Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Compact Disc or...
Once upon a time, George Harrison, he of Beatle Fame, commented on the death of the 45 rpm record, by saying something along the lines of "we just bang and clang around too fast for our own good, and it's a shame to see the 45 disappear"...which is how I felt in the mid-80s when Compact Discs were introduced. I was one of the last people on Planet Earth to start buying CD's; I swore my allegiance to vinyl and Would Not Buy CD's. Well, what happened was, as CD's came more to the forefront, Limited Vinyl Editions of current albums became PROHIBITIVELY expensive...even Neil Young's latest vinyl issues are ridiculously expensive. C'mon, Neil, give yer Vinyl Fans a Break! So, at long last, when a new release came out by Neil, or The Beatles, or U2, a band I think are great, I went ahead and just bought the CD of their newest music.
Not that I've opted for CD's in a big way, 'cos I haven't, but looking at my meager CD collection, I'll bet I have 400 of them. I still have piles of vinyl threatening to overtake me every time I enter the living room. But I've got my share of Little Shiny Silver Discs too. I've bought a nifty little CD dubber that's hooked to a turntable; it has plug-in jacks, which means I can make CD's from vinyl, cassette, another CD player, or even an 8-track player (hard to find an 8-track player that works anymore, tho). And I probably still buy 2 or 3 CD's a month; mostly collections of music which are hard-to-find "if you buy all those songs separately", as those annoying Time-Life commercials tell you Over and Over and Over until you're ready to kick the TV and yell, "okay, OKAY!!! I'll buy yer damn CD's; just shut up so I can hear some of the music that you keep yakking over while you're trying to convince me to buy your damn CD's!!!"
I've also found music I've only heard about thru the years, or old albums I could never find on record, by artists like the Chocolate Watch Band, the Blues Magoos, the Gods, or any number of long-forgotten groups, the former members of which are now either not with us anymore, or are drawing Social Security while they remember the Good Old Days. Hmmm...sounds like me...ack. Admittedly, only about 25% of my CD's were purchased new. The rest I found in pawn shops or in bargain bins. And I do like the way CD's, especially the more archival ones, assemble music that has been long forgotten for Ages. But I'll admit one of the first things I noticed about CD's, waaay back when I played my first one: with a CD, you don't have to actually GET UP and turn the album OVER. How lazy is THAT?
Well...as was with the Demise of the Vinyl Record as the prevalent music format long ago, I was put in my place again today, some 25-odd years after Vinyl Bit The Dust. For, I found out today that the initials "CD" also stand for "Commercial Dinosaur". There are some chains, such as K-Mart, which AREN'T SELLING THEM ANYMORE! And I live waay out in the sticks, over 50 miles from the nearest Interstate Highway...it's not like Where I Live is waaaay ahead of the trends, after all. I went in to K-Mart, because they have some pretty good prices on Bird Food...and as I usually do, I sauntered back to the music section to see if there was anything new out by artists I'm interested in, or maybe the store got in some cool budget-priced compilation CD's...I found a "Best Of Miles Davis" there, last year...over an hour's worth of music for $5.99...an aesthetic as well as budgetary bargain. Fast-forwarding back to Now, I didn't see any CD's on display anywhere in K-Mart today, which caused me to wonder, "Huh? What? (something I wonder quite a lot)...no CD's? Can't Be!"
"Oh yes it can", I found out. I asked a lady stock clerk who was replenishing the DVD racks, "don't you sell CD's anymore?" "Nope", she said, telling me that "mp3's have replaced CD's", and as soon as she said that, I felt Instantly Old. Again. It's not like I've gotta have that idea reinforced ad nauseum before it sinks in; DAMMIT, I KNOW I'M OLD! But I remember back when CD's were the 'cat's pajamas'...I remember putting my first CD into the player, and the spotless, clear sound which eminated forth...and now, that format is DISAPPEARING...and in its place, music comes on a format which you cannot Hold and Appreciate on an individual basis. CD's shrunk down the LP-size artwork, but still, that was cool, because in the little CD booklets, oftentimes you can find out some really interesting information about the artist whose music you'd just purchased. I have a really cool Glenn Miller double-CD, for instance; it contains ALL the recordings he made during World War II (his very last recordings, previously unavailable) and some spiffy annotation as well. Neat-o, man!
So, it turns out that CD's, when they do finally die out altogether, will have been around for less than half the time Vinyl Records were made en masse. Every time I've gone into a music store, and have found an album (CD or LP) that I'd been eagerly anticipating, part of the thrill was actually having that music in my hands; something tangible. You can hold an mp3 player, but you can't take out each album that's crammed into the player and hold it! Long ago, I thot it was so cool to have a record in my collection that was Actually Being Played On The Radio. And mp3 aficionados are totally missing out on that part of music collecting, the exciting part...since everything is instantly available For Download. My heart still races when I find an old record I've looked ages for. On Ebay, I've just ordered a fairly rare promo copy of the Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" single...a history-making record. And when I watch it spin on my turntable, I'll see Just What The DJ saw. That's important to me.
Another thing about Mp3's: they enable selectivity of downloading; if you don't like a song (or two or three) on an album, just leave 'em off and download Just the songs You Want. Imagine if "Sgt. Pepper" had originally been available that way. No one would've downloaded "When I'm 64" or "She's Leaving Home", 2 of my least-favorites on that record, but still, within the context of that record fit perfectly. That's the trouble with today...no context. Just gimme what I want, nothing more. And, some songs enrich, mature and grow increasingly relevant over time. A song you may not fancy right now, you may grow quite fond of later on; that's happened to me countless times. The thrill of "Re-Discovery". Another thing that's missed by mp3 users is the 'special edition' factor; records and CD's were/are still issued in limited-edition "single" and "promo" formats...the Edition Itself, like a rare coin, is to be Treasured. I'm afraid that in this non-tangible "virtual" age, that aspect of music collecting is also disappearing.

(Get It While You Can, I guess!)


Speaking of new CD's, an album Chicago recorded in 1993, but had been commercially unavailable until NOW, has Just Been Released. The title is "Stone Of Sisyphus", and the songs are among the best the group's ever recorded. I just placed my order for the commercial edition last night. I've had the Bootleg of that album for a couple of years now. Much to my chagrin, the 'just released' version LEFT OFF one of the best songs, "Get On This". WHY do record companies DO that?

Finally, I am noticing that a lot of the alternative bands I'm hearing these days sound really, really good. A radio station down here plays a lot of that stuff, but they Never Tell Me Who The Song Is By! I do think the rock scene is healthier today than it was 10 or 15 years ago, at least from what I've heard. So maybe I'm not all that much of a dinosaur after all?


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