Can I Have A Word?
A thought struck me the other day. I've never actually liked the word 'blog' it's naturally modern but as word I find it a bit clinical, and it certainly doesn't demonstrate the splendid array of words that can be contained in them like a novel or short story does. It's my love of these things called 'words' that has made me want to write one.
I've always preferred letters over numbers. There's just something beautiful about how you can bundle them together to create wondrous words, the wonder being the power they actually posses. Dependent on where they sit in a sentence, they can ether tickle your funny bone or pull at your heartstrings. I don't think numbers have that affect (well there's the recession) but it's not the same reaction. I can't remember anyone gripped with laughter repeating the number 26, or indeed anyone ever remarking 'I haven't heard that number in years.'
Words do indeed fall out of fashion, but that's nothing but the by-product of time, and indeed part of their charm and the picture they can paint. It's all about context. Such words as 'Divine' or 'languid' that now conjure up images of Twenties opulence, the sipping of a cold Gin and Tonic in between puffs from a cocktail cigarette, were once new and only so as they were uttered by these bright young things.
Naturally this is all subjective, although I am assuming you are a fan of the written word if you have got this far. As I am a fan, I have favourite words, such as marvellous, idiotic and vinyl. Discombobulated is a very good one, but perhaps I have always really favoured frivolous. It's because I like being it. I remember being in a temp job and being asked where my boss was, to which I said I was trying to get him to sober up before our next meeting. It's actually on occasions like that where I could do with a sign that said 'frivolous' so people at least know to laugh, or not take me at my word. Although sometimes I wish they would. I did really want those two connecting meeting rooms changed to 'Sly', and 'The Family Stone' respectively.
To avoid being frivolous for a second, I did actually start this blog (there's that word again) by talking about words and why I favoured them over numbers. I am aware that they are beautifully different, but for me, the fundamental difference is that while both of them can be manipulated, the numbers always have to add up. Words aren't like that, they don't have to add up, and they have so many different meanings.
So whether you like to listen to your favourite voice on a page, or out of your home speakers, take a moment to actually listen to what that person has done with those letters. They are indeed only words and you've probably used quite a few yourself before settling down to this. Go and use a few more. Start with frivolous.
If you're a regular reader of this blog, you may have gathered that I have a slight interest in records. As I was listening to one last week, I realised that I'd never actually replaced the stylus of that particular record player. I'm all for authenticity, but that had been there since 1979.
Obviously I'm not going to start advocating tapes, they were naturally a bedfellow of vinyl, but their perfect union can be personified by two terms; 'The Mixtape' and 'Home taping is killing music.'
Let's look at the Mixtape. I know you remember them and no doubt a myriad of memories have started flooding back, and it was exactly the same for me. It was the personal touch, only your choice of tune, the perfect place for that song to sit and what it should follow. Whether you taped them off the radio or put your favourites together, it was the soundtrack of your choosing, and every one of those C90s embedded memories deep into your core. Everyone hears a song, and is then perplexed that the song they're expecting next doesn't come on. As that confusion builds, you're immersed in that time when you had played DJ with that song, and it's only when reality bumps into you, do you realise how much time has passed between you playing or making that tape and hearing that song again.
Whatever your viewpoint, these cassettes contained ninety glorious minutes of music that was either your choice, or lovingly made for you. The picture should tell you this, and I deem myself one of the luckiest man in the world to have these in my possession. Not only because I still own it seventeen years after it was recorded, but the time and effort put in by my best friend instantly highlights how much a person actually cares for you. I still have this over the countless birthday cards I have recycled.
Which brings me to the reason of why this blog was late. I have been playing tapes. But not just playing tapes.
All or Nothing
I have (at the time of you reading this) seven hundred and ninety two albums in my collection, with a spattering of around a hundred singles. Let us concentrate on the albums. The range is incredibly eclectic, rather like some calamity has happened in a record shop and no one's cleaned up yet.
If you're reading this with one ear on Spotify, while I will be turning a kind blind eye (more on that in another blog) you will be laughing at how stupid a statement like that is, as you can certainly get way over the seven hundred and ninety two albums I have. But they're just the songs and that's my point. There's no album art, no mysterious sleeve notes to ponder over and most importantly, you're not listening to it as it is designed to be heard. This isn't necessarily to do with it being on vinyl, more about who is singing or playing, as it was their choice where that song should sit on the album; what it will sound fantastic to follow, or more importantly, what to begin with. You don't get any of that and have completely ignored the point of them making that record.
Everything is contextual so if it's buried in a play list or presented to you via a logarithm, then you're clearly not showing that singer or band the respect they are due. From the painstaking ponder over the exact words to say, to the gruelling sweat over nailing that chord. That's even before they recorded it.
I'm certainly not saying there's never any room for a playlist, but compared to the original home of that song, it's like telling Mr Holmes that you don't need a poo. Also, where's the Chase? Not the tv programme, but the actual hunting down of that record, where the hunter finally gets their game, whether its finally spotted in a dusty crate or excitedly unwrapped at Christmas. While my taste is incredibly wide, I'm a massive Sixties and Seventies freak, so I get to hunt properly; looking for musicians who could only record for Vinyl, who, when spotted entrapped and captured (most records come quietly) is played on the equipment of the time.
While I do have technology that goes past nineteen seventy eight (I don't write this with a quill) it really should sound like it was supposed to sound. Obviously with the records I like its been quite a few years since they were brand new, but no ones record collection is ever pristine, as we've all had that clumsy knock as we put it on or get up to skip the next one as it's too scratched. It's all part of your collection, and if you never experienced that, then I can only assume that you were the one that kept the box the toy came in.
It's all about the music, and can be perfectly summed up by John Peel's defence of Vinyl over CDs (remember them?). When challenged over the better quality, he said “Listen mate, life has surface noises.” These 'marks', whether on the record or the album's artwork, are the marks of lives left behind are what I love, whether it's the original owner's name or their insistence to rate each song and list its length (again, more on that in another blog)