Thursday, May 14, 2009

Teenage Lobotomy

During my last visit to my parents home, I picked up 2 crates of CDs in the basement. They had been there for over a year and I realized that at this point, I might as well add them together with the 2 crates currently in my apartment and sell off whatever I can though I have come to realize that I don't really have any attachment to CDs over music on my iPod. I can understand why those who grew up in an age of only vinyl find comfort in the physical product, but I've come to accept that such sentimentality no longer exists for me within CD liner notes.

This apathy was confirmed when, within 4 days of entering my inventory into Half's database, my resolve was tested with the order indicated on the right side of the column. One person taking all 6 Elliott Smith studio albums. This had to be a test of resolve! I felt nothing packing them up and taking my $43 and change in return.

That said, it's obvious that when going through a music collection you learn about your past and present self. This is even more so the case when going through music you don't listen to anymore. You remember old guilty pleasures which now seem embarrassing, pleasures which probably should seem embarrassing but don't, and my favorite reaction, "How did I even end up with this album?" Among the things I learned while liquidating:

1. I stole a LOT of CDs in college
We would get so much music sent to the radio station, and about 90% of it was horrible. But often when receiving something worth playing or heavily anticipated, we'd get a few copies sent to us. A professional way to handle this would have been to put one copy of the album into rotation and give the other copies away as call-in promotions, but ethics have no place at a college radio station when your entire GM salary is $350 a semester.* Plus CD burners were just coming onto the scene, so how else was I supposed to get Built To Spill albums? Go buy it in a store with money I didn't have, or take the free one that's literally sitting in my lap a month before release? You do the math. In any event, a healthy portion of my CD selling descriptions include the phrase "Promotional stamp on front cover."

*Ethical sidenote: We once submitted our weekly playlist to CMJ and included a band that did not really exist. It was simply a name we came up with for when we played in our basement, and we thought it would be funny to see the name published in a magazine. It wasn't really that funny.

2. The Unmentioned Reason that record labels can't make money anymore
When entering album info, you have to input the UPC code from the back of the CD case. However, this UPC code is missing from all albums bought through the BMG music service or Columbia House - the companies that flooded every newspaper/magazine/mailbox with their "12 CD's for a penny" promotions in the hey day of CD sales. BMG's website indicates that they no longer accept new members, though apparently they're still serving current members? There are STILL current members of the BMG service? Columbia House has moved their racket into DVD sales (5 for 49 cents!) The majority of these CDs in my possession seem to come from the "default BMG starter kit collection." Eric Clapton Unplugged? Check. Automatic For the People? Check. The Division Bell? Hilariously, yes, though it falls under the "I don't ever remember acquiring this" banner. And of course, the banner album of the BMG service: Bat Out of Hell, which must owe 40% of copies sold to the power of mail-order.

The fact that this service came of age right as I was starting to finally buy my own music made for some solid binging.* As I recall, with BMG or Columbia House, you could place your initial order of 12 CDs without giving any credit card info (this policy changed pretty quickly as I recall) and then could simply send back the default album that they would send you every month at a cost of $19 each. I don't know how the services ever made money unless they just assumed people would be A) lazy enough to routinely buy albums at a markup instead of driving to a music store, or B) absentminded enough to forget to cancel or send offering back. As a 13-year-old who fell into column B, I forgot to send any music back until my parents received a bill of $40 for 2 months worth of music. The two albums I was sent in that time: The Best of Elvis Costello, and Johnny Gill's self-titled album. Guess which one I kept?

*Related: Up until this time, the only music (tapes, of course) that I received were from my mom on Christmas or birthdays, and usually any tape that I asked for would be accompanied by 2 or 3 that my mom would "give" me, even though I never asked for them, and they would conveniently end up in her car. I vividly recall unwrapping a package that included tapes of Billy Ocean and Peter Cetera. I requested neither of these, but in the long run they're probably each more respectable than the tape I DID ask for: Milli Vanilli.

3. Unsurprisingly, I've owned some awful albums
Here are the five worst albums I ever bought. The list is not numbered as they all tie for #1. This list is based solely on the album itself, or the band at the time of the album. For example, Smash by The Offspring - a still decent album of the genre - doesn't apply simply because that band later became a complete joke, but owning any Offspring album that is NOT Smash WOULD apply because every other album (and that band in general) is awful.
  • August and Everything After - Hootie and the Blowfish are the cultural punchline of 1990's pop chart dominators, but Hootie is nowhere near as embarrassing as Counting Crows. I would have a hard time compiling a list of friends who did NOT own this album, but history has taught us that will of the masses is no excuse for deplorable behavior. I tried to look up just how many copies this album sold, but hilariously I can't find any sales info past 1996. It's as if everyone just agreed after a couple years that we'd all be better served to stop counting our mistakes.
  • Rage Against the Machine - I may never be able to reconcile this. A major-label marketing stunt parading under the charade of anti-establishment "revolutionaries". The less said about them the better.
  • We Can't Be Stopped - This Geto Boys offering actually probably doesn't qualify as awful as much as simply bizarre. Toward the end of 8th grade when my entire class developed an affinity for rap, David Collins sold me this CD for $5. Within a week, he offered to buy it back for the same amount. That's how grade school business gets done apparently. I still love this Geto Boys video, especially the last 70 seconds which feature midget Bushwick Bill trick-or-treating, LEAPING to punch a guy in the face, and tossed onto a stretcher.
  • Kiss My Ass: Classic Kiss Regrooved - I've never owned a KISS album, but at one time I felt it necessary to buy a KISS tribute album. And why not? Who wouldn't want to hear Toad the Wet Sprocket's take of "Rock and Roll All Nite," performed in all it's mellow Toad the Wet Sprocket-ness? Evan Dando sleeping his way through "Plaster Caster" and Lenny Kravitz dropping a deuce on "Deuce" are among other highlights. Garth Brooks actually pulls off an excellent version of "Hard Luck Woman," but that high point cannot make up for...
  • Chris Gaines' Greatest Hits - This falls into the category of albums sent to the station that obviously would never be played, but I took it, so I will swallow my pride in the same fashion that Garth Brooks seemingly swallowed Trent Reznor's 1991 look. That said, we can't really treat songs like this as a complete joke if we're not going to do the same regarding the catalog of Babyface. Call it both way, America! Also it's worth noting that the wikipedia page for Chris Gaines A) exists! and B) has an entire biography on it! That someone took the time to write and edit! And it's more comprehensive than bios of Nobel Prize winners! You win again, internet.
"I won a damn Nobel Prize and my wikipedia page is a joke."

"Ask me about my fictional 1992 car crash!"

1 comment:

monkey said...

this is hilarious. I, too, was a victim of BMG and that's how I got the Arrested Development CD and probably why I can't remember how I got the Candlebox CD. CANDLEBOX???

Your Chris Gaines is not nearly as bad as my Garth Brooks BOX SET. My sister bought me that for Christmas one year thinking I was a huge fan. I am not. but these days I surely can sing "I Got Friends in Low Places" with the drunks at most weddings.

The first CDs I ever got were for Christmas. I got the Beatles Abbey Road, AC/DC's Who Made Who and Genesis' We Can't Dance. Wanna guess which one my sister bought me? BMG might have actually HELPED her musical taste