Listen to the music: the sound of silence

2 01 2014

The weekend after the burgarly, still trying to get over the fact I’d been burglarized, I heard Chet Baker on CBC Radio.

My Funny Valentine—that slow narcotic tenor, simple, soft. A November day in Montréal  and I was bereft.

I don’t think I cried about what was taken—I was too pissed—but I was very sad about the Chet Baker.

Of course, the cd could be replaced, and was. I got to know the Plateau and Mont Royal neighborhoods very well in hitting all of the cd shops, and became friendly with one proprietor on St Denis—got some great stuff on his recommendation.

In that sense, the burglary wasn’t all bad: it got me prowling about some near-east side neighborhoods, made me comfortable with the Métro, and I ended up picking up a fair number of Canadian artists. I’d still rather never have been burgled, but there were pleasures in the recovery.

I do miss some cds which, it turned out, were irreplaceable. Some were local discs I’d picked up in Minneapolis, but one loss in particular pains me: Chris Lowe.

No, not that Chris Lowe, which is the problem.

My Chris Lowe was (is?) a singer/songwriter from New York who played and sang at my friend M.’s wedding. He gave out copies of his cd at the wedding (the artwork for which won some kind of marketing award), and I listened to the shit l out of that cd.

It was a bit uneven—it sounded as if the songlist stretched back a ways—but he had a nice way with a lyric, and I’m a sucker for sandpaper voice. It was lovely and lilting and sad.

I did make a tape of it, and I do still have a boombox that plays tapes, but I want that damned cd—which I can’t find, because my Chris Lowe shares a name with another musical Chris Lowe,  super-famous Chris Lowe.

Well, maybe some night I’ll sit down with a bottle of something and dig my way through the cyberverse until I bump into that eponymous cd and take it home with me, where it belongs.


Again, this list is a bit out of sorts since I started it before the great cd mash-up, but as I’d only posted once previously on lost cds, it’s only a little disordered.

7. Afro Blue Band, Impressions
8. Chet Baker, in a soulful mood
9. Tony Bennett, Perfectly Frank
10. Bettie Serveet, Palomine
11. Andy Bey, Ballads Blues & Bey
12. Mary J. Blige, Mary
13. Blue Up? Cake and Eat It
14. BoDeans, home
15. David Bowie, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust. . .
16. Billy Bragg, Back to Basics
17. billy Bragg & Wilco, Mermaid Avenue
18. T Bone Burnett, The Criminal Under My Own Hat
19. Cannonball Adderly Sextet, In New York
20. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, The Good Son
21. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Henry’s Dream
22. Exene Cervenka, Running Sacred
23. Bill Charlap, All through the night
24. Barbara Cohen & Little Lizard, Black Lake
25. Leonard Cohen, The Future
26. John Coltrane, The Art of John Coltrane
27. John Coltrane, Live at the Village Vanguard
28. Elvis Costello, Brutal Youth
29. Elvis Costello & The Brodsky Quartet, The Juliet Letters
30. Mary Coughlan, Live in Galway
31. Cranberries, No Need to Argue
32. Celia Cruz, Queen of the Rumba
33. D’Angelo, Brown Sugar
34. Miles Davis, Birth of Cool
35. Miles Davis, Bitches Brew
36. Dead Can Dance, Into the Labyrinth
37. digable planets, reachin’ (a new refutation of time and space)
38. Dire Straits, Making Movies
39. John Doe, Meet John Doe

Listen to the music: No I don’t want to hear it

13 11 2012

Four hundred and sixty.

That’s how many cds were stolen, four hundred and sixty: 407 pop, et. al., and 53 classical. Of those, I replaced 276 of the stolen pop, and 22 of the stolen classical—which means of course, that 131 pop and 31 classical were not replaced.

I’m no longer exactly sure how my cds are arranged—since they’re now all in my wine-box bureau, i.e., hidden away, I’m much less likely to rearrange them by various genres—but it looks as if my jazz, classical, traditional, and perhaps soundtracks are separated from the pop, blues, and electronica stuff.

So, had my collection not been pilfered, I would have already listened to:

1. Dot Allison, Afterglow
2. American Music Club, Mercury
3. Laurie Anderson, Mister Heartbreak
4. Laurie Anderson, Home of the Brave
5. Laurie Anderson, The Ugly One With the Jewels and Other Stories
6. The Band, The Last Waltz

I would have been able to replace all of these from the used bins while I was living in Montreal, but for whatever reason, I chose not to.

