I found something great through AbsolutePunk.net yesterday: this letter. The title is “A Letter to My Future Child: What it Was Like To Buy a CD”, which describes the whole thing really well (surprise!). I love these parts (I bolded my favorite favorite parts):
“As soon as I was old enough to drive, one of my favorite places in the world was a little record shop called Volt Music in Danbury, CT. I used to drive there and spend an hour or so looking through all the CDs. Sometimes I’d go in there with no idea of what I wanted, and sometimes I’d pick out CDs based on the cover art. That’s how I found some of my favorite CDs. I remember seeing the cover of Elliott Smith’s Either/Or and buying it just because I wanted to hear what kind of music the guy on the cover was making. I didn’t like that CD on first listen. I thought all the songs sounded alike, but I just spend $15 and I felt like I needed to get something out of my investment, so I kept listening to it. Today, that’s one of my favorite CDs of all time. Whenever I listen to it, I remember those first weeks of playing that CD while driving around Connecticut. I remember when it clicked with me for the first time, and I remember telling my friends about this Elliott Smith guy and how amazing this album was. “You’ve got to listen to it a few times, but give it a chance. It’ll grow on you,” I told them.
By the time you read this, the idea of buying a CD will probably be so foreign, but let me tell you: it was awesome. As soon as I left the store, I’d use my car key to frantically rip through the plastic covering. That was such a beautiful feeling. All my CD covers were scratched up, but cutting through that plastic, ripping open the case, and peeling off the plastic sticker that held the case close was one of the most satisfying feelings that I’ll forever associate with music. I used to sit in my car in the parking lot of Volt, reading through the liner notes and looking through the pictures in the CD booklet while track one started playing. The speakers in my car were terrible because I blew them almost immediately after gaining access to a vehicle, but the slight buzzing from the right side of the car didn’t bother me. To this day, I don’t care much about sound quality, and the reason for that is probably because I spent so many years listening to music through car speakers that buzzed from one side.”
“When you have to make that trip to the record store, spend your money, and get burned on shitty albums sometimes, it makes you appreciate the good ones a little more. When you get to rip open that packaging and drive around listening to one album for weeks, there’s a connection that is hard to replicate in 2014. By the time you start getting into music, that experience will probably be long gone, and you’ll find different ways to connect with music. You’ll probably hear old people like me talking about how you kids don’t appreciate shit because you’ve never had to save up your money to buy that CD that the older kids in school were all talking about. I know, I know, we’re out of touch. But I want you to know what it was like losing that connection, what it’s like to see it slip away. It’s sad. Not because we think it’s wrong or because we think future generations won’t love music like we did, but because we remember how important it felt when we bought a new CD and opened it for the first time.”
It’s a beautifully written, nostalgic letter that I can relate to very much. I never used to drive around listening to a record for weeks, but it’s basically the same thing as fourteen year old me sitting in my room with Good Charlotte’s The Young and the Hopeless or blink-182’s blink-182 on repeat. Or when I went for a walk back in the days carrying my portable CD player with one record in it. Twelve songs that were played over and over again on my way to friends or whatever. Not a 400 song playlist, not my whole iTunes library. Just those twelve songs that I felt like hearing at the moment.
Another awesome thing about this letter is when the writer describes how he (it’s a guy, right?) picked up Elliott Smith’s Either/Or based on its cover art, because that’s exactly what I did a few years ago. I went to a record store with no particular purchase in mind, when I stumbled upon the cover of Either/Or. The guy in the picture caught my attention and I decided to buy the album. Unlike the writer of the letter, I fell in love with Either/Or immediately. And to this very day it is one of my favorite albums for sure.