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I Hate my Records

Not only does the record industry sell me mostly dreck, they sell me half-empty CDs.

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And how does Eminem even rate two spots on an "all-time" list anyway when Frank Sinatra has zero? Elvis Presley has zero. No one prior to 1960 even makes the chart except Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue" from 1959.

Are there no other great albums prior to The Beatles' "Rubber Soul" and "Revolver" — both mid-60s releases came in at No. 23 and No. 1?

If No. 3's "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" (1967) and No. 11's "Dark Side of the Moon" (1973) define my generation, surely the generation before me has favorites they would list as "all-time" greats, but I can't think of a pre-1955 album that became an icon of its time.

Maybe because instead of albums, individual songs used to define a time period. People bought sheet music and played it themselves. Then there were singles when you only paid for that one good song. Now you pay six times as much to get that one good song and a pile of boring ones.

That's what bugs me about the record industry, the way it sparsely distributes a few good songs over several albums in order to suck the maximum amount of sales. And when the band is washed up, you finally get the greatest-hits album, and even that has losers. I recently bought the Lovin' Spoonful Encore Collection and out of 10 songs, I never heard of four of them.

We accepted this status rip-off for two decades, from the death of the 45 rpm record to the Napster revolution when you could get that one good song again … and free! Now, it's hard to stomach what the record industry expects us to resume paying for.

I bought 13 of Rolling Stone's greatest albums, and of those, I only kept the Beatles and Nirvana. More than half of the songs on their albums are good. That's probably why Kurt Cobain shot himself. He realized he couldn't write a bad song and, thus, would never be able to make a living putting out trash albums supported by one radio hit.

I have a CD player in my car for the first time, and I've been going through my entire record collection, actually listening to every song. At home, the albums were just background noise. In the car, I am a captive audience, being tortured by my own record collection, enduring every song and becoming more and more irritated. Why did I ever buy this when there are only two songs on it I like, and the rest I'll always fast-forward?

I copy the two bearable tracks onto the computer and sell the original CDs on eBay or at the local used-record store and recoup at least some of my money. So now my record collection is evolving from CDs of 80 percent junk to all good songs. My homemade albums have 18 to 20 cuts on them, too, compared to the 10 or 12 you get from the labels. Not only does the record industry sell me mostly dreck, they sell me half-empty CDs.

Not surprisingly, the record industry hates me, the defunct Napster, blank CDs, computers … anything that stands in the way of their making that $18.99 sale of 80 percent junk on a 50 percent empty sliver of metal. They sit up nights trying to devise ways to outlaw Internet sites that provide music. They want to tax blank CDs to cigarette-pack levels and put copy-protection codes on releases, even if it makes it difficult to play the CD at all.

Even when they sold you a single on a little black piece of vinyl with a big hole in the middle for $1.99, they couldn't bear to give you two good songs. There was the A side, and then some horrid piece of trash on the B side. Did you ever turn your stack over and play all the B sides? It's like the "Bizarro World" version of your record collection.

A good B side was so rare I can remember the very few times I got one. Turn over The Beatles' "I Feel Fine" and you had "She's a Woman." Turn over "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and you had "I Saw Her Standing There," which actually should have been the A side.

But that was early in their career when the record industry wasn't hip to the realization that most of the Beatles' songs were going to be good. Eventually, they made an effort to find a "Baby's in Black" to put on the back, and then the Beatles separated into total B side bands like Wings, Plastic Ono and Traveling Wilburys.

"The Beatles (The White Album)," which is No. 5 on the Rolling Stone chart, is a greatest hits of B sides, and nearly a third of one side of the second album (when you bought the vinyl version, you got two platters) is "Revolution 9," which is where B sides go to die. It's a C side. I won't be buying it for my car stereo, but I do have a ripped copy of "Blackbird" on my mixed album, thank you. S



Mariane Matera is a freelance writer who lives in Richmond.

Opinions expressed on the Back Page are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Style Weekly.

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