still going strong. And every year or two, he has continued to record another album. Most have gone Top Five in Britain and the US (although the parameters used for record charts…) but when it comes to singles, he has fared less well.
But then, what constitutes a single these days?
Back In My Day, it was simple: a double-sided (but you rarely listened to the “b” side more than once) 7″ plastic disc that cost about four quid (six bucks) in today’s money. But now we have iTunes, where tracks only cost about ONE quid a pop.
Then again, In My Day the RECORD COMPANY glommed most of that four quid. And once the artist(s) had paid their “supertax” – they barely had cab-fare home from the studio.
Even the BEATLES didn’t start making REAL money until their stuff was reissued on CD, in the Eighties and Nineties.
But with iTunes, most of that quid goes to the artist – except about five minutes after a track’s launch, someone (often, the artist themselves) will upload it onto YouTube and those with free “downloaders” can have it for the price of a blank disk (around 20 pence).
So what of “New”? Well, having heard it on YouTube (I couldn’t be arsed downloading it) it sounds like typical Sir Paul – light, perky and fun. If I listened to radio these days, it’d probably grow on me.
Although the tune isn’t much. But then, almost all of the good melodies were written by 1980 – many by Sir Paul himself (200 songs, people – the man was a phenomenon).
And this is where we are now. Thanks to modern technology, perfect reproductions of any music released are immediately available to anyone who wants them. Forget copyright – it belongs to a bygone age.
Which is actually OKAY. Things change and the fact that new music immediately becomes Public Domain is a GOOD THING. The record companies had it their way for over a century – there was no way of obtaining music other than through their rip-off system.
But now, studio production is no longer exclusive to them. High-end facilities are available to all. Thus today, music has ESCAPED from those greedy corporations and returned to its ROOTS. The People make music – and listen to it. LIVE.
One does not need to feel GUILTY about downloading. ALL artists – from Paul McCartney (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pE_1V0phMW8) to Frankie Rose (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DArPtS8QSwE) – now earn their due by ACTUALLY PERFORMING.