Confessions of a Record Collector: I – Where it began

In High Fidelity, the protagonist question is what came first – the music or the misery?

That’s not exactly my question.

My question was where did the interest in music come from?

Did people give me records because I was interested in music?

Or did I become interested in music because people passed off records to me?

I think my interest in music predated having records.

It was something that was always there.

Not just on the alarm clock radio that woke my parents every morning.

It was on their stereo.

It was the jingles on TV.

It was just everywhere.

I couldn’t begin to say what the first song is that I can remember, but it may be this:

I think if I had to try and determine my reaction to it, I was both fascinated and traumatized by it.

Fascinated by it because it was catchy enough that my ears perked up when I heard it and I tried to sing the chorus.

Traumatized because I knew Freda was locked in some grave uncertainty, in the darkness of a lonely room, hoping for a resolution to something I could not comprehend.

Even to this day, I have no idea what transpired in that song.

Lamont Dozier, one of the writers, says it is about two newlyweds working out their differences.

But ‘love me like you tried before’ hints at sexual dysfunction.

None of that would have registered with me then.

It was just something that sounded good, and yet urgent.

I felt for Freda.

I wanted her to be okay.

So I was invested in her well-being, and in the song.

But I also noted that, at a certain point, I didn’t hear that song much anymore.

And that is probably part of what started my interest in records.

Because at some point, it was probably explained to me that songs are only on the radio so long as they are a hit.

When they drop down the charts, they all but disappear.

Well, at the time they seemed to.

And so I learned a valuable lesson.

If you wanted to be able to hear a song on demand, you had to somehow own a copy of it.

And I think that realization planted the seed for collecting records.

I just needed a way to do that as a child.

Fortunately, there were people who would help me get started.

Scott Walker – The Plague

The plague Walker is referencing is the plague of desire.

Of wanting and needing.

But in these times, it is hard not to hear ‘every day I’ve got to fight the plague’ as summarizing our lives now.

Oddly relegated to a b-side back in the day, the song is a stunning what if, suggesting Walker could have pursued a heavier, almost rock, sound slightly in keeping with his contemporaries.

And yet, it does point the way to something like Cue, which appears to be about a pandemic, and is far, far more bleak, and bleakly funny, than The Plague.

If you are ever sourcing music for a horror film, you could do worse than to incorporate this at a key moment…

Jessica Pratt – Aeroplane

I thought Pratt’s On Your Own Love Again was the best album of 2015, and I am feeling confident her new album, Quiet Signs, out Feb. 8, will be a strong contender for best album of 2019.

What strikes me about the material I’ve heard so far is how she has used the canvas of a recording studio to make something even more intimate and gossamer-like than her previous 4-track work.

Like if you opened your eyes while listening to it, it would end the way a dream does.

Anyway, very strongly encouraging you to pick up her new album when it comes out, especially since RTI is pressing it, so it should be flat, centered, and quiet, which almost describes her music.