Sunday, April 8, 2018

Story Goes... AOR

It's a term that has seen its day in a world of digital downloads. Album Oriented Rock, or AOR, probably traces its history to Rubber Soul or Pet Sounds, or more difinitively to Dylan's 11 minute opus "Desolation Row" from Highway 61 Revisited, but where it begins matters less than market share. In 1967, LP sales exceeded single sales for the first time in music history. 45s were designed for three minute ditties, radio friendly AM radio tunes that continued the Tin Pan Alley tradition that began with the 78. While The Beatles' "Hey Jude" clocked in at 7:11 and Richard Harris' "McArthur Park" topped out at 7:23, those singles veritably maxed out the quality of the pressing. EPs were usually in the 7 inch format, but were more commonly released at 33 1/3 rpms. As artists ventured into territory that the 45 couldn't accommodate, LPs became more and more popular. Songs like Deep Purple's "Child in Time," or The Doors' "The End" were not even possible in the single format. Instead, songs like "Light My Fire" where truncated to accommodate both a 45 and radio station formats (the LP version is 7:06 long, while the single is 2:52).

This "story" is pretty succinct. Side length tracks like "Close to the Edge," Pink Floyd's "Echoes" or "Supper's Ready" were a product of AOR as well as a product of creativity. Based on iTunes and downloads, AOR is now a historical marker of a more creatively productive era in music. In 1967, AOR was the future.

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