Iron Maiden - The Trooper
Way back in 1987 when I was 11 and listening to way too much Iron Maiden and Motley Crue I walked into our local independent record store (No.19) and flicked through the cassette racks at the back of the shop like I had done a hundred times before. I came across a cassette with an awesome cover that just made me stop and stare. I turned the rotating rack 90 degrees to read the spine… ‘The Red Hot Chili Peppers – The Uplift Mofo Party Plan’. I walked up to the counter and asked the shop assistant for it and he walked over to the locked rack and removed it for me. I had gambled £5.86 of my hard earned pocket money on an interesting album cover and a curious name. That right there was the start of two beautiful relationships, one with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the other with the shop assistant Brian. Was it worth nearly six quid? Totally.
The RHCP perform 'Hollywood' a cover of the Meter's 'Africa' with George Clinton
The next week I went in a bought ‘Freaky Styley’. Brian noticed I had purchased two Chili Pepper albums in a row and informed me that I should also check out two bands called Parliament and Funkadelic, so the week after I bought ‘Mothership Connection’. I read the inlays of all my cassettes cover to cover and discovered that George Clinton was in Parliament, I had also read his name in the ‘Freaky Styley’ inlay; Clinton had produced the whole album. Every week or so I would go into the store with whatever money I could rustle together and purchase one of Brian’s recommendations that was often linked to my previous purchase in some way.
Theodopolous P Wilderbeast AKA Lenny Henry gets down with George Clinton
Having a limited income of pocket money meant every purchase was a tricky decision, these decisions probably still shape what I listen to now. If I hadn’t purchased ‘Mothership Connection’ I probably wouldn’t of purchased Del Tha Funkee Homosapien’s ‘I Wish My Brother George Was Here’ four years later. If I hadn’t purchased ‘I Wish My Brother George Was Here’ I probably wouldn’t of purchased any Handsome Boy Modeling School and so on…20 odd years later my iTunes is full of everything from Sonny Rollins to Napalm Death and everything in between all thanks to the Chili Peppers.
Del Tha Funkee Homosapien - Pissin' On Your Steps
Now, music is free, it is available for £0.00, and instantly. My iTunes library currently has 26859 songs in it; I probably paid for about a third of them. In my current financial situation given the option between paying £10.99 or £0.00 for an album I know which one I’m going to take. Nowadays I often download music to listen to it before purchasing it on vinyl to play out if I have any spare cash. If I download music one of three things will happen: a) I'll like it but not buy it; b) I'll hate it and delete it; or c) I'll like it and buy it. In none of those scenarios is the artist any worse off, but in one of them, they are better off.
Now that I download music for free, I hear the same amount of music in a month as what used to take me a year. I am also lucky enough to be in a position to be able to listen to music pretty much 24 hours a day if I want. I am slowly working my way through 76 days worth of solid music. Brian’s job has been replaced by the internet and Amazon’s recommendations and my bulky Walkman has been replaced by my 160gb iPod.
What was once an all-encompassing experience that started with the Red Hot Chili Peppers has now become a solitary, selfish one sat in front of a computer. I do however have a massive archive of music at my fingertips that has cost me the price of a computer and my broadband connection and now my musical thirst is even more enriched. I miss record stores, I miss spending hours searching for the perfect gamble often based on the album artwork and I miss physical copies of the packaging. It is not like I have turned my back on digging for records, I do still enjoy digging for old music and will continue to do that for as long as I can. Just for the record (no pun intended) I haven’t purchased a Red Hot Chili Pepper album since ‘By The Way’ (and that was pretty painful), I do however still frequent No.19 and Brian still occasionally does a few hours there.