Recently as part of my Song Lists series I covered Tears For Fears, a particular favourite of mine during my adolescence. While researching that I noticed that yet another reissue of their sophomore effort Songs From the Big Chair is due with no less than six discs and all manner of other paraphernalia attached to it in obligatory box. But why and why now? In a few months (March, 2015) that record will be 30 years old, would it not make more sense to do it then?
More so, why bother at all? This particular album has seen at least three reinterpretations over time. This is common with ‘classic’ albums. Especially those deemed so from the sixties through to the mid nineties; my generation being among the last to embrace the album, spending a huge amount in the pre-internet era. Is it simply a case of easy money for surviving record companies scrambling their resources on the old? Tried and true records that sold in vast quantities in their heyday. Maybe, though sadly some of us no longer have the necessary resources to spend on such luxuries. In my case my physical collection of CDs was sold off in order to travel and be based wherever I needed to be. So reissues – no matter how beautifully packaged, are lost on me.
These ‘compilations’ as they have become are usually garnished with two major flaws. Firstly; the release date is often obscured by that of the reissue NOT the original album. Therefore a kid in 2050 might pick up the Songs From the Big Chair reissue and assume its point of origin into the public domain was 2014, instead of its actual release in 1985. In some cases the original release date is printed on the reissues but on others, only perusing a music encyclopedia (physical or online) will reveal the true year of release and how many in our increasing laziness can be bothered to do that? Some don’t even trouble the sleeve-notes – if indeed there are any to read at all. In our private universe of the humble headphone, we can hear the file but forget the how the song got there; who wrote, played on or produced it. This is of course not limited to Tears For Fears but many other thoroughbreds fitting the classic stable. Duran Duran’s Rio and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon for example. The second flaw is that specific artefacts belong to specific points in time. The Way You Are was not included on or intended for release on the Big Chair, it has more in common with The Hurting (both being from 1983, not 1999, or 2013) whose latest addition features alternate versions from The Way You Are but not the track itself.
Likewise with Icehouse whose first two albums are also regularly pillaged, albeit officially so, and have equally confused running order defects for their reissued versions (both in Australasia and internationally). Let’s look at the first album, to begin with its Australian and NZ release saw 11 tracks. Currently this has been altered to include some of the b-sides but some of those show up as part of the album running order, NOT under the bonus material listed. I believe this was carried forth from a New Zealand 1987 CD issue of the album and went undetected on subsequent releases.
This trait is also evident on the Primitive Man remasters (see images). On the 1992 version there is no line drawn between the original album and those appearing as additional material (which in the age of the CD made a little sense). However on the 2002 issue Over The Line and the extended remix of Glam show as part of the initial album running orders. This is restored for the excellent 2012 version where a gap segregates the album track list with the bonus recordings. Never the less, the addition of the Live in Germany DVD would have been better suited to an overview of their third album SIDEWALK as it features songs that didn’t exist at the time of Primitive Man.
Mostly these updates of a particular artist or favourites amidst their oeuvre are embraced by the fans but devotees can also be less kind and deservedly so for the recent R-KIVE compilation by British stalwarts GENESIS which has received almost universal scorn for what long serving admirers see as nothing more than a deliberate attempt to purge more funds from an otherwise loyal fan base with little in return save a new logo. Certainly there has been nothing new from Genesis since 1997’s Calling All Stations and even that wasn’t greatly received.
For Pink Floyd’s iconic Dark Side of the Moon things get even more distorted. The most recent has been an immersion box set of six discs including anything from coasters and scarves to marbles! There seems no end to the re-marketing of certain ‘go to’ albums that were embraced by public and critics alike in their chosen era. Yet in 1973 with an unreleased album, both the band and record company would have presumably had no inkling to its colossal commercial collateral or of reissuing the album in a multitude of designs and packages over (so far) four decades.
Which brings me to another point; which issue does the consumer possibly opt for!? With an array of designs, running orders, artwork and anything from demos to out-takes and alternate mixes and remixes to pick from. Most of the classic albums from my youth in the early to mid-eighties have now been issued around three times. There are those that are understated; A-ha’s first two albums have only seen one expanded release in the intervening years as have Scottish trio The Blue Nile. But then there is enough of a time lapse between their albums anyway and the recent 2-disc sets of the first three with bonus discs of only seven songs that omit many known tracks, suggests further expansions or experience may be coming in the future; the question is what and when.
To an extent, I love the concept of the immersion experience as some albums do go beyond being just albums and become cultural stars in their own right, but can this not be done to begin with? Sure, maybe some things are not thought of at the record company meeting and advances in technology such as surround sound and Blu-Ray may add something but is it justifiably enough? Thus my aforementioned comment of the dwindling record company’s effort to mine every last minuscule detail not on one reissue but purposely over several to further exploit fans and in the process, purposely or inadvertently blur history and time? Now there lies the question.
REISSUE HISTORY FOR THE RECORDS MENTIONED
Some of these albums have complicated release histories in different territories with different labels, cover art, mixes and running orders thus I’ve chosen to use UK issues for all except Icehouse which are Australian release and reissue dates.
TEARS FOR FEARS: THE HURTING
Original release: 1983
Notable reissues: 1999, 2013 (30 year edition)
TEARS FOR FEARS: SONGS FROM THE BIG CHAIR
Original release: 1985
Notable reissues: 1999, 2006, 2014
PINK FLOYD: DARK SIDE OF THE MOON
Original release: 1973
Notable reissues: 1993 (20 year edition), 2003 (30 year edition), 2011 (experience and immersion issues)
DURAN DURAN: RIO
Original release: 1982
Notable reissues: 1994, 2001, 2009 (2CD edition)
ICEHOUSE: FIRST ALBUM
*Icehouse was the album title in Australia/NZ
Original release: 1980
Notable reissues: 1992, 2002, 2011
ICEHOUSE: PRIMITIVE MAN
Original release: 1982
Notable reissues: 1992, 2002, 2012