Recent threads about James and Kate Bush reveal something we know is always there, the music fan’s wilful swerving to avoid hit singles when someone asks about a “favourite song”.
What’s your favourite Joe Dolce song? Obviously, it’s going to be “If you want to be happy!”
I don’t think this is snobbery – I think it’s more the way people listen to music. Geoffrey Palmer’s character in Butterflies would be in a dark room listening to Gregorian Chant for hours on end. That kind of immersion is something I have never experienced, or aspired to experience. I love listening to albums but, frankly, the patience I have for clunkers/fillers or 20 minutes of mumblin’ and noodlin’ is limited to much less than 20 minutes.
Singles have the bonus of being, erm, singled out by the artist as something the public might like. On many occasions this has propelled me donkey deep into their swamp and before you know it I am wallowing in the slurry of lesser-known album tracks and b-sides, limited editions, prolonged remixes and bonus CD demos. But I don’t want to do that all the time – the swamp can be quicksand. Most of the time, a quick shower is all I need.
The Kate Bush thread is a case in point. Love her though I do (?) – I just don’t have the necessary cogs and wheels within me to countenance listening to really long, swirly pieces that meander thoughtfully but aren’t songs as such. I like the idea of ambience but I can’t look it in the eye and shake its hand. I also think that some artists, once they reach financial independence and can rely on the adulation of a core group of fans, forget the hunger that propelled them towards the new ground. Because they remove themselves, all they get is the feedback of unconditional fans.
I find that what I am after are the conventional songs that last no more than 6 minutes. James, for example, have several songs that are as good as or better than “Sit Down” . Yes, I’m interested and a “Best Of” may well plop onto my turntable. I am less interested in a 60 minute Tim Booth solo castanet instrumental piece about toast, fan favourite or not..