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There is something very, very wrong with today’s music

EJ3

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I think it is unquestionable that music has become more simplistic (quite possibly in parallel with people becoming more simplistic - which came first, the chicken or the egg?).

I have no doubt there is an ongoing refining of music (that may be reaching its zenith), not in the sense of improving it, but a taking off of all the rough edges, so that is can be packaged and sold to as many people as possible. It is as palatable as possible, whilst being as bland as inoffensive as possible, to sell as many units to as many people as possible. I don't think this is occurring only in pop music either.

I think the understanding of what makes a 'hit' is reaching such a point, that there is some kind of singularity type event happening across various genres. The width of musical styles, sounds and presentations are markedly narrower, almost irrespective of genre compared to, say, 30 years ago.

People who are really into their music are not much taken by this kind of music, but for the 95% who see music in much the same way they see fashion and food - essentially, easy come, easy go - it fills a void in the same way food fills a void in the stomach. It is the audio equivalent of a McDonalds meal.

Take hip hop or electronic dance music for example, both genres which are commonly considered 'young peoples' music'; compare the music that was made in the 80s for hip hop and the 90s for dance music with what is made today and there will be far less variety, experimentation, and thinking out of the box now, than there was then.

Modern music, that ever holds ambitions of reaching any kind of chart position, is a highly advanced exercise in cost/risk analysis.
I think that there is more imitation than innovation, a tendency to not take a song & make it yours but to take it and make it sound more like that last one those others had a hit with..
 

EJ3

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It is somewhat telling that one of the greatest musicians Ritchie Blackmore liked to make rather simple songs compared with his skills. Does anyone remember a source? Some people just like simple music and there is nothing wrong with that.
While I agree, I also believe that he (& those he has been working with since his leaving the pop/rock mainstream) are doing a bang up job without being in the pop mainstream.
 

EJ3

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Right on Rick,
I agree this is likely how most albums were recorded up to a point. It's how things worked when I did some of this stuff for fun in my teens and twenties, even if we had thr option to be quantized.
Now, did the drummer have a click track in their ear sometimes in days past, and today? I dunno.
Electronic music has changed all genres. Whether that kills music or not, I say no, some say yes. I don't prefer either style, but each takes talent to make it sound right. Bad beats from a drummer or a computer are unlistenable to me.
I can't play to a click track either. Had to buy Reason software to record my own demos, since I cannot play drums for squat.

Found this interesting article: https://globalnews.ca/news/9001083/why-older-music-more-popular-than-new-music/

There is something very, very wrong with today’s music. It just may not be very good.

On warm summer nights, the park across the street from my house is filled with people playing dribbling soccer balls, playing volleyball, or engaging in aggressive games of Spikeball.

Nearly all of them will have music playing through Bluetooth speakers, usually from the Spotify Top 100. And if I’m honest, none of this music is any good. All I hear is mumbled lyrics tunelessly rendered (well, except for the overuse of Auto-Tune) and beats so quantized that they could be substituted for an atomic clock.

I just re-read that last sentence. Harsh stuff from someone who doesn’t understand the music of today’s youth? Or am I scratching the surface of a problem facing the recorded music industry?

Consider the following:

- Kate Bush’s 1985 song Running Up That Hill hit number one on the U.K. singles charts and has reached the top five in other countries around the world. Hounds of Love, the album which spawned the hit, peaked at #8 on the Canadian charts earlier this summer.

- Metallica’s 1986 track Master of Puppets has been given such a boost by its appearance in Stranger Things that it’s currently in the U.S. Top 40. This eight-minute metal song is competing for attention with the latest from Lizzo, Beyonce, Justin Bieber, and Cardi B.

- Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 album Rumours is one of the top-selling albums of the year so far. It’s number nine in the U.S. Rumours is also one of the top-selling vinyl albums of the year so far.

- The Sex Pistols’ God Save the Queen from 1977 is the top-selling vinyl single of 2022. Further down the list, you’ll find that the Clash’s Rock the Casbah (1982) is the eighth best-selling vinyl record.)

