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Why Do Bands Still Perform Encores?

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Encores have become concert standard issue. Artists pencil in a big hit or two at the back end of their set list, walk off stage, wait for fans to shout for the encore, act surprised, play aforementioned hit songs in all their encore glory, rinse, repeat. So what killed the spontaneity of the encore?

BIGWIG BEGINNINGS 

Musical encores (the word is French for "again") date back to at least the 19th century, when bigwig aristocrats in concert halls would request a song to be played again, since recorded music wasn’t available. Encores would honor extraordinary classical musicians for extraordinary performances.

Encores would often also act as instant replays instead of bookending a concerto or opera—an orchestra might repeat a section of music that garnered audience applause in the middle of a concert.

And forget saving the hits: Encores played at the end of a show were often lackluster in comparison to the actual program. According to University of Missouri Professor of Music History Michael Budds, “In the fine arts tradition, a performer will put on an hour and a half show of grand proportions and difficult material while the encore will exist simply to please attendees.”

TAKE A BOW

The tradition of encores also dates back to the early days of Broadway. Audiences would call back actors during curtain calls to take an extra bow, according to Middle Tennessee State University recording industry professor Paul Fischer. When singers and musicians caught up to theater in popularity, encores became a second performance at the end of a set. Acts would typically reprise a favorite song—that’s where the whole “again” part fits into the equation.

BACK WHEN ENCORES HAD VALUE

When rock concerts exploded in the 1960s and ‘70s, encores were saved for performances that deserved to be commended—held for momentous shows. Elvis Presley’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker, refused to let the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll play encores to keep fans wanting more (the catchphrase “Elvis has left the building” originated as a reassurance that the rocker wouldn’t come back for an encore).

Another Elvis (Costello, the British proto-punk,) would have his manager blare loud white noise through venues’ loudspeakers to clear out fans hoping for an encore. In the 1970s, The Who would only encore when a show was “exceptional.” The Beatles didn’t play encores because of a necessity to book it after shows for fear of mobbing fans.

THE FALL OF ENCORES

Former Washington Post columnist David Segal puts the blame for encores becoming cliché squarely on Bruce Springsteen. In a 2004 column, Segal stated, “It was the Boss who transformed the rock show into an iron-man event, playing four-hour marathons, staggering back to the stage with the E Street Band time and again, their sweat and stamina part of the spectacle.” That iron-man style—Bob Dylan has closed shows with four encores, and The Cure are known to have played up to five—took away from the spontaneity of the encore.

Encores are also pre-planned for logistical reasons: The Guardian says that the precise planning behind encores stems from the need to be “tailored to things like the curfew, contractually required set-list lengths and the fact that the encore has to be tied in with the lightning and computer visuals.”

Some bands embrace the encore ritual. Some hate it. New Order frontman Peter Hook compared playing a set to having sex—and the encore to “being forced to having another go after you’d had an orgasm.”

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Big Questions
Why Don't We Eat Turkey Tails?
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Turkey sandwiches. Turkey soup. Roasted turkey. This year, Americans will consume roughly 245 million birds, with 46 million being prepared and presented on Thanksgiving. What we don’t eat will be repurposed into leftovers.

But there’s one part of the turkey that virtually no family will have on their table: the tail.

Despite our country’s obsession with fattening, dissecting, and searing turkeys, we almost inevitably pass up the fat-infused rear portion. According to Michael Carolan, professor of sociology and associate dean for research at the College for Liberal Arts at Colorado State University, that may have something to do with how Americans have traditionally perceived turkeys. Consumption was rare prior to World War II. When the birds were readily available, there was no demand for the tail because it had never been offered in the first place.

"Tails did and do not fit into what has become our culinary fascination with white meat," Carolan tells Mental Floss. "But also from a marketing [and] processor standpoint, if the consumer was just going to throw the tail away, or will not miss it if it was omitted, [suppliers] saw an opportunity to make additional money."

