Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Game Theory

One of the things I'm learning as I do this is that a lot of music I assumed was obscure isn't anymore. For example; every song ever recorded by Miaow (which I spent years searching for on record) is currently available on CD; likewise you can download Wild Carnation’s once scarce Tricycle from iTunes. On the other hand, CDs that were ubiquitous 5 to 10 years ago have (at least temporary) been condemned to the dustbin of history.

Sitting at the top of that dustbin is the music of Scott Miller. If Amazon’s Marketplace is any indication, it will cost you a small fortune to collect the complete works of Game Theory, music I assumed was still easily available. It’s especially a shame that nothing by Game Theory is in print; "24," "Erica’s Word," "Crash Into June," "Throwing the Election," and others are sublime moments of pop perfection that deserved a wider audience than they ever reached. But then that seems to be true of nearly all power-pop; despite being insanely catchy, from Big Star to Tommy Keene to Teenage Fanclub, the best power pop has never actually been particularly popular.

If you can find a copy, I highly recommend Game Theory’s 1990 best-of Tinker To Evers To Chance. In addition to presenting some of the best material from their wonderful Enigma albums, it also has some re-recorded versions of early material, including a 1989 re-recording of his early band Alternate Learning's "Beach State Rocking." Michael Quercio of The Three O'clock played bass in the that final edition of Game Theory. After that line-up (the last of many) fell apart, Miller retired the Game Theory moniker only to record the exact same type of music under the name The Loud Family with a similar rotating cast of extras. Free downloads from The Loud Family and Game Theory are available at the Loud Family website.

Also on the Loud Family website Scott Miller lists of his 20 favorite albums for every year from 1965 to 1999. (By the way, although I am not a list maker myself, I actually think Scott's lists are pretty cool. First off, he doesn't assuming a position of authority, he's just lists just what he likes, which is a lot more interesting anyway.) Also on the Loud Family website is Scott’s rather sad answer as to why no Game Theory albums are currently available.


Anonymous said...

this is why perhaps the future in reissues lies in the digital only domain, where music can stay in print...forever. we'll see how that goes.

dan selzer

Pete Bilderback said...

Dan, I was thinking along the same lines. I want to say more about this in some future post. I don't see any good reason why anything that anyone wants to hear shouldn't be available. But it's probably more complicated than I think it is. I do have a lot more to say about music distribution in the digital age, and one of these days I'll say it. Thanks for your comment!

125records said...

The fact is, if Scott Miller owned the rights to his music, all the Game Theory material would be in print right now. Alas, it is owned by someone else, who seemingly has no interest in having it rereleased (several labels, including Rykodisc, have tried). As a result of this I do licensing-only deals with all the musicians on my label, including Scott. If he ever wants to rerelease "What If It Works?" in some yet to be invented digital format 20 years down the road, he'll be able to do so.

Pete Bilderback said...

Thanks for that info. That sounds very frustrating, and probably all too typical. What I don't get is if Lolita Nation is selling for $100 on Amazon, there is clearly a demand for it. It seems to me like the rights holder is basically refusing to make money that it easily could. If Ryko or someone else is willing to do the work for you...well, like I said it doesn't make sense to me, but then I am blessedly far from the ugly realities of the music industry.

BTW, 125records is great, and everyone should buy "What If It Works?"