The Big Bopper
Slate’s Hit Parade is one of my regular podcasts
Slate’s Hit Parade
This week’s edition of Slate’s Hit Parade podcast features posthumous hits. Host Chris Molanphy’s run-down of deaths of chart-topping artists offered a good range.
The Day The Music Died
I’m glad that, when talking about “The Day The Music Died” (February 3, 1959), Molanphy gave more time to Richie Valens than he usually gets. Buddy Holly deserves all the praise. While J.P. Richardson (The Big Bopper) was a one-hit-wonder, that one hit, “Chantilly Lace” was fantastic. It was good to hear their music pop up in April, rather than February 3rd.
Remembering Death Days
I’m not one for remembering “death days” as much as birthdays. I prefer to remember the happy milestones. A plane crash in February isn’t how these guys ought to be remembered. Same for John Lennon being shot down. So, I get the theme of the pod. I get the business impact of death on songs on the radio and song sales. After that initial grieving period, though, I’m done with that. It’s like some of these old people who post these “remembering <insert actor/musician/celebrity> on the anniversary of their death. I’d much rather remember Lennon on the rooftop of the Apple building than dead on the sidewalk in New York.
The business of musical death
Molanphy’s personal anecdote about Prince amused me. He was in a bar in New York, and the bartenders couldn’t find Prince music to play. That’s because, like way so many of us, they relied on Spotify from a phone for the bar’s sound system. For the most part, that sort of solution, playing a streaming service, makes sense. A bartender can work up a few playlists on their preferred service, plug in the phone, and let it roll. If the crowd/mood changes, switch it up. Low-effort, amateur DJ-ing.
That’s the environment Chris was in when Prince passed. The problem the bartenders had was that Prince didn’t care for digital music and streaming services. His music is not easily available. Chris loaned the bartender his iPod. Yes, his offline device! That got the collective unconscious through the evening.
This validates my continued ownership of an MP3 player, along with hanging on to my old iPod nano and LT Firstborn’s first iPod. Now I want The Trio from Dragon’s Danger and Dragon’s Discovery to have at least one offline device!
Catch up with the pod in YatPundit’s Pub!
Davell Crawford: JazzFest performance at LMF from 2016
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
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.
I’m very pleased that Hit Parade is now a stand-alone podcast, and look forward to future eps.
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Of course it’s long. It’s The Blues.
This is a bit longer, since it’s their entire Tiny Desk Concert, but the’re soooo good.