Music… it’s always been one of those unifying arts. The collection of chords and rhythm combined with lyrical accompaniment has been a catalyst for documenting and remembering very specific moments from my life. There are songs we use to rejoice and celebrate events and lives, gone, present and on their way.
There are songs that rejuvenate us using beats and chorus that instills in us an uncontrollable desire to move both emotionally and physically. Sometimes it’s a subtle as smiling as we tap of our toes and bob of our heads. Other times we let the power of the song flow thorough us and we stomp our feet and raise our hands above our heads in joy and adulation, while we sing out loud. Then there are songs that, well, let’s just say that there are entire city populations that owe their existence to three people, their mother, their father, and Barry White.
Music also instills in us very powerful and protective emotional reactions from their listeners. Think I’m kidding? Just try telling a Skynyrd fan that Skynyrd sucks and… I’m not sure you’ll get to the “and” part, before a beer bottle is used as an implement for getting you to shut up. Likewise, try telling a Lil… (some random rap artist) fan, sorry I don’t listen to rap so I’m not sure what artist in that genre has the more avid “most likely to attack you for bad mouthing them” fans. My rap education stopped around Run DMC’s team up with Aerosmith, and the Beastie Boys License to Ill album.
Then again, if you tell a Depeche Mode fan that their music sucks, they’ll most just avoid making eye contact with you and hope that you just go away. But once you do leave you can be assured that they are going to bad mouth you with each other and probably say a few profanities about your mother.
Then there is the same genre clash, questions like the Stones or the Beatles, Frank or Dino, Bell Biv Devoe or New Edition, or Joel or Mike. It’s something I think we all do. A sort or personal preference in genres that to the outside listener might not make a lot of sense, but to you personally, there is a line! The big one for me was the grunge movement that lasted about three weeks back in the early 90s. It was always Nirvana or Pearl Jam. I’m not sure why, but I could not stand Nirvana… I still can’t. I was always a fan of Pearl Jam, but Nirvana… it was the difference between using sandpaper or Kleenex to blow your nose.
Still, there are two things I’ve noticed over the years in regards to my attachment to music. First is the evolution in my musical listening repertoire. It altered immensely over the years. Song I swore I’d listen to all my life and want played at my funeral are now songs I can go the rest of my life without ever hearing again. Music I hated in my youth now has a place in my listening palate. Then there is some music that falls under the same category as fingernails on a chalkboard, dentists’ drills hitting an open nerve, or ally cats copulating at 3 AM outside your window.
The other thing is that my affinity and intense musical appreciation as been greatly reduced over the years. I know that the music industry is taking a huge bite due out of their profits due to piracy, but it’s kind of a double edged sword. I know that there are many people are leeching the creator’s talent, and that sucks. I do feel that if you love a song or an artist you really should pay them for the aspects of their creation that truly moves you. That is the brilliance of this whole electronic musical era. You can check out the entire album and then purchase only songs on the album that are worth a damn.
I think music piracy began as a result of years of fans being crapped on by the music industry in regards of quality vs. quantity of musical reward. Here’s what I mean. Remember back in the day when you would hear a song on the radio and become smitten by some catchy tune. The song was so brilliant that the only natural next step and option was to purchase the artists entire CD. Sure you could listen to the radio for hours so at a moment’s notice you record the song off the radio, but the damn DJs always talked through the beginning of the song…EVERY TIME! This is the key reason radio DJs are some of the most hated people on the planet.
A CD was your only option at getting an unviolated copy of the song. The problem was there was never a listen before you buy option. These CDs were always locked down. All you got was a sticker on the cover advertising that they performed the “Smash hit…” you were after, and a price tag letting you know the album would cost you about $15 to $20. I think the sale price was usually $13 to $15.
As you drove home you’d listen to the song that inspired the initial purchase over and over again. Then once you finally got home, you’d go to your room and:
- Place that “Do Not Disturb” door sign that you took from the hotel you stayed at while on vacation the summer before.
- Close the door.
- Place the new CD into your player.
- Have a moment of silence asking the music gods to bless your CD so that it would be the Holy Grail of all musical purchases you had ever made up to that point.
- And then press play so that you could properly take in the majestic brilliance that was your new musical purchase.
Things usually broke down like this (let’s say the CD had only 12 tracks)…
Track 1 – Listened to for 30 seconds… “Eh, it’s ok, but not really as good as track 3 (the reason for the purchase).”
Track 2 – Listened to for 25 seconds… “At least tract 3 is next.”
