My office has become a pit of hell in recent weeks. It always becomes like this when I’m bogged down trying to complete a book. Problem is, I’ve done a lot of books over the nearly three years I’ve had this gaff. Consequently, I spend most of my time working in hell. This may be why the endings of my books are usually so crazed. I just can’t stand where I am or what I’m doing anymore.
So in an attempt to restore some sort of order, something liveable at least, about my workplace, I had the mother of all tidy-ups yesterday. Starting with all those CDs people out there keep sending me. Time was, you could gather up this unwanted crap, all by groups you never heard of, and pass it on to the neighbourhood nerd who would sell it for you. Or you could haul it in a black bin liner up to Cheapo Cheapo Records in Soho, or Steve’s, or Record & Tape Exchange, or any number of secondhand record dealers – or thieves as we used to call them as they handed you your twenty for the 100 CDs you just offloaded on them, including a handful of quite good ones, honest.
Well, those days are over. The shops are mainly gone. Along with the need for CDs. Mainly. So then I started giving them to charity shops. But even they don’t want them anymore, not unless they are by The Carpenters or Cliff Richard. So in the bin they go. Yup, that’s one of the dirty little secrets of music journalism, sooner or later your precious CD that you sent out with all the hopes and dreams of the box-fresh beginner, or hopeless loser/has-been, end up not being cherished by music journos, but in the bin. One way or the other. These days, mainly the other. Just as my own early efforts did, again and again.
Especially these days as we already have all the music, new or old, we’re ever gonna need, thanks to our old-new friends at YouTube. Today, for example, I have been digging Miles Davis’s 1972 album, Jack Johnson. Not the original vinyl, though I could if I’d wanted, nor of course the inferior 1992 CD, though I could if I wanted, but the 2003 CD digital thingy which has the best sound. I liked it so much in fact I then clicked on the 4CD box set and had a go at that too. Followed by a 1971 concert from Berlin featuring Miles with his amazing electro band featuring Herbie Hancock and all those groovy cats.
You think given all that I’ve got time to stick on a CD from a band that still wishes it was 1987 and they could go on tour with Guns N’ Roses, or at a pinch, Faster Pussycat?
And yes, it seems books are going the same way. Though there the opposite is true in my case, as no amount of Googling or Youtube-ing will bring me the thrill of reading my smelly millionth-hand 90p copy of Raging Bull by Jake La Motta that I recently bought at Oxford market, along with two carrier bags full of similarly exciting stuff, or on the other end of the scale, my 1976 first edition facsimilie of The Book Of The Goetia of Solomon The King, originally published by Jimmy Page’s bookshop, Equinox, back in 1976, ‘edited, verified, introduced and commented’ by Aleister Crowley’. This was bought for a couple of hundred pounds back when I was researching my Zeppelin biography, which I mention just to show how far I and others will go – and pay – to get our hands on something meaningful.
It’s just that 99 per cent of ‘new’ artists’ CDs are not meaningful. Even the ones by the artists you have heard of aren’t worth much of a listen, not when laid end to end with the greats. And, pardon for me for over-reiterating, but what is an album anymore anyway? There is no physical object, therefore no need to only contain 40 minutes of music, or, in the CD age, 60 minutes of music, or – now – even 15 seconds of music. Damn it, my new computer (the cheapest of its kind, please note) does not even play CDs anymore.
The message being: LOVE MUSIC. Don’t have time to sit through CDs by people I have absolutely no connection with. Sending me your CDs will not change a thing. Ask the Foo Fighters, Nirvana, Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, or really going back, Zeppelin, Purple and Sabbath… none of whom sent me their early records or demos either. None of whom needed me or anyone else from the press to come along to their early dingy gigs. They made it simply because what they did was undeniable.
Is what you do undeniable? My heartiest congrats if it is. But you definitely won’t be needing any help from me if it is. And you definitely won’t get it if it isn’t. Either way, you’re on your own. can you handle that? No? Then quit. Oh, you think you are good enough. Then prove it by not sending me or anyone else your CDs, just letting the fans discover it. The only barometer of taste that really counts.
So in the bin you go, cluttering CD and press release mulch. Ah… I feel so much better now… don’t you?