Like everybody else, I’m using this period of indefinite detention to have a bit of a clear-out.
It’s incredible the amount of utter shite you find yourself stockpiling in cupboards you’d only ever open if you weren’t allowed out. Among other cherished keepsakes, I’ve found a router from the 1990s, two shit hip flasks – Christ knows where the decent one’s gone – and a length of bright green cloth I had sent to me for a specific purpose that’s since vanished into that part of my mind that resembles a misty tundra with drunken Finns stumbling about on it. I’ve said the words “What the fuck is that for?” so many times I no longer associate them with glancing down in the shower.
So you set about throwing all this crap away. And physical music is a great place to start, because it takes up so much room and can so easily be digitised, if you’re even arsed with that since everything you’d ever want is online anyway. That stack of CDs you’ve had in the corner of the room for years? You could have a lovely pot plant there. Bin them, that’s what I’d do.
If I didn’t have 3,000 of the bloody things.
Three thousand CDs. I don’t live in a big flat and they won’t happily live in the garden. Instead they take up the entirety of what an estate agent might optimistically call a ‘home office’, down the back there past the freezer where I once lost a man who came to read the gas meter. They sit on shelves I knocked up using the remains of two Argos bookcases I smashed up about 15 years ago. Given I’m about as handy with a screwdriver as I am with balloon animals it can’t be long before boffins discover some sort of ten-square-metre anti-gravitational field back there holding it all up.
My uncle gave me my first CD player for my 18th birthday. Before then I’d been amassing tapes, at a pace restricted by parents who understood pocket money to be metal and metal only. Buy me a CD player and release me into the wild with a student grant and what do you expect? The first of the four I bought on my debut CD rampage was either ‘Stanley Road’ by Paul Weller or ‘King for a Day…Fool for a Lifetime’ by Faith No More. Call them numbers 1 and 2, let’s.
Number 3,000 was ‘Infancy’ by a band called The Ninth Wave, which I will generously review as ‘bog average’. Herein lies the problem. I’ve continued to plunder shops and websites for 5.6in × 4.9in jewel cases with virtually no quality filter whatsoever, based off hearing the album’s only decent track once on the radio. My John Peel-infused obsession with new music means I’ve taken more punts than Jeff Feagles and the result is a collection that, were it to be itself condensed into one single record, would sound like a Captain Beefheart album. None of which I own by the way, because I’m not a monster.
How do I know how many there are? Because a few years ago I decided to list them in a database in case the building goes up in flames and I’m unable to rescue many hundreds of plastic discs from the dungeon at the back of the flat before the wife wakes up and starts moaning about smoke. I passed the three thousand mark late last month. And how many do I have now?
3,044. It’s a disease.
Let’s take a dip into the bargain bin, shall we? Three chosen by a random number generator:
2067: The Stooges – ‘Fun House’
463: Division Of Laura Lee – ‘At The Royal Club’
840: Jack Drag – ‘The Sun Inside’
One classic, one little-known Swedish gem, and a bloke who now does music for car adverts and “A docuseries that offers viewers a never-before-seen look inside the world’s most innovative homes, and unveils the boundary-pushing imagination of the visionaries who dared to dream and build them.” Needless to say I’ve no idea what Jack’s album sounds like or why I bought it.
In a move that means all of this makes even less sense, it’s all digitised already. After an initial mass-ripping a few years ago, every new CD I get is straight away converted to mp3s and uploaded to the Google Drive storage I pay a tenner for each month. I could buy the majority of these things digitally to start with. The trouble is that buying a digital album costs about the same as buying the lovely, shiny CD. Why would I not want the physical version, to look at cursorily once and file away, never to see the outside of the dungeon again?
See, the G word holds the key. Everything I’ve uploaded to the cloud probably belongs to The Man now. If they wanted they could switch the account off at any time, and everything I’ve ever uploaded would be gone. Would I trust some sort of Google appeals process to restore my tunes? There are non-CDs in there too, see, not, er, all of which I’ve come by via entirely legitimate means, shall we say (yarr). So no, I fucking wouldn’t, any more than I’d expect Amazon to send me a pile of paperbacks if they decided to delete my Kindle account, or the government to send me 500 barrels of Guinness to make up for shutting the pubs. Tenuous, but go with it.
If they were to switch me off, I’d still have 3,000 albums that even Emperor Sergey can’t get his hands on. Oh sorry, didn’t I mention they’re all albums? Yeah, every last one, because I haven’t bothered listing the hundreds of CD singles sitting in boxes in the shed. And even then it’s not as simple as 3,000 albums – for example, ‘Product’ by Buzzcocks counts as only one in my database, but it should actually be at least three.
So what in God’s name do I do with them? Absolutely my favourite solution is to put wall-to-wall shelving all over the spare room like monstrous musical wallpaper, but her indoors has flatly vetoed it. It seems she thinks I’d try to do it myself, foul up the load-bearing calculations and bring the entire street down somehow, but of course when people are allowed in the flat again I’ll get a professional- no, no she’s reading this right now and saying “No fucking way”. Bollocks.
I could sell them, but who to? Bugger eBaying them, not least because after five or six trips to the Post Office I’d be forcibly opening the nearest pub myself. I can’t throw the damn things out, because, and let me finally admit this to myself, it’s a collection. I’m a CD collector. It’s basically my life’s work, as demonstrated by the short-lived conversation whenever anyone tries to get me to produce a ‘portfolio’ of anything I’ve actually been paid for. CDs are like stamps to me, or 1970s football shirts or Chinese erotic art or whatever else you non-CD losers collect for no reason other than to say “It’s mine”, before you die and ‘A Private Assignation’ by Xu Guan suddenly becomes a very real problem for someone else.
No it’s not vinyl, I’m well aware of that. CDs are shit compared to vinyl, yeah yeah. Vinyl collectors are like vegans and you don’t need me to complete the comparison to know what I mean. But I’ve already re-bought all my old (and often shit) tape albums on CD – I can’t bear the idea of having and then not having an album, even if it is by The Farm – and if you think I’m buying and finding somewhere to store a few thousand records you’ve clearly never met the wife.
There’s no way out. I’ve written this to get it off my chest you know, not because I expect a solution. I’m not even looking for a solution – I’m lumbered with both the CDs I have and the burning need for more.
So when you’re rummaging through that cupboard you forgot was there because it was hidden behind a pile of other pointless shite, spare a thought for a small flat in suburbia that’ll one day be like one of those hoarder’s hovels you see on TV where people have to tunnel through collapsed stacks of moulding magazines to find the corpse.
At least the searchers and cadaver dogs will get to rock the fuck out as they dig.