Years back when I used to complain about friends not returning my vinyls, cassettes or CDs, my father used to tell me about how in the 1950s, a friend of his would simply carry empty sacks once a year to the homes of people he’d lent books to in order to recover them. “I have come to take back all the books you have borrowed and never returned,” used to be his oft-used line. There were other, more unreliable, ways of recovering books once lent. My father himself would browse the roadside second-hand book stalls in Calcutta and often find copies of books that he had “lost” turn up there, complete with his name written on the title pages. Of course, he’d have to recover them for a price!
I have hardly ever recovered the music that I have lost. And often have had to buy a new copy of the record, cassette or CD that I had lent and not got back. Until, of course, I sowed the seeds of becoming a certified unsocial person with a self-imposed blanket ban on lending music to anybody (can’t say whether that has any correlation to the dwindling number of friends that I have had since then).
But things have become so much easier with the advent of digital formats like mp3s. Now, you can actually give away your music without fear of losing any of it. Like many people I know, much of my music is on storage disks—with capacities of 500 gigabyte or even a terabyte. Such disks are sleek and easily portable and hold huge quantities of music, movies and documents. Moreover, you can just copy anything for anyone with a few clicks of the mouse.
That’s how I built up my back catalogues of several favourite bands. Four years back when I first discovered the Glaswegian band, the wonderfully wistful, Belle & Sebastian, I had just two albums, separated by 10 years— The Life Pursuit (2006), and If You’re Feeling Sinister (1996). As it happens, Belle & Sebastian have not released anything after 2006 (more on that later). So when a friend proffered a hard disk that had four of their seven studio albums, I grabbed them right off it. So, now, in addition to the two that I already have, I also have, in chronological order, Tigermilk, The Boy With The Arab Strap, Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant and Dear Catastrophe Waitress.
Lately I have been listening to a lot of Belle & Sebastian. In anticipation, you might say, for, after a hiatus of four years, those Scottish creators of delicate yet un-wimpy but instantly likeable music are believed to be releasing a new album. I’m all ears.
Another band whose back catalogue collection I built up by dipping into other people’s storage drives is The Cure. These English post-punkers from the late 1970s played brooding music and their frontman, the unkempt Robert Smith, became a kind of goth icon. Smith, a multi-instrumentalist, was the driving force of The Cure and his singular, wavering, moping style of singing was the hallmark of the band. Like in the case of Belle & Sebastian, I had just two of The Cure’s albums—The Head On The Door (1985) and Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me (1987). Then, I hooked my USB cable to a generous friend’s disk and got seven more of their albums, including Disintegration, Bloodflowers, Boys Don’t Cry, The Cure, 4:13 Dream, Faith and Pornography. That’s nothing, really, because as far as I know The Cure have more thana dozen main full-lengths released between 1979 and 2008, besides EPs and compilation albums such as Mixed Up, which comprises 11 experimental remixes of their hits. And why am I talking about The Cure now? Well, because in Tim Burton’s new film, Alice in Wonderland, Smith does a solo performance on the original soundtrack.
Lest you think I build my collection just by ripping off music from other people’s hard disks, let me tell you it’s a two-way street, just as it was in the physical era when how many albums you could borrow from others had something to do with how much you also lent them. I’m very generous these days with passing on my music, much more than I was with my CDs, tapes and records. Try me!
Three to Tango:
- SXSW: By the time you read this South By South West will be well under way in Austin, Texas. Here’s where you can get all the action.
- Elbo.ws: Want to search and browse hundreds and thousands of blogs for music, videos and more? Head to this aggregator.
- Gonjasufi: Like the name/ Well, Sumach Ecks is a rapper-singer-yoga teacher from LA. And Gonjasufi is his latest project has soulful vocals.