Friday Top 5: Things I Miss About Music

Lately I’ve been noticing some things about my musical lifestyle that have led me to wax nostalgically.  Clearly, the music landscape has changed drastically since I first considered myself a huge music fan back in 1989, but even as things changed, certain things stuck with me about the way I listen to music.  Now, those things seem to have gone; I acknowledge that we here at ATH contribute to this changing landscape, both for the masses and for ourselves, so I’m not being critical of anyone, just stating the things that I miss about listening to music and the life I evolved around it.

 

5. Zines and Old School Magazines

First, let me tell you that whenever I find a kid (I’m a teacher, not Jerry Sandusky) into punk rock or metal or politics, I always encourage the zine, even bringing them old copies of ones I worked on back in the day.  For me, it’s the truest sense of musical expression:  you’ve got collages, lyrics, comics, and essays all boiled into one.  Oh, and I miss great magazines like Punk Planet. With the changing media such as the Internet (like us), people could no longer afford to run those great magazines, so they’ve gone away, leaving us without some great journalism.  The only magazine I honestly consider to be of any vital musical importance, commenting on both music and landscape, is the Big Takeover (it’s the only one with an agenda to just be about music).  I don’t know, there was something pure in combining art and expression that really sucked me into the culture of being a music fan.  I’m sad that future generations won’t have that to experience. I’m sad that if I ever have little Nathans that they won’t get this. Guess I’ll have to make them my own zine.

 
 

4. True Mixtapes

Remember High Fidelity?  Remember when making mixtapes was an art form and not just a latest collection of hits?  I do.  I remember making whimsical themes and trying to write accompanying liner notes to thematically match everything up. You wanted to impress a girl, you added some hits, then threw on some obscure Brit-pop (this was in the early 90s mind you) and there was your serenade on a disc.  Or a friend was lonely and away from home, so you made hits you remember listening to with them around, just as a reminder.  Now everyone has a mixtape…we compile ours based on tracks that we love, but also that seem to live up to our expectation of the title.  A lot of other people just put their hits together, claiming they’ve got a “mixtape” ready, but it’s just a compilation of all the tracks they’ve already run.  I’m not criticizing people, as I know we’re equally guilty too, but maybe I’m starting to realize I secretly hate myself here.

 
 

3. Browsing for Records

Back before the Internet, and maybe even during the early days, pre-iPod, browsing was what the music nerds did. You’d go to the local record store, you’d literally spend hours thumbing through every single rack, and even going to the discount racks to see if there were any rad covers that stuck out so you could blow the one dollar you brought with you.  Even my dad would take me to Waterloo Records as a kid, after lunch at Huts, and we would both spend two or three hours taking stacks of CDs up to the listening stations, or just both jamming together in the booths at Waterloo (I miss those booths!).  There was always somethnig about discovery, and a lot of the time you had to rely upon the cover alone, or the “rock” section, as things like blogs didn’t exist to dictate what everyone liked, and exposure was harder to come by for bands.  I know I know, guilty again, but even I don’t browse anymore, and I miss it.  I walk into a record store now, know what I want, look at prices, and bail.  Sad times are upon me.

 
 

2. Jamming with Friends

When was the last time you invited all your friends over to listen to a brand new record?  Last week? Never?  Back in the day, I used to get together with all my friends, we’d have one person pick up a new album, and we’d sit around laying on the floor just listening. Afterwards, we’d talk about our favorite tracks, or go back and play certain songs over again.  Hours would be spent just falling in love with one record.  However, as the iPod and Napster broke, some people already had the record we wanted to listen, as it had leaked.  Some of us just wanted to put our headphones on and listen to it on the way to class, and maybe we’d talk about it, but the shared experience was lost.

 
 

1. Album Longevity

This has plagued me more and more recently, and I can’t really tell if it’s the music, the industry, or myself, but albums just don’t seem to have the same lasting power that I remember them having when I was younger.  I can see two sides of this coin here, knowing that as a person that writes about music I consume a larger quantity of music than the average fan, but I know a lot of people that don’t involve themselves in the dark side of music, and they’re in the same boat.  I think the Internet’s liable here, as it has made it much easier for bands to promote themselves without label support, thus increasing the output of accessible music to those like you and me.  With so much music rolling out nowadays, there’s a new record your favorite blog loves that you have to have, or maybe your friend burned you a copy of something sweeping them away, so in the end, you’re on to the next record before you’ve really absorbed the previous one.

