What’s the filler?
Back in my day, we bought albums. <—-effing old guy alert. But most of you you know what I’m talking about. Even if you were raised on iTunes buying a single at a time, you’ve heard of the concept. A group of related songs by an artist or band that sometimes even went so far as to tell a complete story if you listened to them in order.
Having recorded a couple of them, I’m aware of the painstaking amount of time spent discussing, arguing and rearranging the order to make them flow better, kick you in the teeth, attempt to pull at your heart and finish with a flourish. I also don’t remember thinking “this song is just filler,” because all of the songs meant something to me, but someone who heard the music I made surely had that thought. “This song is okay to clean the house to.” Aka almost muzak.
Back when we had 45s you could get a glimpses into a song that may or may not be on the album in the form of a “b side”. For you young whippersnappers, a 45 was a record that played at 45 rpms and had one song on each side. The hit was on one and the “b side” was the other. Some greatness was found on those “b sides” but also a lot of duds.
Filling an album was a different story altogether. Sometimes (see post on 90’s rock), an album would be only one hit and a bunch of garbage. Sometimes you’d get lucky and get 2-3 hits out of ten songs. The rest of the record would be filled with, well, what I cleverly call “filler”.
For every Pearl Jam, Ten with 9 great songs there’s likely 100 albums with one good song. There was no worse feeling than buying an album then realizing you only got one good song. Apparently Prince’s Purple Rain was the exception and not the rule.
You know the songs. It’s the ones you skip immediately. The ones that can feel somehow hurried and incomplete. I could give ample examples of this but, interestingly, one mans filler is another’s hidden gem. Weird how that works.
Prepare thine self as I’m about to tie it all together.
Life is the filler. The hits are your wedding, a great day spent with friends doing what you love, a sports event and a child’s birth. A Thursday in January is just filler, but if we are a little self aware, we get the chance to make the filler a little bit better. Maybe your album goes from 2 hits to 3.
Get out of your way for a minute today, stop in the middle of the mundane and if nothing else find that “hit” song that brings you joy and play it.
Now create some better filler.