Right after the burglary, I was mad to rebuild my collection exactly as it had been, title for title, whether or not I had listened to or even much liked the lost cd. After awhile, however, I relaxed, and while browsing for the gone-away cds would also be on the lookout for new (used) discs that I wanted more than the old-used discs.

I do remember that I wasn’t terribly impressed with Laurie Anderson’s Mister Heartbreak, and while I liked Dot Allison’s cd, there were always others that, on my scavenges, I found more interesting. I can always get that later, I thought.

Yes, I did have renter’s insurance, but there was a limit as to the dollar amount of the cds they’d replace. I bought extra coverage, but it still wasn’t enough to pay for everything. (I’m not complaining: my insurer dealt with me quickly and didn’t contest any of my claims.) Anyway, that my coverage was limited meant that I couldn’t just stroll to the HMV and load up on [outrageously high-priced] new cds.

That was fine, actually, as I preferred with both cds and books* to prowl the used shops. I’m not much of either a shopper or a hunter, but my atavistic impulses emerge at the challenge of trying to find what I want in the bins and on the shelves.

Then there is the added thrill of coming across something that just looks. . . intriguing, and taking it home for the hell of it. Sure, that can happen at a new-goods store, but it seems that kismet is more likely at a hodgepodge kinda joint.

So while I didn’t  replace 162 of the cds (although there are a few I couldn’t find and still pine for), I did end up finding room for hundreds of cds I might not have otherwise.

On the whole, I’d rather I hadn’t been burglarized, but with the music, at least, the loss led to something more.

*Oddly, not one of my books was stolen. I wonder why that was. . . .

Listen to the music: Can’t stop the music

21 10 2012

C. told me to rip all of my cds before I got rid of them. If I got rid of them.

I don’t know that I would.

I understand the reason—it’s the same reason that I’m filing away the bibliographic info on all of the printed out scholarly articles I’m going to toss: don’t lose what you have—but there’s something. . . satisfying about an irrevocable purge.

I had tapes of my favorite albums, but I didn’t rush to tape everything else before I got rid of my vinyl. (And I got rid of almost all of my tapes when I left for Montreal.) No, my attitude was what’s done is done, and no use hangin’ on just to hang on. No point in fetishizing the past.

I do that, fetishize objects—most obviously, my books. It’s damned near impossible not to imbue objects which deliver meaning with meaning themselves, and as long as the deliveries retain that meaning, I”m not too worried about my affection for the objects. But when the possession itself becomes the point, well, that’s when I need to rethink matters.

There were a few people who tried to talk me out of getting rid of the albums, certain that I was throwing away irreplaceable treasure (i.e., vinyl), but as I told them: I have a shitty stereo system and I hate it when the needle skips, and I see no particular worth in having to turn the album over after 20 or 25 minutes. Besides, I didn’t really listen to this stuff anymore.

That was the real reason to get rid of the albums: These were singers and groups I’d listened to since I started collecting albums, and my tastes had changed. There were a few albums that I replaced with cds—by Rickie Lee Jones, Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon, B52’s, Violent Femmes— but most of them? Nope. Done. Goodbye.

I don’t regret it.

Of course, if I really wanted to, I could find clips of those bygone songs online, but I’m fine with leaving them all behind. When something ends, it’s good to let it end.

I had a moment, in some cases, a long moment, with those albums, and those moments don’t matter any less just because they’re over. This is something to which I am slowly reconciling myself, that something can happen for the time being, and that being in time may be enough, may have to be enough.

I don’t know whether this particular musical moment is over—that’s the purpose of this listen-through, to find out—but if I’m no longer moved, there’s no point in pretending otherwise.

But I’d like it not to be. I’d like still to be moved.


Listened to thus far:

  1. *Joe Acker, The Times and Places of Love
  2. Afro Celt Sound System, Volume 2: Release
  3. Air, Moon Safari
  4. Air, 10,000 Hz Legend
  5. Akufen, My Way
  6. Luther Allison, Blue Streak
  7. Altan, The Blue Idol
  8. Tori Amos, Under the Pink
  9. Tori Amos, Strange Little Girls

*Joe was one of the aforementioned downstairs neighbors who decided to shed the jewel cases. He and his wife Tara were great neighbors, early on kindly letting me use their shower when mine went on the fritz. We got to know one another hanging out in the yard with their amazing dog Gracie, and then hanging out in their apartment. They gave me a key to their place so I could take Gracie out during the day or let her out at night if they were getting home late. We lost track of one another some time after they moved out—last I heard, Tara was pregnant with their first kid—but they remain one of my few good memories of Somerville.

