Thursday, April 28, 2011

For the Record....

I am 42.  I'll be 43 in October.  I'm getting to the point in my life where I've now seen trends and institutions come and go.  One way our world has completely changed since 1968 is the way we listen to music.

Growing up, my parents had a hi-fi set.  It sat on a metal cart and the speakers were really mod.  I would KILL for them now, but they actually scared me a little bit when I was a kid.  The were hourglass-shaped and groovy - and I couldn't find a single image of them when searching the Interwebs.

I grew up in the Seventies, which meant you either listened to LPs (which I did) or 8-Track (which I did not).  I didn't actually hear an 8-track until the Nineties, when my first husby Dan played one.  It's easy to see why they didn't last - who could tolerate a song fading to black, a "click" and then returning on the next track?!  It's maddening!

There are a few music memories from my childhood that I will always carry with me - singing along to the Carpenters' "Top of the World" 45 single; getting "Barry Manilow's Greatest Hits" from my Uncle Joe for Christmas, 1978 (I was a HUGE "Fanilow"); buying Billy Joel's "Glass Houses" with my Grammie for my 12th birthday in 1980; and getting Brian Adams' "Cuts Like a Knife" for my birthday in 1983.  Then, for Christmas of that same year, I got my very first (real) "Compact Cassette" - The Police's "Synchronicity" (before that we would just tape songs off the radio with my sister's boombox).

Just think of all the format changes that occurred in the first 15 years of my life, compared to my parents'.  When I turned 15 my parents were 62 and 37, and for their whole lives prior it was only LPs or, in my dad's case, 78s first.  But along came rock and/or roll, and it changed EVERYTHING.

I got my first CD in 1988 - Yaz's (Yazoo in the UK) "Upstairs at Eric's".  This is an unfortunate first-anything to admit - I think I bought it on recommendation from some new-wave/industrial kid that I worked with at the time.  Even though I had turned the corner, tapes were still a huge part of my life - until 2005.  That's the year that Brian got an iPod.

When you think about this contraption, it truly is incredible.  No more storing bulky, heavy records, tapes or CDs!  You can find that song you're looking for in two seconds!  It's totally portable and convenient! (Irony of ironies, I don't feel this way about the Kindle AT ALL.  Long live REAL books!)

In 2008, we finally bit the bullet and transferred all of our CDs onto our iTunes account and sold them all at my in-law's rummage sale.  This was bittersweet - we made a ton of money but there was no turning back.  Also, with iTunes you don't bother with liner notes or cover art anymore - half the reason why I loved buying music in the first place!

Which (FINALLY!) brings us to the ephemera portion of this post - is music ephemera a lost art?  What will become of all of those 45 sleeves and album covers?  What about the little inserts that came with your cassettes?  Or that flimsy slip of glossy paper that ripped so often when you'd try to fit it back into the CD jewel case?

Sure, we can find all the info online for free, but as we Ephemeraologists know, it's just not the same.  I enjoyed memorizing the lyrics to my fave songs whilst listening in headphones!  I liked reading the "credits" in the liner notes and the little inside jokes that musicians would throw in somewhere on the album cover.  Is this all lost now?

I fear that it is becoming so.  Which is why, when I find vintage 45s (pre 1975) at estate sales, I always try to pick one or two up.  We no longer own a turntable (something I want to remedy) so when I find just the sleeves it's an even bigger jackpot.  I've even purchased lots of them online.

And because I love these artsy pieces of paper so much - ESPECIALLY the sleeves wiht just the record label on them - I like using them in my artwork too.  Here are a few examples:

ATC made with the sleeve from "Dont
Let's Start" from They Might be
Giants.  Back in '07 my awesome sis
Jen brought her entire stash of
cassette liners over and we made art
with them (those are hers you see in
the photo above).  It was SO FUN!


  1. Well Mel - add an extra "ten" and I have even more memories - but I agree it is kind of sad we may lose the "art" of record covers. I have to say we have a lot of similar tastes (though I seem to recall my early fav group was Bread..). The first LP I ever got was the soundtrack to Hair (pretty risque on my parents part). I see old albums at the Sally Ann all the time - I need to go take a closer look (by the way They Must be Giants rock LOL). J

  2. I love album cover art - we have several Kate Bush albums framed on the wall of the den.

    Also, I'm still buying CDs. So there. :)