Nice article. Much like you, I have stopped buying CDs, the last new one being Blurryface by Twenty One Pilots about five years ago. I do still play all of my old CDs though, never having ripped them to FLAC files. I only have about 100 or so, and it seemed like too much work for that limited amount of music. So I never got into the whole computer-as-a-music-server thing.
Besides, as you touched on in your article, there is something satisfying about the ritual of playing physical media. I spend all day on a laptop for work, so playing CDs is a nice disconnect from that. And when I pick out a CD, I reminisce about why I bought that particular CD, and what was going on with my musical tastes at the time.
As I type this, I am listening to the original motion picture soundtrack of Singles, which came out in 1992. Seeing Soundgarden and Alice in Chains perform in a bar in the movie sent me searching for the soundtrack. Now, almost every time I listen to it, I replay the scene in the diner in my head—Matt Dillon, with Eddie Vedder and other members of Pearl Jam, reading the scathing review of Citizen Dick’s latest album. Or the scene where Matt Dillon, with Chris Cornell standing next to him, demonstrates the stereo he has put in her car to Bridget Fonda, and promptly blows her windows out.
I guess I am much more intentional with my listening when playing CDs, and that leads to the memories. I will never give up my CDs while there are still players to be had. I’m playing this CD right now on a Denon DVD-910 hooked up to the optical input of SVS Prime Wireless powered speakers, and it sounds pretty damn good. I picked up the Denon for $30, figuring if it lasts a year, it’s money well spent. Long live the CD.
Peace and happy listening,
Auburn Hills, MI
You’ve touched on one aspect of physical media that I didn’t think to cover in my piece: the nostalgia of objects. As the meme below says, nobody remembers their first download, but everybody remembers their first record. Or CD. Or, hell, even cassette tape. It’s true that most of my music listening these days comes via Qobuz or from my own ripped CDs, but there’s something symbolic about physical media that I don’t want to lose, no matter how inconvenient it may be.
Every time I hold the packaging for Electric Ladyland in my hands, I’m taken back to the bygone days of my childhood in the mid-1970s, when a day-care worker asked us to bring in our favorite records for a show and tell. I brought the only album I owned: Birth of the Bionic Man, a sort of radio-play version of The Six Million Dollar Man. Another kid cribbed his brother’s copy of Electric Ladyland, and when it was his turn to give it a spin, the rest of the kids in my group were positively horrified. I was awestruck. I asked the kid if he wanted to trade records, and he gladly swapped vinyl with me. I’m sure he got a heck of a whooping when he got home. And that is the story of how I acquired my first grown-up record.
My first CD purchase was the 1984 reissue of Steely Dan’s Aja (such a stereotype, I know, but I love me some yacht rock). I’ve upgraded many times since then, with all the esoteric Japanese re-releases and SACD reissues, and the remastered 1999 CD release (MCA Records 088 112 056-2)—the best-sounding version of this album by a country mile—but I still hang on to my original tattered, old CD for reasons that I’ve never really put much thought into until now. There’s some personal history wrapped up in that jewel case. I can hold it in my hand and instantly be transported back to a simpler time.
Thanks for the trip down memory lane, Joe. And don’t ever throw out your old flannel shirts.