One of the ways in which the iTunes Music Store revolutionizes music purchasing/listening is by once again making the single a viable unit of music. Album-oriented rock has been in ascendence since the seventies; today the main purpose of singles, at least in mainstream music, seems to be to lure saps into paying $15-$20 for a CD with two or three listenable songs on it. (This argument is perhaps a tangential elaboration on a theme I vaguely remember reading in Robert Christgau's Record Guide.) Singles (whether 45s, 7"s, or mini-CDs) have remained available, but they have not really been things you'd buy unless you were a professional DJ, a collector or a completist. Albums have been the center of the music industry for three and a half decades.
The Music Store might be turning back the clock, since at 99¢ a shot, individual songs really are a decent value and rather than only being able to choose songs that labels have released as singles, you can buy any song in the Store a la carte. While I've bought a fair number of complete albums at the Store, I've been more excited about populating my library with one-off hits from my past and present. Here's the haul from two recent trips:
- "Black Math" (Live Video Soundtrack), The White Stripes
- "I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow," The Soggy Bottom Boys
- "Radar Love," Golden Earring
- "Tainted Love" (7" Single), Soft Cell
- "I Will Survive" (Single), Gloria Gaynor
- "Tusk," Fleetwood Mac
- "Heroes," David Bowie
- "Young Americans," David Bowie
- "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)," Giorgio Moroder & David Bowie
- "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," Devo
- "Whip It," Devo
- "Real Men," Joe Jackson
With a couple obvious exceptions, these are mostly blasts from my past, songs I listened to on the radio, or at high school dances. I used to really like these songs, but none were compelling enough to me to shell out for the entire album (maybe I would have if I'd happened to run across it in the dollar bin, but it never happened for these). For close to two decades these songs have stuck in my brain (sometimes with little or no reinforcement during the interim). Finally owning them now is more than just nostalgia. It's giving credit to great tunes even though they weren't part of a Great Album. In any case, it's making me happy.