The Road to 3.5

My music collection was born with a three dollar ninety-nine sale on Steve Miller Band‘s Fly Like An Eagle. I had a few 45s but they didn’t count. This was my first LP.

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Seven years later my collection was made up mostly of cassettes. Vinyl was too fragile.

If you didn’t have a good turntable with a needle in good condition, you would end up with plenty of skips. It wouldn’t take long for permanent damage to happen. This was a time when the quality of the vinyl was so bad that it wasn’t only the audiophiles getting Japanese imports for the virgin vinyl.

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I was proud that my collection was interesting enough that my brother-in-law wanted to borrow it when I went away for my honeymoon. It was also interesting enough that my brother-in-law had to replace his passenger window after a thief saw it on his front seat.

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Version 2.0 of my collection helped me bridge the LP and CD eras. I still listened to cassettes however these were taped from the albums that I bought. Because I had restarted my collection just before moving away, the originals were in three places: my mother’s, my sister-in-law’s and at home. I would even add to my distant collection when visiting.

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The line between version 2 and version 3 is not as clear as the difference between version 1 and version 2.

When I saw that my albums were blending into my sister-in-law’s collection, I realized we would never reunite with the stuff in storage. It didn’t matter because I had taped the albums I had there as well as a number of theirs.

And the records I had left at my mother’s, I only saw once afterwards. It was after she had suffered her first stroke and I was looking for my childhood collection of hockey cards. I found some old LPs in mint condition including a Barry Manilow from the times when it was cool to get into clubs as an underage 15-year-old.

I think they went the way of the hockey cards but I have never asked about either. The reason I’m suspicious about their disappearance is because this was a time he needed it and, later, I would help him more overtly in other ways.

Then my first marriage fell apart and I was left with only the originals of the music my ex didn’t like.

Much later, the last of the cassettes went to the garbage after spending five years gathering dust in our building’s storage locker.

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Version 3 grew quickly and steadily. When I started it, I was often travelling by train and, in those days, there was a CD shop at the train station. I’d take advantage of sales and was soon up to date on R.E.M., Nirvana and Stone Temple Pilots. I also got the classics: all of Lynyrd Skynyrd (pre-crash), The Police, Jefferson Airplane‘s Surrealistic Pillow … .

For the next six years, I would add at least one CD per week with an occasional binge when there was a sale.

I’ve slowed a little since then. Then again, I now also get digital tracks.

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I’m just getting used to dematerializing my music collection and now streaming (Youtube, Pandora) is the new format for music. I stream a lot of Youtube videos but I have a hard time with the idea of not owning a copy of the music.

And, I happily use the excuse that I need to keep the CDs as proof that I own the music I listen to. If there is one thing, virtual or physical, that I would have a real hard time getting rid of, it is my music collection.