I’m running a survey around how this crisis has impacted physical versus digital access to services – please take the survey:
… and you will get a free copy of the results – but, building on the physical versus digital debate, it really hit me as I listened to a great debate on the radio about the first album you ever brought.
Kids today probably won’t even know what an album is – it’s a piece of vinyl that has two sides with five or six songs on each side – but back in the day … oh, back in the day.
The first proper album I bought – after Winnie-the-Pooh and the Royal Grenadier Guards – was Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars by David Bowie. The cover resonated – an orange haired punk in a doorway – and the inner sleeve told me the words of the songs and who was playing on the album. The album built up from a strong start talking about the next Five Years to Ziggy burning out and dying as a Rock and Roll Suicide.
I still love this album.
I remember buying other albums like Physical Graffiti (Led Zeppelin) and, in my view the best album sleeve of all time, Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (The Beatles), and the process of buying, playing and listening to an album was a day in itself.
You would save your pennies to buy the album; you would go to the record shop and ask the owner if the new XYZ album was in; you would hand over your savings to the owner to get the new XYZ album; you would travel home to play the new XYZ album; you would load the album on the record player and hit the needle; then you would read the sleeve and details as you drowned in the music.
Oh, those were the days.
These days, you just boot up Spotify and play anything. There are no albums, just tracks. You play the track that suits your mood and move on to the next track.
Maybe I’m a grumpy old man who is lamenting the day, but there is something lacking in our digital world when you lose that experience. That tangibility. That smell of vinyl. The opening of the plastic seal around the album. The design of the cover. The reading of the lyrics. The playing of tracks, in order, all in one sitting.
Sometimes you would wait for months for an album to be released and then sit for a day listening, reading and studying the artwork, the sound, the experience.
I remember my brother was a huge Beatles fan. When The White Album came out (real name The Beatles), he was meant to be going on a week-long school trip to Wales. My parents received a call from the police that night because he had been found walking around, lost on the streets. They brought him home and discovered he’d only gone and spent his week-long pocket money allocation, all of the money for the Wales trip, to buy The White Album. With no money left, he just sat at the bus station on his own, waiting. He was twelve years old.
That’s what it was like back then, back in the day. Today, we stream a track and if the track doesn’t get moving within ten seconds, we turn on the next track. Today’s world is disposable music and pause and stop. As I say, I sound like a grumpy old man.
However, I am sure there is something in my lament for the album that resonates with my view that the branch will never die (I had to bring it back to banking, didn’t I)?