Apr 102012

A couple of weeks ago I attempted to help a friend work through his difficulty with buying individual songs vs full albums. In this digital age he has struggled with buying only the tracks he thinks he’s going to like off iTunes or eMusic. I told him it’s all right, that he should buy what he wants to listen to, save space on his hard drive for more of the good stuff. But he holds deep, sincere feelings that doing so does not respect integrity of artist’s work. He’s as true a believer in the album format as any rock nerd I’ve ever encountered.

“I’ve got to buy the whole album and listen to the whole album in the sequence the artist intended,” he told me. “I want to respect the integrity of the artist’s work.”

“When you go to an artist’s exhibit,” he continued, “do you walk into a room and immediately skip half the paintings?”

“I look at them all in some order, as they’re presented,” I said, “but I don’t spend 3 minutes and 30 seconds on each painting. I first glance at them, the way I listen to the 30-second sample of each song on an album I’m checking out on eMusic.”

“How do you know a song’s not going to get better after the 30-second clip you hear?”

“I don’t know for sure,” I replied, “but there are certain devices that usually suggest I’m not going to like a song, like a long, slow, finger-picked minor chord intro.”

My friend was incredulous. “When you buy a new album do you skip right to Track 3, or do you listen to the entire album?”

“The first time through I listen to the entire album, but the second and third time I listen I may start lifting the needle over the songs with long, slow, finger-picked minor chord intros. Life’s too short for that shit!” Then I assured him that I eventually give  these songs another chance and sometimes learn that I do like one of them.

This went back and forth until I learned a key detail in my friend’s Rock Nerd Profile: my friend had never bought a single (ie, a 7-inch, 45 RPM slab of vinyl), not even as a little kid. Now it all made sense.

I was compelled to restart our debate, which was now growing quite heated. Continue reading »

Jan 142009


Our recent Curse of the Completists thread has me thinking about times when I’ve reached the end of the road with an artist. Like so many Beatles fans, I was pretty excited by the Anthology sets that were released in the mid-1990s. I was underwhelmed by Vol. 1, and then I was not-quite-satisfied with Vol. 2, culled from my favorite period of Beatles albums. I especially hated the two Lennon demos they completed with Jeff Lynne. The best thing I got out of buying those two collections was final confirmation that The Beatles had the exquisite taste not to bother recording many songs not worth their time. How many big, long-running bands can boast so few totally unrecorded, unreleased songs?

Anyhow, that was the end of the road for me and Beatles reissues. I didn’t feel like hearing scraps of the unlistenable jams from The White Album and the Abbey Road medley. I already had my German true stereo version of Magical Mystery Tour. There was nothing more left for me to explore in The Beatles’ catalog, and I’ve felt confident holding this point of view. I can’t imagine what Beatles recordings could be unearthed or repackaged to make me want to add onto my collection. I can’t even get excited to read any more books on them. How much more do I need to hear a pathetic, jealous rock journalist tear down John and Paul for their personal lives? Some day I’ll read that latest recording book on them, but even that will likely fail to make me love the band any more than I already have loved them since boyhood.

Have you ever reached the end of the road with collecting records by a beloved artist? Do you recall the exact moment when you knew it was over?

Feb 282008

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When you buy a digital version of an album you already own on vinyl, do you discard or keep the vinyl? If you keep the vinyl, why?

You may include your personal history with cassette and 8-track tapes in this discussion, if you feel that’s necessary.


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