The year was 2005. I was preparing to move in with then girlfriend (now wife) and out of a place that, for the first time since 401 N. Max, I considered home and away from fellas who had become my family. Looking back it was a much more seminal event than it felt at the time. Maybe (other than an inebriated trip to Bull-nanza the year before) the seminal event of my 20s.
At that exact time another transition with similarly long lasting effects took place. My far too casual conversion from the gorgeous scratched plastic cases and creased liner notes of CDs to the intangible and hellish realm of digital music.
It was easy enough. I had what I considered a vast collection of CDs I had in the previous months spent hours dutifully uploading into my new Dell laptop and equally new iTunes account to be manipulated, burnt, iPod-ed at my whimsy. The box full of my CDs, the bones of my music collection, had outlived its usefullness. I was now cutting edge. Let the troglodites and their quaint tastes lug around the plastic.
So I moved away from those CDs confident I ‘d never miss them, recalling them only as vestiges of technological simpler time. And I continued to consume music, a junkie for the newest beats, the hippest rhythms, the deepest bands and I spend years amassing a thorough collection of music.
And one day I realized, I had vast and impressive collection of the last five years of outstanding and important music that was nothing more than this:
I had carved out a whole part of my life it might be impossible to ever fill. And I didn’t feel it for years. I didn’t realize all this music I adored had been reduced to nothing more than instructions to a machine on how it should be played, less than air.
Finally it sank in. And I realized I’d give it all back (hell, I’d pay) to be able to snap my fingers and convert the above from the elegant and immortal bits code to a shelf full of awkward and perishable compact discs.
Ya see, much like that very first person who rescued Let it Bleed from their parents’ garage sale, placed a needle on it and made the stark realization that this sounds better, I finally realized that the forever breaking plastic cases and forever odd-sized paper sleeves feel better. They feel better than mouse clicks or playlists or pay-what-you-think-is-right downloads. They are something. They are product. They are more than the music now easily (and often illegally) contained within. The entire decisions of bands, whose artistry in crafting songs I respected so greatly, over colors and liner notes and lyrics I had summarily ignored for the quick fix of “buy it here with one click.” Music had been dumped into an iPod like the harvesting of grain, as fungible product with worry only as to quality in the aggregate with the rare chance a single song distinguished itself via the random (yet often intuitive) chance of the album-eviscerating “shuffle” option. (N.B. And yes, I realize the irony, the hypocrisy even, of making this argument on blog named Weekly Download.) I had left myself with software, with nothing. And there was no real way to fix it.
But I’m trying, Ringo. And once I was back in a proper record store (Guestroom!) grasping items, touching things, thumbing through bins full of returned masterpieces, lusting after copies of Aha Shake Heartbreak or Neon Bible whose digital expressions I’d summarily transferred to my computer years before, despondency took full hold. And in a misguided effort to assuage it, I had requested PR to give me back the CDs I had left with him in 2005. I’d hoped at the very least to begin my library again with my once impressive collection as the starting off point.
My request was met with a “buddy, there’s nothing but a bunch of shit in there.” (Lies!)
For the most part he was correct, but he gave them back to me anyway.
It was funny going through it all (the one box now transferred into two Rio Grande tequila boxes (which means they’ve been gone through at least once since our separation…)). Well, it was funny and depressing. There was plenty of stuff I remember liking quite a bit and plenty of stuff I remeber immediately regretting purchasing. But overall, it was enlightening.
Pearl Jam CDs: 43. This seems low. I know I was over 50 at one point.
A vast assortment of completely cringe inducing mix CDs that I even went through the trouble to print out track lists for as liner-notes. (N.B. One of my favorites = Led Zeppelin – All of My Love; Stones – Beast of Burden; Super Tramp – Give a Little Bit; Dave Matthews – Crush; Lenny Kravits – If You Can’t; U2 – One; Tesla – Love Song; Enigma – Return to Innocence (!!!); Hootie – Let Her Cry; No Doubt – Don’t Speak; 3rd Eye Blind – God of Wine…..wow, nauseous wow. (This by itself establishes the long preoccupation with music that ultimately expressed itself as Weekly Download.))
