5 January 2005

A fond memory of music

I was 14 or 15 when the Genesis album Duke [Amazon] came out. I had heard of them but had no idea what the range of their music was like (except for "Misunderstanding" which was popular at the time). The album cover was odd and evocative, and a few of the song titles hinted at contiguity ("Dutchess," "Duke's Travels"). Every Friday evening at 12 o'clock, the local rock station would play The Sixpack: six complete albums played with no interruption from 12 to 6. Where was the RIAA then?!? Anyway, at the beginning of the show, the DJ would list the albums in order so that you (me) could have your fingers ready on the record-play keys on the tape recorder. Sweet.

I forget which number Duke was that evening--2nd ord 3rd?--but I "burned" it to a 3/99 tape and listened with awe. I had never heard songs connect from one to the other and (seemingly) tell a story. Duke was hardly the height of integration in concept albums, but it had its moments.

Mix tapes, and even tapes like my copy of Duke with no "mix," burn those moments into our memories--mix tape memories have been talked about so much they're very much cliched. "Ah, to be young again!" But what I like is the fact that their extememly low fidelity didn't matter. All of the hissing and missed starts or abrupt ends bastardized the music somewhat, but I think I got the point. And I would often eventually, as I do today, purchase the actual album. The album gave you lyrics, liner notes, artwork, photos, ... secret little quotes and stuff ... all of those features were too meaningful not to have. They still are today, except not so imperative (what was that drawing on the inside cover of Led Zeppelin IV?).

Many rock musicians, Radiohead included, restrict distribution of their songs to retain some sort of cohesive intent. I understand their impuse, but I really have to think that Beethoven would have gladly dropped the opening of the Moonlight or Appassionata or Mozart the aria "Ein Maedchen oder Weibchen" to 45 or CD single if they had the opportunity. Appreciation of long forms cannot be forced, and cohesion should still exist in even the smallest parts. I really just don't understand all of those hi-fidelity-heads out there screaming for higher bit rates and the such. If I still had that crappy Duke tape from 25 years ago I think I'd burn it to CD and keep playing it.

[ posted by sstrader on 5 January 2005 at 3:43:25 PM in Music ]