Sunday, March 1, 2020


As previously discussed, I like to prefer my own copies of songs and albums instead of streaming them. To that end, my Sony Walkman – I also insist on having my own dedicated music player, instead of just using my phone – is required to hold my CD collection, which was founded in 1996 with Alanis Morrissette’s album “Jagged Little Pill.” Right now, my Walkman holds six THOUSAND, six hundred and ninety-nine individual tracks, with some CDs left to transfer. 

There are duplicates in that total number: I have two copies of Madonna’s “Express Yourself,” two of Devo’s “Working in a Coal Mine,” and three of “Love Potion No. 9” by The Clovers. This is due to a small indulgence I make every so often: buying those cheap CD compilations you find in supermarkets, with titles like “100 Hits: The Best 80s Groove Album,” or “Now 100 Hits – Forgotten 90s.” These collections are usually made up of four or five discs, come in a cardboard sleeve, list no more than track names, artists, song writer credits and copyright information, and will be sold for no more than seven pounds, usually averaging at £5.

This is not simply a case of bulking out my CD collection. For one thing, outside from specialist shows and online streaming, “classic hits” or “gold” radio stations are moving away from older songs – the famous New York station WCBS-FM no longer plays songs from earlier than 1970, and has started playing tracks from the 2000s. There is also a nice feeling to find that a song you considered downloading, like “Good Stuff” by the B52s, turns out to be a song you owned after all.

I mostly prefer buying CDs over downloads due to cost. I may only spend 99p, or 79p, on a single track when a CD is very difficult to get or, in the case of Graham Gouldman’s soundtrack to the film “Animalympics,” it was only ever available on vinyl. However, so long as I can find about six or seven tracks on a compilation that I would consider downloading, I will buy the CD – I will eventually listen to the other seventy to ninety songs anyway, or discover a new favourite among the ones I didn’t realise I already had.

To illustrate, my most recent purchase of this kind was “The Hits Album: The 60s Album,” a four-disc, eighty-song collection from Sony and Universal. Seven songs will put me ahead of iTunes, although the CD quality, greater than MP3 and AAC, has already done that:

“Space Oddity (Deram Version)” – David Bowie: made for a promotional film Bowie made while at his first record label, but not seen or heard until 1984, this feels like a demo of the version everyone knows, recorded four months later, that sounds far more layered, and more confident. It is a moment in time, one that would have dismissed Bowie as a novelty act if it was heard at the time.

“This Wheel’s On Fire” – Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity: also known as the theme tune of “Absolutely Fabulous,” for which Driscoll sang with Jennifer Saunders’ husband, Adrian Edmondson.

“Tainted Love" – Gloria Jones: Soft Cell and Marilyn Manson still have nothing on the original, faster version.

“You Don’t Own Me” – Lesley Gore: a song whose message of emancipation survived its being used in ads by Armani and House of Fraser.

“The Name Game” – Shirley Ellis: Leigh, Leigh, bo-lee, bo-na-na, fanna fo fee, fee fi mo-me. Leigh!

“The More I See You” – Chris Montez: searching the lyrics brought up the Michael Bublé version first. Not everything needs the big band treatment.

“Cinderella Rockefella” – Esther & Abi Ofarum: why not?

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