Wednesday, January 18, 2012

20 Years of 1991: The Reissues

I wonder how my parent’s generation felt in the 1980s when all of their favorite albums were hitting their 20 year release date anniversaries? Honestly, I don’t remember there being a special 20th anniversary re-release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. No, most members of my parents’ generation were far beyond their hippie days by the time the 1980s rolled around. Many of them probably wouldn’t have been particularly interested in a Beatles re-issue. They were too busy voting for Reagan, deregulating business, being the worst kind of greedy capitalist possible, and generally paving the way for Generation X’s own music revolution, as well as the Great Recession. There probably wasn’t a market for a 20th Anniversary Re-Issued, Re-Mastered, and Re-Packaged Meet The Beatles. There does appear to be a market for Re-Issued and Re-Mastered Re-Releases of Achtung Baby (actually this one isn’t re-mastered), Gish, Siamese Dream, Ten, Vs., Vitalogy, and Nevermind though. Hmmm…maybe my parents’ generation figured out how to repackage our own (musical) rebellion and sell it back to us as well, kinda’ like they have with theirs, a la the Volkswagen Beetle.

Actually, in the case of U2, the band and their long term manager have a corporation with employees to think of, and since U2’s last album (as great as I thought it was) wasn’t a multi-mega selling hit, they have to pay the employees somehow. My obvious sarcasm isn’t directed at U2, the band, in particular. It’s directed more at the greater example of market and bottom line driven profits based on corporate greed. I don’t know what kind of corporation U2 Ltd is. It might be powerfully philanthropic for all I know. All I know is that I love U2’s music, and was actually pretty excited about the anniversary re-issue. After all, U2 Ltd has just as much right to make money as say…Volkswagen does…     

…as do the corporations behind Pearl Jam, Nirvana’s estate, and the Smashing Pumpkins. Billy Corgan actually recently got control over his properties, i.e. songs, and is reissuing them himself (if I understand this situation correctly. I’m not an industry insider, nor am I a lawyer, so pardon any mistakes I’m making here-Hopefully that’s a good enough disclaimer). The cool thing about Billy Pumpkin though is that even if he’s profiting off of the re-issues, he just finished giving away a full album of new music to his fans (or anyone who wanted to download it). I really don’t see U2 giving away a full album of songs anytime soon. (I really don’t hate U2…just their corporate aspects.)

The only problem with my rant against the “profiting off of our rebellion” is that I really liked the fact that these albums were getting re-released. My young adult years were spent listening to these albums, being inspired by these albums, and generally allowing them to define me, and my generation, much like Sgt. Pepper’s did for my parents, although hopefully more of us are sticking to our beliefs and making them happen more often than the Baby Boomers have. Hearing the rare outtakes that comprised much of the extra content of these re-releases was a joy. Hearing the music louder and cleaned up sonically was a joy as well. Does that mean that I’m a sorry, programmed, consumer clone? Maybe…but I’m a consumer of something that I choose to consume consciously. I, and many of my generational peers, probably didn’t buy any or all of these re-releases because they were the cool thing to own, or the must have buy of the season. We (specifically, I) bought them because they mean something to us. These album re-releases aren’t copy-cat, knee-jerk, market researched products like most of the consumer garbage that we visually choke on daily is. They aren’t going to sell as well as Lana Del Rey’s debut album will. No, I won’t join the blogosphere’s rant against this indie “artist.” Enough has been said about her already. If you’re reading this blog then you already know what the deal is on this chick and have a much better ear for music already. Music like Lana Del Rey’s are packaged, collagen injected, and airbrushed opiates issued to keep a large portion of the music listening community docilely entertained. Like Cobain said, “here we are now, entertain us” the only problem is that the old entertainments just don’t cut it anymore (anyone with a reasonable good ear who was listening understood that this is what Cobain was saying). Our entertainments, and music, should stimulate us to do more than remain a part of the calm herd. It needs to shake us up, inspire us to get out and do something about the problems in the world, and generally strive to make it a better place. For 20 years, the music of 1991 has continued to inspire many to do this…so my making a choice to support my “repackaged rebellion” is, in actuality, simply another way of really bucking the system and doing something positive. Hopefully, these album reissues will end up selling well, and inspire the ADD Millennials to get off their iPads for a few seconds and do something to better their world too. Or better yet, use their iPads to do so…

Read more of my comments on 1991 here.

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