HMV have announced themselves the latest in a long list of high-street stalwarts to go swirling down the pan. Its been all over the news today – sparking debate here and there about how much blame if any ought to be placed on the culture of downloading music and of course illegally downloading music.
For me, downloading is a part of my life. It enables me to write this blog, Its revolutionised banking, souped up Christmas and lets face it – if I didn’t have sat-nav telling me what to do I’d probably be lost right now. I do however, want to make the case for CDs – scratch that – I blummin’ LOVE compact disks! Vinyl is big and romantic and historical and it has a sound all of its own, MP3 players, smartphones and (dare I say,) tapes fit neatly in your back pocket but CDs are wonderfully medium sized. They’re annoyingly medium sized – they break or they dog-ear – they get scratched so easily – shops cover them in stickers… brilliance.
If I may drag out some of the grizzlier skeletons in my closet; trophies of my ill-informed early years; relics of growing up in the far-from-cool end of the nineties along with some sincerely treasured acquisitions – I’ll prove it to you – CDs are great.
The first CD I ever owned. ‘Love Hurts’ came out it 1991. I was five. The Shoop Shoop Song was on the radio and I was hooked. In actual fact, Shoop Shoop is something of an anomaly in the make-up of this record (the soundtrack to the film Mermaids – also starring Cher) as its really mainly catnip for power ballad lovers and thus the beginning of my love affair for big emotional slabs of soft rock …with killer vocals. Anyway – I remember the feel of the CD – it was and still is comparatively heavy. The poster booklet is printed on chunky glossy paper – all the better for surviving years of little hands assembling and dissembling the package.
I’m sorry to say that my taste didn’t really improve much over the next five or six years. My patient sister tried her best to educate me into the ways of timely Olive and Ultra Nate – but I still came home with this baby from the French supermarket. CD is in a cardboard wallet and has its original stickers. Alas, I fear expecting any cool-points for rare editions may be pushing my luck here.
I remember the TV advert for this one. A young couple were mid break-up and amidst the routine ‘sorting out of the stuff’ and in true nineties fashion that meant splitting the all important CD collection and fighting for what was yours. As the couple fought over who was the rightful owner of David Gray’s White Ladder, the clever advertising counted his cash with glee as all the chemicals in my young impressionable brain swished around convincing me that this record was aspirational and grown up and to be fought tooth and nail over… and I couldn’t wait to get my copy.
Ahhh Coldplay… I was a fan. The first is a CD that came free with The Independent. I’m not a reader – and nobody I know is but I certainly remember seeing it advertised and thinking “Oh my god – a FREE CD ?!” Soon after I was knocked out by Parachutes, enjoyed A Rush Of Blood To The Head once I’d adjusted to it and found myself collecting singles just to make sure I had all the bonus tracks. Coldplay were the first band I had that feeling about – that I didn’t want to miss a single song.
Naturally, I spent quite a bit of time in the then old-faithful HMV looking for singles – always on the look out for a new one. One day I stumbled upon Brothers and Sisters – an ep Coldplay made while they were with Fierce Panda – put out only a year before The Independent touting them and Yellow was the most exciting new record on radio one. The cover art is awful and use of Impact type-face in what is likely a spot of ‘word art’ from something like Microsoft Publisher still baffles me now! A good find nonetheless, and it sits happily with the CD singles between Born Slippy and The Rembrants or thereabouts.
The first CD I remember owning that came in a cardboard case… Damian Rice’s O album was a cornerstone record for me in so many ways but looking at it purely for its ‘CD-ness’ reminds me that it really was thew first CD I was aware of that seemed to have shed its ugly plastic skin – and because of this seemed more down to earth, more honest, more intimate… it felt in your hand like it should sound on your speakers.
My friend Eliza Shaddad put out her EP last year – its well worth a listen. She has one up on Mr Rice in that her CD too comes in a card case but one that is so beautifully matte – perhaps from printing on recycled board? The photographic artwork is classy and moody and alluring. I’ve kept Eliza’s handwritten note in with the CD – not because I’m any kind of crazy stalker or because I want to forge documents with her handwriting… but because it reminds me of the day I got it in the post and the person behind the packaging.
I supported Rod Picott once up in York. I thought at the time that was the most incredible songwriter – and I still think that now. Unfortunately I couldn’t make his last gig nearby – but my friend Jez picked up the signed CD for me. Getting a signed CD after the gig is a truly wonderful thing… but being surprised with one after you were gutted about missing the gig is even better!
This is Lost In Space – a terrific record from Aimee Mann. Not only is the music hard-hitting – you get a free graphic novel included in the sleeve! A lovely twist on the traditional lyrics booklet and a sweet surprise for anyone who, like me, had a secret desire to do little in life but draw cartoons.
Stylusboy is my hero. He hand draws, types, trims and assembles these little slip cases of wonder with endless care and attention and then says “pay what you want” … Stylus is to me, the king of DIY music – with his screen gigs, his house shows and his nissan micra. DIY music is in many ways the answer to all of our prayers and to own one of his CDs is to believe it for yourself.
The CD I couldn’t go home without. I bought this dude at Cambridge Folk Festival after seeing Karine Polwart’s amazing set. There was no way I was leaving without it!
May I introduce you to Tracks – 4 CDs of unreleased tracks and the chunkiest mother of a lyrics booklet I’ve ever seen. This one breaks all the rules about being medium sized – its reaching for the celebrity highs of the record but holds its head high as an awesome CD experience. With Springsteen you can pretty much count on some nice black and white photos and he’s never shy of the printed word plus you can bet Landau will still stick his oar in somewhere with something to glitter between the quotation marks but this collection is supersized and extra special. (note the careful sidestepping of the ‘package’ pun.)
Puns or no – this just wouldn’t be the same as a download.
And thats that – if you’ve read this far then BRAVO! you’ve made it through “killer vocals” and “CD experience.” Perhaps you’re not converted yet – but maybe you’ll look at your CD collection with a little more love tomorrow? Keep buying CDs :-)