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WRONG NOTES: a blog of ear reverence

Wrong Notes collects posts on music, art, culture and fun stuff. Also included: news about the Ear Reverends.

The frustrated music buyer

This is a weird time to live in, if you love listening to recorded music, and want to have anything like that holy thing we used to call a "record collection."

What I gots is what I got

Of course, if you have LPs, you do still have a record collection. But, then you probably also have CDs, which is like another record collection.

Maybe, if you just have LPs and CDs (and the few odd cassettes), you can think of it all as your "record collection," and that's all nice and good.

But, you're probably like me, where you've also got iTunes filled with lots of music files. They call it a "music library," but having been a librarian for a collection of recorded music, I can tell you that that's pretty much like calling the boxes of books you moved 12 times after college, but only unpacked when it was time to repack them for another move, and then finally took them all to Goodwill in the middle of the night (still packed in boxes), a "book library."

So, there's a general lack of cohesion to our music collections divided between the antediluvian physical formats and the invisible boxes of invisible files on our opaque computers.

Then, there's that other digital music. Can we stake a viable claim of "ours" to any of the music we have, that lives in the "cloud" of web services? If you know you can click this little link to hear my "Break in the jam," how do you translate that knowledge into something like "I have this song in my record collection?"

Where I gonna get it, if I gonna wants it

When I was a kid and first began buying cassettes and LPs, there was a pretty direct line from the cash I earned doing yard work to the expansion of my music collection. That line went: a couple bucks in my pocket, bus fare, Rhino Records in Westwood, bus fare to get back home with a stack of beautiful, slightly used, vinyl. And, then on the turntable they went round and round as I stared at LP covers, read liner notes, and began traveling to South Saturn with Jimi Hendrix.

And, it wasn't like I had to choose between different versions / remasters / reissues / formats of Marquee Moon: I could only get it as an LP, so that's what I wanted, and that's was the only interface I had when I wanted to play that album over 100 times a day. If the record ended and I was on the bed, I had to get up and realize that I now too seemed to remember how the darkness doubled, and recall how lightning struck itself. I had been listening to the record, but I was hearing something else.

I was thinking about Betty Davis and found out that Light in the Attic has released her other two albums (I already have the first two). eMusic has 3 out of 4 Betty Davis albums, so I just bought one from eMusic. But, ugh, I forgot: you get no liner notes with your eMusic purchase. These Light in the Attic releases have great liner notes with the CD.

So, now what? Maybe I'll buy the CD? Maybe I'll try to forget about Betty Davis . . . yeah, like that's ever going to happen.

Oh, did I mention the Internet. It tells me things I used to only dream of knowing about Mott the Hoople and all of their recordings that I now can wonder whether I should try to own someday.

Who's dat man? I dunno

Then there's that "me" that seems to make an appearance in every scene of this story. I can't afford to buy all the music I want, but I can afford a lot more of it than when I was 13 years old. Plus, some of what I got when I was 13, I still have. And, when I was 14, and 22, and 33 1/3 and last week. Next week, maybe more: I know there's stuff calling my name at Sonic Boom.

And, there's that impostor music library I can monitor on my computer, that has 45 days of music waiting for me, of which I seem to listen to an inordinate amount of Al Green—who gets my lizard brain (PUSH PLAY! HEAR MUSIC! LOVE IT! NOW!) at "Let's Stay Together" before I can scroll even to Albert Ayler—my apologies then are so many, from Ali Akbar Khan all the way to Zubi Zuva, all of whom I keep wanting to, but have not quite been getting around to, listen to, as much as I'd like.

So, am I a victim or somehow a co-creator of this weird paradox between the potentials of listening to so much music and the difficulty in finding again that gorgeous thing in my life that, when I was 15, I thought would just always be there for me: my record collection?

Did I make it go away with my casual embrace of digital music and the iPods and computers and Airfoil and all those websites, night after night, a different one almost every time—god, so many, I can't remember their names, but just that cheap thrill of a new partner who offers to fulfill my lust, but, next thing I know, it's like there's nothing to listen to, like I've woke up and found myself inside a tunnel out on the highway, with only an AM radio, and nothing but static interrupted by the occasional tantalization—a half of phrase lick right into my ear from The Everly Brothers' "Bye Bye Love," and I so know what that feels like, again.

In the moment, I always dream I can go home and find my record collection. And, I've got a record of hits from 1957—I think it was my Dad's—has a red cover. And I know that a "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin On" is going to make me love music so much, and I'll go buy more records with my allowance next week, because I think I've saved enough for Los Angeles, and "The Unheard Music" is ahead of me.


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