Hits of the 80s

19th May 2008 – 1.41 pm

I happened to be in Woolworths at the weekend browsing for something in particular, when the person I was with pointed out a compilation CD of 80s hits. It was Woolworths' own brand and decidedly cheap in both cost and design, but it's the content that matters. Having grown up in the 80s I like lots of 80s songs if only because they were popular in my formative years, and this three-CD compilation looked to contain quite a few songs that I recognised and would listen to at least occasionally. Costing only £3 made it a bargain. But what caught my eye and made my decision for me was that a good portion of the songs on the CDs, at least a third, were listed as being live versions.

I really like listening to live music. Whilst I appreciate what can be performed in a studio and enhanced through production there is a special pleasure to be gained when listening to a band play live, which can come across from on a live recording. So even though I had a few of the songs on the compilation CD in my collection already being offered a live version adds rather than reduces value for me. It made me wonder where the live recordings had come from, for a department store to be offering an exclusive collection of tracks.

It was even more intriguing after I read the small print on the packaging once I got the CD home. According to the packaging all songs listed as being a single performer were performed by that person, but songs from any bands listed were performed by as many original members as possible. 'As possible' is rather ambiguous, but that's okay, even if it means I am not listening to the original recording. But because I am not listening to the original recording it means that someone, or some company, has arranged to get as many of the artists 'as possible' together to record new versions of their songs, all of which have actually been recorded and made it in to the charts before. Why would they do this?

I can only imagine there are licencing or copyright complications that preclude using the original tracks, but it still seems like an awful lot of work to get a whole load of old songs recorded, particularly as they would have to sound as they did originally. I am sure there are greater machinations afoot that I am not privvy to, and my bafflement at a compilation of newly recorded old songs being sold so cheaply could be easily explained by someone.

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