When changing your tune ain't worth it

The other day I was telling a friend about a CD I had recently purchased and he looked aghast. ''You don't still buy CDs?'' he asked, with an air of genuine incredulity. ''Nobody buys CDs these days.'' I felt like a social outcast, a certified Neanderthal, a wrinkly one at that.

When I was a teenager back in antediluvian times, one of the great pleasures in life was buying a new vinyl LP, returning home and listening to it while ensconced in the softest armchair in the house, absorbing the sleeve notes. Some of the record covers were works of art in themselves and I would proudly line them up in our sitting room, with albums like Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan juxtaposed rather uncomfortably with my mum's Sound of Music and South Pacific.

Four decades later, I still get a buzz sitting at home and putting on a newly purchased CD, even though I've had to invest in a magnifying glass to read the album notes.

I'm resigned to the fact that I am officially an ''old git'' who is sadly way behind the times, an old fossil, obsolete. Alas, I will never graduate to the undoubted pleasures of walking around Bangkok's streets with earphones dangling from my head, engrossed in a smartphone and wearing a hood.

Silly old fart.

Mangled memories

Some years after I moved to Bangkok, vinyl albums gave way to cassette tapes which became my main source of music for the next decade.

Although they were cheap, cassettes did not evoke any sentimental attraction, unlike the old records. They tended to have a short life span, frequently ending up in a mangled mess. I must have bought Elton John's Madman Across the Water at least three times.

In the mid-90s, after watching yet another favourite cassette being chewed up by the wretched tape machine, and spending hours disentangling the strangled tape from the offending contraption's dusty innards, I made the bold decision to go the CD route. It was bold because it was also an inflationary step - roughly 10 bottles of amber liquid per CD by my practical accounting methods.

However, as one cupboard resembled a morgue with deceased cassettes vying for space with dead socks, CDs seemed the only course to take.

Lubricated goat, screeching weasels

During the 1990s, I would spend hours browsing in the Tower Records outlets in Bangkok. There were rows upon rows of seductive CDs sitting there trying to catch the eye, although the prices were anything but seductive. I was like a kid in a candy store, admittedly a rather ancient kid.

It was also a reminder of how out of touch I had become. For a start, I hadn't heard of half the groups and some of them sounded quite scary. There were creepy names like Alien Sex Fiend and Distorted Pony. And I could only assume a group called Bark Psychosis had in mind those citizens who are kept awake nightly by the howling of Bangkok's's canine community.

Then there were the amazing Electric Ferrets, a dubious outfit called Lubricated Goat and something by the name of Screeching Weasel.

Despite all that temptation, it will come as no surprise I always ended up buying the old stuff, although most of the performers I liked were either dead or not far off it.

High street blues

On occasional trips to England I used to pop into the HMV (His Master's Voice) store on Oxford Street in London to sniff out a few CDs. They were a bit on the expensive side, but there was a decent selection. However, that won't be happening any more, as this week the company went bust, sinking along with all other traditional high street shops in Britain.

The first-ever album I bought, Ray Charles Greatest Hits, was from an HMV store in ''rocking'' Reading back in the Stone Age, otherwise known as 1962. I brought that same record out to Bangkok in the 1970s. Unfortunately it bent out of shape in the heat, although it remained just about playable until it disappeared while I was moving house. I have a horrible feeling that Georgia On My Mind and Hit The Road Jack ended up on the On Nut rubbish dump

Decoding Dylan

One of my first acts upon arriving in Thailand was to buy a record player. I was helped by a Thammasat University student named ''Eed'', singer and organist in a band called the Apples.

He took me along to what was known as the ''Thieves' Market'' on Charoen Krung Road, where he negotiated a decent price.

Eed's group were a pleasant bunch and I would write out the lyrics in English for them when none were available. The only way to achieve this was through a tedious process of playing the record and listening over and over again.

Eed was a Dylan fan, but not surprisingly struggled with some lyrics, as Dylan's enunciation left something to be desired. We didn't have any Dylan song books, so spent hours listening on the record player to tracks from the Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde On Blonde albums. Not exactly a high-tech operation, but I bet Eed and I were the only people in Bangkok who knew all the verses of Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues. Alas shortly after all that effort, Eed changed to a group which didn't do Dylan.


Contact PostScript via email at oldcrutch@hotmail.com.

About the author

columnist
Writer: Roger Crutchley
Position: Writer