(What’s a more telling fact about modern life? That there exists an entire Wikipedia article on Optical Disc Packaging or the indignation I would feel if it didn’t exist?)
My earliest foray into music involved a pint-sized me sitting cross-legged on the living room floor wearing headphones that were half my weight and listening to either Sesame Street or The Bee Gees on LP. But it wasn’t until nearly a decade later that I became an aficionado.
Thanks to a paper route, I saved up enough money to buy a stereo from Radio Shack. I wiped out my starter chequing account with a floor model Panasonic three-disc changer and even haggled with with a sales guy while my parents looked on. It felt amazing to be a 12-year-old buying consumer durables. Though I didn’t own any CDs yet, I was infatuated with the machine. I became an avid radiophile and made mix-tapes from nightly top 40 countdowns.
Delivering the Oakville Beaver netted me a scant $45 dollars a month ($65.82 in 2012 dollars), so compact discs were a luxury. I equivocated before my purchase of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons (incredibly still the same price on Amazon) and gulped hard before dropping $25 on Ace Of Base’s The Sign. I listened to the fuck out of those discs. Every day and multiple times per day. Things really heated up when I added Aerosmith’s Get A Grip to the collection. If anyone wants to claim that they know that album better than I do, I’ll happily rassle them to the ground while blaring Line Up on repeat. Don’t even try.
My music collection was augmented thanks to music clubs like Columbia House and BMG but it truly exploded with the advent of Napster. I downloaded dozens of albums and burned CDs with reckless abandon. The availability of music online for “free” was the most potent motive force in my appreciation of music.
But another thing happened too. That hallowed feeling I used to get when slicing the plastic on a new CD and carefully plucking the disc from the jewel case, faded into oblivion. And I no longer consumed new music with the frenetic desperation of a Bedouin wringing water out of a goatskin bota bag under the hot desert sun. Instead, music became as omnipresent as the air that we breathe. And just like the air: it is something I take for granted yet could never live without.