Here’s one I wrote a while ago for another website, but wanted to share with you good people. I guess with legal downloading and illegal torrent sites becoming more publicized, and with Thom Yorke just releasing his new album, Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, via a $6 BitTorrent download, the redundancy of physical copies of music (and media in general), is perhaps even more relevant.
Anyway, here it is…
In a world dominated by MP3 and digital download, the compact disc is seemingly destined to become the secondary medium for delivering music to the masses. With a similar future to that of whoever wins X-Factor this year, the fate of the humble CD stinks of obscurity, and will eventually be cast aside like those quirky C90 cassette tapes of the 1980’s. For my part, and in an attempt to embrace the digital age (with staunch fascist minimalism and sufficient digital back-up’s), I recently decided to dump my entire CD collection to the local charity shop.
You see, I moved into my new house just under a year ago, a move that forced me to not only pack all my CD’s into several boxes, but also to suffer the misery of unpacking the lot onto some very expensive shelves I had purchased for the new spare room. This endeavor occurred a few months ago, and it turned out to be the last time I touched the sodding things!
In essence, my CD’s have become modern equivalents of those awful ornamental plates old people hang on walls, or worse still, those tiny Lilliput cottages that have real working lights and incidental bits and bobs that make you go, ‘Oooh, look, an old wellington boot is outside the backdoor, and it has a tiny spider-web on it, how cute.’
So, in a display of nihilistic reproach I decided to dump these silver discs back into the boxes, and send them off to fight it out with the other redundant shit found at the local Oxfam shop. However, whilst sorting through the hundreds of CD’s I couldn’t help myself from taking certain albums back.
A few Nirvana albums, Meat is Murder by The Smiths, The Kinks, Blur, and Talking Heads – the selection continued. These albums were not particularly special, nor had any kind of associated memories harking back to a first girlfriend, a first kiss, or the day Krispy Kreme Doughnuts opened a franchise in town. They were just albums far too precious to give away – after all, how the hell could I give away Tea for the Tillerman by Cat Stevens?
A stupid gestalt sentiment kicked into over-drive, and with the fevered intent of a seasoned drug addict looking for his works, I ended up fishing out about fifty CD’s of no particular note that went back on the shelves… no doubt to be ignored until the next house move.
Reciting this story back to a work colleague only compounded my bafflement. His response was elegant and simple, ‘I wouldn’t get rid of any of them. You need to be able to look back through them when you’re eighty!’
Why? I mean, why bother with CD’s? We’re not talking about classic vinyl here – vinyl that was purchased back in the day when “Compact” and “Disc” were just two unlinked words with no meaning outside of their respective dictionary entries.
I’ll admit it, vinyl 33’s”, 45’s” and 78’s” has to be the biggest provocateur to the subliminal music tweeker. I know this is more sentiment but I recently rescued my father’s vinyl collection, which he had lovingly left in a dirty cardboard box, in the attic, for the best part of 30 years… unbelievable! He had an original Sgt. Peppers up there, and the Stones first album. I’m pleased to report those relics of the lost past are now housed within plastic airtight containers, safely removed from human hand.
In fact, you could say that vinyl has a different set of rules and artistic merit. The artwork is represented on a big, square piece of cardboard and usually with a glossy finish. The disc is carefully pressed on mysterious machines, (not via a £10 CD-RW optical drive), and housed within a separate paper sheath for added protection. The vinyl is heavy and usually matt black (with an occasional limited press in either white or green). You have sleeve notes, printed lyrics and maybe a few photos within a gate-folded outer cover. It seemed that within its grooves sat truth, emotion and love. A CD, by comparison, is where you now store the crap created by Simon Cowell/Victor Frankenstein. Thousands upon thousands of the same soulless shit-birds that learnt three chords on the guitar via episodes of Hannah Montana – to hell with that!
And arhhh… therein lies the rub. To cast aside silver plastic is seemingly easy and acceptable, but to dump the same collection of music on vinyl… not a chance in hell.
Is there an answer to such a display of elitist appreciation of what is nothing more than a different delivery system of the same product? Taking aside the arguments towards a better sound quality from vinyl; or the unique emotion within the physical playing of vinyl – the spinning of the table, selecting the speed, dropping the needle – maybe it’s just some kind of stupid Pavlovian response certain music junkies get from a certain version of the same damn drug.
In short, I have no interest in looking back on a shitty CD with their cracked covers and fading little booklets that always get torn as you remove them from the plastic front, but I’ll happily sell a kidney to keep my Radiohead vinyl in vacuum-sealed containers, preserving them forever with my unremitting love and loyalty. Will I ever listen to them? Probably not, I’ve got the entire collection on my iPhone, why bother with tube amps and correctly-balanced turntables.
As you can see, my head is like a bag of cats on this topic. Perhaps there is no answer, just my own proclivity towards what makes the final cut: timeless CD’s, beautiful vinyl… or entire Lilliput villages.
Paul Millard 2008
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