But it took time to get the back catalogs of many musicians into CD form. You kids might not believe this, given that Sam Goody’s, Tower Records and Borders have all bit the dust in recent years, but back in the ’80s, when going online meant phone modems, Compuserve and BBSs, there were once boutique CD dealers. Back when I was living in New Jersey, shortly after I bought my first CD player around 1984 or ’85, I have fond memories of driving out to this really hip CD store in Medford, which had imported CDs of albums not yet available otherwise in the US on compact disc (such as the double CD-imported-from-England version of George Harrison’s mega-opus All Things Must Pass, or Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells). You sort of felt like you were touching the future a little — because you were.
At some point in the late ‘80s, I remember driving past and seeing the store boarded up; by then, CDs were officially ubiquitous. Today, it’s the CD itself whose days are increasingly numbered — particularly in my house. But with each CD I popped into the computer to re-digitize, I could recall where I was in life when I bought it, or if I had seen the band live, or at least videos of that band’s best or most iconic moments, such as the Beatles’ rooftop concert, as Let It Be’s ones and zeros were transferred onto my hard drive. Or read a great Rolling Stone, Musician or Guitar World interview with the artist – or heck, learned how to play his hit song on guitar.
For my dad in the 1970s, as the postwar, pre-rock pop culture laid in ruins, the nostalgia must have been similarly powerful – particularly the connections to WWII and the swank of the postwar era. The idea that a basement full of LPs would fit into a hundred-gig hard drive – which could then be uploaded to a global communications network and then listened to anywhere, including in the car, the den, on a portable phone or flat information device the size of a TV dinner would have seemed like Clarke’s Third Law to my dad. And yet we take it all for granted.