The halfway point… ?

It’s now six months since the UK went into lockdown due to Covid-19. One of the first things I did when I realised I would be in the house a lot more than planned this year was something I’d been meaning to do for a while… I got my old CD collection out, put it somewhere accessible and sorted the discs into alphabetical order.

Singles followed by albums, in alphabetical order
Classical CDs

A bit later on I also got hold of a nice new stand for my faithful hifi components (thanks Laura!).

Hifi on its new stand

The hifi has been a good investment. I think I spent about £400 on the main components soon after I started work, and nearly 20 years on they still work flawlessly and sound great. If I’d bought a cheap and nasty one instead I could easily have ended up spending more money in total replacing it every time it broke, plus it obviously wouldn’t have sounded as good.

As an aside, I feel a bit embarrassingly old fashioned to still be clinging to physical media and a bulky hifi component system in this day and age. Aren’t we all supposed to be listening to Spotify on our smart speakers by now? But to tell the truth, I’ve just never really got on with streaming services, though I did try them for a while. I think it’s the feeling that I no longer have control of my music collection… what if one of my favourite artists does something “bad” and Spotify decides to pull all their stuff as a result? It seems like there is already a precedent for this with, for example the Michael Jackson episode of the Simpsons being removed from streaming services and future DVD releases as a result of allegations against him. As someone who gets very emotionally invested in my music and TV, I feel safer having a physical copy, or at least a locally stored DRM-free copy that can’t be taken away from me on a whim.

(I think it also didn’t help that, soon after I first got Spotify, I boarded a long flight only to discover that it had picked that moment to delete all the music I’d downloaded).

More to the point, I just like my CDs and my hifi, damn it. I always dreamed of having a big CD collection and a nice good quality hifi when I was a teenager, and now that I have those things I should be enjoying them, not feeling ashamed of them.

The collection is certainly big. It currently runs to 121 singles, 261 pop/rock albums, 166 classical CDs, and 39 compilation CDs. And when I’d finished sorting them, I decided, “You know what, I’m going to listen to ALL of them”. So I did.

Or rather, I started listening to all of them, because nearly six months on I’m still nowhere near finished yet. I generally average about one or two discs per day while I’m working. I started off listening through both the singles and the classical CDs in alphabetical order, then when I finished the singles I started on the albums. At this point I have listened to 126 classical CDs, 121 singles and 28 albums, whilst I have 40 classical, 233 albums and 39 compilations still to go. In case you were wondering, I’m up to Tchaikovsky with the classical and The Bluetones with the rock/pop.

One of the reasons I wanted to start this was because I had a feeling we’d be out of lockdown again before I finished, and that was kind of a comforting thought. My brother was more pessimistic and thought I would finish all the CDs before that happened. I think I was at least half-right in the end… I wouldn’t class the current restrictions as a lockdown anymore, so the lockdown did end before I got to the end of my CDs. I’m now starting to wonder whether the pandemic will be over and we’ll be back to “full normal” before I’m done. Given what I’ve been reading lately about vaccines, and given that the UK authorities now seem to be hinting at about another 6 months of restrictions, it’s possible, though I don’t quite dare yet to believe it’s likely.

I decided at the start that I would make myself listen to every CD in full, the only exception being that I could skip a track if I’d already listened to exactly the same version of it on a previous disc. This made me a bit apprehensive, both because I knew some of them would bring back memories I’d rather not think about, and also because I suspected some of what I used to listen to in my teens wouldn’t have aged very well. So far, though, it’s been OK. Two songs did move me to tears (I won’t tell you what they were because you’ll think I’m mad), one of them because it must have been the first time I’d heard the original version in well over 20 years and I’d forgotten how nice it is compared to the blander album version I’ve heard many times since.

I discovered a handful of tracks that for some reason had never made it to being ripped and put on my phone, so of course I remedied that straight away. I think there were even a few whole CDs (presents and impulse buys) that I’ve never listened to at all until now. Mostly, though, the only new stuff I discovered was thumping, repetitive dance mixes on the B-sides of a lot of the singles that reminded me why I never bothered listening to them in the first place.

Anyway, it’s been something to do to mark the passage of these weird times, and a nice little trip down memory lane. I could have just listened to all the same music on my computer but it wouldn’t have been the same somehow. Getting the actual physical CDs out, seeing the covers and the booklets and the disc designs has been almost as much of a nostalgia hit as the music itself.