In these times of financial insecurity and much belt tightening amongst the great unwashed, you'd expect rock stars or the music industry in general to act with a bit of tactful decorum; maybe to drop the prices of CDs and downloads, maybe to offer free tracks from their websites....you know, civilised, good natured understanding of the people whose cash lined their nests.
But NO....it appears this is not to be the case, for it appears every multi-millionaire rock goblin feels it necessary to release 'lavish' box-sets of material virtually all of their fandom already owns many times over. And it appears that it's the same old whores fleecing their fans as it always has been; The Who re-re-re-releasing 'Quadrophenia' (why don't they all fade way?), whilst The Rolling Stones reissue deluxe boxes of albums that their fans didn't even like much the first time around ('Some Girls').
Then there's Pink Floyd! A bunch of torn-faced millionaires whose propensity for greed simply shows no sign of abating. Albums which have been reissued and remastered many times before are now available in 'Immersion Editions' which allow the listener to experience the whole sensurround involvement of albums they've probably heard thousands of times in the last 40 years, and at ludicrously extravagant prices! Floyd fans have been writing to Record Collector magazine in disgust that they cannot obtain any new mixes or extra tracks without having to fork out for the most expensive version of the box. Funny that, eh? Still, what do you expect from a band who allegedly want to stop I-Tunes and Amazon from 'unlocking' their albums; meaning that people can no longer buy individual tracks if they want them, they have to buy the whole album. Seems your 79p isn't good enough, not when they can strongarm you into paying the whole £11:99. Of course they'll say it's to protect the integrity of the album, but I say it's being a bunch of greedy chancers. I mean, exactly how much money do these greedy bastards actually need?? They've been multi-millionaires since flared trousers and casual racism were fashionable! I used to think that John Lydon wore his iconic 'I Hate Pink Floyd' tee-shirt purely as a wind-up but now I see he was way ahead of the game.
Rock stars have always been seen as ostentatious of course, but there comes a time, especially amid a general financial meltdown, where common decency should be required. And I realise that I'm laying myself wide open to accusations of hypocrisy here as my own favourites The Smiths release a lavish box-set of their own ('The Complete Smiths')....so let me address that issue as well.
A couple of people have already asked me if I was going to write a Blog about Morrissey's 'controversial' comments equating Anders Breivik's crimes with the slaughter of animals by the fast food giants, and I was actually going to but I let the moment slip by too far and it no longer felt relevant. Griff also asked me to write a rant against the John Lewis chain of shops for using 'Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want' in their Christmas ads, but to be honest I didn't have a problem hearing the song several times over the Christmas period and seeing the song slip into the charts.
But I'm afraid the release of 'The Complete Smiths' really got my goat!!
Way back in 1987, on the last official Smiths studio album 'Strangeways, Here We Come' there is a track called 'Paint A Vulgar Picture'. Not The Smiths best song by a long way, but one of Morrissey's most personal attacks on the avarice of the music industry, with the stinging sideswipe of "Re-issue, Re-package, Re-package!" and remarks about such piddley selling points as "an extra track and a tacky badge".
And yet what have we had from both Morrissey and The Smiths since Morrissey's career temporarily hit the buffers around 1997? Re-issues by the score! Albums that didn't sell very well at the time RE-PACKAGED with (yes!) extra tracks, but thankfully NO tacky badges! And guess what? They still didn't sell very well, but longtime fans can now have two versions of a fair-to-middling album. What a joy!
But this box-set, I feel, really rips the piss!
The albums are all 're-mastered' by Johnny Marr. What EXACTLY does that mean? It's not a selling point for me in any guise. If I, in some moment of Proustian reflection, wish to recall the wonder The Smiths music wrapped around me as it soundtracked the most pertinent moments of my teenage revelry, what am I most likely to reach for? The versions of the songs I know and love and have every second of tattooed upon my soul, or some new poncified 5.1 Surround mix with the drums and bass moved further to the front and the heart and soul of the songs ripped asunder. Excuse me if I don't indulge in some gladioli grasping pirouette around the room with happiness that the very aural lifeblood that sustained me through adolescence has now been tampered with! Fuck off Johnny....you more than anyone should understand the importance of the how the music sounds.
And where's the extra tracks to persuade the longtime fan to part with their hard earned cash? There are NONE (so I'm guessing the tacky badge is out the window!) About 10 years ago there was a bit of a buzz about a proposed Smiths box-set purely of rarities. Fans speculated on the Internet about what treasures lay in store....heartbreaking original acoustic demos? Live soundcheck versions of songs that were never played live ('Unloveable' for example)? Or perhaps the jewel in every Smiths fan's crown, the full version of very early gem 'I Want A Boy For My Birthday' of which less than a minute exists out there in Internetland. Well, I suppose if they won't give you them, I may as well offer them up myself....
Recent years have seen Smiths and Morrissey Best-Ofs in abundance, some in quite shoddy packaging, some complete with erroneous song titles (for phux ache!!), and some in sleeves created by people who clearly have no idea what The Smiths were about, and I'm afraid we just have to accept that Morrissey and Marr, whilst hardly skint, are just another pair of money grabbing rock stars. Where did all that independent spirit and integrity go? I find it heartbreaking, and I'll probably continue buying the new stuff, but I'm not shelling out any more hard earned cash for stuff I've already got many fold. Now, I fully realise that apologists for this behaviour can simply dismiss this rant by saying "You don't HAVE to buy it!", but the point is there was a time where I would have purchased Morrissey's bottled breath if it had been for sale, but enough is enough, and if Morrissey and Marr want to alter their fan's perceptions of them, then that's up to them.
And I feel that it must also alter our Blog!
For, as of today, I am no longer going to write about greedy rock stars. From now on I intend only to cover new or unsigned bands, or artists who generally go out of their way to buck the money-grabbing trend, hold maverick opinions on the whole music industry carbuncle, or who embody a whole anti-capitalist, non-conformist idea of music and art.
It's like 1975 again out there, and we may have said that Punk can never happen again, but it can, in spirit at least if not in music, within the confines of our Blog....Griff already only writes about new music or artists who issue their songs for free, and Ray's contempt for pampered affluent rock star arseholes grows more virulent every day. As such I expect our Blog will become less like The Guardian and more like Fight Racism, Fight Imperialism (the paper of the Revolutionary Communist Party).....SO BE IT!
Punk's Not Dead!