Why Does “Directors Cut” and “Special Edition” mean More Music?
Think of the words. Special Edition.
First used in 1980, to promote the then ‘Directors Cut’ of Spielberg’s “Close Encounters Of The Third Kind”, it began to mean, slowly, but surely, the way in which the directors of said film could ‘reclaim’ the movie from the commercial clutches of the major studios and present their original, untainted cinematic vision. Quite why this was allowed to happen, and why directors didn’t just bemoan the meddling hands of their despotic studio bosses in the numerous interview opportunities open to them, is a mystery.
unless… they agreed to mercilessly exploit the consumer by presenting, at a later date, previously unseen footage. That’s right. What you saw and paid for the first time, wasn’t the whole film, just a diluted greatest hits version, sanitised by the millionaires in command. Surely then, now that the opportunity has arisen, we should see the film as it was meant to be, for free? We’ve already paid the money, invested the time, seen the film already. So give us the ‘proper version’ for free.
Oh no, see it again, firstly at your local multiplex where the projectionist can’t be bothered to get the picture just right, and then again on overpriced DVD – where we sell you your memories again at a higher price – or on a crappily re-edited VHS in the ‘pan-n-scan’ format with some, but not all, extra footage tacked on the end haphazardly, perhaps in a box set, with some dog tags and a fake diary. For a nice large price tag.
Stand up, Reservoir Dogs. The Abyss. Aliens. Terminator 2. Sixth Sense. Ghostbusters. Fight Club. Matrix. Titanic. Star Wars. The Empire Strikes Back. Return Of The Jedi. Blade Runner. JFK. Natural Born Killers. Pulp Fiction. Trainspotting. True Romance.
For those of us, unable, or unwilling to reduce the pool of cinematic memories to whatever the DVD manufacturers see fit to legitimise in a Stalinist revisionism of history, we are reduced instead to looking at copy-protected (i.e. finite lifespan) cheap videotape with a whole host of castrated ‘features’. In order to push the DVD players and the Saddam sponsored Playstation2 VHS is slowly being edged out of the market. Whilst the quality of VHS is somewhat lacking, it is somewhat frustrating to have to repurchase your entire collection of films every few years when a new format is released and inevitably, lose some unprofitable masterpieces as martyrs to the cause.
But how does fit in with the new, and repugnant, “Special Edition Means More Music” campaign currently defacing posters across Tube Stations in Britain? Simple. In some way, to try to prop up the corrupt, inefficient and uncompetitive British Music Industry, the industry has chosen to bastardise our music by tacking on new sleeves, extra unreleased and unreleasable material and bootleg mixes with gaffa tape to our established albums.
This is a crass, and wholly avoidable attempt to recoup the crass mismanagement with the current industry, as every label chases the increasingly irrelevant and ever shrinking teen market with super-expensive multimillion dollar videos that actually cost more per minute than most blockbusters, advertising the fake breasts of supposedly attractive mannequins miming along to songs they don’t like, don’t write and don’t understand in an attempt to push themselves ever further up the ladder of infamy and celebrity cinema premiere guest lists. And Johnny Public funds it when Joe and Jo Record Label picks the wrong pretty boy to pour money into.
Even the biggest bands are not immune. REM found every one of their early albums repackaged with a myriad of bonus songs, generally crap quality live recordings, gaffataped on the end. U2 fought tooth and nail, yet lost, to their record company who insisted on adding a second-rate soundtrack contribution to their album. If this is the biggest band in the world, what hope do the smaller bands in the world have of their artistic freedom to create good music? None. Bands are forced to release records they don’t like because they owe money to their label, which has squander a fortune on drugged up PR’s and pretty gay boys trying to commodify music like ice cream to school children. Of course, the general public aren’t that clever. Some suck up to such tactics, like the lucky, grateful punters they are. Others see through such soulless exploitation and burn CDR’s.
So stand up the following, all of whom have released “Special Edition” albums, whereby we pay twice for the same music to line the coffers of the corrupt. Limp Biskit. u2. Moby. Texas. Kelis. Pet Shop Boys. Ronan Keating, Blink 182 (probably). INXS. Morrissey. Blur. Suede. Stereophonics. New Order. Leftfield. Henry Rollins. The Wonder Stuff. Alabama 3, who released their second album containing a hit single off their first album, which you should own anyway, bolted onto the end. No One Is Fax Exempt.
Generally speaking, the material released on these CD’s is sub b-side fodder. Crap remixes they can’t farm out on bargain singles, boring reheated live material and other leftovers scraped off the studio floor and reprocessed like meat. Maybe, if you’re lucky, some CD-ROM material of a crap video in a grainy tiny window and a boring interview with an inarticulate moronic musician. It’s not worth the entry fee. Occasionally, this stuff is, if we’re lucky, released the first week so that those of us who actually look forward to buying records, might get a little extra – if we like paying more. Often though, as the album slides off the charts, like a desperate man clinging to the side of a sinking ship for a little longer, it is reissued months later with ‘exclusive’ material to revitalise it through the sad devotion of music fans.
What can be added. Special Edition means that we are being exploited by businessmen to fund their own mistakes. Go down the road, boycott your HMV, and find your local Grey Market importer. There the latest releases will be priced at a reasonable £9.99. Maybe missing a CD-Rom video and a crap demo version of a song you don’t like anyway. But relatively speaking a bargain, and containing the album the way it was meant to be heard, without any crap remixes or extra trimmings to tempt the mindless and the dumb.
Still don’t get it? Fine. Imagine Joy Division’s Closer – the ultimate nihilistic album of the edge of suicide – being closed, in England only, by the jaunty pop of “Love Will Tear us Apart”. The Manics Generation Terrorists being closed by the furious “Motown Junk”. Or Nirvana’s Nevermind finishing on a unreleased breakneck punkrock demo “Pay To Play” instead of the elegiac “Something In The Way”. Special Edition Means More Music. Fuck Off. Special Editions Means Get Ripped Off. Be Like Zak Off Grange Hill. Just Say No.