I'm back. And of course you did not miss me because the guest bloggers did a fantastic job - all of them should be offered work for Stuff.co.nz in place of what I do. And all of them would likely run for the hills when they found out the pay and conditions. But I would like to offer my sincere thanks to our guest bloggers - with Easter and Anzac the guest posts stretched out over a week and a half. And, as you might previously have guessed, I usually set up the guest-blogging portion of the year to coincide with a little holiday for myself, some time out.
So while I was loading up guest posts and learning about albums by Red House Painters and The Band and Rowland S. Howard and Steve Earle and The Velvet Underground (all albums I own by the way, really great to read fresh perspectives on these records) I was enjoying a holiday. I was up the coast a way, on official dog-sitting/house-sitting duties. And it was something of a family getaway, our one for the year. Holidays aren't grand on a blogger's wage, so you take what you can get. The chance to slow down and only open the laptop every other day was the real reward. Being with family was the real reward.
Actually, the real reward was watching my two and a half year old son, Oscar, discover The Beatles. He did this all by himself. No pressure from his father. But I can't lie - I was thrilled. We'd recently reached Wiggles meltdown in our house and since then Oscar has been pretty keen on a few other CDs, ones I certainly approve of - in terms of being able to handle the tiny snippets of music over and over. A New Orleans compilation, a bit of reggae, Anika Moa's very good Songs for Bubbas, all of them better options than that dreaded "W" word. Oh, I've heard far worse than what the Wiggles serve up - I have no issue with them or their music. But it's the crack-attack, the addiction, the secret sugar they hide in their tunes. It's the outcome rather than the output. I haven't heard the far worse music anywhere near as often as I've heard The Wiggles. That was the issue you see.
So, anything other than Wiggles gets a tick.
The Beatles though - that was a proud moment.
Oscar discovered the bread-bin, the box-set. And as soon as he started pulling the CDs out and trying them to find favourite tunes - so far Drive My Car, Yellow Submarine, Please Please Me, Octopus' Garden, A Hard Day's Night, Help! (and probably in that order, we'll sub the submarine out later on, no stress...) - he had me remembering my first connections with recorded music, my first moments handling (mishandling?) records and tapes. There were no CDs then. For me it was all about the radio actually. And making tapes of what was on the radio - usually just hitting record, leaving the ads and banter to fast-forward through later on the search for decent songs. An early favourite was Cyndi Lauper's Girls Just Want To Have Fun.
Oscar was pretty patient and careful with the CDs. It is, in truth, as much about opening and closing the cases. Which means, as a listener, you need to be pretty patient with this particular DJ; you might only get a few seconds of a song before he'll announce "I don't like it!" (Actually, that line probably made me beam with pride more than his Beatles discovery moment).
The other children receive memory cards, sure. But Oscar was happy lining up The Beatles CDs and taking my quick easy-parenting version of this holiday favourite. He'd find Rubber Soul (even though he chose to call it Drive My Car most of the time) and Abbey Road ("daddy's fabourite!") and Please Please Me and A Hard Day's Night.
Hours of fun. Days, even. Well, we were on holiday...(on a budget).
Returning home, I'm not quite ready to hand over my Beatles bread-box for Oscar's personal use, so I found some old CDs I'd been given. CDs that are not in any condition for trade - and most likely they're ubiquitous anyway, there'd surely be an abundance of second-hand copies of greatest hits album by Bread and Abba and U2 and Dean Martin. Hey, no shame in naming these albums - I owned them all once too. But these copies are surplus to requirements. It's seemed I can't give them away, so I gave them to Oscar. He's already decided he doesn't like U2 ("I don't like U2"- prouder still than the Beatles discovery or the "I don't like it!" moments). But he's starting to really dig Gentle On My Mind - a good, good song. And I reckon the Abba will find its time on his stereo - for more than five seconds - soon enough.
But seeing these four CDs on the floor of his room over the weekend, sitting down with him as he DJ'd his way through the latest sounds to find their way to his room, I couldn't help but laugh that what I had given him - soon to be ruined by smeary honey-hands and marmite fingers - would have, at one point, cost around $140. Twenty years ago you might have purchased those CDs at $35 a pop, even if you waited for the sale it would still have been around $100 total spend.
It doesn't take long for them to seem like nothing.
The real value is in the memories the music offers right?
That's why it was cool to read the guest blogs about albums from two decades ago, and older still. Music that has stayed with people. That's what keeps me writing about music too. That's the main aim of this forum - that's always been the point, to share experiences, to reminisce, to have a daily ramble. And so it's time for me to get back to that. For us to get back to it...
I certainly see no value in the new Pixies album; what a cruel, hideous joke.
And then I'm giving away a signed copy of Kris Kristofferson's latest album - does that make it worth more, because he's signed it? Or do you need to be there to get the signature, to greet the man and share a handshake, if not a story?
I've just reviewed the new Brian Blade album and it - already - means more to me than a lot of the CDs I've hung on to. I've never even seen the Blade album "in the flesh". I don't own a physical copy. And probably never will. I wouldn't have spent $35 buying it. Well, most likely I wouldn't. I probably would have paid something for it if I hadn't received a review link.
There was Oscar this morning with his honey-toast, dressed in his parka and t-shirt, jeans and sneakers, his hair a mop, looking like some sort of Britpop baby. Twenty years on from Britpop. And here is his daddy killing time before trying to work out what to say about the new Damon Albarn solo album.
I'm not sure any of this will mean anything to you. Or even to me after tomorrow.
But, like it or not. I'm back. Reporting for duty.
You can also check out Off the Tracks for The Vinyl Countdown, reviews and other posts