Momma’s Little Jewel


Glam rock certainly rolls on here at The Fault, doesn’t it?  Good Mott the Hoople albums are hard to come by – by ‘good’, I mean, of course, “All the Young Dudes” (pictured above), as well as the follow-up album, “Mott”.  And…that’s about it.  There are a couple good songs on the “Mott” follow up -appropriately titled “The Hoople”, but that’s it.  Diminishing returns after, and presumptive failures prior.  If you want your money’s worth, pick up Greatest Hits.  While not imaginatively named, it does feature most of the great tracks from Dudes, Mott, and Hoople.  I’ve seen copies of both Mott and The Hoople at local shops and passed on them, waiting for the crown jewel – that being Young Dudes.  I did recently stumble upon the Greatest Hits, and it was a bargain at 5 bucks…although, let’s look at the economics of scale here.  Music is time-sensitive, much more so than cost-sensitive.  Sure, the first LP ever pressed is going to cost an exorbitant amount of money to acquire, that should be a given.  But a CBS Records packaged greatest hits compilation from 1976 (with the majority of the music contained having been released in 1972 and 1973)? And on vinyl – used vinyl at that – shouldn’t be that hard to come by today.  And yet, this is the first time I’d seen a copy of Mott’s Greatest Hits on vinyl in years.  Mott only set the world on fire briefly, for a scant second – and that on the back of a David Bowie penned song (you know it, it’s “All The Young Dudes” – you did know Bowie wrote that, right?), so maybe it’s wrong of me to think there should be tons of used Mott records floating around.  I mean, it’s hard enough to find original Bowie pressings, and they pressed those things in the millions.

It’s really more the economics of time than anything related to price.  When you’ve spent as much time shopping for records as I have, you come to realize most pieces of original-pressed wax settle into one of two price points – under 20 dollars, 20-60, and anything over 60.  Much like the X.99 price tag, where marketers eventually realized people though, hey bargain, cause it was under XX dollars, 60 bucks seems to be the cutoff point for most ‘harder to find’ vinyl in decent shape.  And 60 is still too much.  But right now, it’s still partly a sellers market where vinyl is concerned, as any readers (there have to be a few) of this blog will realize from my many, many, probably too many, posts on the subject.  So, this is where the economics of time intersect with the economics of price.  I’m not young, by anyone’s standards – I’m your average middle aged guy, maybe a bit grumpier than most, certainly more bald than most!  So, we have our equation of TIME + PRICE.  Anything else?  Oh yeah, demand.  How many people are looking for Mott the Hoople’s hits on vinyl in the year of our something, 2018?  I suppose regardless of the demand, you still have to factor supply into this somewhere.  Sure, CBS (or whoever owns the rights to Mott’s catalog today) aren’t rolling copies of their Greatest Hits off the assembly line to the tune of thousands a day.  Why would they?  How many people are actually looking – or would actually be willing to pick up a copy, if they stumbled upon one?  This one might be a little tougher.  Sales = (Demand/Supply)*(Time+Price)?

I like data, I love analytics, but I’ve never been the guy who can figure out an equation like this off the top of my head.  These variables are very much of the ‘sliding scale’ variety – in terms of supply (how many copies were pressed, how many still exist, and how many are within a few miles of me – namely, in one of my local record shops), in terms of demand (Led Zeppelin pressings?  Demand.  Mott the Hoople pressings?  Demand, but of a lesser scale).  Time (how long since the record came out?  was it genre specific?  how many people still give enough of a crap to shell out money for it today?  who is it appealing to – middle aged guys, younger people, some odd intersection, or nobody?)  Intersecting with Time is Demand – for the further away from a production point you get, the harder the product is to acquire.  So, if the demand remains high (like with Zeppelin pressings), the time away from pressing (40+ years and counting for some Zeppelin releases) makes acquiring a copy harder, despite the high pressing count.  Add into this the fact that more people ‘want’ Zeppelin than ‘want’ Mott, and that has to, in some exponential way, factor into the equation.  Finally, but not really finally, we have price.  Price is dictated by supply, demand, and also, at least for something like records, time.  Again, Zeppelin is going to cost more than Mott.  But by how much and for how long?  So, I said price was the final element, but not really, because…cultural cache.  Who’s cool?  Is Zeppelin cool?  Still seem to be.  Is Mott cool?  Maybe to a few.

This really could make someone’s head hurt. It makes mine hurt.  I’m going to figure out a way to put all of this into Tableau Software, if I can ever make sense of the equation.  I might be able to get ahold of initial sales figures (minus returns, so again, not a full picture).  Look, here’s the deal…if you want some glam that isn’t Bowie, Eno, Roxy Music, Lou Reed…find some Mott the Hoople, or at least the two albums I mentioned (or their Greatest Hits).  If you want to expand your glam library, you won’t be disappoint.  However, can someone tell me what a Hoople is?