 

In the end, I guess I’m sort of confused about what’s changed in my listening experience.  It seems like I could easily point to the Internet, but I probably don’t need a scapegoat.  Maybe growing old has really changed everything and I’ve lost sight of it all.  I guess I could just shut down the Internet, starting cutting up lyrics and pictures while listening to a brand new album with some of my redneck neighbors, or maybe I’ll just be that disgruntled old man I envisioned becoming long ago.  What about you? Anything you miss about your music fandom?  Anything changed in your life? Let us know.

6 comments

  • Ah yes, browsing. Browsing has been replaced by my extended Zune Pass benders where I hit the related artist tab and pick the weirdest name I don’t recognize.

    A quick shout to Chip, now at Waterloo, that fed my addictions at Technophilia. Tuesdays and Thursdays, mosey in around 1pm, a stack of imports and random electronic stuff waiting. I would listen. I would buy. I ordered stuff. Listening station first dibs, I recall a Yamaha CD player as my favorite. There was the crappy Sony with the worn FF button. Maybe that was Waterloo. Flipping through used stacks. How could someone get rid of the Martin Gore “solo” album? Why were there fourteen Cure “Wish” promo singles with 101X stickers on it.

    I will say that once Football season dies down, we do have “listening parties.” Ended up doing that Tuesday when a couple friends were over for dinner. I load up playlists of stuff downloaded, chill on the couch, stare at the pretty visuals of the Zune and crank tunes while sipping beverages, a bit like the gong show meets pandora, skipping ahead only allowed if hate occurs. Friends sometimes leave with a few new tracks as door prizes (mixtapes).

  • You know what else I miss? Unplanned encores. You know, the ones where the band didn’t set aside their best two songs on the set list, and just played a rocking ass set, and then we begged them to come back for one or two more. Man, those were the days. Now an encore is not even really an encore, just a self-indulgent pat on the back.

  • I remember many a pleasant Saturday wandering the record shops with mates in the morning then spending the afternoon / evening listening through everyone’s purchases. Great way to spend a day. Some how, no matter how tight Spotify and Facebook get, I don’t think they could ever create a social music experience half as good as that.

    It is true that albums don’t seem to last as long. I think the internet has made information-guzzlers of us all and with so much music available for free via Spotify etc, it’s no wonder we tend to flit from album to album so quickly. The flip side of that tho is that I do find my less musically-inclined friends have started listening to more interesting things that whatever is currently being overplayed to death on the radio that week. And I do find that the really good albums still tend to stick and I find myself coming back to them again and again.

    @nathan.lankford – My old bass player used to call the encore the ‘on-stage off-stage’ charade. I don’t think we can pin that one on the net but I do agree that the encore doesn’t mean anything any more. Most bands I know plan the encore into their set as it is expected that the crowd will want one. If they don’t its assumed something has gone badly wrong with the gig – all a bit upside down really

  • Yes, miss the mixtapes. Actually had to put effort into the creation process.

  • I still make mixtapes, erm cds. Wife likes them for the car.

  • is it possible to blame and not place any blame upon the internet? this is a tough one. i do recognize that my listening habits completely changed as i became more internet proficient, but they changed largely for the better.

    i read about mp3 accessibility and decided to try it out on my own some ten or more years ago, and i hit upon treasure troves of music from artists i had never heard of before in genres i had extremely limited access to. i just didn’t know enough about music to guess what would be good and what wouldn’t be and i had nobody to play me artists i would want to know.

    sites that have largely gone under or were shut down had tons and tons of music by artists i know of now only because i was able to sample so much of what was there and learn about it to know i was a fan. of course, after the fact, i heard about these artists as being artists people were long into because they were of the age (older than me) and this was what they grew up with so it was no big deal. i’m kind of a youngster with a lot of stuff i like so without the net, i’d still be far less knowledgeable and i’m still learning day by day.

    so i don’t think the net is a bad thing, though i do understand what you’re saying completely. i guess it’s an age issue. i just don’t have the same memories, if i’m honest. without the internet, i’m still very out of the loop.

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