It’s a mighty thin line between being stuck in the past and enjoying one’s history and personal moments. I’ve always had a theory that for many, many people, if not most, 26 is the cutoff point. Up until that age, people tend to explore and enjoy the new, be it music, film, style or whatever.
Then something happens: as you slip into the second half of your third decade, it all stops, it all grinds to a halt. And, overwhelmingly, after that, people tend to recycle the bits and pieces that worked for them up until that age. I’m guilty of it at times and it’s a vast generalisation, as I personally know literally hundreds of people past that age who still love to listen, grow and explore. But – and this might sound arrogant – I think that may be more to do with the circles I move in than anything else. And when I move outside those circles, as often as not I have to sit and grimace as people feel the need to play their Talking Heads reissue or show me their Scarface boxed remastered director’s cut. Which is all very good and well, but, fuck it all, there is often nothing else there, beyond that point. Well, maybe James Blunt….
And I love my reissues and remasters as much as the next person, but don’t you, every now and then, get a tad hungry to hear those other two billion records released since U2’s Zooropa (other than more U2 albums). I know I do, but then maybe that’s a disease that I’d be better, and wealthier without. Maybe life would work just as well if I didn’t need to hear that funny little German single I read about last week, or see some obscure, slightly worthy movie that got a mention in Uncut.
Let me get all excited about a reissue. Not just any reissue but the collected seven-inch singles of the greatest rock’n’roll band the world has ever seen.
Let me be clear, as of yesterday I love SonyBMG. Everything I’ve ever said or thought or insinuated about major record companies does not, in any way, shape or form, apply to SonyBMG or its New Zealand MD, Mike Bradshaw, who saw fit to hand me, gratis, complete with cute badges, a CD collection of said singles by Messers Strummer, Jones, Simenon and Headon: The Clash. Oh, I muchly love The Clash – so much so that I already own every original 7” included herein and the bonus tracks on each cute, lovingly repackaged and annotated replica. But that’s not the point, and this is a need to have and a need to touch and a need to play again and again must own symptom of the worst symptoms of my disease.
The Clash got it all right: they made nasty noisy records when it felt right; they staggered all across the USA and explained to them what rock’n’roll was all about; they made sprawling triple albums that I’m still trying to completely penetrate; unlike, say the sad old Stones, they didn’t last too long; and mostly, they never reformed. Thank you Sony BMG, thank you, Michael, thank you Bernie Rhodes, and thank you Joe et al for ignoring the rules and giving me this twenty-five years after the event.
oh, fuck its cool …
And then, in contrast, I scored (bought actually) two Split Enz re-masters. The NZ band that were most in need of a catalogue upgrade have had such visited on them this year by Warner Music, their new owners (and what in god’s name is this other Warners thing, a new Flying Nun Australia – wow they really don’t get it do they), and that’s fine. I bought Mental Notes, which still remains the Enz’ landmark, and only really crucial album; and I got the Beginning of the Enz collection simply because I bought all those early singles way back (even though these are, I think, remixed) and I was there. It was a big time for me – I saw them god knows how many times in the years before they recorded Notes and was mildly obsessed. Those early singles and that odd band changed the direction my life took. So I bought both those reissues, inside unseen, as they were sealed, from a pleasant girl at Auckland Airport who told me she’d never been on a plane. She asked me what flying was like. I thought that was odd.
But to the point – it being: nicely remastered these may well be, but who in god’s name decided to pass on the liner notes and the packaging; to cut corners (or was it just stupidity). There are so many beautiful remastered editions out, many of which come from Warner’s own imprints.
These, full priced I might add, reissues were a perfect chance to pull in the likes of my old friend Chris Bourke (or Jeremy Ansell who put together the Enz Radio NZ series) (both are very knowledgeable about all things Enz), or a number of other buffs and present the world with the definitive editions of these defining New Zealand (nay, Australasian) albums. But no, you get lyrics, shoddily printed, oh, and a couple of photos, but that’s it.
Mental Notes has a whole history, fascinating and convoluted, around it, not least of which is the story of the cover, but you’d never know it from this. And the early compilation is simply a bunch of uncredited tracks. These, to clarify, were important early singles mostly, but there is not any evidence or record of that in the booklet. No release dates, sleeves or anything else. They could be anything. What a waste, what an unprofessional lazy fuckup, and what a missed opportunity to make a reissue look like something other than a little bit of greedy profit taking.
Oh and an aside, I have it on fairly reliable advice that you can expect the announcement of a New Zealand iTunes store within the next ten days.