- This past week, Queen’s Greatest Hits (1981) just became the biggest-selling record of all time in the U.K. with seven million copies sold after more than 1,000 weeks on the British charts. Last week, it was number 24 in Canada, a couple of positions ahead of Yer Favourites, the Tragically Hip’s greatest hits collection.

Older music is certainly having a moment this summer and much of this interest is not being driven by nostalgic oldsters but by the same kids playing Spikeball across the street.


Luminate, the company that monitors music consumption for the record industry, noted in its mid-year report that “current” music (identified by the industry as material being less than 18 months old) isn’t just losing market share. It’s becoming statistically less popular among all demographic groups. Looking at the United States, the metric known as “Total Album Consumption” of “current music fell by 1.4 per cent in the first half of 2022 compared to a year ago. Meanwhile, “Catalogue” music — material more than 18 months old — is up by 14 per cent.

We can go even deeper. The market share of “Catalogue” music in America is 72 per cent so far this year with “Current” music sitting at 27.6 per cent. That’s a market share decline of three per cent.

To put it another way, “Current” music is becoming progressively less popular when measured by the number of streams and sales. Whatever is being released today just isn’t resonating with the public the way it did in the past. People are showing a growing interest in listening to older music instead.

This obviously requires some unpacking. Why isn’t “Current” music resonating? What’s with the uptick in interest for older material?

Some will point to the lack of so-called “high-impacting” new releases in 2022. If, for example, Taylor Swift or Adele had new records, these numbers might be different. But as it stands, only 102 albums have debuted in the Billboard Top 100 this year (the definition of “high-impacting”) compared with 126 last year. This might relate to calculations by Music Business Worldwide that show the 10 most popular tracks on streaming services have been listened to over one billion times less than they were over a similar period in 2019. Both point to disenchantment with what’s being offered up as new today.

But maybe, just maybe, the answer lies in artistry and creativity. In recent weeks, numerous posts have appeared featuring laments about the quality of today’s music. Here is an example.

Others have weighed in, complaining that too many of today’s wannabe stars are simply celebrities making music with laptops. Older music recorded in old-fashioned studios with real instruments sounds richer and more interesting. Far too many songs are fast fashion: get ’em out, squeeze everything you can out of the tune, and then forget them. (One critic, pointing to how The Beatles’ Yesterday has been covered more than 3,000 times, asks how many covers there will be of Cardi B’s WAP in the future. He has a point.)

More theories: A lack of genuine storytellers in the vein of Carole King or Jackson Browne. Musicians who buy ready-made beats online and then sing/rap over top and then release the result. A desire to be famous rather than pay their dues learning their craft. (Blame all the TV talent shows for that.) Record labels that don’t nurture and develop artists, resulting in ultra-short careers consisting of one or two songs. A lack of people willing to pursue true mastery of a musical instrument with years of practice. Too much perfection in the recording process, an obsession that strips all the humanity and soul out of a song. (Compare anything from today’s top 10 to a Motown hit and the difference becomes obvious.) Formulaic songwriting (I’m looking at you, Max Martin.) Algorithms which just push more of the same.

I’m not done. Thanks to technology, many of today’s artists are having hit songs without ever playing a single live gig. That means they’ve never had to sweat it out in front of strangers over long tours. That boot camp experience is essential to becoming a better all-around musician. You need that experience if you’re not just going to compete with your heroes’ music on the world stage, but also with your heroes’ heroes’ heroes.

And there’s still more to consider. Cast your mind back to 1962. Music that was thirty years old then sounded old. Not only was modern pop music still developing, but we’d barely begun to use things like electric guitars and proper amps. Effects pedals hadn’t been invented yet nor had synthesizers. Recording studios were primitive things compared to today, capable of only producing material in mono. But then starting sometime around 1969, the sonic quality of recordings reached new levels. A song recorded in 1972 sounds every bit as good as something recorded this year. (In fact, you can make an argument that because of over-production, digital technology, and too much compression, older records sound better than what we have today.)

