Topic: The Curmudgeon
I was in a Barnes and Noble recently where I picked up the 50th anniversary Legacy Edition of Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue, expanded and enhanced, a CD I’d recommend to anyone as the definitive jazz album, indeed an album that music experts hail as “crossing genres, speaking to generations, and a cornerstone to any music collection.” I’d owned a vinyl version of this gem and had purchased the CD when it was released many moons ago. But this version was expanded to two discs and included a jazz-cool tee-shirt – Miles on the front facing front, Miles on the back facing away. Its color? Kind of blue. What can I say? I’m a sucker for slick marketing ploys, especially where cigars and CDs are concerned.
As I was checking out other CDs, my eyes alit on the photo that adorns the famous Abbey Road album by the Beatles – for the uninitiated, it shows the Fab Four, in single file, crossing the famed Abbey Road, Paul sans shoes (yes, Paul McCartney played in a band before Wings). What attracted me to the display was that this was a vinyl pressing. So I thought, When did B&N consent to selling used merchandise? Then I saw the Diana Krall album, Quiet Nights, next to Abbey Road, which had been released just last month. Amazon had alerted me to its release because I’d once purchased from them an Ella Fitzgerald compilation. Then I noted the price on both albums was listed as new. The sales clerk stocking a nearby DVD bin, noting the look of confusion on my face, said, “Cool, huh?” He was obviously a Baby Boomer like me. I said, “They’ve taken to rereleasing original presses on vinyl? Whatever for?”
He laughed and said, “There’s a whole new market for albums in their original format. Two-hundred-thousand titles are already available and the company in New York producing them is backed up with more titles.”
“A new market?” I asked, incredulous. “Who?”
“You’re kidding? I thought they were into iPods, or as John Laraquette called them on an old House episode after waking up from a ten-year coma, ip-ods.”
“They love the artwork in the larger format,” the clerk told me. “And it’s a tie to their parents’ generation.”
“But is anyone even making turntables anymore?” Again for the uninitiated, turntable is the term for what my parents called a record player.
“They are,” the clerk confirmed.
For the first time in a long time – I mean, a very long time – I was utterly amazed. Just when I thought nothing could surprise me.
For the clerk’s benefit I told the story a friend of mine recounted for me maybe twenty years ago. He and his, at the time, seven-year-old son were crossing the parking lot of a Target when his son stopped dead in his tracks, his attention fixed on an old 45 rpm record someone had discarded. “Dad, what’s that?” he asked. His dad patiently explained what it was and that that was how music had been recorded back in the day. “Wow,” was his son’s one-syllable response, eyes big as, well, big as CDs. “They must’ve been able to get a lot of music on them.” My friend laughed and informed his son that, “No, they were able to get only about seven minutes of music on each side.”
The clerk and I both laughed at the story and I paid for my Miles Davis Legacy Edition CD grateful that I had never sold my original vinyl pressing, or my Abbey Road. But I winced at the recollection of my buddy’s sister-in-law – she’d sold, at a garage sale for $1, his original, limited edition numbered Beatles White Album, pressed in white vinyl.
I left Barnes and Noble scratching my head and thinking my dad was right: The more things change the more they stay the same.