And yes, the cd is nice, too. Joe and Tara (who was learning mandolin) were deeply interested in Americana music, and invited me to listen in when they invited friends-with-strings over to play old-timey tunes, but the cd hews closer to the singer/songwriter folk/rock style, which well-display Joe’s meticulous guitar skills and honey-warm voice.

Listen to the music

20 10 2012

I have a lot of cds.

Eight hundred? Nine hundred? Somewhere thereabouts. Not as many as true obsessive, but, y’know, plenty.

I almost never listen to them.

Oh, I used to, oh yeah, all the time. In grad school I had a cheapo mini-system on to which I could load 7 cds and let ‘er ride. Music accompanied my descent into and out of depression (multiple times), and one of my preps for dissertation-writing was picking out the cds which would take me from, say, 8pm-2am.

I was never much for 45s, but when I hit junior high I started hitting Helen Gallagher’s (the requisite black-light/poster/music shop which dotted small-town malls way back when) for albums. I asked for Foreigner for Christmas and my best friend J. and I listened to her brother’s REO Speedwagon live album (DOOT doot doodlo-doot) over and over again. D. and I would sit in her brother’s bedroom and listen to Pink Floyd and AC/DC (Bon Scott era), and in a junior high art class I carved a KISS sculpture out of a bar of soap.

It was pretty much hard and classic rock all through high school (93 QXM? QFM? out of Milwaukee)—a lot Who, AC/DC (Brian Johnson, this time), Led Zep, Yes,Rush,Loverboy—as well as my aforementioned beloved Supertramp, and then, when MTV hit, what was then called alternative music (mainly British post-punk bands).

I bought albums at Helen Gallagher, I bought albums up and down State Street in Madison. I bought albums at the Electric Fetus in Minneapolis. And then when I decided to run away from grad school, I decided to sell all of my albums.

I bought cds instead.

I had just a few (20? 30?) when I hied on out to Albuquerque, maybe double or triple that when I slunk back to Minneapolis, where I was a regular at the Electric Fetus as well as a few other dusty shops in the Whittier neighborhood. I bought punk and post-punk and new wave and jazz and soundtracks and classical and electronica, then expanded into funky new-wave Nordic music and dub and neo-soul and soul and 1960s-era American and European singers and a few blues cds. I hauled boxes and boxes and boxes with me to Montreal, then set out to buy even more.

I ended up buying hundreds and hundreds of cds in the shops along Mont Royal and St Denis and Peel—but this was due in no small part to my apartment having been burglarized my first Thanksgiving in the city. Hundreds of those cds were replacements, but hundreds more were music which was recommended to me by music clerks and friends and stuff I’d heard on the McGill and U of Montreal radio stations and read about in the alt weeklies. I picked up Daniel Boulanger and Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Sam Roberts and Athena knows how many chill cds.

I listened to it all.

My cd-buying fell off when I moved to Somerville, in part due to my reduced financial circumstances, but I still hit up shops in Somerville, Cambridge, and Boston, adding both replacement and new stuff. I had so damned many cds that they overflowed my (generous) storage; I followed my downstairs-neighbors’ lead and took them all out of their jewel cases and just kept them in their sleeves in boxes.

Which is how I transported them to New York. I bought a few cds here, but the urge to survey the scene fell off and never returned: my desire for music had always been abstain-or-binge, but for the past few years I simply haven’t been interested.

It’s not even that cd shops are scarce: there are still plenty o’ joints in the East and West Villages where I could score tunes if I wanted, and, of course, I could always download stuff.  Nor is it that I hate all new music: I think Lady Gaga has fine set of pipes and I’m charmed by Adele and and Janelle Monae is somethin’ else and I’ll hear bits on WNYC or in stores and think Oh, that’s nice.

But the urgency, the need, to own music is gone. I don’t even bother buying music by acts I already know I like—Emmylou and Beth Orton and GY!BE—much less feel that I have to make any effort to find something new.

C. has said that there really is nothing new out there, and I think she may have a point. Some of the newer stuff I like sounds a lot like the music I listened to in the 1980s, so why not just listen to the old stuff? The one genre in which I have bought stuff is classical and (a very few cds of) opera, and that because it is all new to me.

