Scott D. Parker
Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” has a couple. Genesis, The Black Keys, Radiohead, and Diana Krall have a few. KISS has them all over the place. And, yes (sigh), I’ll even admit that Chicago and Bruce Springsteen have a few.
What am I talking about? Album cuts. Those throwaway songs musicians create whose sole purpose is to fill out an otherwise anemic album. Don’t get me wrong: these album cuts have passionate fans. If you dig deep into the fandom of any particular musical act--especially one that has a long career--you will find those folks who so very much want their favorite band to play the random, obscure song from the third LP back when there were such a thing as LPs.
But, at the time, the artists are looking at a roster of five great tunes they know will make it big on the radio. If they release five songs, that’s an EP. They can’t get away with that. They need to release a LP, a long playing album, charge more, and make lots more money.
Take “Thriller” for example. It’s staggering to realize that seven(!) tracks made it to the radio, all of which went to the top 10. If a song was released as a single from that LP, it did well. Little does the casual listener realize that there are nine tracks on the album. Can anyone name either song?
Didn’t think so.
How does this link up with writing? Simple. Why do musicians get to bloat their output and writers don’t?
Or do they?
Writers can’t simply create a sub-thread just for the heck of it. Think about it: imagine “Mystic River” with a subplot involving the daily life of the batboy at Fenway Park or “The Da Vinci Code” with a cameo by Langdon’s graduate assistant. The simple fact with a book is that the author can’t insert anything that isn’t cogent to the plot. Even the most bloated novel has to stick to the point.
I’ll grant you that some authors suffer from Research-itis. This is a common malady where, simply because in the course of research for a book the author learned a fact, he feels compelled to “share” with his readers this little nugget even if it doesn’t apply to the plot. Michael Crichton, for all of his bravado with fast-paced plots, dumped a ton of information on the reader. I remember reading his books and seeing lots of white space on a page. Cool. Dialogue and action. Then, after a page turn, there’d be wall-to-wall text. Great. Here comes the lecture. But, even if we skip over the lecture parts, the information is probably germane to the story. Thus, to me, it falls out of the realm of “album cut.”
What do you think? Are we writers allowed, in some form or fashion, to have album cuts in our books?
Drink of the Week: Hot Dr. Pepper
Winter finally hit here in Houston. We had temperatures in the upper 20s and lower 30s. That’s serious down here. And what better way to warm up the insides than hot Dr. Pepper. Don’t screw up your face. Give it a go. The official Dr. Pepper website has the simple recipe: DP and lemon and a heat source. It’s better than you might think.