A week ago Sunday, thanks to the generous Valarie, I got my first i-Pod. As just about anyone would say, it’s so nice to be able to listen to music anywhere, and to filter out unwanted noises at the grocery store, the doctor’s office waiting room, and so on.
More than actually listening to the i-Pod, though, my time has been spent frantically uploading music. In seven days I’ve uploaded 1,146 songs. But I’m old fashioned. I don’t think in terms of individual songs, but in terms of albums. I’ve uploaded 98 albums in that time.
The albums I’ve uploaded represent roughly about 20% of my CD collection. As such, it’s been interesting as I scroll through my i-Tunes software to see what decisions I’ve made, what music and artists make the cut and which ones don’t. Although I’ve tried to upload music based strictly on what I want (or likely will want) to hear—especially since I’m taking a weeklong trip in a couple days—without trying to I’ve essentially passed judgment on the value of my own music collection.
Looking at which artists I’ve uploaded multiple albums by, The Beatles are way out in front with seven albums: Revolver, Magical Mystery Tour, Sgt. Pepper’s, The Beatles (the White Album), Abbey Road, Let It Be, and about 15 songs from Anthology 3. (I'm particularly partial to "Not Guilty" and "Old Brown Shoe".) I’d most certainly have also uploaded Rubber Soul if there weren’t a skip on “Norwegian Wood”, and if there was more time before my trip I’d surely also load Help!, A Hard Day’s Night and a few others.
The most albums I’ve uploaded by any other artist is three—less than half of the amount of Beatles albums on the i-Pod.
There are three by XTC: English Settlement, Drums & Wires, and Black Sea, all of which are early records from the late 1970s while they were still playing short, streamlined punk-pop in the vein of early Police and The Clash. Later XTC quit touring and have recorded several increasingly ambitious studio albums, which are great—but I still like the old tossed-off recordings the best.
Speaking of The Clash, I also have three albums of theirs: Combat Rock, Sandinista! and Give ‘Em Enough Rope. You may notice that I haven’t uploaded London Calling, which is more or less their most acclaimed album. (Rolling Stone named it the best album of the 1980s.) But while I certainly agree it’s a fabulous record, my favorite is unquestionably Sandinista!, a sprawling double album from later in the band’s career that more generously incorporates the variety of sounds that London Calling was just beginning to. Sandinista! is The White Album to London Calling’s Revolver. I also love Combat Rock, which I first heard in grade school courtesy of my friend Paul. Interestingly, the first side of Combat Rock (I still think in terms of sides, a holdover from vinyl album days) has The Clash’s two biggest singles, “Rock the Kasbah” and “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”, but I usually skip both songs because I’ve simply heard them too many times. (Don't get me started on the tyranny of hit singles.) I prefer the second side, especially the song “Ghetto Defendant”, a collaboration with poet Allen Ginsberg.
With classical music, a growing passion of mine, I found myself changing the artist designations that automatically load into i-Tunes with the CD. Instead of listing the orchestra and/or conductor, I’ve changed the artist’s name to that of the composer. It’s mostly just for convenience sake, because I think of the music in terms of the composer much more so than who plays the music.
Which brings me to three recordings of Bach on the i-Pod: The Brandenburg Concertos, The Art of the Fugue, and a collection of other short pieces.
The only other artist I have three recordings by is my friend Chad’s band Beauty Pill: The Unsustainable Lifestyle, You Are Right To Afraid, and The Cigarette Girl From the Future. The latter two are actually EPs. It’s not merely out of loyalty that I’ve uploaded these recordings, though. I really love them.
After that, there are 11 different artists I have two albums by: Air, A Tribe Called Quest, Dmitri Shostakovich, Elvis Costello & The Attractions, The Modern Jazz Quartet, Stevie Wonder, David Bowie, Radiohead, The Police, Roland Kirk, Tricky, and The Pharcyde. But I could also include Damon Albarn, whom I have two non-Blur albums by under different artist headings: Mali Music, a collaboration he did with several musicians from that country, and Demon Days, the second Gorillaz album.
Besides what this list says, there’s also what it doesn’t say, or what it says that might be misleading. The Beatles, The Clash and XTC are a pretty accurate representation of the rock/pop I listen to the most. But I’ve long thought of Shostakovich as my favorite composer, even though I have more Bach uploaded.
There are also a few artist whom I own a lot of albums by, yet are not represented on the i-Pod at all. I have ten Miles Davis recordings, for example. Kind of Blue is perhaps the greatest jazz album of all-time, and one I've listened to a lot over the years. But I've heard it so many times it's as if there's an i-Pod in my mind that means I don't need to play the actual record. I could easily have uploaded other Miles albums, such as Birth of the Cool or In a Silent Way, to name to personal favorites. But for some reason I've become less and less attracted to trumpet versus other instruments certain other bandleaders play like piano, saxophone, or even bass. The funny thing is trumpet is the only instrument I've ever learned to play (in junior high band).
I also own many albums by REM and U2, and none of them were included in the first 98 albums I uploaded.
I listened to tons of REM in college and the ensuing years, and while I don't deny many of their albums being terrific, especially Murmur, Reckoning, Document and Automatic for the People, they're just not a band that interests me anymore. I really think they should have broken up when drummer Bill Berry left the band about six or seven years ago. Not enough bands know when to leave the spotlight.
U2's Achtung Baby is definitely one of my favorite records, and I'm kind of surprised it's not on the i-Pod. I also still like Zooropa. But both those albums I listen to with Valarie somewhat often, so I probably hear them enough that way. And of course U2 is another band that's still around after 20+ years. At a certain point I just can't sustain interest with album after album.
I also notice that overall jazz seems under-represented because there aren’t any artists I have more than two albums by. I have two Roland Kirk albums, and could easily have uploaded a couple more. Same goes for the Modern Jazz Quartet—I just love vibraphone. But Charles Mingus is a favorite, as are Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett, and I have only one album by each of them. That will surely change in the weeks ahead.
But I guess that’s the fun of the uploading process. It’s not scientific, but it’s an intriguing snapshot into my own listening habits, how they’ve changed and how they haven’t over the years. And of course this is a work in progress. I’ve still got over 23GB of storage left.