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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.