More Fun With Data

Top 10 Writers by Total Weeks at #1

As some of you know, I’m a bit of a data fanatic.  I like Tableau’s software because it takes your data and visualizes it in a variety of interesting ways.  In keeping with my project analyzing 40 years of American #1 songs, this chart looks at the Top 10 Songwriters that have the most time at the #1 position.  Mariah Carey is actually the most prolific writer, as seen on the chart above.  Let’s be fair, we all know the ‘change a word, earn a third’ rule in songwriting; what I’m trying to say is that Mariah may have written a verse here or there, but she wasn’t solely responsible for any of her songs.  Like many ‘pop’ artists, she employed many outside writers to help with the music and lyrics (I have that viz as well, and I’ll post that another day.)
Actually, if you look at this chart, a lot of the most prolific writers aren’t artists in their own right – Max Martin, Lukasz Gottwold (also known as Dr. Luke), James Harris III (also known as Jimmy Jam), who worked closely with Terry Lewis, Scott Storch – 5 of these Top 10 Writers aren’t performers in their own right, and thus are less well known to the average consumer of the music they produce.  And those ‘products’ are people like Taylor Swift, Janet Jackson, Katy Perry, etc.  You get the idea.  Apparently it takes a lot to bring a pop song to fruition.

Or that’s what ‘they’ would have you believe.  Because within the Top 10 above is one Barry Gibb.  Don’t get me wrong, Barry Gibb wrote (and produced) songs for other artists – quite a few, or else he wouldn’t have managed to be as prominent in the Top 10 as he is in the chart above.  But, as a member of the Bee Gees (his band) in the 70’s, the only other writers were his brothers Robin (represented here) and Maurice.  So, if modern pop music makes you think it takes a ‘factory’ to produce a hit single, look to an earlier post of mine about the Bee Gees and their run of #1 singles.  They wrote them without outside help, and still managed to leave a lasting impression upon the pop charts.  So, the next time you hear a #1 single, search out who the real talent behind the creation is.  Is it the singer, the group, or some outside ‘consultant’ hired to make a hit single?  If it’s the latter, doesn’t that take all the fun out of the process?

How Deep Is Your Loathe?

Well?  Sometimes you are lost for words (not lost in words, which might be similar to being lost in music) and nothing coherent seems to come out.  Is it better to say nothing at all?  Is it best to push through, and try to produce something?  Is silence golden, or is silence the silent killer? If silence actually turns out to be the silent killer, one:  that seems a bit redundant.  Two:  in which case, make noise all the time.  Not really a problem in our household.

Why am I stuck today? I’ll tell you…I spent a few hours reviewing forecasting techniques.  It’s a profession I’ve been doing for the last ten years, and sometimes you need refreshers.  Especially with terminology.  Sit me down, I know what to do…ask me to describe the terminology, I’ll say “well, you’ve got the uh…and this model is…but if you do process, uh…”  You get the picture.  This lack of ability to remember the names of some of the modeling theories has cost me a job in the past (it wasn’t really a company I wanted to work for, but still.  I don’t wanna be that guy).  Which is weird.  I like to think I’m fluent with language, but trying to remember the names of coefficients and variables seems to be a bit of a blank board where my abilities of description fail me.

However, since this is ostensibly a blog about music, how about a pretty picture?  Over the course of the past two months I’ve been compiling data about music.  Specifically, each and every #1 single in the US Top 100 chart for the years 1976-2016.  Note that this is ‘only’ the Top 100, because has numerous charts – hip hop/rap, R&B, rock/pop, alternative, etc.  There used to be college rock, but I think that’s been folded into the larger ‘alternative’ tag.  Needless to say, there are far too many genres that shift frequently as music changes – sometimes a sub-genre breaks off from a prior genre classification, in which case, what happens to my data from the years prior to sub-genre X becoming a classification all its’ own?  For example, rap, in its infancy, was classified either with R&B, or urban dance.  Sometimes one, sometimes the other.  Now its a much bigger musical form worthy of a genre classification by itself.  But to ‘line up’ all the data from the first time a rap single charted at #1, you’d need to extract data from other genre classifications and insert that extracted info into the rap genre category.  So, I stuck with US #1 from the Top 100.  I had 52 (sometimes 53) weeks of data to look at every year for 40 years.  And even though I haven’t been writing this blog for long, I think most of you may already have an idea of the types of music I like and the types I don’t.  Hint:  it’s not the stuff that normally gets to #1 on the US Top 100 chart.

Bee Gees, Weeks at #1 by Song

Remember yesterday I spoke of ELO, and my fondness for them, in spite of the fact tha they’re disco in disguise?  Above you’ll see a scatterplot of the total #1 singles by Bee Gees – a bona fide disco band, and one that I don’t like.  They’re far too disco for my liking, and I grew up in a time when disco was all that people thought dance music was or could be.  At some point I’ll rant about how artists in the mid-70’s were either forced, or alternatively chose, to make disco-sounding tracks, especially if they didn’t start out sounding anything close to disco-ish.

The visualization above was made using Tableau software, which I absolutely love using.  There are so many useful and also fun things you can do with it!  One of the things I did was extract the total number of Bee Gees songs to hit #1 (6 in total), and marked each one of them at the weeks they spent at #1 (Y-axis), along with year the songs hit #1 (X-axis).  This total number of hit singles, especially in such a short amount of time is actually quite a big achievement – placing Bee Gees within the Top 10 of artists (since 1976) who had multiple #1 singles.  It’s even more impressive when you look at what Barry Gibb, ostensible leader of Bee Gees, did in terms of writing and producing for other artists as well.  But that’s a visualization for another day.  That’s it from The Fault for today, go forth and make mischief.