Track 3 – Listened to for the whole song… “Ahhhhh. That’s the stuff. I love this song.”
Track 4 – Listened to for 30 seconds…“Hmmm.”
Track 5 – Listened to for 25 seconds…“Still, track 3 is really good.”
Track 6 – Listened to for 10 seconds, skipped forward one minute, and listened to for 10 more seconds… “Lame”
Track 7 – Listened to for 10 seconds, skipped forward one minute, and listened to for 5 more seconds… “Sucks.”
Track 8 – Listened to for 10 seconds, skipped forward one minute, and listened to for 2 more seconds… “I should have just purchased the damn single.”
Track 9 – Listened to for 10 seconds, skipped forward one minute, and listened to rest of the song… “Eh, maybe… that might take a few more listens to get a proper feel for it.”
Track 10 – Listened to for 10 seconds, skipped forward one minute, and listened to for 5 more seconds… “Are they really this consistently worthless?”
Track 11 – Listened to for 10 seconds, skipped forward one minute, and listened to for 2 more seconds… “It would appear so.”
Track 12 – Listened to for 10 seconds, skipped forward one minute, and listened to for 2 more seconds… “$15 for only one damn song… worthless one hit wonders!”
Then, to feel better you would go back to track 3 and listen to it about 12 more times and then leave my room in a better mood, but still with a lingering hint of disappointed. Sure there were albums that were the opposite of this, 10 songs you loved vs. the 2 songs that sucked, but those were the exception and were a very rare occurrence at that. In my experience, for every ten CDs I bought, 7 to 8 of them were $15 singles that had 40 minutes of inexcusable musical vomit professionally referred to as filler tracks. One or 2 enjoyable songs, and then there was the one in ten that gave you the 3 or above ratio of songs worth listening to.
On a plus note, this corporate musical CD release practice of paying $15 for only one enjoyable song is responsible for a great deal of my profanity practice growing up. Again, I don’t feel bad for the corporations in, but I do feel bad for the artists. It was the artists that came before them that made all of those one good song CDs that ruined it for the musicians of today. It’s a kind of musical karma I think. If you give that much musical rubbish to the world, it’s going to come back and bite you where it hurts the most… and for the corporations it’s their wallet.
Just remember, if you pirate a CD, at least remember to go online and purchase the song that motivated you to rip the CD in the first place. Rarely is an entire album with the entire purchase, if a song give you joy, tip the artist a dollar as of way of saying thank you.
Any thoughts on today’s Smirk?
Google Images, key words: music, plug ears, cd shop, and tip jar.
I still buy CDs. But that’s if A) I have the cash, B) I’ve heard a few songs by the same artist. C) they actually offer a physical copy.
I hear you on the dj thing, though the stations I listen to the djs are actually likeable most of the time, and know when to just let the music play.
Joel or Mike, hmmm…not sure who’s a better riffer, but Mike seems to have more fun doing it.
Pearl Jam did some good stuff, but I have it on good authority that their past 2 albums just blew. Nirvana, on the other hand, I like, and want to dig into their library, and their drummer went on to form what is possibly one of my favorite rock bands, Foo Fighters.
Sad to say that until ~ 2000, I didn’t get to hear a good portion of modern rock. However, tuning in to the local “alternative” station has become habitual, and I still listen to it 10 years later, along with two classic rock stations, online songs, and my own music library. The range of stuff I listen to now is immense compared to say, what I did in ’95, and I am glad that’s the case.
I will admit that I do still dabble in the occasional music purchase, but only once in a great while. There are some artists that I just have to instinctively purchase when I hear they have a new album. Sigur Ros for example… or, up until her last album, Ani DiFranco. Usually I’ll buy album for my wife still… the last CD I purchased was the new Norah Jones album, which she loves.
I know a lot of people love Nirvana, but honestly I just couldn’t get it. I mean sure, thanks for starting the whole grunge movement… or at the very least getting it internationally noticed. Still, for me, they will always be like drinking pepto bismol, something about it just does not taste right. As for the Foo Fighters, I have no problems with them at all. As for Pearl Jam, I really haven’t heard anything they have done since 98. Thanks for the heads up about the last two albums though.
