Jan 26, 2012

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I Miss CD Jackets

I Miss CD Jackets
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I’m a 90’s girl at heart. Or, to be more precise, I am a Generation Catalano Gal. I have thousands of songs on my iPod, and a good majority of them came out in that decade – and a good majority of those I bought as CD’s when I worked at Wherehouse Music from 1995-1998 (a great time for music!). My ex-husband accused me often of loving Music more than him. Maybe he was right… but, moving on!

When my husband, Adam, and I decided to use some of my inheritance to get an iPod in April of 2008, I recall being a little bit skeptical. How can this device that fits in my pocket be as cool as all these CD towers? We also used some of the inheritance to have the honeymoon we never had, and took a trip for a week. I spent hours in preparation with the laptop and a stack of CD’s uploading my hundreds of disks onto iTunes, and I still didn’t get them all on before our plane departed. But once we were driving around in Vegas listening to whatever songs I chose with the push of a button, I was hooked. After a few months with our iPod, I couldn’t imagine how I survived as long without this magical creation. I spent hours on the laptop sifting songs into different playlists for different moods or events or people; it was a natural evolution from my time spent making mixed tapes in my youth, carefully selecting songs that would balance out each other, and leaving space for rewinding to make¬† sure you couldn’t hear the “click” from stopping the recording. The DJ in me saw so many possibilities of arrangement, and I began to seek out more music to add to my collection.

While I may be a vocalist, I am also a musician, so when I hear music, I hear the whole thing. Ironically, the last part in a song I tend to focus on is the words. And even once I hear them, I usually misinterpret them. As you can imagine, one doesn’t really enjoy hearing someone cover a song and sing the wrong lyrics (yes, I’ve done it)! In these days it is somewhat easy, for all I have to do is Google them and they’re there. I don’t think they’re always correct, but they are available. However, way before the internet was something I used, I would spend hours in front of my stereo, listening to the same song over and over again, with a CD jacket in hand, memorizing the lyrics printed straight from the band themselves.

So, a couple of months ago, I disagreed with some online lyrics. I swore, that back in my jacket-reading days, the lyrics said one thing, and all the lyrics on the internet said another. I don’t even recall what artist or song, but I remember being SO sure of myself. What did I do, you ask? Well, I got frustrated! I realized that since having a digital version of all my music, I packed away all of those silly CD’s and towers that were taking up so much space. They are in a box “somewhere” in our attic storage, and they aren’t in alphabetical order.

All of this got me thinking: are we missing out on a connection with the musicians we so admire by not holding a CD Jacket in our hand while listening to their music? And I am here to answer: I think so.

A CD Jacket isn’t just lyrics, and that is what makes it so enigmatic. When I download music off of the internet, I get to hear the artist(s), but when I hold an album’s notes or cassette jacket or CD jacket in my hand, I get to experience their energy as well. All of this packaging ends up being another artistic medium of expression for these amazing musicians we all want to hear and see and experience. Yes, they print their lyrics (if they choose to), but they also choose how those lyrics are presented. Most have notes of appreciation for those who helped make their music possible, and information about the people in the band. You get to see who wrote the lyrics to each song, and who helped to create the whole thing. And, finally, you get ART. You get a physical artistic representation of this musical entity they have created. The musicians get an opportunity to not only play to you what they had in mind but to show you what they had in mind, bringing in more senses than just our hearing.

I miss that connection with the artist as a person – as an expression in creativity. When my favorite artist, Erykah Badu,¬† came out with her last album, I rushed to buy the physical, tangible CD. I kept the CD jacket in my bag for months, checking out the art and seeing if I heard the words correctly. I read articles about interpreting the cover, and wondered where she found such symbolism. I realized then, and recently, how much I miss the CD Jacket as an unquestionable part of buying music. There’s just nothing like holding that little booklet in your hand; a little part of the artist themselves. A gift from them to you, for you to interpret and appreciate as you please. I wonder where that big box of CD’s is…

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  1. A progression in size and content on the packaging, from LPs to CDs to downloads. Like the progression from letters (remember them?) to emails to tweets.

    Re art: I can remember when I first bought Santana’s “Abraxas” album. I memorized every square inch of that cover, while listening to that incredible music. My visual artistic journey was helped by two factors:

    1. The amount of marijuana in my system at the time, and

    2. The beautiful nude black woman who is prominently featured on the cover. (The stores at the time didn’t know what to do about her! They managed to over her with “Sale” signs stuck to the cellophane wrapper…)

    I subsequently purchased the same music on CD (Wife #1 got the record collection). I looked at the cover — the intricate detail was so small it was invisible… my “Black Magic Woman” was the size of a postage stamp. Oh well…

    Peace,

    Sharif

  2. I miss my collection of Peter, Paul & Mary records. I had every one they made. I sold them to help finance my move to Oregon in 1991 when I drove a U-Haul truck hauling my blue Honda Civic from Upland, California to Roseburg, Oregon. I loved those LP covers, not so much for the photos but for the album notes. The notes on the back cover were more than just a review. They were love notes from other musicians or people in the business who really knew Peter Yarrow, Paul Stookey and Mary Travers. Reading those album notes was like sitting down with a familiar and talking about mutual friends. Made me nod my head and say, “Yeh, man, you know what you’re talkin about.”

  3. Some albums come with digital booklets, which are cool, but I agree that nothing beats the physical packaging. I have about 10 CDs that I keep just for the packaging. I don’t even have a decent CD player anymore!

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