Rock Thought for the Day

So here it is, the next to last day of March, and I haven't blogged all month. Truth is, I've been working long and hard on some internal documentation for the next version of Office. Which of course, as cool as it is, I can't talk about. Hence the lack of blog entries lately.

I noticed the other day that my friend and office neighbor, John Durant, mentioned I was listening to Everlast in one of his blog entries. (Luckily, he wasn't around earlier when I was blasting The Magnetic Fields for all to hear. John's a meat-and-potatoes rock and roll kind of guy; I'm not sure he would have understood.) Now, John and I regularly talk music, and I notice he ends all of his blog entries with a 'Rock Thought for the Day', and that got me thinking.

So here, in honor of John Durant and my lack of blog ideas, is my very own Rock Thought of the Day®.

(Rock Thought of the Day ™ and ® 2005 John R. Durant)

Not to sound like I'm channeling Andy Rooney, but here's something that's always annoyed me: greatest hits collections that include new songs. Leave aside that by the very fact of it being previously unreleased, the new song cannot be a greatest hit, and therefore does not belong on the collection to start with. What really gets mine in a bunch is the thought process behind including the songs in the first place: let's put the screws to the artist's most loyal fans and squeeze as much money out of them as we can. Doesn't really sound like the aesthetic rock and roll is founded on, now does it?

Greatest hits collection are by definition aimed at the casual fan, someone who's mainly interested in an artist's (commercial, if not artistic,) high points. If you're a dedicated fan of an artist, you've already got everything likely to appear on that artist's greatest hits collection. So how to get those fans to shell out cash for a collection of material they've already got? Simple, just put on a new song or two, even if those songs are just lame covers, or if putting those songs on leaves less room for the legitimate hits the collection purports to collect.

And let's be honest, these songs almost always suck. In fact, in the entire history of greatest hits collections, I can only think of two new songs that deserve to take their place alongside the artist's greatest hits:

· Under Pressure, which originally appeared on Queen's Greatest Hits.

· Mary Jane's Last Dance, from Tom Petty's Greatest Hits collection.

That's it. All the others range from decent songs in their own right (such as Wrong Number from the Cure, or This Hard Land from Bruce Springsteen), to workmanlike but perfunctory (Walk Tall by John "Don't Call Me Cougar" Mellencamp) to downright awful. With most belonging to the last category.

So, as a fan, you get to contemplate spending fifteen bucks for 14 songs you already have, just to get one probably-mediocre song you don't have. Leaves you with a warm feeling toward that artist, doesn't it?

(One of the worst offenders at this sort of thing is an artist whose work I thoroughly enjoy, and whose ethics and generosity in most other areas I greatly admire: Bruce Springsteen. Springsteen released a greatest hits collection with three new songs on it, but lacking any songs from his first two albums: no Blinded By the Light, no Growin' Up, no E Street Shuffle, no Rosalita, for God's sake. He recently released The Essential Bruce Springsteen , a three-disc greatest hits collection that includes a disc of mix-and-match unreleased songs and live versions. So, if you're a die-hard Springsteen fan, you've bought songs like Born to Run three times, simply to get the unreleased material. And it gets worse: Springsteen released a five-CD (!) set of unreleased tracks, called, well, Tracks . Which was wonderful, except that he then released a best-of collection from the set, called 18 Tracks . Which had three unreleased songs not included on Tracks.)

Today's assignment: Track down Gordon , by Barenaked Ladies, and listen to Boxed Set. Twice.