I reorganized my record collection.
I remember when things existed in the real world, when a record was something you could touch (and smudge and damage), and I understand that those feelings give some of us comfort.
Album covers and liner notes and all the tactile sensations that went with taking a record out of its sleeve and placing it on a turntable and watching it spin and putting a stylus on its surface just like that – there there’s something about the digging of the needle, the variable wow and flicker of each turntable, the vagueness of the mechanics that foments our nostalgia.
It’s not like that anymore. With the exception of a few token CDs and vinyl albums, my entire music collection resides on a hard drive. “Reordering” primarily means cleaning up metadata in digital files, an extended adventure in TOC behavior.
I’m scrolling through my collection looking for misspellings, duplicate files, and other issues. When I started digitizing CDs (and some LPs and tapes) on computer devices 25 years ago, I began to painstakingly record artists by last name first. Later, when Gracenote’s Music ID software came online to automatically identify CD metadata, it filled in the information with first name first. I fought this for a while, painstakingly formatting every CD I ripped according to the last name-first convention.
About 10 years ago, I gave in and decided that Gracenote’s convention made as much sense as mine, since many artists weren’t performing as conventionally named entities anyway. I’ve never typed in an artist’s name like “Loaf, Meat” or “Bastard, Dirty Ol'”, but I figured out that you browse a digital collection differently than you do an analog collection.
When I had vinyl walls, I used the method made famous by Daniel Stern as Shrevie in Barry Levinson’s 1982 movie “Diner.” I listed them alphabetically by last name and last name. of group. I classified the discs of the same artist in chronological order. (I differed from Shrevie’s system in that I didn’t separate by genre – R&B, Blues, Jazz, and Folk were mixed in with Rock titles – but I isolated Classical albums, which were organized by composer.)
This meant that it was easy to find a particular album by a particular artist – you could run your fingers over the backs until you got there. And there was only one good place to reclassify the album.
At the height of my record hoarding days – I wouldn’t call it collecting, it wasn’t as intentional as that – I had just over 5,000 albums. They took up a lot of space, more than I would be willing to give them these days. (An old friend, John Andrew Prime, who was chief music critic for the Shreveport Times for a few decades, once told me that he blamed his record collection for cracking the foundations of his house. I can see how it happened.)
These days, iTunes (I still use iTunes) tells me that my collection consists of 152,260 tracks from 16,416 albums that take up 1.76 terabytes of space on a four-terabyte hard drive. That’s, iTunes assures me, 416.4 days of music.
This album number is inflated because of the way iTunes counts albums. If I have a single song from an album, iTunes credits me with having that album. Sometimes compilation albums are double and triple counted.
Part of what I do when reorganizing my collection is to reconcile these partial albums – changing the metadata so the system understands that “People Take Warning! (Murder Ballads & Disaster Songs, 1913-1938)” is a compilation recording featuring various blues and folk artists that was originally released on three CDs, not three – or a dozen – different albums.
Why? Because that’s the kind of man I am.
I understand that it really doesn’t matter. Subscribe to any streaming service and you’ll have access to a lot more music than in my library. Although I have things you won’t easily find on Apple Music, Amazon Music, or Spotify, convenience usually leads me to use a streaming service when I want to listen to a song, album, or playlist for someone. another.
NO HUNTING REQUIRED
Now, if I’m looking for a particular piece of music, I type the name of the artist or the album (or a song from that album) into a little box, and it pops up in a window. There’s no real browsing, and no chance rediscovery of an album I forgot I owned, but if I’m looking for The Kinks’ “Waterloo Sunset,” I type the title into the search box, I hit return and – voilà – I get 14 results: the recording I’m looking for — the 1967 single they included on their ‘Something Else’ album — plus covers of Def Leppard, David Bowie, Greg Kihn and jazz pianist Brad Mehldau.
There is a live version the band recorded for the BBC and three different versions performed by Kinks frontman-turned-solo-artist Ray Davies: a solo guitar rendition, a duet with Jackson Browne, and a version recorded by Davies with the Kinks Choral Collective.
