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Disposable

Many years ago, I remember my parents being big (great, not fat) Pink Floyd fans. When they bought Dark Side of the Moon for the first time on vinyl, it was similar to opening a Christmas present - you had no idea what was inside. The album was a gate-fold and was something to behold. Apart from the obvious contents, it also had a couple of posters and stickers - which I remember promptly thieving and putting up in my bedroom. My parents gave me hell, because we were living in rented accommodation at the time and the adhesive on the back of the stickers was a bitch to remove from the paint-work, but remove it I did as my parents were paranoid they'd lose their deposit.

Wish You Were Here was no different - apart from the cover image of the guy on fire, the album contained a couple of postcards - but before you think I'm just going to waffle on about Pink Floyd, I also remember Led Zeppelin III, which had an amazing cover with a rotatable disc behind it, allowing you to see different faces through the holes in the cover - hours of fun whilst listening.

Yes, I guess that sometimes with vinyl releases the cover was as big a work of art as the music. It rounded off the package.

Then came tapes. Tapes never quite managed to have the same wow-factor as vinyl. Small as they were, they were treated as something of a poor relation. However, as a teenager who at the time couldn't afford expensive CDs, they worked for me. I loved my music and remember having several hundred of the things. Where music was concerned, I was quite fanatical.

Things didn't change much when I purchased my first CD player. Fool that I am, my first two purchases were Dark Side Of The Moon (again), along with a classical CD (they were one of the few cheap CDs). Nonetheless, when student finances allowed, I expanded my collection quite rapidly. As friends purchased computers with new-fangled CD burners, we shared and our music collections got bigger still.

Then came the internet. Many a company started to tout downloads, along with a whole pile of file-sharing systems that allowed the illegal option. For a while, everyone went on a mad downloading spree. Well, until people realised that most Kazaa-obtained MP3s sounded like shit.

And this was probably the point in time where music lost some of it's charm for me.

Just as I will never buy a digital book, I will never purchase digital music. Whoever came up with this idea has totally missed the point. The experience of reading a book or listening to a CD includes the physical bit, not just the actual content. With a book it's the feel of the pages under your fingers, the detail in the cover and the simplicity of just curling up on the sofa and reading. With music it's about thumbing through the gate-fold/inlay/cover and looking for the lyrics whilst listening to the contents. A couple of PDF documents don't do it me, I'm afraid. And of course, don't forget that it'll occupy a nice little space on your shelf when you've bought it.

It also still be there long after your hard-drive eventually fails.

From the lavish gate-fold cardboard vinyl covers, to the rather clinical plastic cases of CDs and tapes, to the disposable bytes of the MP3 - the proliferation of easily available music has gradually devalued the experience, to the point now where it means very little. Don't like a particular track? Just drag it to the trash and it's gone forever - well, until you download it again. Apart from diminishing the value of the listening experience, it's also reduced the creative worth of the a well-produced album - The Great Gig in The Sky means little on it's own, but it has context when heard as it should be with it's other tracks. Lavish production almost seems pointless, something I think record-labels have latched on to. I've not heard anything that I would regard as a work of art in audio terms for possibly ten years.

This is not to say that I've not been equally impatient. I have several hundred CDs, but when I listen to music now, I'm worse than a kid with an attention deficit disorder, changing tracks every couple of minutes. Hell, there are very few albums I listen to in their entirety any more.

Apart from Dark Side of the Moon, of course.

Perhaps giving everybody what they want, when they want it isn't necessarily always a good thing.
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