My twenty-something daughter called to inform me that she recently listened to the Beatles’ Abbey Road album from beginning to end. It was a delightful conversation, and I continued thinking about it long after we hung up. Interesting timing too, because I had recently read that:
A song today only has a 48% chance of being listened to in its entirety.
To me, it seems like an important and defining fact about modern life.
Two possible explanations for this trend in song-skipping jumped out at me. Is it related to the average person’s attention span, or could it be that the musical value isn’t gripping enough to hold one’s attention for the full duration? This would be an interesting topic for research, if one only had the time and the resources to pursue it.
My daughter went on to explain how hearing the whole album had given her a different perspective. She had had never related these songs to each other, or even defined them to a particular time period. She went on to explain how it helped her understand the progression between The Beatles earlier and later work. I enjoyed the conversation, still thinking about the statistics I’d read.
OK, here we go…..
When I was a kid, there was no skip button. When I first bought an album, I usually sat there and played it in its entirety, examining the cover and sleeve notes. An early example of multi-media packaging was The Beatles double disc known as “The White Album” which came with photos inserted into the record sleeve. There was also a poster, complete with printed lyrics on the back side. Like any great book or movie, it was easy to escape, becoming totally immersed in this album,
I’d be less than truthful if I were to say that I never avoided any crummy songs. Even my favorite albums have telltale scratches and pops all around the less desirable tracks. No matter how careful you are, dropping the point of a sharp needle onto a spinning piece of vinyl takes its toll on the recording.
I remember the struggle in 1967 as I stood forever in the record store, stuck with a huge decision about what would be my first LP purchase. It was between The Doors debut and the Best Of Cream album. I eventually made a choice, and I still have the recording. My daughters, having grown up with CD’s, enjoy the sound of this crackly old album. It has been converted to a set of MP3 files on all of our devices. When I hear it, I recognize those familiar scratches from the days of a shorter attention span.
I still remember the pain of saving enough to buy The Beatles original double White Album in 1968 at age thirteen, for a whopping $14. That was big chunk of change for a paperboy back then. I ended up buying the re-master CD version in 2009. Coming up soon, the 50th anniversary re-mix of the “White Album” is due to release on Nov 22nd. I’ll be buying the seven-disc set for my upcoming 63rd birthday, unless someone else in the family thinks of it first.
I sometimes think that listening is a lost art, whether it be dialogue or music. I have to admit that sometimes, skipping through the bad parts is warranted. But listening is learning, no matter what’s being played. Nowadays, the songs I pick have a 95.3 percent of playing in their entirety.
I value audio-based media of all kinds, and was pleased to hear that my daughter enjoyed sticking with an album the entire way through. She’s a trailblazer! I doubt that she’ll want to sit through all seven discs of the new White Album Deluxe set though. In fact, I’ll be happy if she sits though just one of them with me. But I know she will. I’ll just need to remember to set the remote within her twenty-something reach.