Thursday, July 03, 2003

THAT DEBATE: There's a smattering of coverage at mediaguardian of last night's Radio 2 debate - they focus on Paul Weller moaning on about how he wouldn't be where he is today if the record companies had been like they are now, then, or something. Now, there's a great topic for debate: would you gladly throw away Eton Rifles and Long Hot Summer if it meant that there was no Wild Wood or Stanley Road? You might also want to ponder for a moment the extent to which record companies are tying up their resources in making Not Very Good Albums by people like Weller purely so they can keep 'em sweet and hold on to the more lucrative back catalogue rights. (What did Macca get for the last album? Too bloody much.)

And while we feel sympathy for Beverley Knight's position, we're not convinced: She told the Radio 2 audience that records topping the charts were mediocre efforts masterminded by marketing men. Back in the day the chances were that, unless it was a novelty record, it was a really good song. It's hard to sit at home and watch bands you know have been put together by a TV show. It's mediocrity dressed up as greatness."
Because, of course, marketing never played a part in the past - those stories you might have heard about people buying Rod Stewart records, taking the free addidas tshirt and leaving the vinyl on the counter weren't about marketing, it was purely on the merits of the tshirt. We're hoping that people took the opportunity to shout down the historical revisionism in the statement as well. Some of the songs that have been given to the manufactured bands are pretty good, even if woefully delivered - Pure and Simple, Whole Again, for example. Likewise, whatever you think about Christina, there's no more artifice there than there was the first version of Sheena Easton, say, or Kim Wilde. And while we all remember the peaks of the 1970's, to suggest the ones that weren't so great were all 'novelty' is to cherrypick the chart listings - Mull of Kintyre? David Soul's career? The later Cliff Richard stuff?

Meanwhile, the Guardian laments "In May, dance act Tomcraft sold just 36,000 copies to go straight to No 1. It is a far cry from the singles' 70s heyday, when records would often sell more than a million copies to hit the top of the charts after working their way up over a period of weeks."
Again, this is slightly hazy nostalgia. Between 1992 and 2002, thirty-two singles achieved official status as selling a million copies. Between 1972 and 1982, only 16 managed it. [Source: awardmill] So, yeah, the singles market is a bit of a mess, but it's not in the worst condition its ever been, despite the best attempts of the record industry and the chart rules committee to bugger it up.


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