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The Collector

Music fandom is a personal affair often conducted in public. While music in the media is tagged with perceived wisdom, historical context and popularity rankings, the relationship a fan has with music is an emotional one. These emotions can be fleeting or long lasting, which explains both some of the travesties that have entered the charts over the years, but also the posthumous return of Michael Jackson. Fans will debate greatness on social media, while music critics plead learnedness and credibility in their attempt to shape public consciousness of music.

Whatever is written or said, the relationship one has with music is personal. I will besmirch the works of New Kids on the Block, or the Dixie Chicks, but as I get older, I find I can no longer besmirch anyone who buys their albums. To do so would be to attack the fans personally, for who knows what flutters of love, deadening heartbreak or melancholic autumn afternoons these tunes have provided the perfect accompaniment. Or, watching the earpieces in the ears of grey faced commuters, which songs make the trip seem that bit quicker. Or which tunes have turned a dance floor into a pulsating, bum-waggling communal love-fest as glo-sticks and strobes leave afterimages one’s eyes.

If music can be thought of as an emotional experience, one’s music collection may be seen as a history of ones emotions. What is buying the latest U2 album, for instance, other than trying to recapture those intense emotions felt when the band first took your breath away? If that moment was listening to the Pop album, but you find Joshua Tree a drag, perceived wisdom may beg to differ, but are best ignored.

I personally do not own any U2, and think Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation isn’t a patch on Mercy Street or Evol, but will also rave about late-era Talk Talk, early-era Spring Heel Jack, and most era Tom Waits. Mention these names to anyone I went to school with at the time, and I would have gotten a blank stare. Mention them to me at the time, I would have given you a blank stare, but would ask to borrow a tape. If my music collection has been built by curiosity, the scruffiest CD cases are of those albums I love the most. But finding those albums has taken me up dead-ends, faced the falibility of heroes and led me to disagree with many, but it has also seen me stumble over the unexpected, discover new heroes and use my new found knowledge to finally praise music I had previously derided in print.

This section traces the journey from an ignorant kid in a small country town to owning music of such variety than I previously knew existed. It examines how musical tastes develop, and what influences them, and whether you really miss out if, say, the whole Nirvana explosion and other such hype passes you by.

I’ll be doing this by examining my own music collection and seeing how I my music collection matured from Smash Hits ‘97 to, say, a collaboration between Jah Wobble and Evan Parker; whether my heart thinks pop music in the 80s is better than today; and how I learned about 90s rock despite missing that Nirvana thing and not being able to name a Pixies track until into my 20s. I will be writing about how being a music fan is a journey, and where it can take you.

The Collector Begins (10/10/09)
John Abercrombie – Tactics (ECM 1997)
Badly Drawn Boy – One Plus One Is One (XL 2004)
Daughterboy Jao – Fake Blood and the Rest Is Unknown (Virgin 2003)
The Earthmen – “Scene Stealer” (Warner 1996)

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