I am a collector, part 2

My rationale for owning that much music involves the notion that I should PLAY that music, and I do have an arcane methodology of listening to at least most of my CDs once a year.

In addition to the previously stated items:

Buttons: by which I mean those types of buttons that politicians give out. Some of them are from political races; I think the first is for a guy named Bill Burns, who was an unsuccessful candidate for mayor of Binghamton, NY, my hometown, in 1969. A lot are from various events, such as an anti-nuke rally in June 1982. Some have no political agenda at all, such as series of buttons of famous cartoonists.

I’ve been collecting for a long time, but not in any organized fashion. One button I had in high school was “Kiss Me, I’m Germ Free.” My friend Jon took a liking to it, so I lent it to him, but I never got it back.  He decided to wear it on the seat of his pants, some teacher reported him to the principal, and the principal confiscated it; bummer.

Books: I was reading somewhere that people like to judge people by the types of books they see in their living rooms when they visit. If that is indeed the case, then we might be judged as largely illiterate, for there are only about a dozen books on the first floor of our house.

However, in the office on the second floor, there are built-in bookshelves that take up about half the wall space, and they are filled with tomes. To my left and right are my wife’s books teaching guides and classic literature. In front of me as I write this are my reference books for film, music, television, sports, plus my Marvel Masterworks and other comics-related items. Behind me are texts on religion, history, biography; a lot of my Beatles-related books are there. In the attic, more Beatles, TV, and comic book stuff, in bookshelves, not in boxes; this is why the lengthy repair of the attic was so frustrating – lack of access to some of my books.

I’m actually loath to consider my books a “collection,” though I suppose others might think so. I was watching CBS Sunday Morning last month, and I saw that Doris Kearns Goodwin has hundreds of books about Presidents. My ex-girlfriend Susan had several thousands of books, at least for a time. Now THOSE are collections.

Music: as I’ve noted, I started collecting records, i.e., LPs, since about 1966, maybe 1965. When I stopped collecting them in 1989 – last purchase was some Ray Charles album – I had about 1,200 of them. Since then, though, the number has grown as people, switching over to compact discs, dumped their collections on me. I dare say the collection has doubled, with a relatively small number being duplicates.

For a brief time, I was collecting cassette tapes, but I discovered soon that they wore out too quickly. Still, there is music that I only have in that form. BTW, I NEVER owned an 8-track player, so I avoided those altogether.

I got my first CDs in 1987, and I probably still get a half dozen CDs each year, for my birthday and Christmas at least. My CDs number more than 1,500 because I started putting them in new furniture my wife wanted me to get – it wasn’t MY idea – but they didn’t fit. Some of them are on the Amazon Cloud, which doesn’t FEEL like a collection at all.

My rationale for owning that much music involves the notion that I should PLAY that music, and I do have an arcane methodology of listening to at least most of my CDs once a year. I’m sure I’ve even described the process in this blog, though I know not where, but if you REALLY want to know, you can Ask Roger Anything later this month.

O is for Old, Out-of-date, Obsolete?

It’s interesting how data goes from current, to out-of-date, to history.

“Technology is so much fun but we can drown in our technology. The fog of information can drive out knowledge.” – Daniel J. Boorstin, Librarian of Congress (1973-85) on the computerization of libraries, 1983.

One of the things I learned in my first year in library school was that information disappears over time for a number of reasons, but that three are foremost: war, when the other side wins; commerce, when there is not enough of a perceived market for the cost; and technology when the newer methodology renders a previous iteration obsolete.

I remember seeing pictures of these massive computers back in the 1960s, storing all sorts of seemingly important information. Unless ALL of it got transferred to a later technology, and then the one after that, one must assume that some of that data is lost and irretrievable. How many of you had files on 5 1/4″ floppy discs, or even 3 1/2″ discs, but your current computer has no place for them?

Take music. Some of the symphonies originally recorded on those shellac 78 RPM records made it into 33 RPM LPs, but surely not all. And the music on 33s and 45s might have made it onto 8-tracks and cassettes, but did all of it make it to CDs? Certainly not, let alone other digital forms. Or take movies on Betamax/VCR tape, only some of which made it to DVD/BluRay.

So it is heartening to see that some old forms of technology are still hanging on. The LP, while still a small segment of the music business, continues to grow, as the sales of other physical forms of music continue to decline. There was a piece on CBS News Sunday Morning about the resurgence of – are you ready for this? – the typewriter.

Data goes from being current, to woefully out-of-date, to important history. A map of Europe showing the USSR, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and two Germanys might have been tossed at the end of the 20th century, but now has contextual value. Check out these old maps online.

Old cars, if they avoid the junk heap, might become antiques; old books, perhaps collector’s items.

I started thinking about this because of an article a young woman wrote, in part speculating whether the book will become obsolete in favor of Kindles, Nooks, and the like. I sure hope not.
LISTEN to Neil Young – Old Man (from the Harvest album )

ABC Wednesday – Round 10

M is for Musical Format

LP sales are only a fraction of CD or download sales.

When I was a teenager buying music, the LP, the long-playing album played at 33 revolutions per minute, was the dominant recording format in the United States and elsewhere. Then the CD, the shiny disc, was introduced in the 1980s, and by the end of that decade, the compact disc had supplanted the LP as the dominant musical form. CD sales peaked in 2000 with 942.5 million units sold in the US but have begun a steady decline in the 21st century, losing out to digital sales.

