Slate’s Hit Parade – The destruction of the single

Slate’s Hit Parade – The destruction of the single

Slate’s Hit Parade podcast


“Here Comes the Sun” – the most-sold Beatles song on iTunes

Slate’s Hit Parade – How the labels destroyed the single

Slate’s Hit Parade podcast is now separate from their “Culture Gabfest” pod, and that’s a good thing. In the series’ fifth drop, the subject is the single. The recording industry hated singles, not because they didn’t make money. They hated them because they didn’t make enough money. Listeners wanted the music they heard on the radio. The labels wanted more retail sales. The way to get more money out of consumers was to sell them albums rather than singles. Problem was, a lot of albums only had the one or two good tracks that ended up as singles. The other eight-ish tracks on the album just weren’t interesting. The industry’s solution: don’t sell singles, force the public to buy the album.

The strategy worked. You wanted that Joni Mitchell tune you heard on the radio? Go buy her “Court and Spark” album. Same for artists from The Beatles to Nirvana and Pearl Jam. The industry refused to sell the tunes on the radio as singles for decades. Listen to the pod, it’s fascinating.

Singles vs Albums

Slate's Hit Parade

Alanis Morisette’s “You Oughta Know” – lots of radio play, never a single

I never bought singles, mainly because I appropriated the family stereo at an early age. I bought albums by Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, Yes, and The Beatles when I was in seventh grade. My sisters had a record player and were content with 45 RPM singles. Not me. I’m not sure if my personal rejection of the single was because of any marketing strategy on part of the industry. I’m just one of those mutants that liked the “album tracks” better than the “single track” on an LP. Take Boston’s debut album, for example. “More Than A Feeling” was the big-radio tune when the album dropped in the fall of 1976. I always liked “Peace of Mind” better. No way I would’ve purchased a Boston 45 RPM, as a result. Of course, I listened to so much “head rock,” ELP, Yes, King Crimson, etc., that didn’t lend itself to the single format.

“Cassingles” and “Single CDs”

The pod’s discussion of these formats fascinated me. All these years, I never thought releasing a single-on-cassette or a single-tune CD was a thing. The connection of format to Billboard’s “Hot 100” chart made them important. I never cared. For me, it was about buying the album, then recording it to a tape for the car, then later, the Walkman. The CD, while pricey, appealed to audiophile-me.

The pod ends with the karma that was Napster and iTunes, and how the greed of the recording industry pretty much destroyed it. In that section, one tidbit caught my ear, that “Here Comes the Sun” became the best-selling tune from The Beatles’ catalog when it was placed on Apple’s music sales site. It was never released as a single, but became their best-selling single. I wonder if it was the label that kept the tune off the Hot 100 (by not releasing it as a single), or if it was Lennon and McCartney.

Independent Pod

I’m very pleased that Hit Parade is now a stand-alone podcast, and look forward to future eps.

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Overnight – Can’t Find My Way Home

Wasted…

…and I can’t find my way home.

Steve Winwood and Eric Clapton at the Crossroads Guitar Festival 2007, with Derek Trucks and Doyle Bramhall

I’ve always been a purist about this song. The Blind Faith version on the Blind Faith album. Blind Faith were arguably the first “super group” in rock. Formed out of the wreckage of Cream, Blind Faith were Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, Steve Winwood, and Ric Grech. Guillot would get mad at me for playing this and/or Traffic’s “Uninspired” at his house, complaining, I was chilling things down wayyyy too much.

Winwood

When I answer online memes dealing with music, I usually point to The Beatles, then The Who as my big influences before diving head-first into ELP, Yes, and other syntho-rock. After graduation from UNO, I took a more mellow turn, which had something to do with not having to study. Therefore the consequences of partying didn’t loom large. Traffic and Blind Faith morphed into Winwood’s solo career, giving me a body of work to complement Jimmy Buffett for sitting and reading and thinking.

Writing

And writing. I’ll crank it up with the best of y’all in the car, but when I’m writing, I prefer it mellow. For the Dragons stories, I usually go for jazz. There’s too much of a disconnect for me to play tunes from my college years while writing teen stuff. The nonfiction and Talents stories, on the other hand, spring from so much of who I am and what I’ve done that the old stuff works out just fine. Whether it’s Southern rock, or acoustic Clapton or Winwood, I go right into a zone. As I get older, the trick is not to fall asleep while in the zone.

Writing is about teleporting to the places where the stories are. Music takes me there. It’s an overnight wonder and sensation. Sometimes it’s good for the story if I can’t find my way home…right away.

Overnight…Big Bopper – The Day The Music Died

The Big Bopper

I was in eighth grade when Don McClean’s “American Pie” came out. WTIX-AM, “The Mighty 690” ran the song on an intense rotation, including their own interpretation voice-over. At that time, I was wrapped up in The Beatles and The Who. I knew who Buddy Holly was, but I was just too young for his music to have been an influence on me. I was just a couple of months old on February 3, 1959, and wouldn’t venture out of my cocoon of British Invasion and electronic rock until I hit university and started go going to “50s parties” in the late 70s. There were many other references in the song that hit closer to home, stuff from the late 1960s that were much more important to a 13-year old.

American Pie

McClean held back for years when it came to discussing interpretations of “American Pie.” I like this particular quote of his on the subject of what the song means:

It means I don’t ever have to work again if I don’t want to.”[12] Later, he stated, “You will find many interpretations of my lyrics but none of them by me … Sorry to leave you all on your own like this but long ago I realized that songwriters should make their statements and move on, maintaining a dignified silence.

Eventually he did admit that the song was his way of working out his feelings about the death of Buddy Holly. I can see how that grew into a run-down of many things music-related that struck him over time.

Buddy Holly wasn’t the only musician who departed on The Day The Music Died. Richie Valens was in that plane, along with J. P. Richardson, “The Big Bopper”. While certainly Holly and Valens were the bigger stars, Richardson was still popular, with that deep base voice.