Thursday, 14 September 2017

Let's Get Physical (Graffiti) & Nico's Political Incorrectness

"No-one wants CDs anymore" said the woman working in the charity shop. What? Even charity shops have turned their back on the old format? Well, this one had anyway. Streaming and free files have killed the CD, which now has the same status vinyl had ten years ago, exceptions being the niche home-baked, hip independent limited edition type. As for everything else, the more common stuff, it seems to be available at very reasonable prices second-hand. Vinyl, however...well, you know the story.

The absurd value placed on vinyl today is a good thing for those of us who've been buying it since the 70s. It means that, should we be a little cash-strapped or, in my case, wanting a book that's a little expensive, we simply cull the vinyl collection and sell to trade shops for prices we'd never have got ten years ago.

Meanwhile, I've taken to buying CDs again, mostly in charity shops. Don't ask why; I suppose I'm perverse that way. Plus, all that stuff on the hard drive is great but you know how that goes. Whereas the physicality (ha-ha, that's what they say about vinyl) of the jewel case is something else...more...demanding. Yes, ironically, when people compare the effort needed with vinyl to the ease of mouse-clicking the third (seemingly forgotten?) way is the disc in the case and the medium it requires, the hi-fi (I think that's what they're still called). Nowadays I regularly burn files to disc to lighten the hard drive's load but more to the point hear music on a better system.

Talking of physical, yes, this morning's purchase was Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti, the vinyl version of which I sold last year. This CD double is a suitably hulking (for CDs) thing. Of course it doesn't have the charm of the original card sleeve's clever images-in-windows design but I can live without that.

The case is ugly, but then, so too is the music, in a way. Playing it again, I was reminded of what a monstrous beast Led Zeppelin were. I mean, the sheer excess of mid-70s Rock behaviour, matched by the grossly overdone riffs and solos...the slow drag of In The Light...the folksiness and the clunky funkiness. But then, the grotesque weight of it appeals to me, as does the production, which is both raw and somehow...grimy. 'Originally recorded on analog preserve, as closely as possible, the sound of the original recording' it says on the back. I thought the idea of CDs was to improve the sound! Confusing, isn't it? Crisp, clean digital precision versus 'the original sound'. So which I'm hearing is a mystery. That's alright. The best of it still sounded great, played loud, of course.

Again, what was said in a charity shop: this morning, as I paid for Physical Graffiti, Velvet Underground were playing on the sound system. I couldn't resist sharing my admiration for them with the girl behind the counter. She replied by saying she could only play them because the manager wasn't there and went on to explain that her boss regarded Nico as a racist, therefore banned. I suggested that presumably Wagner's music could not be appreciated either before a quick summary of my thoughts on politically vetting artist. She smiled, not wanting to engage in a deep discussion, which I didn't either. I'd said my bit and walked out, thinking about all that.

Firstly, I had no idea Nico was 'racist', but having since read a little about her and it seems she made a few suspect comments. Secondly, if anyone wants to shun an artist for comments made off the record (literally) that's their business. When they make racist records that's another matter. Of course, I can easily ignore what artists have said because I'm neither Jewish nor black. Neither am I gay. As a pro-feminist gesture, should I start researching my favourite artists' attitude and behaviour towards women? If I should ban those who are guilty of misconduct, how much music would I have left? That may seem like a selfish attitude, but so be it. If you wish to politically cleanse your collection, feel free.

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