Saturday, September 24, 2016

On Tapes and CDs / CDrs

   Born in the 1980s, I have a strange relationship with vinyl. My father had a (what seemed like) large vinyl collection, but they were all filed away in some arcane order I was too neurotic to mess up. He had several large boxes of vinyl that sat unlistened to for years as well. I'm not sure what he ever planned to do with it. I do remember being resentful that he gave/sold a huge chunk of his vinyl to some dumb college kid just as I was starting to get into music, but I suppose that's another story.

   My primary memory of "getting my first stereo" really was me getting a cool boom box with dual tape decks (and no CD player, HA). I bought cassingles and a couple long playing albums at Turtles' Records and Tapes*, but the allure of the album hadn't really hit me yet. I was by and large a radio man. I made so many of my own tapes: mini radio shows where I did most if not all of the voices, funny commercial snips, interesting sounds I heard out my bedroom window. I liked being able to make things even then.

*My original tape "collection" was just:
1. Jurassic Park: the Original Soundtrack
2. A poorly curated Fox97 summertime mixtape they gave away at some event I went to with my dad.
3. Spin Doctors "Pocket Full of Kryptonite" single
4. A dinosaur radio play where the dinos lived in a big city together.
5. An untranslatable cassette of Greek music we purchased to listen to as we drove around when we lived in Athens.

   But for a long while there I mostly just made my own cassettes off the radio. I could somehow always talk my parents into buying me C90s (or failing that, the far inferior C60s) that I could fill with music I actually liked. By the early 90s I had a box of cassettes filled with "oldies," mostly of the 50s/early 60s pre-psychedelic variety. So I probably made tapes for eight years or so before I ever bought a CD. I kept making tapes for years later too, I still have some of my alternative mixes pirated from late night listening to 99X and 88.5 as everyone else at my house slept.

   By the late 80s, my parents had bought some CDs (a handful that maintained a pretty fascist, constant rotation), but we only had two CD players: one expensive one at home connected to the home entertainment system and one in our car. I got a CD player fairly late in the game, but once I started collecting CDs (I used to call it collecting "albums" because the music bug had finally hit me) my collection rapidly expanded away from my parents taste in more Alternative stuff.

   I will always have a special place in my heart for CDs because becoming a "music person" in the late 90s really imbued you with a sense that CDs were still special. I stood in line with dozens of other people outside Blockbuster Music on new release Tuesday. By the time I was in high school, my friend Devin and I would leave school early to go to Blockbuster, then MediaPlay, or Sea of Timeless Records to hunt for albums we wanted to collect. I would scour through the $5 and under bins of Blockbuster Music, looking for gems in the piles of rubbish. Some of the best things I got from those bins were only $1 or $2.* The real treat for me in high school was the rare times I could convince my mom to take me to Buckhead so I could shop at the mammoth Tower Records, which seemed to have everything I was ever looking for.

   By the time I had gotten the ability to drive, I started driving over to Marietta to buy cheap albums (by that point, I had started buying my own vinyl and more tapes, they were cheaper than CDs) from Rowan's, Book Nook and Sounds Good Records. Rowan's had a $5 CD wall, so I could always afford to shop there. Rowan's will always hold a special place in my heart because it was there I found the Suicide "Suicide" collection of the first and second albums, something that has become wildly influential on my life path.

*The Top 5 Cheap $5 and under CDs I ever got at Blockbuster Music:
1. Pulsars "Pulsars"
2. Mission of Burma "Signals, Calls and Marches"
3. The Velvet Underground "Live MCMXCIII"
4. Silver Apples "Silver Apples"
5. Tom Verlaine "Dreamtime"

   I loved CDs so much that the first time I went to Criminal Records in Atlanta, I skipped the (relatively smaller) vinyl entirely and picked through the CDs. I ended up getting Holiday by Magnetic Fields and a couple other cheap sundries. I felt very cool having a Merge Records CD finally, most of my haunts didn't really stock anything like that. I remember being quite amazed that Criminal had more than ONE Magnetic Fields album.

   It's incredibly cheesy, but I miss the culture of album hunting and collecting. There were definitely drawbacks (the pretentiousness/mean clerks/not finding stuff), but it was part of growing up in a time when everything was changing, but before everything really CHANGED. I appreciate having my own little version of it, it has kept albums special for me. I'm an album boy still, after all these years.

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