Tuesday, 24 May 2011
The Ramones, My Back Pages and why vinyl is better than Spotify
Whenever I go on Facebook the 'top news' at any given time is a whole load of YouTube videos. I wonder if it's my demographic or just the sort of people I know. It might be interesting to see a typical timeline for people of different ages. Babies? Politics? Misspelled incomprehensible stuff?
Sometimes I think that it's all a bit like writing the name of bands on your satchel. We all know we all like the Clash, Mott the Hoople and Bob Dylan so why do we have to tell each other about it?
But sometimes it's nice to be told about something I don't know. Like the link to Spotify of the Ramones doing My Back Pages. (That really ought to be the theme tune to this blog.)
That's what sharing is all about. Or it is now.
I laughed a lot at the panic emanating from younger people when Spotify changed their terms and conditions. When I suggested that there might be an alternative they complained about (1) the clutter of physical media and (2) having to part with hard cash.
In the olden days there was something called vinyl. And those were two of its USPs.
The whole point of a vinyl record was that it wasn't just about the music. It was a physical object. Or 'artefact' as we liked to say, pretentiously. Records had weight (well at least until the oil shortage some time in the 1970s, after which they all got a bit bendy). And they had area: 12 inches square of album cover for art, photos, sleevenotes and what we pretentiously liked to call 'lyrics' (it was a pretentious era). You could listen to the music and read the words. You could listen to the music and read about who played the music or look at pictures of the people who made the music. It was a total package. Virtual music just isn't the same.
Having to part with cash - was that a selling point? In a way it was. Because if you couldn't have access to everything, then you valued what you had. For years I only ever bought LPs at Christmas and birthdays - pocket money only stretched to singles. And I played those singles over and over again. Including the B sides.
I laughed, too, when someone expressed the fear that if everyone stopped using Spotify they wouldn't be able to 'find music via people' any more.
In the 70s, our whole social life revolved around 'finding music via people'. You had to track down good music: there were only a few TV and radio shows where you could discover the good stuff. Or record shop booths for as long as it took before they sussed that you weren't buying and kicked you out.
So if you knew someone who owned a record that you didn't have, you'd borrow it. If you wanted to be friends with someone, you'd offer to lend them a record. If you wanted a night out, you'd all go round someone's house and listen to records. In the same room. Not stuck at the end of several different computers.
They tried to kill vinyl. I own a lot of CDs but they're not the same. When they skip, which they do a lot, I hate them. Just another 1980s con like the royal wedding, the new romantics and walkmans. You can't love a CD and it doesn't even last.
Vinyl records last (as long as you don't put them anywhere hot). And in the low-carbon post-peak-oil future we'll still be able to use them even without electricity. As long as there's still a wind-up gramophone somewhere. And as long as it doesn't just play 78s.
No-one will miss CDs. No-one will remember Spotify. But vinyl will last for ever.