Music From The Past

Ah, the bad old days.

I’ve been working on importing all of my CDs to digital format. This is a formidable task since I have a lot of CDs. I haven’t counted, but there are hundreds of them littering my room, tucked away in boxes and CD books. The only boxes left in my house that are still unpacked after my move contain CDs that I still need to download. Since 2001, when the iPod and iTunes first irrevocably changed the course of my life for the better, I’ve exclusively listened to music digitally.

Pre-2001, I lugged a portable CD player with me wherever I went. If you are twelve and have no idea what I’m talking about, before iPods, we had to listen to music stored on physical media like CDs. In order to listen to CDs, we had to have a CD player. I had this one:

Ah, the bad old days.
Ah, the bad old days.

My car stereo did not have a CD player, so I had to hook that thing up to it. I could only listen to one CD at a time.

In addition to lugging the CD player around, I also had to carry CDs. I have a ton of CD books, because I have a ton of CDs. A ton of them, because I have a lot of music and I like listening to all of it. I carried about fifty CDs on me at all times, because I never knew what I wanted to listen to and had to be prepared for all eventualities.

I used to stow CD books under my car seat. I had CD books stolen out of my car. I had Discmans stolen out of my car. I had car stereos stolen from my car. Do you remember when stealing car stereos was a thing that happened? I do because it happened to me a few times. I do not miss those days.

I was a holdout for CDs for a while, meaning that I did not immediately jump on the CD bandwagon. They were more expensive than cassettes, I didn’t have a CD player in my car, and most importantly, you could not record your own music on to CDs, at least not yet. I said I wouldn’t switch from cassette to CD until you could record on them for one reason: the mix tape.

I was a huge fan of the mix tape. A mix tape was when you put together a few songs, usually of different genres, on a cassette. They typically had a general theme or a message. Boys used to make mix tapes for girls that they liked with carefully selected songs that had meaning. The CD strangled the mixed tape nearly to death and the iPod gave it the finishing blow.

I didn’t wait to switch to CDs until recordable ones were available. I switched formats far before then, because a lot of the music that I wanted was only available on CD, so I had no choice.

Back in the day, you had to buy music. You went into a brick and mortar store and paid money for a physical product that was yours forever. You could do whatever you wanted with it. If you wanted a friend to listen to it, you handed it to them. There was no such thing as digital rights management, as was fitting and proper. I still have CDs that I bought twenty years ago.

Most of the music that I am importing from CD is from the 1990s. There are some CDs that contain older music that I bought because I wanted to listen to them on CD, but most of the music I have on CD was recorded in the 90s. The reason most of my unimported CDs are from the 90s is that was the heyday of the CD. That decade was all about the CD.

When I first got an iPod, I imported most of my favorite music from CD. What is left was stuff that fit an era. It was music that I bought on a whim, unlistened to beforehand, because someone recommended it, I liked the art or the name, or any number of completely invalid reasons.

Back in the 90s, I fancied myself a collector. I was the person who would spend hours in record stores (even though most of them didn’t contain records anymore, they never did change the name from record to CD stores), digging through bins, looking for connections, staring at CD artwork to get an idea of what the music inside sounded like. I went CD shopping at least once a week and I always came out with something.

A lot of my spontaneous purchases ended up being total duds. I would unpack them from their cellophane, listen and immediately be annoyed that I spent money on this. But every once in a while, one of my spontaneous purchases would be astounding. It would become my new favorite CD. I would discover an heretofore unknown artist that would become a favorite. That’s what I lived for. That’s why I went CD shopping every week.

But, like I said, when I got an iPod, most of those astounding artists made the transition from physical to digital immediately. What was left were the duds or the music that was specific to an era. Once that era was over, I didn’t want to listen to it. I had already moved on to something else.

I have no idea what I will do with all these CDs once they’ve made the transformation from CD to mp3. I’ll probably keep some and give away the rest. Nobody wants used CDs anymore, not even me.

Now, instead of rummaging around in record store bins, I am rummaging around in my own CD collection, rediscovering music that hasn’t been listened to since the 90s. A lot of it is crap, but every once in a while, I am finding something that I had completely forgotten about that is astounding. That’s why I am doing it. I am downloading everything into digital format, because you just never know when you’ll find something amazing.

This is progress.
This is progress.