It’s not bad that my enthusiasm has waned—more money for books!—but it is a loss. I loved music, loved listening to it and thinking about it and searching it out and sharing it and dancing to it and everything everything everything. I’ve lost something I loved.

So, I have a plan. I’m going to listen to every cd I own, in (rough genre-and-alphabetical) order, to re-acquaint myself with the sounds that once so moved me.

I’m not trying to recapture my youth (hah!) or somehow go back in time, but given how much this all once mattered, it’s worth it to see if I can recover or rediscover what was once there.

If not, if it’s gone, then I’ll let it go, I’ll let it all go.

But I don’t think it’s gone. I think I just need to crouch down and put my face close and gently blow those fading chords back to life.

Young Americans

2 10 2008

I can’t stand it—having fleas headline my blog. So even tho’ it’s late and I don’t really have anything to say, I thought I’d offer the music list for some cds I made some years ago for my niece. (No, I don’t know if she ever actually listened to them.)


Songs For An American Girl:
Know Yer Pop! (I)
Marvin Gaye: I Heard It Through the Grapevine
John Lennon: Instant Karma
Bruce Springsteen: Born to Run
U2: Seconds
Talking Heads: Burning Down the House
Romeo Void: A Girl in Trouble
Lou Reed: Walk on the Wild Side
Police: Invisible Sun
Pretenders: Brass in Pocket
Midnight Oil: Beds Are Burning
Gang of Four: Call Me Up
Elvis Costello: (The Angels Wanna Wear My)
Red Shoes
David Bowie: Under Pressure
Beatles: With a Little Help from My Friends
John Cougar Mellencamp: Jack and Diane
Violent Femmes: blister in the sun
Sly & the Family Stone: Everyday People
Diana Ross & the Supremes: Reflections
10,000 Maniacs: Peace Train

Songs For An American Girl:
Know Yer Pop! (II)
Clash: This Is Radio Clash
BoDeans: Fadeaway
Eddie Cochran: Somethin’ Else
Jam: Town Called Malice
Belly: Feed the Tree
CCR: Bad Moon Rising
Patsy Cline: Walkin’ After Midnight
Five Stairsteps: Ooh Child
Pretenders: Stop Your Sobbing
REM: It’s the End of the World As We Know It
World Party: Way Down Now
Police: When the World is Running Down
Primitives: sick of it
Eurythmics: Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)
Kate Bush: Running Up That Hill
Blondie: Call Me
Replacements: Achin’ To Be
Garbage: Only Happy When It Rains
Joni Mitchell: Chelsea Morning
Nick Drake: Pink Moon
Bob Dylan: The Times They Are A-Changing

Songs for An American Girl:
Know Yer Pop! (III)
B-52’s: Love Shack
Van Morrison: Moondance
Temptations: Treat Here Like A Lady
Roy Orbison: Oh Pretty Woman
Sinéad O’Connor: nothing compares 2U
Elton John: Tiny Dancer
Cranberrries: Linger
Earth Wind & Fire: Got To Get You Into My
Elvis Costello: Sneaky Feelings
Terence Trent D’Arby: Wishing Well
CCR: Susie Q
Macy Gray: Why Didn’t You Call Me?
Janis Joplin: Me and Bobby McGee
Wilson Pickett: Mustang Sally
Bruce Springsteen: Hungry Heart
Clash: Should I Stay or Should I Go?
Patty Smith: because the night
Violent Femmes: add it up

Songs For An American Girl:
Know Yer Pop! (IV)
Feelies: Time For A Witness
Clash: Rock the Casbah
Dead Kennedys: California Über Alles
U2: The Refugee
Police: Message In A Bottle
REM: Radio Free Europe
Marvin Gaye: What’s Going On
Gang of Four: I Love A Man In A Uniform
Beck: Loser
Chambers Brothers: Time Has Come Today
Peter Gabriel: games without frontiers
David Bowie: Space Oddity
Otis Redding: (Sittin’ On)The Dock of the Bay
Pogues: Thousands Are Sailing
Michelle Shocked: (Making the Run to)
Mamas & the Papas: California Dreaming
B-52’s: Roam
Three Dog Night: Joy To The World

There are other cds for other family members; I guess I’ll post them when I need another palate cleanser.

And yeah, these lists are limited, because I drew from my own cd collection (as opposed to pulling songs off Napster or iTunes or wherever); I’m old-fashioned like that. Oh, and I think the idea was to create ‘historical’ discs. Whatever.

Off to read Bedlam Farm. A fine way to close out the evening.