Reading David Hepworth’s ace book ‘A Fabulous Creation: How The LP Saved Our Lives’ brought back memories of a lifetime’s album-buying.
As he says, if you were a music fan and under 30 in the 1970s, 1980s or 1990s, you probably spent every penny of your disposable income on albums. And there were serious decisions to be made. If you were in the HMV Megastore and found a couple of US rarities but only had enough cash for one, it was a very big call. Mike Stern’s Time In Place or Lyle Mays’ Street Dreams? Better choose right, it might be a few months before you could afford another cassette.
If you were awaiting a new album, after spotting the release date in Q or the Melody Maker, it wasn’t abnormal to visit your nearest record shop twice in a few days to check if it had arrived. In my teens, I remember enduring a 30-minute bus ride (each way) to my local Our Price specifically to buy It Bites’ Eat Me In St Louis and Larry Carlton’s Last Nite.
There were definitely a lot of moody ‘High Fidelity’-style shop keepers (always men), but some were more friendly/forthcoming. In a classic discounted store in Soho, I think Sister Ray’s, I remember handing over my Prefab Sprout Protest Songs and Van Halen Women And Children First CDs and the assistant grinning and saying, ‘I thought I was the only person in the world who liked both of these albums!’
So I gave the record business a huge amount of my money in the latter half of the 1980s and 1990s. And, as we keep reading, ‘old’ music is hugely outselling ‘new’ music in 2022. Which brings us to my troubled relationship with Spotify. I’m hardly buying any new physical music at the moment. Convenient as it is, Spotify Premium is a lazy option.
I scour the music mags (these days mainly JazzTimes and Classic Pop) and always take the time to listen to every album that piques my interest. But unless it’s an absolute corker, I fillet the two or three good tracks onto a playlist, just as in the 1990s when I used to make cassette tapes of brilliant songs from less-than-brilliant albums. I’ve rounded a lot of them up on this playlist.
I’ve also recently bought a very long audio cable which connects my laptop to the big speakers in my living room, so I can listen properly to this stuff, albeit with all the attendant audio quality issues, but it still gives the illusion that I’m listening to an album ‘as the artist intended’. Balls. The artist is making close to no money from Spotify, unless the streaming numbers are in their multimillions.
So my troubled relationship with Spotify continues, especially as the cost of living rises and rises. Yes we take music where we find it and pay for ‘convenience’ but a far more conscious decision is needed to save ‘new’ stuff. And of course it would help if artists made sure every album track was a winner. Great artwork wouldn’t hurt too.