August 2010
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The death of the Album Side

When I was a wee young lad, the local FM station in town did something called an “Album Side” every Wednesday night at 8 pm.  It was a great way to hear half of an album before plunking down five hard earned dollars at the record store.  It was also a way to sometimes get a recording of half of the songs on the album using the trusty stereo cassette deck.

Technics SL-1200 turntable

Technics SL-1200 Turntabe

By way of these unauthorized recordings, I accumulated a bunch of cassette tapes that had bands like Aerosmith on one side and Foreigner on the other.  Often, the last 8-10 minutes of a cassette tape side would be silent.  This, coupled with the auto reverse mechanism on the cassette deck often lead to confusion with my high school sweet heart… the music ends, then while we were otherwise distracted and several minutes later, the music begins again at high volume.

I grew up in much simpler times than these.

In any case, the advent of the CD pretty much ruined the concept of album sides.  It means much less to somebody to have a show where one would play “half the songs on a CD, one after another, without commercials or liners.”  When CD’s became the norm for music playback somewhere in the late 1980’s early 1990’s so went the album side.  These days, with computers, MP3’s and all the other music storage mediums, most people wouldn’t even know what an album side was.  The shame of it is, it was a great selling tool for the record industry.  Even though I owned those bootleg cassette tapes, later on, I went out and bought almost all of the albums that I had illegally recorded off of the radio.  To get the other side.

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3 comments to The death of the Album Side

  • J. Aegerter

    The music industry is changing BIG time. I remember the record pushers storming into stations like gangsters, and pushing their “hot wax” on the DJs and Music Directors. Not any more! The industry was originally setup in a way such that the artist was lucky to get 10% of the record sales. Some artists who didn’t understand contracts got nothing! The music mob, which consisted of the record companies, producers, composers, writers, pressing plants and their associations ended up with the lion’s share of the money from beginning to eternity. I think a universal music licensing system is coming soon because the status-quo just can’t control the distribution anymore. Digital audio files and the Internet have really screwed up their cartel. I remember the guy at Napster after they were sued by RIAA saying, “Technology Always Wins”! The broadcast stations have been paying royalties based on market size, and any attempt at reform has always been successfully quashed by the licensors and the RIAA lobby.

  • GregS

    Here in Toronto, Canada, our biggest commercial classic rock station Q107 (CILQ, 107.1) still plays album sides during their weekend afternoon programming. These are from classic albums by bands like Pink Floyd, the Beatles, Led Zepplin, and the Who. This station is a throwback in many ways, having live DJs who actually know and talk about the music, and programming that plays more than just the top hits of yesteryear. So playing an entire albums side without interruption fits right in there.

  • admin

    Greg, I’ll have to give a listen next time I am up in your neck of the woods.

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