Reflections on years of collecting pieces of plastic

I’m on vacation this week, and I fully expected it to lead to more blog posts here, but that hasn’t happened since I’ve been spending as much time as possible away from the computer so I’m not tempted to check and see how things are going at TOC in my absence. Instead, I’ve been knocking off some long-overdue projects around the house.

Today, for instance, I tackled a project that’s been hanging over my head for months: re-organizing my CDs. I’ve been dividing things into three piles: discs that I’ve loaded into iTunes and can be put into storage; discs that I don’t want in iTunes for space reasons, but still want easy access to; and the stuff I’m selling off. So for example: the double-disc version of The Very Best of Elvis Costello is in the first category, my copy of his Get Happy! album is in the second, and the single-disc version of Very Best that came out several years ago is in the sell pile. (I’m assuming Reckless still buys CDs. It’s been so long since I’ve sold CDs, Sean Fanning was still in high school.)

I’ve said before that it’s important to me to have a visual representation of this part of who I am in my home, and the piece I wrote a while back was pretty clear on how important it is to me that the records I share with others are reflective of my personal taste. Unfortunately, this plan means the discs on my shelves don’t necessarily reflect that. For example, I’d be mightily confused if I looked at someone’s collection of CDs and saw that the only Clash disc they have is Combat Rock, which is one of the lousiest “classic” albums you’ll ever encounter. I’d also wonder about the kind of person who only owns one James Brown album (James Brown’s Funky Christmas), but saw fit to purchase all three Sheryl Crow albums. Obviously, this means I can never have anyone over to the apartment.

Most of these CDs have been in boxes for the better part of a year and a half, and looking at them is like seeing old friends, particularly the numerous mix CDs my college friends I were trading for a year or so back in the early aughts. This probably explains why I’m having trouble parting with some discs, but does not explain why I am hanging onto that one Nikka Costa album, though I am sure it is the same reason why that Lisa Stansfield album isn’t going anywhere either. I am such a sucker for a pretty face and a little R&B street cred, no matter how long past its sell-by date it is.

There’s a lot of personal history here, like the time I went out and bought three (!!!) Don Henley solo albums because I was in a really big Eagles phase. I still remember my friend Rick asking “Why don’t you just buy more Eagles albums?” I didn’t have an answer for him then, and still don’t. I’ve also got mixes I made for when my friends and I drove to South Carolina for a friend’s wedding, for parties I threw, and to mark the holidays, among other occasions. And I still have the Ultradisc gold CD version of Queen’s A Night At The Opera (yes, you can tell the difference in sound quality) I bought in high school. It was $27. I was a huge fan, I did not have a girlfriend, and i had little else to do with the money I made at Bakers Square.

Speaking of, I was talking with a friend from high school this week about albums that are tough for me to listen to, even though they’re really great. I was listening to Art Brut’s first album and Tralala’s self-titled a lot when my ex- and I broke up in 2006, but I tend to avoid both of those now. Thanks to a breakup in college, I have a similar reaction when I hear No Doubt’s “Don’t Speak” or Sheryl Crow’s “My Favorite Mistake” though both of those songs are kind of crap, so no great loss there. But man I miss hearing Art Brut and Tralala, devoid of personal context. I carry those with me on my iPod, perhaps hoping that one day I will.

On the other hand, that really shitty Nina Gordon record went on the sell pile. You know how when you’re depressed, you start doing all kinds of things that are really bad for you? I can tell how unhappy I was in my life by the records I was buying. I had two rough patches in 2000 and in 1997, two years in which I purchased that Nina Gordon album and – I kid you not – the soundtrack to Ally McBeal, respectively. I enjoyed those records like someone who convinces themselves that they are in love with someone who treats them like shit. If you ever see me buy a Celine Dion record, please know that this is a silent cry for help.

Overall, the sell pile is pretty small. I know there are some people who wouldn’t understand why I don’t just burn everything onto an MP3, and toss the lot of it. But I don’t have a lot of pictures of the people I’m close to, or the important times we shared together.

But it’s pretty likely I remember what CD we were listening to at the time. And it’s nice to pull it out and look at it, now and again.

* Can someone explain to me why this album is still in print, but the version of the English Beat’s I Can’t Stop It** with “Tears of a Clown” on it, is not?
** My copy is safely ensconced in the storage pile, and loaded into iTunes.

6 comments for “Reflections on years of collecting pieces of plastic

  1. October 25, 2007 at 4:04 pm

    Ah yes. I’ve actually been re-loading a bunch of songs onto my iPod at higher kbps so I’ve been doing the same unpacking of boxes … and finally broke off the huge saran wrap holding the thousands of CD in my huge bookshelf cases.I sometimes miss CDs when I’m DJing too … sometimes I would come up with really interesting juxtapositions just flipping through the books.I am also pleased to hear you found your copy of the <>Josie and the Pussycats<> soundtrack. About time!

  2. Tim
    October 25, 2007 at 8:36 pm

    I think I remember when you bought that Queen CD.

  3. October 25, 2007 at 9:13 pm

    Do you remember how I carried it around with me with my books on the way to class? Seriously, I was like a little girl with a picture of Corey Haim.

  4. October 26, 2007 at 3:29 pm

    For unloading CDs I don’t want I’ve been doing a lot of that on lala.com. Basically you are trading for things you want, the cost is $1.75 for every CD you receive. I really like it.

  5. Sara
    October 26, 2007 at 6:39 pm

    Your mix cds are a huge hit at our house!! The girls love them :) They already asked when we can get out the Christmas ones…

  6. October 26, 2007 at 8:22 pm

    I was just saying to Erin that I plan on putting together a new on for this year, so clear a bit more space on your shelf!

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