Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Fine Print

I read an article in the past week concerning the inserts in CDs. Those of us who grew up in the age of vinyl considered cover art and liner notes to be part of the whole listening experience. According to the article, the liner notes are getting little respect from the current crop of CD purchasers. Some shop owners report that buyers will open the package and discard everything but the CD before they even leave the store. And the rise of online purchase of just the songs you want, rather than the entire CD, is another blow to the folks who produce the cover art and liner notes for the inserts.

I can't understand this trend. I read all the liner notes for just about every CD I purchase. I like to know who wrote the songs. I want to know the name of the fabulous pianist on the third track. I want to be able to look and see what that stringed instrument is that I can't quite identify. I want to read the little anecdotes behind the songs. If a lyric moves me, I want to pull out the liner notes and follow along with the words.

I've always paid attention to the credits. Not just for the albums/CDs I've purchased. I read credits at the end of TV programs and at the end of movies. It annoys me no end that cable stations have started scrunching up the credits at the bottom or side of the screen in order to run ads for upcoming programs. They are robbing me of the right to read the fine print.

You get some surprises when you read the fine print. Do you remember the character of Adam Kendall in Little House on the Prairie? He was the young, blind man who married the older daughter Mary Ingalls. He was played by actor Linwood Boomer, who moved behind the camera after that series came to an end. I next caught his name as a producer on Night Court and he is currently the mastermind behind Malcolm in the Middle. I know all that because I read the credits. And he's not the only former actor who has "disappeared" behind the camera. Remember Tony Dow? He played Wally Beaver and later became a director. You have to be my age or older to remember the name Leigh French, a ditsy flower child character on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. She now does voice casting, a fact I learned from reading the credits. You just never know who you are going to run into when you start reading that fine print.

I know I'm not the only one that does this, but it sometimes feels like I am. Awhile back I went to the theater in Bastrop to see a movie and waited to read the credits to the end. For one thing, the music was pretty good and I wanted to get some information on that. But I would have read the credits regardless. By the time the film quit rolling, I was the only patron left in the auditorium and the cleaning crew was making their way up and down the aisles and giving me sidelong glances.

I've followed backup musicians from band to band by reading that fine print. Not long ago I was surprised to discover that Jon Carroll, a great pianist who backs Mary Chapin-Carpenter, was once a member of the Starlight Vocal Band. (I'm really not that old. I just have a good memory.)

People who don't read the credits miss a lot. I sure would hate to see the demise of liner notes. It would reduce my enjoyment considerably. There's a lot of good stuff buried in that fine print. Give credit where credit is due. Those folks in the credits deserve to be noticed for the good work they do.


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