A little background: I spent the last 7 months in Salinas, CA without any internet. (Not no internet, if I really needed to connect I could go down to the starbucks and use their wi-fi on my Nexus tablet). The lack of internet I think was a positive thing for me, I was able to use time more intentionally and got lots of exercise. But, recently I moved into a place in Santa Cruz, where I once again have internet access.
So this is pretty exciting, I’ve got the laptop, fresh internet access, and this time I’m going to focus on not just immediately filling it up with old hard drives of mp3s. Unfortunately, this is a cycle. Everytime I get a new computer, I’m tempted to leave everything I had behind. This allows me to cut the fat: all those bonus tracks, those uncountable and unlistenable Little Feat bootlegs, the friends of friends of friends bands’ demos, and really focus on discovering new music. With fewer files on the computer, I figure I’ll listen to any new songs that I get more frequently. Plus, as if I’m building a city above the ruins of an older one, there’s the idea that I may discover some vast archive of unlistened-to but provocative files someday while excavating old hard drives.
But what happens is this:
1. I get a new computer
* March 2008 - Opportunity to put songs on a new computer
* March 2012 - New computer after internet died on old one
* January 2014 - New laptop computer
2. At first I am very careful and deliberate about what songs I will put on. I’ll start with just a download or two, things that are recommended…
* March 2008 - Putting on one song at a time, transferring from older computer via CDRs
* March 2012 - Downloading blues records, going through list, moving slowly, not adding anything before I’d listened to older things.
* January 2014 - Resolve to add just a few things at a time
3. But then, as computer becomes more primary mode of listening, I find things that I am ‘missing’, I’ll start with the classics (Scritti Politti, Laurie Anderson, Charles Mingus), records that at an earlier point in my life I felt like I NEEDED to get by, and have followed me from house to house on iteration after iteration, vinyl, cd, tape, multiple computers.
4. Eventually there’s an urge to transfer my entire previous library and I fold.
What about tracking this cycle this time, trying to break the cycle? Why can’t I just be okay with missing something? In this case, its not just missing something, I think thats its the idea that I might be missing something. So its not the thing that I’m thinking of; if I really want to hear Scritti Politti, I’ll go and find it, it isn’t like they are that vital in my every day life or listening life. I will never have a Scritti Politti emergency, in the same way that I might have a blood sugar emergency or a fire extinguisher emergency. Its more like the thing that I might be missing is something that I’ve not formed a strong relationship with, but I could remember at any moment and might not be able to find easily: Planxty, Denim, Chico Freeman. But then I’ll just go and find that thing, and it’ll be that much more special that I had to go out of my way, right?
So I’ve got this blank slate, let’s not muck it up. Let’s just add a song here, an album there, and appreciate what I have. Okay, deep breath. Well I’m not going to limit myself to just new things, that’s just absurd, I’ve got to have some flexibility. So I can get whatever I want, just not too much at once. But here’s what happens:
Let’s say I want to hear Roy Wood’s “Nancy, Sing me a Song”, something I love and have loved forever.
*I’ll go and get that song from my old computer
*Well, hey, while I’m on this old computer, why not get the whole album, after all, Boulders is really great.
*Well why not the album Mustard too.
*Well why not the other Roy Wood projects, Wizzard band, early ELO?
*Well why not all ELO? Let’s just get that full discography.
*Well why not all other Jeff Lynne produced projects: Travelling Wilburys, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, why not the full albums of each, I mean I’m not that into most of Tom Petty’s songs, but maybe I’ll find myself in a Tom Petty phase one of these days, and it’d be a waste of time to go and find it all again.
*While we’re doing Tom Petty, why not the Dwight Twilley Band…
*And while I’m getting Twilley Don’t Mind, why not look up related artists that are well-regarded but that I may not have heard of as well as related cult classics that I haven’t yet heard?
*And if I’ve got Twilley Don’t Mind, why not also put Big Star and other Alex Chilton on there…
I suppose this time I could limit myself to the first thought and not any branches or free associations, or maybe I could set no limits. Or maybe I could tie whatever happens, whether its monk-like dedication to the one-song-at-a-time or if its the gates crashing to battering ram pressure, to writing more about music, and if I try to write a little bit about everything I listen to, maybe that will keep my ‘to listen’ list to a manageable size.
Today I’m listening to Ede Staal (Brel-esque Netherlands singer, co-worker’s recommendation) and Dr. Feelgood (pub rock, cited in a Gang of Four interview as an influence). Ede Staal makes me feel like I’m on a long European train ride and my traveling companion isn’t talking to me, so I’m just looking at old barns passing and wondering if its always this semi-rainy. With Dr. Feelgood I have to shower cigarette smoke out of my hair and clothes before I go to work in the morning, but I won’t have time to do both that and eat, I like their song “Trying to live my life without you”.