Now let me twist things around. This is happening because today’s young people — and remember that youth is always the driver of what’s happening in music — recognize bad music when they hear it. They’re smarter than to fall for what passes as hit music today.

Thanks to streaming and smartphones, we have access to somewhere north of 80 million songs. Within seconds, we can call up virtually any song recorded in the history of the human race. Why wouldn’t you source out the best of the best of the best?

Unlike previous generations, today’s music fans are far more ecumenical in their musical tastes. If you have a teenager, ask them to show you the last 25 songs they streamed on their phone. I’ll bet you’ll find everything from Drake to AC/DC to Matthew Wilder (specifically a song from the 1980s that became a weird TikTok phenomenon). To their credit, all they care about are good songs, irrespective of genre or era. That’s healthy.

In other words, the kids are alright. It’s the people running the star-making machinery behind the popular song that aren’t.
I was wondering why I hadn't heard any Captain Beefheart lately:
From Wikipedia:
With various line-ups of musicians called The Magic Band, Beefheart released a total of 13 studio albums recorded between 1967 and 1982, after which he left music to concentrate on a career in painting, as Don Van Vliet. His catalogue has since been augmented with extra releases including an EP and various compilations of live material, studio outtakes and greatest hits releases.

In addition to his work with the Magic Band over this period, Beefheart also collaborated with several other musicians, most notably Frank Zappa, a friend from his teenage years with whom he worked intermittently during his musical career.
 

Audiofire

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We don't take it too seriously, especially on stage. You can't. You can't take rock and roll too seriously.

Interviewer: But a lot of bands do these days.

Oh, I know. That bothers me. The music is too banal. It's too simple. Not that there is anything wrong with being simple. But you have to do things with tongue in cheek. I think, when Buddy Holly first came out and Chuck Berry, then you could be serious. But at this point, it's like four generations down. You keep seeing the same bands doing the same things, and it's all watered down versions of Rolling Stones, and that bothers me that people take that seriously.

I tend to write in the studio on the spur of the moment, because an idea to me is just something that comes to you. It's enthusiasm, that's all and in the beginning, I used to think an idea must consist of this, and this and this. But it doesn't. It's just a groove, it's something you feel good about. That's an idea. But there were days 15, 20 years ago when I used to feel that it had to be a perfect riff, and a perfect middle eight and it must have a hook. But really, songwriting is not like that. It's just a feeling. Getting a feeling across to other people.

Once I've played it, I want to leave it and go somewhere else. You make a musical statement. You don't want to be around it all the time. You make it and you say "Well, I'll think differently in half an hour". And I'm constantly reminded of what I personally play once you go into a recording studio, and I'm personally not impressed with what I do in the studio. It means nothing to me.

Interviewer: In retrospect, you never go back?

No, I never play my records. I don't have a collection of my records.

I love The Shadows, Cliff Richard and The Shadows way back in the fifties. I don't know if you know them. They played all very simple melodies, but it was straight to the heart. There was something so pure and innocent, but appealing and simple, and life should be simple. And as a musician, so-called musician, I don't want to get into that "Well, I don't play that, because it's beneath me". I will play that if it's simple.
Ritchie Blackmore Metall Magazinet Interview September 1993

GW: When writing, or when engaged in preproduction for an album, do you work solos out in advance?

BLACKMORE: I never work out my leads. Everything I do is usually totally spontaneous. If someone says, "That was good; play that again," I'm not able to do it. The only solo I've committed to memory is "Highway Star" [from 1972's Machine Head]. I like playing that semitone run in the middle.

GW: Why do you think of that, of all your work, "Smoke On The Water" is so enduring? The riff is the rock equivalent to the opening of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.

BLACKMORE: Simplicity is the key. And it is simple - you can still hear people playing it at music stores. I never had the courage to write until I heard "I Can't Explain" and "My Generation." Those riffs were so straightforward that I thought, "All right, if Pete Townshend can get away with that, then I can, too!"

