Monday, September 02, 2013


When I was younger I soaked up as much music as was humanly possible. Having very little money meant that, like a lot of other kids growing up in the 70’s, I had to tape music off the radio and even the TV and when money did come along, usually in the shape of a gifted fiver or maybe a WH Smiths record token I’d spend all Saturday afternoon perusing the selections on offer even though I knew exactly which record it was I wanted and which record it was I would be taking home on the bus with me. Singles and LP’s were played over and over again until the lyrics became ingrained. Sleeves were poured over and ruminated upon, talked about, ogled, held in awe and inspected for hidden messages. Run off grooves would be held up to the light to see if there were any jokey references from the pressing plant. Tapes were made from LP’s I borrowed off friends but no matter how hard I tried I could never get an album on to one side of a C90 thus ensuring that lodged in the memory for ever more would be the last track of an album that cuts off mid word. Picture discs and shaped vinyl only enhanced the pleasure. A record with a picture on it. Whodathunkit? Coloured vinyl. Smelly vinyl. Clear vinyl. You lapped it all up and wanted more. You could never get enough. And when a mate mentioned a new band that you needed to hear a tape was produced from a top pocket and you took it home and looked at it as if it held the secrets of the universe and when you played it you knew that just maybe somewhere in there the secret of the universe lay waiting.

Then you started working for a living and you could afford to buy a lot more music. And your record [and tape] collection grew more quickly. Now you could afford to take risks and some of the records [and tapes] you bought were not only the recommendation of friends but those of writers of music papers like Sounds and the N.M.E. and Record Mirror and soon you began to realise that some of the people reviewing didn’t share the same tastes as you and you ended up with records you didn’t like that much and they got sold on to second hand record dealers or mates that wanted two copies of the same LP so that they could play it on their stacker record deck thus enabling them to listen to both sides of the record without having to turn it over.

And then they invented computers and the internet and the world of music shifted on its axis.

Having every note of music ever recorded available to stream and download may seem like a dream come true to someone like me but I find it anything but. I now find having too much music available to me a distraction. Having everything ever recorded [almost] within my grasp is like being a kid let loose in the worlds biggest sweet shop except that after being in there for a few years I’m now sick of it and look back on the days when I played a record to death and ogled the sleeves with great fondness. Hard drives have been filled as have memory sticks and DVD’s, all full of countless thousands of hours worth of music, most of it still un-listened to, uncared for and ultimately unwanted and all I want to do is spin a Roy Harper LP I bought this afternoon for £2 in Vinyl Tap.

There is only one way to combat this fear and that is to go back to how I used to listen to music. I can do this with whatever format of music I care to choose, I prefer vinyl but I'm not averse to CD's and cassettes and MP3's but the overriding factor is one of familiarization. I’ve been adopting this method for about last few years now which is why the review rate has dropped off the end of a cliff. Coming from someone who used to write a zine and listen to tenth rate noise CDR’s with my finger pressed on the fast forward button I know which method I prefer.

In the early days of downloading it was all Napster, and then Myspace appeared [and oh how we all laughed when Murdoch bought into that clunky monster and turned it into the biggest turd on the web] and when Napster got caught by the goolies any number of soulless P2P’s chock full of bugs and porn appeared.

At the fag end of 2013 things have settled down and you can go legit if you want: iTunes, Spotify, YouTube [typing ‘full album’ into YouTube gives you 9,500,000 returns] and any number of other websites allow you to stream and download to your hearts content.

And then there's Bandcamp with which I’m now listening to the new Sleaford Mods album [and you should too]. I’ve found myself coming to like Bandcamp, mainly because I get a lot of CDR’s to review that refuse to play and the labels involved have a Bandcamp page where for absolutely nothing [barring your device and connection] you can listen to their output to your hearts content.

All of this so as to give my fellow traveller Rob Hayler over at Radio Free Midwich an enormous plug. Rob has set up a Bandcamp page whereupon you can listen to his own true Midwich-ing including a piece he played at the Wharf Chambers earlier this year that he dedicated to yours truly [still one of the proudest moments of my life]. Then there’s that other fine Leeds label Sheepscar Light Industrial who have yet to release a dud and whose physical releases disappear pretty quickly. And the Sleaford Mods of course, whose new album is yet a fine greasy smear on the MacDonald’s window of life.

Streaming and downloading has its benefits and I'd rather have it than not but the magic of those early years will never be replaced by a few clicks of the mouse.




Sheepscar Light Industrial

Sleaford Mods


Rob H said...

Cheers Mark - a porky prime cut ;-). Rob H x

Anonymous said...

can we start calling Rob Hayler "Bob Hayler"? Would be more old skool...

J Simpson said...

i've been talking about, and dealing with, this very thing lately. In addition to listening overload, i'm still in the grips of learning how to produce music, which is the reason i started listening to music so obsessively to begin with. With the possibilities of sampling, and endless arrays of digital instruments and tools, you have to get back to the bare essentials. 'what am i trying to say? and how will i say it?' I think, ultimately, we'll end up with a generation of beethoven's and monks and parkers, but it will come through loads and loads of rubbish. You will have to become great, to stand out amidst the rabble, and we will have to return to pure musicality, emotion, expression, inventiveness, all of these timeless human components. I've not yet given up the geist, mainly cuz we're still living, and you just can't roll over and die. What you do is an antidote to the overload, and you do it well, so you should be proud. Keep fighting the good fight!

Steve said...

I don't know ... Music should come from a Hi-Fi unit, not a computer. With vinyl, cassette and CD you get the package, the art - the visual as well as the sound. My experience of Bandcamp etc is a line slowly moving across the screen. I suppose samples of sound are useful when thinking about purchasing a slab of vinyl or tape or CD, but to have it all instead of ... nah?
I was speaking to a chap who releases tapes and puts in a download code with the release and he said hardly anyone uses the download code. I know I certainly don't - no point.

Anyway. Nice piece.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree that music should come from a Hi-FI and not a computer but playback a lossless FLAC or even 320 MP3 file from your computer (or MP3 player) through your HI-FI and you have the closest thing to what the band recorded as virtually all music is recorded digitally and even re-issues of stuff on vinyl that was recorded back in the day on tape has been put on to digital before going back on to vinyl. It is the music that is important not the having and hoarding of obsolete formats.