Who are you?

Steve Roby, Star Trek fan and author of the God-Thing and Star Trek: The Lost Books webpages, has started up his own blog. Steve posts frequently on Psi Phi and the TrekBBS Literature Forum, and I’ve been an avid reader of his posts for the past seven years. I find his writings on Star Trek and other subjects to be cogent, well-reasoned, and insightful.

Steve mentions in his most recent post that he was, at that moment, listening to The Who’s Who’s Next album, the remastered version. I have been a fan of The Who for years, and in the mid-90s I avidly bought MCA’s remastered albums, each repackaged with bonus tracks and detailed liner notes on each track. About a year ago, I noticed in the local Sam Goody’s (now closed, unfortunately) that Who’s Next has been remastered and reissued again, this time as a double disc with a bonus concert. And like a zombie, I bought that new version. Since then we’ve had two-disc releases of Live at Leeds (this time with the full Tommy performance, which was truncated on the mid-90s release), The Who Sings My Generation (which because of legal issues hadn’t been remastered in the mid-90s), and Tommy (redone in SACD format, and with a second disc of demos and outtakes). Then a few weeks ago, I found another greatest hits album, this one with two new songs written and performed in the last year. Only a few years ago a three-disc greatest hits package had been released; did we really need another now? Yet, like the diligent fan that I am, I bought the new album, listened to the two new songs, and promptly filed it on the shelf, along with all my other The Who albums.

(I should mention at this point that, at that time, I also bought Snow Patrol’s newest CD, Final Straw. This was the first American release for this Glasgow-based band, and for someone needing a Coldplay/Radiohead fix, this is an album I can strongly recommend.)

Am I complaining about releasing an album, and then rereleasing it again and again, each time with greater extras? In a way, I am. As a fan, I feel as though I need the latest and greatest version of material thirty years old, yet I have to wonder why the previous version isn’t sufficient. Are those extra three bonus tracks really going to make a difference as to which version of Who’s Next I’ll put in my CD player? More, why weren’t the bonus tracks released in the mid-90s included in the new version? If they had been, I might’ve taken the mid-90s Who’s Next to the used CD store and received some credit, as I did with George Harrison’s Cloud 9 when the remastered version with bonus tracks was released two months ago.

For casual fans, the sorts of bonus tracks available may not matter much. If at all. The non-casual fan, though, will feel the pain in the wallet, and the music companies know that. I have to wonder, though, if bonus tracks will really bring new fans to the table, if repackaging old music in a new wrapper will make a difference on the bottom line. I have doubts.

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