BLACKMORE: I'm very moved by Renaissance music, but I still love to play hard rock - though only if it's sophisticated and has some thought behind it. I don't want to throw myself on a stage and act silly, 'cause I see so many bands doing that today. There's a lot going on today that disturbs me - so much derivative music. Where are the progressive bands like Cream, Procul Harum, Jethro Tull or the Experience? I could go on, but we have to live with it.
When There's Smoke.. THERE'S FIRE! by MORDECHAI KLEIDERMACHER (GUITAR WORLD - FEBRUARY 1991)

Blackmore’s general attitude towards rock and blues music is complex and sometimes contradictory. In an interview with Trouser Press in 1978, Blackmore refers to the Blues as ‘…too limited…’ and infers that he only utilizes them as an improvisational tool (Young, 1978). In regard to rock and roll he says ‘I don’t listen too much rock n’ roll really.’ Then later in the interview says ‘I’m very interested in extreme rock n’ roll’ (Young, 1978). Throughout various interviews Blackmore spends much time playing down the rock aspects of his playing and instead focusing on his classical music influences and credentials. He cites Bach and Segovia as important influences (McIver, 2004) and states that he was more influenced by violin players than guitarists (Young, 1978), similar to the influence of the violinist Nicolo Paganini on Yngwie Malmsteen (Everett (ed), 2008, 219).
The Guitar Solos of Ritchie Blackmore: A Divergence From the Blues Roots by Steve Barnard (2018)
 
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ferrellms

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There has never been such an amount of amazingly good music as there is now. Probably back then it was meant to be played, but recording devices were too expensive or it was recorded and it's sleeping in some casette on a basement in Tajikistan or around.

Decades ago when I wanted to listen to something from discographics such as Deathlike Silence, Osmose or even Earache or Peaceville, I really had to sweat to even get access to their material. Now, discographics like Iron Bonehead, Norma Evangelium Diaboli, Eisenwald or World Terror Committee are just a couple clicks away and I can even listen to some singles even before buying. I can even get re-issues from very rare classics from Nuclear War Now! and get them comfortably shipped accross the ocean from Texas! Getting stuff from Angelcorpse in years ago in a tiny middle of nowhere Southern Europe town was night impossible!

Sorry, but when I listen to the trope about the music of the past being so much better, I remember the Beach Boys and I cannot help but laugh.
Way to go! You posted a list of all your favorite artists and I have never even heard of any of them!
 

Vacceo

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Way to go! You posted a list of all your favorite artists and I have never even heard of any of them!
The names are record labels, some releasing music from many bands, some not. It´s not strange that they don´t ring any bell, most people do not listen to Black and Death Metal.
 

ferrellms

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To the subject of today's music - today's pop is usually pretty bad, some exceptions - just like it used to be.

BUT - jazz, pop jazz, electronica, cinematic, etc. are better than ever! The kind of stuff available and the variety is great as long as you look around and know what you like. The recording quality is better than ever, too, with floor-shaking bass and open and clear sound all over the place.

I'd even argue that the current crop of jazzers compete with the best of all time musically, (flame off, please) as well.

Amazon Music does a good job of recommending new stuff based on what you currently listen to. Despite the thousands of tunes on my hard drives, most of my music listening is streaming of stuff I never heard before or only recently become aware of due to Amazon's recommendations. I'd even argue that the sound is CD quality (flame off, please).

The user interface is pretty ugly.
 

Jds81

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To the subject of today's music - today's pop is usually pretty bad, some exceptions - just like it used to be.

BUT - jazz, pop jazz, electronica, cinematic, etc. are better than ever! The kind of stuff available and the variety is great as long as you look around and know what you like. The recording quality is better than ever, too, with floor-shaking bass and open and clear sound all over the place.

I'd even argue that the current crop of jazzers compete with the best of all time musically, (flame off, please) as well.

Amazon Music does a good job of recommending new stuff based on what you currently listen to. Despite the thousands of tunes on my hard drives, most of my music listening is streaming of stuff I never heard before or only recently become aware of due to Amazon's recommendations. I'd even argue that the sound is CD quality (flame off, please).

