I have an envy of the youth of today who have access to so many treasures and gifts that were beyond my reach as a boy. Does it make them appreciate the endless avenues that can be literally opened at the touch of a button or screen. Boundless knowledge to literature and arts, an Aladdin’s Cave that does not need a special password to gain access. Maybe I am showing my age….the old adage of “Life was a lot harder in my day”….Well, it was difficult in lots of ways but the voyage of discovery was a lot longer and had more twists and turns. In my day…..God…here I go again…an effort of gigantic proportions had to be made to gain access to alternative perspectives on life. Let me take you back to 1990 when Ireland was just on the cusp of a regeneration and the internet was a few years away yet. Ireland was only beginning to see the chink of light through the dark curtains that had cosseted it for years. It’s only when you look back, many years later, that you realize how much in the darkness we were.
The only benefit of this self imposed blackout is that any chink of light that did peak through the curtain always shone brightly and like all chinks of light have the overwhelming effect of lighting up the room like the yearly solstice in New grange. Like a bearded, be-straggled prisoner in solitary confinement seeking out any presence of light in their cell….scrambling for information each time the trap in the cell door is opened. We were unwittingly captive in our own cells but did not realize how captive we actually were for so long. There was always the select few who never let themselves be held back to the unseen barriers. These people acted as our conduits for all things nice. We were the sponges who soaked up whatever they layed before us. I was lucky in that I had an older brother and sister who imparted by osmosis their insulated knowledge of music and perspectives on life which were to mould part of my perspective. They acted as my jailers who came around now and again to leave some more light into my cell. Once my floodgates were fully opened I could not be held back. In 1990 I was the tender age of 17 and like any teenager on his first voyage into the unknown at that time, I could only rely on the advice of my peers whereas now a 17 year old has the aid of fantastic mediums to help them on their way.
What I would have given to have these treasures back in the day!!! It was all available but at a cost….if you were willing to buy all the in magazines and trail through all the available data…nowadays the thorny task is so much easier. In the last week or 2 I have signed up for Spotify(only available this month in Ireland) and am mesmerized by the sheer brilliance of these pages. This is as good as it gets people. For years I have shunned the likes of Itunes but now Spotify has come riding across the desert from afar with its large trail of a dust cloud slowly settling behind it. Like all of the Gunslinger heroes we have grown to love over the years…..they have come to save us from the devils of injustice. We grow to love these heroes because they have an unknown mystical history which slowly unravels to display their hidden flaws which have helped to make them so resilient in the face of overwhelming odds. This is how Spotify presents itself to me. It is the Clint Eastwood, the Henry Fonda, the Robert Mitchum, the Anthony Quinn, the Jimmy Stewart of our generation….always ready with the wisest of tales being told around midnight campfires to let us slowly into their hidden world and to help us to discover how the rest of the world is waiting for us.
The beauty of Spotify is how it unfolds in the form of a lost exotic city with twisting lanes and avenues constantly opening up new treasures. It acts as the open minded guide with the beard and knowing glint who gladly presents you with the guidebook of an unknown town and lets you loose. If you want to you can bring along your friends and discover what they are listening to. This is the substitute for the 90 minute tapes that we endlessly shared amongst each other in order to spread the stash of music we had in order to help others onto the path you have wandered down…. in return they would show you a map to trace your way into other unknown lands that they may have frequented. Remember the unsaid rule of making a tape for your friends was to always slip a few special songs at the end of the tape that they may not have layed their ears upon yet….sometimes it may or may not have worked but it was always worth a try.
The only difficulty with the blank tape method was that invariably the maker of the tape would not adhere to the flimsy rules of the tape maker, i.e. to clearly and concisely fill in the inlay card in order to give the listener an added awareness of the unknown tracks they were listening to. This was the hidden flaw of the cassette tape!! Who among us had boxes of tapes with unknown track listings and more often than not with the broken or cracked tape box to further wreck your head. This was one of my brothers unwitting missions in his sorry life ……to break or crack nearly all the tape cassette holders that were in my possession…….or the most annoying of all was his habit of taping 20 seconds of a song from the radio onto your only recording of a live concert!!!!
However, even with all these little idiosyncrasies that we put up with for years…..the advantages of tape outgunned any other method that has come or gone. Tape was so easy to use and had the advantage of being overwritten infinitely…..within reason obviously. I hope to act as the historian for the younger generation who may not have the knowledge of this past medium. “Only 90 minutes…that’s no good!!!”. 90 minutes may not seem like enough to capture all that was needed but tape was not a mass storage medium. It act as a mechanism to transport a specific amount of information and by Jeanie, you had better get all the right songs on that perfect tape that we sought to make. That’s what made for the perfect listening experience in some cases….the constant erasing and fine tuning…that tape we all had in our pocket that was slipped into the walkman in times of need!!!
Spotify may not be a substitute for tape but now with phones acting as a storage device and the access to huge databases of music now available we can make “playlists” to suit our needs! I have always been slow to embrace change over the years but now I feel that these people have ticked all the boxes on my list. There were always some miniscule limitations to other streaming sites which left me yawning….not the case with Spotify. There is the free access that has limits but for a very small fee….hey…it’s yours for the taking!!
I feel like Jacques Cousteau when he went on his maiden voyage to dive with the aid of diving gear for the first time…..slowly enveloping myself in the endless bottomless pit of music….discovering new artists and gently nodding to the old ones who brought me to this point. It’s also arrived at a time in my life when I can spend hours listening to music without distraction…….Spotify was waiting in the shadows to display it’s merchandise……clasping it’s suitcase and clutching the key…”Now is the perfect time for the old Cogger!!! Let loose on him when he least expects it!!”