Here’s some news: the compact disc celebrated it’s thirtieth birthday yesterday. I think it was a pretty rough milestone for the poor guy, who hasn’t been looking so good lately. He’s still fightin’ it out, though. I for one still really like CDs.
A year or so ago we posted five favorite CDs we’d like to see reissued on vinyl (see the list here). So far as I know our wishes haven’t come true yet. Still, a lot of cool CD-only favorites, like the Uncle Tupelo albums for instance, have seen nice LP reissues recently.
People often joke that we must really hate CDs or something. The truth is we’ve got a whole lot of ‘em both at home and in the record shop, and nobody here has any hard feelings about it all. Lots of great local releases the past couple years have been only issued on CDs (or as downloads). The City Pages‘ most recent “best album of the past 12 months” was the Cactus Blossoms’ debut disc, which would be a fun thing to have on an LP but is just as good no matter how the sound gets out of your speakers. It’s just good, and I’m far more interested in music than I am in records so I don’t mind having CDs at all.
Except they’re so small. Mine get disorganized all the time. And they’re super easy to lose. And scratch.
We still have the CD player my parents bought in 1988, and it still works perfectly. I’ve built it into the console stereo in our living room and it’s what I use to play nearly all the CDs I listen to. We usually have one in the shop too, but the fucker broke down on us right before his big dumb birthday. It wouldn’t be so frustrating except that the listening station CD player had done about the same a couple days earlier, and the very same day I realized I couldn’t fix either Jack Klatt brought in a disc of his next album. I had to wait until I closed the record shop so I could play it at home (totally worth the wait, by the way).
CDs just seem so much less reliable than albums. I seem to lose or scratch mine a lot more than I do with records. And CDs don’t last forever. Not even the ones you bought new. Especially not the ones you burned on your computer. I’m guessing that most of the serious record collectors who are regulars at Hymie’s also have shelves of CDs, some of which are treasured and potentially irreplaceable. We do, whether it’s a mix a friend made or a disc bought at a show. But they aren’t like records, there’s a good chance they’ll be no good when I’m an old man and I finally have time to go back and listen for the nuances in Jon Cougar Concentration Camp albums.
So there’s a mixed message to our tribute to the CD. There was a time when I was a kid that I felt jealous of people who had a lot of them. Now I’ve got stacks that probably aren’t even in the right cases, or in cases at all. I remember how mind-blowingly awesome it was when you could make your own CDs, and how much I was excited to make really awesome “professional-looking” versions of my mix tapes. I remember trying to convince friends to let me connect my turntable to their computers and how magical it was when the machine would spit out that perfect replication of my favorite jams.
To the CD at thirty and to my folks’ Optimus player at a youthful 24, I say cheers! Here’s to thirty more! If only there were a song that captured the CD’s plucky persistence as surely as CDs have captured clean digital reproductions of your favorites time and time again. Ha, it would be even better if the song came from the first album sold on a commercial disc. That would be perfect…
(“My Life” by Billy Joel)
Ironically, I had to go to the shop and record this song off a 45.