The World We Have Lost

In September 1972, Roxy Music appeared on prime time TV in the UK. It was their first national TV exposure, a three-minute appearance performing their first single.

And the way they looked and sounded stunned me, and a generation of mes.

But we had no video recorders, and of course there was no YouTube. There was no way whatsoever that I could watch that appearance again, however badly I wanted to. And the power of that restriction was enormous.

The only way I could get close to that experience was to own the song. I lived in the suburbs, so I had to ride my bike for miles before I could find a store that sold music, let alone one that had the record in stock. It was a small trial of manhood and an adventure.

But once I had that song, I could play it whenever I chose. I had to go on a quest of sorts to get it, but my need was such that I did it.
That is John Taylor, of Duran Duran fame, via Tyler Cowen.

I remember a veteran of the German punk movement telling me about an evening in the early 1980s - how after a concert in the parking lot, they all formed a huddle around someone's car, because in the car: a tape player, and in the tape player: a tape containing a recording of the new album of that new band from America everybody who knew said was so great. The band was called Dead Kennedys, and you couldn't buy their records in Germany.

I also remember the time when, if you wanted to see a specific old film, either it was on one of the three TV channels, or it was playing in the cinema, or it was tough luck. Even if you were a professional film critic.

Future musicians and filmmakers are going to be less passionate about their art. They'll also be more knowledgeable.


Andrew Hickey said...

I don't think they'll be less passionate - I remember when I was sixteen, walking the sixteen mile round trip to the nearest record shop to place an order for a single, then doing the same the week later to pick it up.

But that's not what *made* me passionate about music - it was a result of the passion. I think the 'huddling round someone's car' stuff will continue happening for the foreseeable future, too - the internet makes it easier to get hold of music, but it also makes it easier to find out about stuff you *can't* get, and it also makes a lot of music become only ephemerally available (hundreds of thousands of independent CDs made available through sites like mp3.com a decade or so ago are now completely unavailable, because they were done on what is essentially a POD system).

The passion is expressed in digging for stuff, in looking for something you've never heard before, and an equivalent process still takes place online, with people frequenting blogs that post rips of forty-year-old psych albums that only twelve people bought, or finding bands on social networking sites whose albums aren't available in your country...

LemmusLemmus said...

I would guess that the effect of the easy availability of stuff clearly outweighs the easier availability of information about stuff to want - which has been relatively easily available for a long time via specialized magazines (including fanzines). In favour of your view, however, it is much easier to come across stuff that you didn't know you'd get passionate about and may never have encountered in the old days (such as portugese rappers or greek silent film directors).

On balance, I'll still stick to my original guess, but who knows.