The user interface is pretty ugly.
Amazon music does surprisingly well. Keeps getting better as I add stuff to my library.
Agree with your comments in total, we may get bbq'd together
 

IPunchCholla

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Ritchie Blackmore Metall Magazinet Interview September 1993


When There's Smoke.. THERE'S FIRE! by MORDECHAI KLEIDERMACHER (GUITAR WORLD - FEBRUARY 1991)


The Guitar Solos of Ritchie Blackmore: A Divergence From the Blues Roots by Steve Barnard (2018)
Thanks for the posts. It’s nice to be reminded that even the most skilled are blinded by their own narrow experience and self-contradictory.
 

EJ3

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Way to go! You posted a list of all your favorite artists and I have never even heard of any of them!
Me either!
And I have lived in (owning a condo in Salzburg, Austria [a rather musical city], Japan, Korea, Islands in the Indian Ocean, Western Pacific, Japan, ROK (Republic of Korea)), spent months in Australia and many other places. Perhaps your taste is vastly different than many.
 
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Robin L

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I was wondering why I hadn't heard any Captain Beefheart lately:
From Wikipedia:
With various line-ups of musicians called The Magic Band, Beefheart released a total of 13 studio albums recorded between 1967 and 1982, after which he left music to concentrate on a career in painting, as Don Van Vliet. His catalogue has since been augmented with extra releases including an EP and various compilations of live material, studio outtakes and greatest hits releases.

In addition to his work with the Magic Band over this period, Beefheart also collaborated with several other musicians, most notably Frank Zappa, a friend from his teenage years with whom he worked intermittently during his musical career.
He's dead, for one thing. His music is sui generis and, much like Harry Parch, his disciples continue to play his music without too much publicity. Don van Vliet's musical path was not economically profitable and his efforts in visual art turned out to be quite valuable and highly regarded in fine art circles. Beyond that, degenerative nerve disease caught up with him so that he was incapable of performing, so he quit performing in the early 1980s while he could still put on a show. I caught his next to last performance in Petaluma. He eventually moved to Trinidad, a small, arty beach town in Northern California, just an hour away from the Oregon border.
 

Robin L

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That’s the latest trend, go after the boomers because we like things a certain way and don’t want to conform all the time.

Music is just the latest casualty in a long list of things done better when I was growing up. Just one boomers opinion. So if you don’t agree with the iPod and Bluetooth mentality you might get canceled.

Sorry if this sounded like a rant it really wasn’t haha.
As far as boomers go, I'm pretty fried. I can listen to new stuff. I'm kinda like Mae West, will try anything at least once, twice if I like it, three times if I really like it. But I like the access to music of the IPod Bluetooth mentality, all sorts of stuff now, all over the musical map. The music that dominates the chart just seems to avoid me.
 

Audiofire

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Thanks for the posts. It’s nice to be reminded that even the most skilled are blinded by their own narrow experience and self-contradictory.
Interviewer: A lot of people of course envy your talent, and your fame, and the lifestyle that you have, and everything and they may forget that all that doesn't necessarily get, you know, goes hand in hand with happiness. Are you a happy person?

Um - very contented, not happy. What is happiness? One person's happiness is having a good meal. Another person - he could have the same meal and he would not be happy. That is interesting right there. I don't know if you've noticed. It's like being in a room and you could see the moon out of the window, but if I could see the moon through this window here, you couldn't. So I could say "Look, I can see the moon" and you would say "Well, not really. You're lying, because I can't see the moon".

But you're in a different perspective to me. That in itself I think is life in its barest form. We're all totally confused, but some of us know how to handle it better than others and know how to come across pretending. We all pretend - we all pretend we're happy. I don't think anybody's happy. We don't have a clue what happiness is about, and some of us end up in asylums. "I'm going crazy" and I can relate to those people. Living in this world I think is a big con job - in the whole world.

Interviewer: Has the fact that you are regarded as a legend among guitar players ever caused you to be frustrated, over the fact that you gotta keep up with any possible competition out there?

No. No, I never regarded myself as a legend. Lucky I think is the word. I practiced a lot. Um, legend - I would relate that to being around a long time.

