Is the Album Dying?
I remember the day well.
I had just been to Mastersound, a record shop in Haywards Heath. My wages in hand I walked into the shop, found the section I was looking for, and there it was. I pulled the cover from the others and took it to the counter to pay. On my way home I stopped at the local hairdressers for a trim. Not too much – I still wanted long hair. I hated the hairdressers almost as much as the dentist so sat there just looking down at my purchase, so excited to get home and listen.
Hair trimmed I got back on my bike and rode home.
Playing a vinyl album was a ritual.
First you reached carefully inside and pulled the inner liner out, the card sleeve that contained the record. Then, even more carefully reaching into that with your fingers to the centre and your thumb balancing the edge, out came the black disc. Then came the cleaning. Even if it was a brand-new album. Pulling the cloth gently along the grooves to get rid of any dust. A good look and, once it looked clean, place the black circle on the player. Turn it on, and get the turntable spinning at 33rpm.
Now came the tricky bit.
Get this wrong and the needle could go skating across the surface and scratch the album.
So gently pick up the needle and place it on the dark edge. Hear it catch the groove and watch as it moves towards the music. Then pick up the cover again, a wonderful work of art, along with the inner sleeve lyrics, and that opening sound begins.
This is what I heard, and I’ll never forget it.
Life, and music, would never be the same again. I sat transfixed and in a state of utter joy – until I had to stand up and turn the album over to play side 2. But then that feeling continued for another 20 minutes or so. Bliss.
I was listening to a podcast the other day which basically said the album was dying as a format. It seems that the single is now the way forward as most people either put their iPods/phones/MP3 players on shuffle and it decides what they would listen to, or they just chose to listen to individual songs. They said that people listen to individual songs on Spotify, Apple Music or YouTube more than they play a full album.
I guess I’m old fashioned. I simply cannot imagine bringing home Dark Side of the Moon and going straight in on the third track, or having The Great Gig in the Sky have as much impact if it came up for the first time on shuffle alongside a song by Slayer and Fairport Convention (my iTunes collection is pretty varied) if I hadn’t taken the time to listen to the full album in the order chosen by the band.
And that is how albums work.
When I’ve recorded my album the flow of the songs from one to the other is as important as the individual songs themselves. The album is a journey, from the opening note to the final refrain. I also heard it said that Adele’s album 25 would be the last album that people bought and listened to in this way. I don’t agree with that at all, but find it sad that anyone would be even considering that as an idea.
So how do you listen to music? Do you still listen to a full album? Are you a shuffle person? A YouTube song person? When an artist you love releases their new collection of songs do you take the time to listen to it from beginning to end?
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