The other copies of the song are presumably the same track as the original single from various anthologies released over the years. If I was worried about hard drive space, I might delete those duplicates, but I figure if the music I’ve collected for over 50 years takes up less than half of the hard drive is dedicated, I’m probably all right with storage space for a while.
But – and it bothers me far more than it should – I miss the 1997 cover of “Waterloo Sunset” by Cathy Dennis, a British pop star who recorded the song with Davies’ blessing (he appeared as taxi driver in the inevitable video).
Dennis – who might be best known as the co-writer of Katy Perry’s ‘I Kissed a Girl’, Kylie Minogue’s ‘Can’t Get You Out of My Head’ and Britney Spears’ song ‘Toxic’ – has did a good job with the song, but i never felt the need to search for it until i realized it disappeared from the hard drive.
Why do files do this? No one has ever given a good answer, but a certain percentage of music files evaporate every year, which is why hard drives aren’t considered the best for archival purposes. If you really need something to be here in 2050, you should probably burn it to CD or DVD and store it properly.
RETURN THIS SONG
Luckily, I have another four terabyte hard drive that I periodically back up music player content to. So I can continue there, search and find the missing Cathy Dennis track and painlessly move it to the music player (along with the rest of Dennis’ album “Am I the Kinda Girl?” which also mysteriously had dropped the HDD So update that to 152,271 tracks).
This doesn’t always work; Sometimes I search for something and find it missing from the backup drive as well. I vividly remember receiving reissues of John Denver’s early 70s albums from the record company a few years ago, and scrupulously ripping them onto my record. But they left. Also disappeared from backup drive.
I only have one copy left of “The Essential John Denver” and the Denver tribute record “The Music Is You”, which includes the fantastic cover of My Morning Jacket’s “Leavin’ On a Jet Plane” and the cover by Lucinda Williams from “That Old Guitar.”
I can browse through my digital library like Hannibal Lecter through his memory palace – remember and rediscover things that are purposely placed there. I can sort by any number or variables, by artist, by release date, by the number of times I’ve played a track. These days I often find it useful to sort by date added, which reminds me of another friend who sorts his records by the order they were purchased. His shelves reflect the evolution of his tastes and interests; there is a visual representation of his musical journey.
And, as with real memory, there’s no way to tell exactly what we’ve lost that we’re not missing. Pop music is at its fleeting best; the unrepeatable kick of an accidental garage band chord. Perhaps the best song is the one you only heard once on a summer evening in 1985. You didn’t understand the title or the artist, but you’ll always remember the line of low.
A friend of mine swears he remembers a Leonard Nimoy cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”. He heard it for sure, one night in the early 70s, on a Chicago radio station bouncing off the ionosphere.
It seems plausible. In 1972, Pickwick/33 Records, a low-cost label specializing in reissues of Capitol Records’ unused catalog, took various recordings Nimoy had made over the years and released them as an album titled “Space Odyssey “, an obvious and probably intentionally confusing reference to Bowie’s then-popular song.
At the time, Nimoy had entered the pantheon of pop culture as Mr. Spock, the ultra-rational second-in-command of the Starship Enterprise on “Star Trek,” a show that enjoyed a renaissance thanks to reruns in 1972. , and was then more popular than when it was on prime time.
While Nimoy covered some space-adjacent songs (and “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins”), he left Bowie’s song untouched. (William Shatner would record a spoken version of the song, but not until 2011.) I watched. He does not exist.
There is a phenomenon called the “Mandela Effect”, where a number of people share specific false memories. As if they remembered Berenstain’s series of children’s bear books about the Berenstein Bears, or learning in the 1980s that Nelson Mandela had died in prison. (He died in 2013, after being released from prison and serving as president of South Africa.)
There are psychological explanations for the persistence of these false memories, and I’m not sure there’s anything more interesting than the obvious fact that people often don’t pay attention as well as they should and mix things up.
But if you can look into the idea of the Mandela Effect, you’ll learn that people have all kinds of theories about why it happens. Some people believe that there are occasional glitches in the space-time continuum that unknowingly cause us to jump from one reality to a slightly altered reality.
So maybe Leonard Nimoy recorded “Space Oddity,” and it somehow got deleted when our current timeline split. Maybe it’s out there, like the truth, on a cosmic rescue disk.
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