Indeed, the fact that Americans didn't have a taste for tail didn't prevent the poultry industry from moving on. Tails were being routed to Pacific Island consumers in the 1950s. Rich in protein and fat—a turkey tail is really a gland that produces oil used for grooming—suppliers were able to make use of the unwanted portion. And once consumers were exposed to it, they couldn't get enough.

“By 2007,” according to Carolan, “the average Samoan was consuming more than 44 pounds of turkey tails every year.” Perhaps not coincidentally, Samoans also have alarmingly high obesity rates of 75 percent. In an effort to stave off contributing factors, importing tails to the Islands was banned from 2007 until 2013, when it was argued that doing so violated World Trade Organization rules.

With tradition going hand-in-hand with commerce, poultry suppliers don’t really have a reason to try and change domestic consumer appetites for the tails. In preparing his research into the missing treat, Carolan says he had to search high and low before finally finding a source of tails at a Whole Foods that was about to discard them. "[You] can't expect the food to be accepted if people can't even find the piece!"

Unless the meat industry mounts a major campaign to shift American tastes, Thanksgiving will once again be filled with turkeys missing one of their juicier body parts.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Big Questions
Why Do We Dive With Sharks But Not Crocodiles?
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Why do we dive with sharks but not crocodiles?

Eli Rosenberg:

The issue is the assumption that sharks' instincts are stronger and more basic.

There are a couple of reasons swimming with sharks is safer:

1. Most sharks do not like the way people taste. They expect their prey to taste a certain way, like fish/seal, and we do not taste like that. Sharks also do not like the sensation of eating people. Bigger sharks like great whites enjoy prey with a high fat-bone ratio like seals. Smaller sharks enjoy eating fish, which they can gobble in one bite. So, while they might bite us, they pretty quickly decide “That’s not for me” and swim away. There is only one shark that doesn’t really care about humans tasting icky: that shark is our good friend the tiger shark. He is one of the most dangerous species because of his nondiscriminatory taste (he’s called the garbage can of the sea)!

2. Sharks are not animals that enjoy a fight. Our big friend the great white enjoys ambushing seals. This sneak attack is why it sometimes mistakes people for seals or sea turtles. Sharks do not need to fight for food. The vast majority of sharks species are not territorial (some are, like the blacktip and bull). The ones that are territorial tend to be the more aggressive species that are more dangerous to dive with.

3. Sharks attacked about 81 people in 2016, according to the University of Florida. Only four were fatal. Most were surfers.

4. Meanwhile, this is the saltwater crocodile. The saltwater crocodile is not a big, fishy friend, like the shark. He is an opportunistic, aggressive, giant beast.


5. Crocodiles attack hundreds to thousands of people every single year. Depending on the species, one-third to one-half are fatal. You have a better chance of survival if you played Russian roulette.

6. The Death Roll. When a crocodile wants to kill something big, the crocodile grabs it and rolls. This drowns and disorients the victim (you). Here is a PG video of the death roll. (There is also a video on YouTube in which a man stuck his arm into an alligator’s mouth and he death rolled. You don’t want to see what happened.)

7. Remember how the shark doesn’t want to eat you or fight you? This primordial beast will eat you and enjoy it. There is a crocodile dubbed Gustave, who has allegedly killed around 300 people. (I personally believe 300 is a hyped number and the true number might be around 100, but yikes, that’s a lot). Gustave has reportedly killed people for funsies. He’s killed them and gone back to his business. So maybe they won’t even eat you.


8. Sharks are mostly predictable. Crocodiles are completely unpredictable.

9. Are you in the water or by the edge of the water? You are fair game to a crocodile.

10. Crocodiles have been known to hang out together. The friend group that murders together eats together. Basks of crocodiles have even murdered hippopotamuses, the murder river horse. Do you think you don't look like an appetizer?

11. Wow, look at this. This blacktip swims among the beautiful coral, surrounded by crystal clear waters and staggering biodiversity. I want to swim there!

Oh wow, such mud. I can’t say I feel the urge to take a dip. (Thanks to all who pointed this out!)

12. This is not swimming with the crocodiles. More like a 3D aquarium.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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