Where There Were No Doors

Follow your bliss and doors will open where there were no doors before - Joseph Campbell

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Another music post

Don't worry, I'm not about to bang on about artists selling their music to advertisers so that they (the advertisers) can better manipulate us. I have a long piece about that (less about the Eno thing / more about the general principle) in the works. Hopefully it'll be finished soon.

No, this is a much more benign (some might even say "throwaway") post. I was recently asked by an acquaintance how many songs were on my mp3 player. She's a lovely person but she isn't a music geek, so when I responded with "probably about 6,000 or so... if you assume an average of 8 tracks per album" she was somewhat flabbergasted.

She told me that her music collection comprised roughly 25 CDs. Most of them "best of" collections from bands I wouldn't piss on if they were on fire. Still, if people wish to travel through life surrounded by bad artists (or worse... "musical entertainers") then so be it.

But this person was clearly intrigued by someone whose mp3 player alone (i.e. not my entire music collection) currently contains about 700 albums. When did I have time to listen to all this music? Have I actually heard every one of the 6,000 songs? How long would it take to listen through every album, single and EP in my collection? And importantly... which ones were the best? Which ones did I listen to most often? Which ones did I never listen to?

I answered all of her questions, and will do so again for the benefit of my poor beleaguered reader.

When did I have time to listen to all this music?
I have music playing almost constantly. And I probably spend a good two hours every day devoting my full attention to it. I think I'd probably go a bit mad if I didn't (or at least "madder"). Losing myself in music is kind of like sleeping, in that I start to get a bit frayed around the edges if I don't do it for a few days.

Have I actually heard every one of the 6,000 songs?
To the best of my knowledge; yes. Though it's probable that I've heard a small minority no more than once. I've been assured, for instance, that William Shatner's recent album, "Has Been", is a worthy and surprisingly beautiful album. Maybe one day I'll give it another chance...

How long would it take to listen through every album, single and EP in my collection?
Well, bearing in mind the amount of vinyl and cassettes that remain as yet undigitised, I can really only tell - with any degree of accuracy - how long it would take to listen to the stuff already ripped and whose ones and zeroes are neatly filed on my hard-drive. And the answer to that is "a shade under three weeks".

Which ones were the best?
Well, I didn't answer this directly. Instead I suggested ten albums which she should add to her collection and which would provide a window on the world of good music (I wasn't quite that patronising in person of course). These are the ten albums that no person should ever be without. Albums which should be at the heart of any music collection and which mark a person out as a person of discerning taste, impeccible intelligence and staggering good looks...

1. The White Album - The Beatles.
2. Astral Weeks - Van Morrison.
3. Sign 'O' The Times - Prince.
4. Horses - Patti Smith.
5. Pet Sounds - The Beach Boys.
6. Low - David Bowie.
7. Ambient 4: On Land - Brian Eno.
8. Vespertine - Björk.
9. Remain In Light - Talking Heads.
10. Closer - Joy Division.

Now, naturally no list of ten can possibly be exhaustive. Indeed, the above list barely scratches the surface. But with those ten in your collection, a person can hold their head high and point out that they have some damn fine music for almost any occasion or mood.

Which ones did I listen to most often?
I took that to be a question about current listening habits, rather than a request to total up all the hours listening to Another Green World and establishing whether there's more of them than there are hours spent listening to Disintegration. And right now, the ten albums I've got on heaviest rotation are:

1. Faith (remastered edition) - The Cure.
2. Hatful of Hollow - The Smiths.
3. The Stone Roses - The Stone Roses.
4. You Are The Quarry - Morrissey.
5. Hypocrisy Is the Greatest Luxury - Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy.
6. Strangeways, Here We Come - The Smiths.
7. Graceland - Paul Simon.
8. Dub Plate Selection - Twilight Circus.
9. Lead Us Not Into Temptation - David Byrne.
10. Achtung Baby - U2.

Which ones did I never listen to?
Well, never say never. I scrolled through the albums on my mp3 player and listed ten that I hadn't listened to this year (except when a track has come on 'shuffle'). It's important to note that (with the possible exception of Item #5) all of these are fine albums...

1. Animals, Suns & Atoms - Tarwater.
2. Rite Now - Julian Cope.
3. Music for Prepared Piano Vol. 2 - John Cage.
4. The Madcap Laughs - Syd Barrett.
5. Gold - Prince.
6. Woman's Gotta Have It - Cornershop.
7. Live In Philadelphia - Atari Teenage Riot.
8. C'est Si Bon - Louis Armstrong.
9. National Hijinx - Journeyman.
10. The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan - Bob Dylan.

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