Confessions of a music snob
Tomorrow is an annual event called Record Store Day. You should go, if only to support your local independent record store, that is if you have one left. Most people I know haven’t heard of RSD or could care less about it. To me it’s a bit like Christmas and Easter rolled into one. Most people I know can’t be bothered to actually go to a store to buy music anymore when it’s so easy to go to iTunes or Amazon and buy it, if they bother to pay for music at all. And I get that, to some degree, though I don’t like or necessarily condone stealing somebody else’s creative output. And don’t get me wrong, I have an ipod with 80 gigs of music on it, and probably couldn’t make it through a typical work day without it.
In the end though, I’m still heavily attached to buying and owning a physical product when I purchase music, preferably vinyl. There’s tangible pleasure to be had in the act of flipping through stacks of records, holding them, caring for them, looking at the art work, and reading the liner notes (how many of you out there even know what liner notes are?). Just as important as owning the physical album though, is the entire record store experience. A good record store is a community, where you can go, hang out, talk to others with like minded interest, and find out about new music you would otherwise miss. The internet serves the same purpose in terms of finding out about new music, but I’ll put my money on a good record store clerk being more informative and in the know than Pitchfork or some random hipster dufus who writes a long winded blog.
Part of this is nostalgia for me I know, a throwback to the days when we’d get to Manifest Records in Greenville, SC as soon as they opened on a Tuesday (the day that new music gets delivered to the stores in the US) and pick up a new release before they even had a chance to put it out on the shelves. Some of the best times and memories in my life involve visits to great record stores, like aforementioned Manifest, Wuxtry in Athens, GA, Wax ‘N Facts and Criminal Records in Atlanta, the recently departed Vinyl Fever in Tampa, or my local favorites Park Ave and Rock and Roll Heaven.
And yes I do buy some music online, usually one off song purchases, but I’ll buy whole albums if there’s no vinyl available. But given the choice, I’ll take the physical product and record buying experience every time, even if it means spending more money to do it. The extra cost is more than offset by the tangible gain.
Sadly, there seem to be fewer and fewer record stores each year (RIP Vinyl Fever, btw). It’s the reason there has to be a Record Store Day in the first place. So, even if you aren’t a huge music geek, get out from behind your computer, interact with the 3 dimensional people and get out tomorrow and buy a CD or two while you still can.
Now, most everybody I know has at one time or another called me a music snob, or some variation of that, as if it were somehow a derogatory term. I don’t see it as derogatory at all – I’d call myself discerning. I like music, all kinds. When people ask me what kind of music I listen to, I usually reply “good.” I’ve got 60s rock, hip hop, experimental eletronica, bubble gum pop, jazz, folk, blues, classical, emo, outlaw country, hard rock, trip hop, punk, and 80s alternative. It’s just that rarely is what I like been overly popular at the current time or has been played much if at all on the radio. I take that as a badge of honor, because dear lord but the radio has been a vapid and desolate place for a long, long time.
So what does it take, I’m sure you’re asking, to call yourself a music snob? It’s hard to describe, so rather than try I’ll give you a blue print of albums that every music snob should aspire to own. (There is one hard and fast rule though: Nothing by the Doors. The Doors are by miles the most overrated band ever.) For brevity I’m limiting these to one per artist for the most part, and presenting them in no particular order.
Rubber Soul – The Beatles
Pet Sounds – The Beach Boys
Bitches Brew – Miles Davis
Exile on Main Street – Rolling Stones
Blood on the Tracks – Bob Dylan
Third – Big Star
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars – David Bowie
Otis Blue – Otis Redding
Coat of Many Colors – Dolly Parton
The Clash – The Clash (just edges out London Calling by a hair, if only for White Riot)
Live at Folsom Prison – Johnny Cash
Grievous Angel – Gram Parsons
Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen
’77 – Talking Heads
Autobahn – Kraftwerk
The Velvet Underground and Nico – Velvet Underground
What’s Going On? – Marvin Gaye
Unknown Pleasures – Joy Division
Billion Dollar Babies – Alice Cooper
Dub Take the Vodoo Out of Reggae – The Mad Professor and Lee Scratch Perry
Innervisions – Stevie Wonder
Murmur – R.E.M.
Astral Weeks – Van Morrison
Let It Be – The Replacements
1999 – Prince
Elite Hotel – Emmylou Harris
Teenage Fanclub – Bandwagonesque
Marquee Moon – Television
Off the Wall – Michael Jackson
Disintegration – The Cure
In the Aeroplane Under the Sea – Neutral Milk Hotel
Kid A – Radiohead (or maybe OK Computer, depends on my mood)
After the Gold Rush – Neil Young
Hatful of Hallow – The Smiths
Excitable Boy – Warren Zevon
Funeral – Arcade Fire
The Definitive Jimmy Smith – Jimmy Smith
Check Your Head – Beastie Boys
You’re Living All Over Me – Dinosaur Jr.
Raising Hell – Run DMC
Doolittle – The Pixies
The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses
It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back – Public Enemy
Alligator – The National
Achtung Baby – U2
Sound of Silver – LCD Soundsystem
Dry – PJ Harvey
Cosmogramma – Flying Lotus
A Love Supreme – John Coltrane
Van Lear Rose – Loretta Lynn
So there you go, 50 albums that can serve as your music snob starter kit. It’s by no means all inclusive, but it’s enough to be getting on with for the moment. Now go get yourself a fine turntable, a good receiver, and some decent speakers to enjoy it these they way the gods intended. Happy hunting.
What did I miss?