It’s in the nineties again. *melt*
I know. I could be on the equator, or Texas. Or the sun.
Point is: I’m here and I’m not built for this shit. And we need some rain, like a whole day’s worth. I’m told it’ll rain tomorrow, but I’m not holding my breath.
Anyway, to avoid the whole 90° thing I’m taking a break from painting today and being nostalgic for old forms of music.
Some people swear by records. There are plenty of vinyl snobs (re: hipsters, etc.) as well as older audiophiles who prefer them. I happened to be born thirty years ago, when records were still the format of choice, cassettes were taking over, and CDs were in the future.
I grew up with records. My mom had tons, although most of it was radio-friendly ’70s crap like The Carpenters and Loggins and Messina, but she had plenty of records I liked. Lots of Monkees, CCR, Beach Boys…. stuff on the oldies stations*. I personally had a couple of Chipmunk albums, a boatload of read-along records, and a very nice set of songs from Disney films. I still love “Bella Notte”.
Had I known that vinyl would come back someday, I’d have tried my damndest to stick with it. I understand that quality that vinyl has, the one no one seems to be able to define. It’s nice to force yourself to listen to an entire side of a record, even the song in the middle you could do without. Sadly, I’m no longer 20 with a disposable income.
Tapes wouldn’t be worth mentioning (and rarely are anymore), except that’s what I had during the formative discovering-music years. I wore out The Ventures Play the Hits and The Beach Boys’ Endless Summer. I bought Soundgarden’s Superunknown twice; the first copy unspooled itself on the way to my grandparents one year and I made dad find a wal-mart just so I could get another one.
And it’s striking how the words “mix tape” just seem right, where “mix CD” never did. I know this is going to make me sound ancient, but giving someone a mix tape was worth a bit more than a disc of downloaded and burned stuff. There was physical effort in making someone a mix tape. You had to make sure the tapes were on the right song. There was always rewinding and fast forwarding and constant checking that you hadn’t forgotten what song you needed. At least one side of the tape was a little shorter than you figured and you’d cut off the end of a song. All this on top of thinking about the songs you wanted to put on there, and wondering if who you were making it for would appreciate it.
But in the end, the quality was bad and you knew they would eventually degrade themselves to nothing- the more you loved a tape, the faster it was going to die.
CDs were just fine for me. Not quite as warm as vinyl, but hella easier to listen to than tapes. They still had the attraction of artwork- smaller than a record, but bigger than a tape. By the mid-’90s there were plenty of alternate covers to the plastic “diamond” case. You could skip songs, program in the ones you wanted to hear, shuffle them up; it was a nice change of pace from the way my brain had been programmed to expect a particular song order.
And the secret tracks! It was awesome to get a CD with twelve tracks only to find out there was a 13th track! Yes, it was gimmicky. Sometimes it was just a track without a listed title. Sometimes it was actually on the last track, but with 5 (or 15, or 20) minutes of silence in between. Often it was just a filler track, or studio banter, or a reprise of an earlier song. But it was still a nice surprise, and even better if it was an awesome song. I still remember finding out that TMBG’s Factory Showroom had a hidden track you could get to only by rewinding from the start of the first tracks. That was fucking clever!
I’m not regretting mp3s. I can play music on an ipod that weighs less than the earphones I listen to it with. It amazes me, and I’ve never had anything but Shuffles. I miss being forced by inconvenience to listen to whole albums. As ClearChannel and MTV have proven, all it takes to make people like a song is to play it over and over and over. It’s true, there are thousands of songs I’d never have grown to love if I’d had the ability to not include them on a playlist.
Still, there are reasons I’ve never sold my CD collection, or why I still prefer that over torrents of “free” music.
*As an aside, that stuff was on the oldies stations when I was five. It remained so until I was out of high school, and all I’ve ever found since then is “classic rock”, mostly a lot of Skynyrd and Foreigner kind of shit. Having retired from voluntary radio listening when I was fifteen, I sometimes wonder if there’s a station for late 50’s and early 60’s music anymore.