Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Faded Formats

Faded Formats 6 by The original SimonB
Faded Formats 6, a photo by The original SimonB on Flickr.

So last night I finally caved in and paid for my first ever music download (Mr Blue Sky by Jim Bob (you know, him off of Carter) which is to be the theme for a new Radio 4 comedy written by Andrew Collins and starting next week). I'm not sure where I stand on the technological progress line between early adopter and total luddite, but I guess this step has been a long time coming.

I've been a ready purchaser of music for as long as I can remember (starting with a rip off version of the Star Wars soundtrack performed by the Sonic All Stars) but I guess I have been putting this move off for a long time. I like an object when I splash my cash, and this was the first song I have wanted to own that I can't get in a physical format. And it feels a bit odd to have it this way - do I now add it to my database of owned music or not?

It was a wrench for me when I started buying some albums on cassette rather than vinyl. While I had gathered a few that way over the years I can remember precisely the moment that size of medium and non-scratchability outweighed the ease of being able to drop the needle on any given LP track.

October 1986 and a family day trip to London during half term. Before we hit the main objective of the day (a museum visit) we had time to visit the Virgin Megastore on Oxford Street. The fact that I would have to carry them around with me for the rest of the day meant I ended up purchasing Emotional by Falco and Crash by the Human League on tape. OK, so they then went in my pockets but it somehow felt wrong. Especially as we then went on to buy a socking great dot-matrix printer around the corner on Tottenham Court Road and took turns carrying that for the rest of the day.

After that the die was cast and a succession of Walkmen were stuffed with tape after tape bought from the shops, rather than ones I'd recorded myself. Even the arrival of our first CD player in the house (and then my own) didn't stop me buying albums on tape despite the limitations of easy access to any given song and dodgy sound quality (well, they were half the price) until my final year at college in the early 90s. Something I regret now as there are stacks of them moldering away in the corner of my study and never being played.

But, if that day 26 years ago heralded the begining of the end of my vinyl purchases, have I now done the same for CDs? Probably not, because if nothing else for as long as they can be picked up on the high street or with the weekly shop I will continue to do just that. And my car stereo has no input jack so I'll need a continual supply of discs for the foreseeable there as well.