I love music, I can’t imagine my life without it.. My tastes are pretty eclectic, I have albums by all sorts of artists, Frank Sinatra to The White Stripes… i have music for bouncing around the kitchen doing the housework to and music to chill out after a particularly stressful day at work…I know this is the age of the download but that doesn’t appeal to me. I actually like going into music shops and buying albums. I enjoy browsing through the different sections and inspecting the cd covers ..but then again i am from the generation who were teenagers in the 1980s, we saved up our allowance to buy albums on saturdays, and the music shop was where we met friends and discussed the merits of the latest Duran Duran record 🙂 …I’ve made some great purchases over the years… and also bought a few albums that were pretty crappy but they make good Kris Kindle gifts for distant relatives and work colleagues that I don’t really like 🙂
I’ve found myself listening to hours of music on Pandora as of late. But I know what you mean about the electronic era of music. I always love the trophy of the CD, something that I could actually handle and place next to my disc player. Not to mention the ritual of pulling out the CD insert and checking out the photos and lyrics as you listened to the CD. And I remember always getting annoyed when the insert was crap. This meant that this was only one page, no good images and not lyrics… not even any thank yous. Maybe someday I’ll venture into the iPod, Zune, or whatever else is out there that stores MP3s for mobile playability.
When I do purchase the occasional CD, I always try to get it from a local used CD shop. They sell some new stuff as well, and the typical games and DVDs. One of the things I love about the place is I can listening to anything before I buy it. I would have loved a store like that growing up in the 80s. Listen before you buy, it’s such a simple concept and I’m sure would have helped so many people become less jaded about the music industry while growing up… or at the very least me. 🙂
And how could I forget the art of giving away crap tape and CDs to distant relatives, almost friends, and co-workers that have given you a last minute gift and you feel obligated to return the favor. I’m pretty sure that’s how I got rid of my Chumbawamba CD. And no… I don’t want to talk about how I got one in the first place. 🙂
I’m proud to say I have eclectic tastes. From Madness, through The Smurfs, to Alanis Morrisette, Chic, Motorhead, Papa Wemba, Apache Indian, Beardyman, The Skatalites….
…I think I’d better stop there.
My point is that like most people (as you so rightly pointed out) find their tastes in music – as everything, really – change, evolve and grow over time. There’s not a lot I’ve discarded over the years though, so I’ve become a bit of a music kleptomaniac.
It’s not often I’ll like an entire album to the same degree all the way through. Often, I’ll only like one or two tracks at all. I even find that even artists I generally despise have one or two gems I enjoy. For example, I would normally go to great lengths to avoid Sealio… er.. Celine Dion. However, I have to admit that ‘I’m Alive’ is a cracking tune.
Now, this is where the music industry these days fails people like me. If you heard something on the radio, it used to be that you could go to a shop and buy the single. You never know – the B-side may also be noteworthy. The first single I bought was The Specials’ ‘Ghost Town’. As far as beginnings go, that was pretty auspicious. However, I didn’t buy it in a record shop – or even a department store with an entertainment section. I got it from a chemist’s.
Once upon a time, in the town I currently live, there were six shops where you could buy music. Of those, ALL of them sold singles.
Now, there are two shops that sell new music. One begrudges having to do so and the other, the largest music chain in Britain, seems to be more interested in films and games. Singles? Hah – HMV have A shelf next to the counter with some obscure or highly populist choices for ridiculous prices.
Please note I said ‘new’ music just now. The thing is, one of the few booming trends in retail is the rise of charity shops (possibly known as thrift stores in America). Goods are donated and then sold on. CD albums are sold for anywhere between 99p and £3.50. CD singles go fer less than £2 each. And it’s not just CDs – there’s an amazing amount of vinyl to be had in these shops, with a good chance of finding some real gems.
That said… I do download a large amount. I buy what I can, but my budget only goes so far.
I know what you mean Spike. I remember the days when singles were a standard practice. My father had 100s of 45s while growing up. Even in the 80 there was a singles section for tapes in the music store, but it just perpetually got smaller and smaller from year to year. When I discovered my first used CD shop, it was like tasting peanut butter for the first time… only not as sticky… or… ok it was nothing like tasting peanut butter for the first time other that they sheer happiness I got from the discovery.
2nd hand/thrift shops is a clever practice for finding music. I’ve actually been finding a lot of new… well music I have not heard before by going to the library. They have a music section so I will check out about 3 CDs I’ve never heard of before and give them a listen. If I find an artist I like, or a song that makes me happy I’ll rummage to see if I can find it to purchase. I do add them to my Pandora though, so in the event I do go electronic, I have them documented somewhere. I’ve found a few artists this way. Although this is a lot like shopping for wine based on the label, which sometimes pays off as well. 🙂