What was the first CD you bought?
If this seems a little like a beginner-blogging question - What was the first CD you bought? - well, there's a reason for it. A reason for it to be asked now, rather than way back then. You see, this week, the compact disc turned 30. That article - if you click the link just there - reminds that the first album made commercially available for the CD format - a specialist, high-end audio format - was Billy Joel's 52nd Street. (I'm not what you'd call a huge Billy Joel fan.)
So, the CD is now 30 years old. But maybe that's a moot point - for some the format died many years ago. Some young music listeners perhaps never really bothered with the format. And there are plenty of people that still do buy CDs - just ask Adele.
Seeing a few stories online about the CD turning 30 had me thinking back to my first CD. First LPs and first tapes are often embarrassing stories - you're young and buying based on trends. It's logical that the music will date. But for a lot of people the CD was a chance to learn about classic music from the past, to discover albums you might have read about, heard about - but not, until that point, actually heard.
When I started buying CDs it was a very exciting time - and I really took to it. I was a late bloomer, because I had a pretty big tape collection, and I was reluctant to switch.
So I don't really have an embarrassing first-CD story. But I do remember the first CD I bought. I remember it vividly. I was in Mt Maunganui, one of only a handful of times that I have visited the Mount. Because, frankly, it's ridiculous. But I was there - and I had my spending money. And I went to the music store newly enthused about The Velvet Underground. I had seen the movie The Doors, which featured a couple of VU songs in the soundtrack. And I was a Lou Reed fan - starting with Mistrial (my mum bought the LP when it was released) and then moving back to this compilation; one of my all-time favourite compilation albums by any artist. A Best-Of that I thrashed. I made several copies of it and wanted to introduce as many people as I could to the musical worlds of Lou Reed.
And then I bought The Best of The Velvet Underground (Chronicles). I liked it. But it wasn't in any way definitive - it made me want to hear the albums.
I'd read all about the Banana album by this point and knew a few of the songs off it. But finding Loaded in that wee store in Mt Maunganui - well it was the best thing in the world. It was certainly the best thing for me in that part of the world (and there was little competition). But Loaded is, to this day, the one for me. I love all the Velvet Underground albums - a small, perfect/imperfect discography. And I've bought all the reissues, deluxe editions and box-sets. But that one album - which owes as much to Doug Yule as it ever did to Lou Reed - is the one for me.
And I think a big part of that comes down to it being the first CD I bought.
I've bought other versions of the CD - I don't have that original copy - but I can remember my purchase, some 20 years ago, sand between my toes and climbing the backs of my legs. And the rush to hear it. And then the rush when I did hear it.
So many wonderful songs - and a world of music that I felt I was discovering all for myself, in that my parents didn't know this album, my older brother didn't know it, my friends didn't know it. So for me, at that time, in my world, this was all mine. Just mine.
I've since bought the album on vinyl, and I have it on my iPods. I play it all the time. Still. But it was my first CD. And I couldn't pick a favourite song from it - New Age maybe? Or I Found a Reason perhaps. The superb closer - and one of my all time favourite album-closing tracks, Oh! Sweet Nuthin'. And then the songs that seem as though they could almost fall between the cracks - Train Round the Bend, Head Held High, Lonesome Cowboy Bill, Cool It Down - all so wonderful. There are the "hits" too, with Sweet Jane and Rock and Roll - I'm glad they're out of the way early on this album, because when I bought the CD I knew them already, so they were the warm, friendly handshake that greeted me as I entered the room. From there I got to browse around and take in the weird and lovely music - all of the tracks I just named and that opener, Who Loves tthe Sun; the sort of thing George Harrison would have come up with if he fell into the trap of writing like Lennon/McCartney instead of against them.
It doesn't have John Cale, it doesn't have Mo Tucker. It does have hi-hat.
If I'd heard it after hearing all of the other Velvet Underground albums I might not like it anywhere near as much as I do now. But that was not the case.
Some years ago, in an effort to make the day better, bored at the beach, I bought this album. That cover appealed. The fact that in some way I thought I knew what I was getting - and in so many other ways I had no idea at all...yes, that sold me on the album too.
And I have listened to this album around the world now - earlier this year I played it a bunch of times in America - it seemed the right album for that holiday. Also in Fiji and Australia. And all around New Zealand. I've listened to it in summer and winter. In cars. While walking. While working. To drift off to sleep to. And back when I first bought it I had a CD player that would spring to life with whatever disc I left in the tray - my alarm clock each morning; it was nice waking up for school with Who Loves tthe Sun chiming out to start the day.
When I read about CDs turning 30 this week I had no thoughts about the medium's demise. Nor the fact that so many CDs come into my house and so many of them are utterly horrific. I thought about Loaded by The Velvet Underground. And I wished - for just a minute or two - that I had that original Mt Maunganui CD. I should have kept it. Even though it was scratched to bits. I should have held on to it the way I still have my Songs in the Key of Life LP that my parents would play to comfort me to sleep when I was a baby, right when that album was released.
Loaded was such an awakening.
Loaded was my first CD. And I thought about that this week. And I sat and listened to it while writing this.
What was your first CD? Something you're still proud to own? Something unspeakably bad? And how early did you get on board with buying CDs? Were you there for Dire Straits' Brothers in Arms and the era of big talk about this magical new sound? Or were you a CD buyer when grunge or dance music dominated? Is there a story attached to when you bought your first CD? Do you have a fondness for it, even if you no longer like the music? Or have you never bought a CD ever?