A healthy obsession with movie soundtracks. I’d outlined some thoughts on a movie soundtrack post prior to this, but the amount of them I found in the tequila boxes ensured that one is coming. (N.B. Batman Forever Soundtrack – trainwreck of a movie with a completely bad-ass soundtrack: U2, The Flaming Lips, P.J. Harvey, Method Man, Nick Cave, Massive Attack, Mazzy Star)
There were several CDs in the tequila boxes I was proud to have found:
The Colour and the Shape – Foo Fighters (After I busted on him last week, this was the perfect expression of his talent.)
So That Tonight I Might See – Mazzy Star (This was actually a burnt copy, but proud nonetheless)
Absolutely Nowhere – Townes Van Zandt (The greatest songwriter in the history of country music (maybe music in general, definitely on the Rushmore with Dylan, The Boss, Waits and will.i.am))
Life for Rent – Dido
Purple Rain – Prince and the Revolution (I listened to this again this week. Maybe the greatest Side A, Song 1 in history. It took serious balls to open with the prayer then straight into Let’s Go Crazy…. Electric word ‘life.’ It means forever and that’s a mighty long time.)
Social Distortion – Social Distortion (2004 – WD’s summer in Dallas, this was a good hunk of the soundtrack.)
Phrenology – The Roots (I didn’t understand how good this was when I bought it. In fact, I don’t really even know why I did buy it. But The Roots are hurdling through the upper echelons of my all-time favorite bands and this is where it began.)
Freedom – Neil Young (Hey Nickleback, this is grunge.)
Pet Sounds – The Beach Boys (I read once that if nuclear holocaust happened tomorrow and an alien race arrived on earth to sift through humanity’s remains, if they found Pet Sounds, they could completely recreate pop music. That’s pretty deep.)
The Soft Bulletin – The Flaming Lips (Like most people, the CD that changed their perception of the Lips from weirdo “She Don’t Use Jelly” band to weirdo musical crafting genius/superstars.)
Violent Femmes – Violent Femmes (The forever the soundtrack to Walker-6)
There was a shit-ton of embarrassment (like a metric-shit-ton) in the tequila boxes (read: if I was going through your CDs and found these, I’d make fun of you.) I can’t list them all out. But feel free to come over an entertain yourself going through them. However, some I found particularly troubling/humorous:
Rush of Blood to the Head – Coldplay (This had to be in there, didn’t it?)
Songs About Jane – Maroon 5 (All I can see is that moron dancing with his thumbs in his armpits and his elbows flapping)(N.B. And when I get too condescending/grouchy in my music reviews, please feel free to remind about this. Something like: Maroon 5, motherfucker, keep talking.)
Hair of the Dog – Nazareth (Broken case taped with black electric tape. That’s how badly I wanted to retain this…love hurts.)
Life for Rent – Dido
Get Born – Jet (Move On – I can remember sincerely believing this was some deep-ass-poignant-shit. Driving around, a six-pack, some smokes, and belting this out feeling morose. (N.B. Maybe that was the seminal event of my 20s.))
Bat out of Hell II – Meatloaf (wowza…..but I won’t do that.)
Be Not Nobody – Vanessa Carlton (N.B. This is Ford’s)
Jagged Little Pill – Alanis (33 million people bought this album. I think we can agree it would be more embarrassing if I didn’t have it.)
But you know what, I held them all. And burying them amongst 5,471 (the count as of this morning) other pieces of music and prentending there wasn’t a point in my life when I thought “I really need this” is the easy way out. And I’ll never do it again.
Post Script: A billion ups to AZ for pointing out my neglect of the term “watchele” in last week’s WD vocab primer. But the thing is, it’s his term. And you’ll have to twitter him @pillpusheRx to learn of its linguistic glory.