It has been predicted that digital music sales will surpass CDs in 2012, although even digital sales in the US were flat in 2010, possibly because of economic unease.

But here’s the odd phenomenon: since 2007, vinyl sales have been on the rise. It’s nowhere near the LP’s heyday, but in an era where physical manifestations of music are on the wane, it’s a peculiar trend.

Top Selling Vinyl Albums Of 2008
1 – Radiohead – In Rainbows – 25,800
2 – The Beatles – Abbey Road – 16,500
3 – Guns N Roses – Chinese Democracy – 13,600
4 – B-52s – Funplex – 12,800
5 – Portishead – Third – 12,300
6 – Neutral Milk Hotel – In the Aeroplane over the Sea – 10,200
7 – Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon – 10,200
8 – Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes – 9,600
9 – Metallica – Death Magnetic – 9,400
10 – Radiohead – OK Computer – 9,300

Top Selling Vinyl Albums Of 2009
1 – The Beatles – Abbey Road – 34,800
2 – Michael Jackson – Thriller – 29,800
3 – Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion – 14,000
4 – Wilco – Wilco – 13,200
5 – Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes – 12,700
6 – Pearl Jam – Backspacer – 12,500
7 – Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest – 11,600
8 – Guns N’ Roses – Appetite for Destruction – 11,500
9 – Dave Matthews Band – Big Whiskey… – 11,500
10 -Radiohead – In Rainbows – 11,400

Top Selling Vinyl Albums Of 2010
1 – The Beatles, Abbey Road -35,000
2 – Arcade Fire, The Suburbs -18,800
3 – The Black Keys, Brothers -18,400
4 – Vampire Weekend, Contra -15,000
5 – Michael Jackson, Thriller -14,200
6 – The National, High Violet -13,600
7 – Beach House, Teen Dream -13,000
8 – Jimi Hendrix Experience, Valleys of Neptune -11,400
9 – Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon -10,600
10 – The xx, The xx -10,200

Again, LP sales are only a fraction of CD or download sales. Still it’s a growing trend when many believe the music industry is experiencing a slow painful death.

ABC Wednesday – Round 8

T is for Thirty-Three and a Third

I put my LPs in full order in 2010, for the first time since we moved into our house in 2000.

As you may be aware, sales of physical manifestations of music have been dropping like a stone, in favor of digital forms. The Record Industry Association of America notes that from 2007 to 2009, the sale of digital music (i.e., downloads) grew from 23% to 34% to 41% of the market in the United States.

Yet the statistics also reveal a countervailing trend. The sale of long-playing, and extended play records (LPs and EPs), made from vinyl, has INCREASED over the same period, from 1.3 million units to 2.9 million to 3.2 million. These are minuscule numbers compared with the hundreds of millions of albums sold annually in the LP’s heyday in the 1960s through the early 1980s when compact discs were introduced. Still, it’s an interesting phenomenon.

Here are the Top Ten Selling Vinyl Albums of 2009:
#01 The Beatles – Abbey Road – 34,800 (#2 in ’08)
#02 Michael Jackson – Thriller – 29,800
#03 Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion – 14,000
#04 Wilco – Wilco – 13,200
#05 Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes – 12,700 (#8 in ’08)
#06 Pearl Jam – Backspacer – 12,500
#07 Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest – 11,600
#08 Guns N’ Roses – Appetite for Destruction – 11,500
#09 Dave Matthews Band – Big Whiskey… – 11,500
#10 Radiohead – In Rainbows – 11,400 (#1 in ’08)
Notice that big names such as The Beatles, Michael Jackson, and Radiohead share the pantheon with more obscure groups such as Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear.

And this is not solely an American phenomenon. Vinyl is also enjoying a renaissance in Great Britain as well.

Personally, I haven’t purchased vinyl since about 1989, a Ray Charles greatest hits album. The forces promulgating CDs made it too difficult for me to pass up the shiny objects by putting on an extra cut on the CD not present on the LP, e.g., Murder by Numbers on Synchronicity by the Police and This Is the Picture (Excellent Birds) on So by Peter Gabriel.

Yet I never gave up my vinyl. And when friends of mine did decide to get rid of their 12″ platters, they often gave them to me. I put my LPs in full order in 2010, for the first time since we moved into our house in 2000. I’ve discovered that I now have developed my collection of Frank Sinatra and Barbra Streisand, e.g. It’s also why I currently own multiple copies of Fragile by Yes; Deja Vu by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, and of course, Tapestry by Carole King, the longest-charting album by a female solo artist.

I think I’ll hold my LPs for a while. Some of them have tracks that I haven’t found anywhere. Maybe one day I’ll get one of those machines that turns vinyl into digital. Meanwhile, I’m enjoying playing my vinyl, looking at artwork that’s about six times the size of what you’d find on a CD.

(It suddenly occurred to me that younger readers may not understand the title. LPs are played on record players at 33 1/3 revolutions per minute, as opposed to singles, which are 45 RPM, and earlier vinyl recordings, which were 78 RPM.)

ABC Wednesday – Round 7


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