I often refer to myself as a Luddite, but I’m mostly kidding. Although I have an affinity for writing with pen and paper, old tube-powered guitar amps and recording on reel-to reel tape machines, I still maintain a friendly relationship with technology. I couldn’t live without my iPod, I was happy as a kid on Christmas morning to finally get a ridiculously powerful digital audio console at work, and I consider the internet to be pretty much the best invention in human history. I grok tech. Still, there are times when the old ways just work best.
I was driving to my office the other day, and heard a song on the local college station that blew me away. I glanced at the readout on my stereo and discovered it was “Saying Goodbye” by a band called The Greenhornes. A few minutes later at my desk, I looked them up and listened to some other tracks- great stuff. I decided to buy the album, so I opened iTunes and found it within seconds.
Those of you who grew up before the internet can appreciate how awesome this is- back in the Bad Old Days this process would have taken days or weeks. First you either get to a phone (no cell phones back then) and call the DJ, or wait for them to back announce (this isn’t foolproof either- the first time I heard the Pixies I thought they were called The Laughing Academy due to a back announcing miscount). Then you had to drive to a record store that stocked “new” music besides Ratt and Whitesnake and hope they had what you were looking for. There used to be records that took me months (in some cases years) to find. Oh, and forget previewing the other tracks on the record unless you knew someone who already had it. There are those who argue that the modern instant gratification model devalues music and our relationship to it, and they have a point. At that moment though, I was just psyched to hear the album mere minutes after discovering the band.
This is where things start to go awry. For some reason, my iTunes account was screwed up and I couldn’t access it. After about half an hour of screwing around I figured fuck it, I tried, and began searching torrent sites for free downloads. Within a minute or two I located a torrent titled “GREENHORNES DISCOGRAPHY” that contained an impressive collection of the band’s albums, EPs, singles and compilation tracks. However, it was a couple years old and didn’t have the album I was looking for in it. I considered simply recording the three songs (including “Saying Goodbye”) off the band’s music player on their website, but I really wanted the whole album.
Technology had failed me, so I reverted to old school methodology. A quick check of the internets revealed that there was still a brick and mortar record store near the college, so I decided it was a good time to load up the office recycling and take it to the recycling center (which, conveniently, is near NCSU). Half an hour later after dumping a shitload of cardboard and soda cans I entered Schoolkids Records for the first time in about ten years. The current location had been a pawn shop back when I used to troll Hillsborough Street looking for obscure indie records and cheap vinyl, but the gig flyers and hipster movie posters looked the same as ever. Long rows of vinyl record bins were obviously a thing of the past, but I was dismayed to find that the CD racks were thinner than I remembered and a large chunk of the floorspace was taken up with DVDs, magazines and T-shirts. I made my way to the “G” section, quickly located my prize, then stood at the counter for a few minutes trying to flag down the pachouli-drenched clerk.
“Uh, can I help you?” he finally asked with the magical mixture of indifference and disdain that only a clerk at a college record store can muster.
“Well I was gonna buy this, but I can just shoplift it if it’s easier for you” I relied with the dripping sarcasm only a middle-aged asshole can truly master.
I paid $5 more than the download would have cost me, had to spend time and my boss’ gas money and now have another CD to add to my unmanageable mountain of media, but dammit, I spent the rest of the day rocking out to the fucking Greenhornes. Mission Accomplished.