Interviewer: What do you mean - something from Jurassic Park?!

Yes, it's like "You're a legend". No, I've just been around a long time, you know! I'll always put down what I do, all the time. Depress it. Yeah, there are times I sit back and I go "I like that. That's nice". But I do have a very bad habit of pulling everything down to its basic structure. A legend - a legend is someone who's just been, you know, lucky for a long time, and I would never consider myself a legend. I wouldn't consider myself anything, other than just being here like everybody else is. I'm stuck.
Ritchie Blackmore Metall Magazinet Interview September 1993
 

Jds81

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I was born in 1962 so technically I am a boomer.


Millennials stand to inherit over $68 trillion from Baby Boomer and early Gen X parents by the year 2030, setting them up to potentially be the most wealthy generation in U.S. history

So if y’all start making better music we will think about handing our money over ROFL
Just kidding 0.o
Every generation has become wealthier during the modern era. How much did you hand back, considering your musical superiority?
Just kidding!
 

Jds81

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It was a tongue in cheek comment, as I’m sure you’re aware. As a Christian guy I don’t listen to any mainstream music only CCM, and a little bit of classic CCM. Actually my genre has gotten much better especially the last 5-10 years. Even the vinyl is very decent for the most part, just not the quality of the disc itself and that is something that they definitely did better back of the day.
Just giving you a hard time. I'm in the middle on the generational thing. I think the supposed animosity is overstated in most cases. Glad you're finding good new music, rock on!
 

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This thread is interesting. The kernel seems to be that pop music from 20-60 years ago is more popular than pop music made new today. This seems to have been the case for quite awhile.

As someone who seldom listens to pop music, I can't fully relate to any individual who has posted here. My listening is almost entirely jazz and classical, and like many people very little music newer than Stravinsky is very appealing to me. I think the quality of the melody has been lost in modern classical music, and pop music I just generally don't understand.

What I do know is that taste in pop music is very individual. What little pop music I enjoy ranges from Bruce Hornsby to Sting to Beck to Rihanna. How does one make sense of that? :oops:
 

EJ3

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He's dead, for one thing. His music is sui generis and, much like Harry Parch, his disciples continue to play his music without too much publicity. Don van Vliet's musical path was not economically profitable and his efforts in visual art turned out to be quite valuable and highly regarded in fine art circles. Beyond that, degenerative nerve disease caught up with him so that he was incapable of performing, so he quit performing in the early 1980s while he could still put on a show. I caught his next to last performance in Petaluma. He eventually moved to Trinidad, a small, arty beach town in Northern California, just an hour away from the Oregon border.
Good info.
But a lot of people still play Frank Zappa & he's been dead a while.
He was also somewhat of an acquired taste.
Don van Vliet: I am glad that his visual art (which I was somewhat aware of) did better for him.
And he had a unique musical art. Not exactly my cup of tea for everyday listening but certainly worthwhile for a change of perspective from time to time.
& I have never been a top 40 (while I think some of it is great) type of person.
I listen to whole albums usually. AOR radio suited me well. I worked for country & TOP 40 POP stations from 75-85 but I was never only into that or even heavily into that.
 

EJ3

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Hi. I think most of the music from back in the day was on the radio before it was released, and I realize it still works that way to some extent now. But back then there were not that many platforms to get your music out there like there is now, it was AM/FM radio, The Ed Sullivan show (i’m not old enough to remember the Beatles or others on their) soul train, American bandstand, and a couple other places. What I’m getting at is we all listened that way, so it’s probably more popular so to speak because we knew 3/4 of the songs of our favorite genre by heart.
I was a frequent Rock, Southern Rock, Jazz (Chuck Mangione, Tangerine Dream), and many others. Most times I heard the songs of bands I could go to see before they became big hits (and many songs I truly like that never became hits of any type but are on albums that I like. It's rare for me to not at least like songs on an album enough that I would not want to listen to all of them. That is why, back in the day, I did not buy the 7" 45's but I bought LP's. (Even the Beatles, I was a kid, I heard a song from them I liked at someone's home, I bought the album).
 
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