Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Have you heard Bill Withers's new ringle?

Yep, I said "ringle." Earlier today I received an e-mail from Amazon.com ...

As someone who has purchased or rated music by Bill Withers, you might like to know that Ain't No Sunshine [Ringle] will be released on November 6, 2007.

What's a Ringle? A Ringle is a CD with 2-3 tracks that also includes a ringtone of a hit track delivered directly to your cell phone. A Ringle may also include additional bonus content such as mobile wallpaper and alternate downloadable content for your computer if you have a phone which is not compatible with Ringles.

This is the first I've heard of ringles. What I'm curious about is whether or not you can buy the whole package
—the songs "Ain't No Sunshine," "Harlem," and "Sweet Wanomi," all of which are worth having, plus the "Ain't No Sunshine" ringtone—on iTunes, therefore bypassing the CD. I wouldn't go that route, but "the kids" most likely would since they (presumably) have no sentimental attachment to CDs and probably won't care if CDs become obsolete, just as I didn't care when vinyl became obsolete in the late '80s, which is when I started to buy music. Then again, "the kids" probably aren't dying to have Bill Withers's 1971 classic coming out of their cell phones anyway. Not unless someone like Lil Wayne samples it.

I bought albums solely on cassette from 1987 to 1990, but the only tapes I mourn are the blank ones I used
—and which I still own and listen to, although not as often as I'd likenot the flimsy ones produced by record labels that often became unwound or warped within what seemed like the first dozen plays. (I do remember listening to some of my cassettes every day after school for months at a time, so maybe I'm to blame for the shortened life span of cassettes like Simply Red's Picture Book and George Benson's Breezin'.)

I still have some of my album cassettes from the '80s and '90s, but I'm afraid to play most of them these days for fear it might be the last time. And my cassette singles, or "cassingles," are ticking time bombs as far as I'm concerned. Those really did begin to warp after just a few listens.

Many vinyl enthusiasts miss the days of LPs like Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which gave buyers plenty to look at on the cover. CDs are certainly smaller than LPs, but at least you're still seeing cover art in a square shape. Cassettes offered a square image shoved into a rectangular space a dozen times smaller, and even then the cover art sometimes only occupied two-thirds of the cover
I bought four of Steely Dan's albums on cassette back in '88, and each one had Steely Dan's name and the album's name printed below the cover art on a blue background, which was somewhat helpful considering that the writing on the cover art was almost too small to read sometimes. Cassettes were also worse than LPs and CDs because you were often given zero liner notes, especially with older albums like Steely Dan's.

Wait, I'm supposed to be talking about ringles. But my phone doesn't even play ringtones, so I've already lost interest. However, I am interested in hearing "Sweet Wanomi" again. I'm going to go home right now and listen to it, on a blank tape from last year.

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