Review 2019

2019 End of Year Musings.

Once again, thanks.

Twelve more months of music listening seems to have flown by in the blinking of an eye and it’s time again to say “thanks very much” for your continued support of RPM. I hope you’ve enjoyed choosing songs to match the theme each month and coming up with a favourite album if you were lucky enough to be pulled out of the magic Mystery Album hat this year. There’s certainly been a diverse mix of musical styles and bands played; perhaps you’ve heard something which you’ve thought was great which you possibly would not otherwise of encountered……… which case, brilliant! Two new faces at the club this year who have become RPM regulars is fantastic and has certainly widened the musical scope of recordings played as well. RPM in conjunction with Elsing Village Hall also held two more Music Markets which were very well received and there will be two more in 2020; 4th April and 3rd October. Oh, and by the way, we still haven’t repeated the guest biscuit yet!........yes, really.

Music, Records and Collecting.

I’ve read a few articles this year about collecting which, after mentioning the likes of comics, beer mats, Star Wars figurines and type writers (actor Tom Hanks apparently collects them), inevitably touches upon vinyl records. Being a “music fan”, collecting records and CDs raises some interesting and possibly contradictory questions. In its pure form, music doesn’t actually exist in a physical form, does it? Watching a live band, the music only exists in that exact moment as it’s being played and when the musicians stop, then so does the music. You have nothing tangible to hold. Music therefore only becomes something “collectible” once it’s in a recorded form, held upon an LP or CD which is an actual object……the something which is a physical and therefore collectible item.

The usual concept of a collection is an expanding accumulation of objects, possibly with the ultimate aim to complete a set. So, is a record collection a collection in the proper sense as ultimately, and I’m talking personally here, it’s not the object I’m really interested in, it’s what’s contained upon the object (whether physical LP or CD)? I know some record collectors certainly are collecting records as objects, they really need that first pressing of Led Zep I in mint condition, but to me that’s not what it’s about. Sure, good cover art, a gatefold sleeve and a lyric sheet can certainly enhance the musical experience which is why I continue to buy the vinyl LP format, but my record collection has grown not because I want lots of objects in the form of LPs but because I love the music stored upon them made by the bands and artistes I like. Each time a band creates new music and captures it in the recorded form, that’s when I’ll buy that record which explains why after listening to music for 40 years, I have accrued so many records; every one is a uniquely captured moment in time and therefore completely different to each other.

So, does this counter the question, “Do you really need so many records?” which is often weighted to insinuate that one doesn’t and that it’s a case of uncontrollable hoarding (or is that just my paranoia kicking in? ;-] ). Well, viewed as objects, no, in fact I don’t need all these records at all. With today's technology my “collection” could be stored not in boxes or upon rows of shelves, but on a disc drive in digital form and take up about the same amount of space as a box of cooks matches. The pro-organiser Marie Kondo has cast her influence upon modern living with her minimalist inspired approach to sorting out your stuff. (For some it seems an excuse to dispose of one lot of items, only to be followed by a trip to trendy minimalist Ikea to….oh, dear……purchase yet more stuff). However, Kondo isn’t trying to get us to discard everything in the house. She is asking us to examine every item we own and to ask ourselves, “does it have value within your life” and “spark joy”. Her philosophy is that of mindful possession, focusing on the things that really matter to us……and what better fits this concept than one’s own record collection, put together over many years and which is something that indeed gives me joy and that I love? Collecting, therefore, is “deliberate curation, not pointless hoarding”, as journalist Gwendolyn Smith states in her collecting article written for the i newspaper.

Considering the above fact, that my record collection doesn’t have to take up a lot of space in the modern world, why do I still resist taking those first Kondo steps towards a more minimalist and neater storage end? I reckon a strong part of it is nostalgia. As I’ve mentioned before, a vinyl record often acts as a memory trigger. I take out my vinyl copy of Hawkwind’s Choose Your Masques, drop the needle onto the first and title track and I’m instantly back outside the Hammersmith Palais in February 1983, standing with my friends in the falling snow in sub-zero temperatures in nothing but jeans and a Doremi Faso Latido t-shirt waiting for the doors to open….then we’re inside the venue, the support band Clientele have finished and we’re expecting our heroes to hit the stage any minute. The heat inside is incredible and our t-shirts are wringing wet with sweat. Suddenly shadowy figures immerge from the smoky darkness onto the stage. The lights go up and….it’s not the Hawks but another support band, a goth punk outfit called Crown of Thorns who for the next half hour receive the full ire and disdain from a crowd of mostly hippies and NWOBHM Hawkwind converts. It’s not pretty. When Hawkwind finally hit the stage, we’re ecstatic to see original sax player Nick Turner is still guesting. It’s brilliant! See what I mean about triggers? I’m there again.

The other factor that seems to be being overlooked by collecting naysayers is that at the end of the day the whole point of a collection is fun and enjoyment, even escape, which, as we move into 2020 with a newly elected Conservative government and Brexit finally looming, seems to be pretty important, doesn’t it?

Can’t wait to collect some more unique moments of musical time.