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Music to my ears

Published October 29. 2011 09:01AM


Antaeus was a Libyan giant, who demanded that every stranger who crossed his boundaries wrestle with him. He bested them all, killed them, and used their skulls to roof the house of his father, Poseidon. (I'll bet that roof leaked. Then again, I guess it was already under water.)

Hercules figured out that Antaenius drew his strength from the earth. Once he knew that, whipping Gadhaffi's mythical predecessor was easy. Hercules hoisted Antaeus off the ground, causing the old boy's strength to drain away.

Just call me Antaenius.

Relax ... the only skulls I have are on my Grateful Dead albums. But, like Antaeus needing to touch the earth, I need to tap into my traditional source of strength ... my vinyl LPs. Every so often, when I'm feeling puny, I put a 12-inch album on my ancient turn table, put my headphones on my ears, kick back with a glass of cheap red wine, and soak in Springsteen, the Doors, Van Morrison ... in other words, the Greats ... the Classics. I arise renewed.

I pity the younger generation. They suffer from "Sixties Envy." They revere the Beatles and the Stones. They flock to Buffett and Bruce concerts. But they will never know the pure joy of peeling the cellophane from a brand new record album, slipping the shiny black 12-inch disk from its sleeve, and dropping the needle into the groove. They'll never get a bonus 24"x36" poster with the 99 cent downloads to their iPods. They get no album notes or pictures on an album sleeve. They are culturally deprived.

And the "music." Well ... it's all run through the same electronic blender, if you ask me. No longer do bands go into studios and cut take after take, until the producer gives the thumbs up. Now it's all overlaying one musician's track onto another and yet another, until an electronic layer cake comes out the other end. To my old ears, it all sounds the same.

The great rock and roll was all written in the Sixties and Seventies (all right, maybe a bit in the Eighties, as well). Except for the Greats, who still tour, such as Jimmy and Bruce, my daughter's generation is left with an anemic echo of the music of MY generation.

No wonder the kids still worship my musical heroes.


I hate to be a traitor to my generation, but you won't get any argument from me that a lot of music today is somewhat … lacking. I have been known to rock out to Britney, Rihanna, and Kesha with the best of them well, not Kesha, Kesha is taking it one step too far but it's not like I'm deluded enough to think that those pop starlets are revolutionizing music. Sometimes I'm not even entirely sure that they're making music, period. But they do churn out the catchy choruses, don't they?

The technology we use to listen to the music now, however, is an entirely different story.

I'm sure many a person would claim that the only way to listen to an album is on vinyl, but I challenge that person to give "Born to Run" just one listen on an iPod. Perhaps it doesn't hold the same nostalgic charm, but the sound quality is unbeatable. And maybe an impressive record collection holds more clout than the collection on your iPod, but honestly: who among us can eschew the remarkable, not to mention convenient, experience of holding 14,000 songs in the palm of your hand? Imagine keeping 14,000 records in your basement.

Of course, as with so many things, it's the convenience that kills me in the end. Back when I was in middle school and iPods were just a glimmer in Steve Jobs' brilliant mind, I had to pick and choose the music I invested in very carefully. When the latest B*Witched album hit stores, I had to weigh the pros and cons. I even wrote a list: yes, "C'est La Vie" and "Rollercoaster" were awesome songs, but the rest of the album was kind of lackluster, and that song "Oh Mr. Postman" was actually awful, so did I truly want to spend my twelve dollars on it? And so my sixth grade mind deliberated.

The Spice Girls and the Backstreet Boys endured the same rigorous test each time they came out with a new CD. I took time to consider all my options, and to weigh each musician's benefit against my meager piggy bank account.

Today, though, if I only like one or two songs on an album, I can click iTunes on my laptop and download just those two songs. For 99 cents each! Which seems wise and thrifty in the moment, but trust me, a year or two down the line you will find yourself looking at the "Purchased" section of your iPod and realizing you've downloaded 1,433 individual songs, adding up to at least 1,433 dollars. And suddenly you feel far less thrifty and much more annoyed about that time you caved in to peer pressure and "ironically" bought all those Color Me Badd singles while in the throes of a dreadfully misguided 90s music obsession. Trust me.

So maybe the old fogies are right; maybe vinyl is the way to go. But I think I need some Lady Gaga on in the background while I decide. Let me just make one quick purchase on iTunes …

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