Friday, February 12, 2010

Surprises and the Internet

This won't be a "Get Off My Lawn" rant, I swear.

Back in my much younger days, the internet was basically a bunch of ICQ chats, AOL links and Geocities fan sites. It was somewhere around this simpler time that I really got into music. It started in a path that was pretty familiar back in the day - you'd listen to the radio, subscribe to Rolling Stone, watch MTV (yes, they showed some videos), and if you were ambitious you'd buy a few British music magazines (my whole family were regular reader of Q, which was like a much much better Rolling Stone). The internet didn't factor in this equation much, there were some band fan sites, but the quality was generally pretty low.

My sister and I both became fans of Blur after hearing "Song 2" and I bought their self-titled album, which blown away. It's still a fantastic album. Then we started tracking down their other albums, because Blur was their fifth (yes, fifth!) album. But after getting Modern Life is Rubbish, Parklife and the Great Escape, we still had not seen the mythical first album - Leisure.

Now let's step back a bit. My knowledge of Blur albums was pretty much based on what I saw in record stores. There were times where I'd go into a store and see an album or albums that I had never seen before by a band I thought I knew. The Lemonheads are a good example, I had no knowledge of their discography before It's A Shame About Ray before seeing a few of their old pre-famous albums in Borders, and this process was how I built part of my music knowledge. Thus tracking down Leisure was a proper hunt. First off, their was no wikipedia or allmusic, and back in those days Amazon was still just an online book store. When we finally found it (I think in a music store near William and Mary on a family vacation in Colonial Williamsburg, oddly enough) it was a proper victory.

Now these days, I can go to Wikipedia and find out everything there is to know about any band. Side-projects, EPs, demos, and so forth are all out their for the world to see. Then with this info I can go to Amazon and get the album shipped to me in two days. It's still amazing that all of this is possible and I was initially going to say that this takes all the fun out of things, but then I thought about Herbie Hancock.

Herbie recorded three albums with a sextet (and later septet) called Mwandishi. These were some of the most forward thinking and far out jazz records ever made. After the band broke up he went in a funkier direction and recorded Head Hunters, but those Mwandishi albums are stone cold classics. So one day while browsing wikipedia I was shocked to find out that at the same period as these albums came out, two of his sidemen (Julian Priester and Henderson) recorded between them three equally spacey albums on the side.

Would I have found out about these albums eventually without the internet? Maybe, at some point. Would I have actually found them in record stores? There's a slim chance. Suffice to say I'm glad we have the amazing base of knowledge we have, but part of me wants to hide all this information from kids for a while and let them do some searching the old(er) fashioned way.

1 comment:

Stephen said...

I too have found that the internet ruins the triumph of the kind of adventure you had finding a Blur album. Before Wikipedia, I had to trust Tower Records that they indeed had every Oasis CD. I thought What's The Story (Morning Glory) was their only CD for a while. Nice postage sir. Enjoy'd.