Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Something to say

I was sitting in my favourite café, on the net. I’d done the boring things I needed to do; updated things, downloaded boring stuff, tried to fix problems that will never get fixed.

Then I ended up wasting time on you-tube, which I shouldn’t have been doing. I was getting nostalgic, checking out live performances from the 70’s – the Jam, the Clash. Trying to work out if I’d been there (well, sometimes I had).

It’s great in a way, a chance to re-live all kinds of things.

Except it isn’t.

What I also remembered was how angry we were then, when there was nothing new happening for youngsters like us, how everything was looking back. Just like now, actually. We changed that.

I can see how the “new” technology is fantastic, things we never had or even dreamed of. But the hardware isn’t really what it’s about, it’s the stuff you put on it.

And that new stuff just isn’t there.

Hardware; Mr Edison inventor of the phonograph (wax cylinders), had to go round America and Europe promoting it. An advertisement wouldn’t do; people wouldn’t understand what it was about.

So, he would book a theatre and then put a string quartet on the stage. After the audience had got used to the music, the curtain would slowly come down. When it came up again, the quartet had gone and in its place was an Edison Phonograph, playing the same piece. Then they took in the orders.

Of course, people weren’t so familiar with technology – there wasn’t much back then. But the point is that a new cylinder on a new machine was a pretty hot item, not like hearing a scratchy old thing now.

People were hungry for cylinders – their problem was they couldn’t afford enough of them. Same in the 1930’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70's with records and then CD’s all the way up till say ten years ago.

When I worked in a record shop in the 1980’s and CD’s first came out they were £25, when I was earning £75 a week. They flew out. People couldn’t get enough. It wasn’t just the technology, it was the music.

Today the problem is that there isn’t anything new that really matters to young people anything that has something to say.  Back catalogue music is just living someone else’s life. Which is the real reason HMV just went into administration.
Which is what Aaron Swartz was about.


Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)

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