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The First Album

February 26, 2010

Featured Article, Listen, Words

Let us pause for a moment, those of us of a certain age, and consider. Consider what? How the feck much things have changed. Sometimes actually for the good. Yes, yes, there is much, much change for the worse. Vicious demagogues rule a major American political party. Everywhere you go, an 800-pound gorilla named Wally (last name Mart) squats upon the squashed remnants of main streets where it used to be pleasing to stroll, shop and stop. Crosley Field is no more. Phil Collins is still on the radio.

On the other hand, I just popped into my MacBook Pro a CD by Habib Koite, who I’m to interview for a feature story in advance of his appearance with his band Bamada March 7 at the Clay Center in Charleston, WV. My iTunes program speaks up: “Yo ho, Master,” it says (it understands its role in our relationship). “Would you like, sire, for me to add this CD to my library. You down with that?

I am indeed down with that. A little while later, I attach my iPhone to the Mothership. Hit “sync.” Now, Habib Koite’s Frenchified Afro-pop soulful vibe, is in my pocket everywhere I go. And with a $60 device purchased at BestBuy and plugged into the cigarette lighter of my Honda Civic Hybrid (itself a turn for the better), I can jack my iPhone into my car speakers. Now, as I pilot myself through a Currier and Ives snowstorm along the West Virginia Turnpike, this syncopated, soothing music by Koite (pronounced KWAH-tay, says his publicist) bathes me in its balm, as his cool, grandfatherly marimba player tap-dances on the beat with his mallets.

All of this, is by way of introducing my theory (and it’s just a theory, mind you) that Steve Jobs is an alien from another galaxy embedded into our culture to introduce alien technology into human society. Either to advance our culture to the next stage of development. Or to give us the chance to play “Texas Hold ‘Em” in our lap underneath the table at the excruciating Monday planning meeting at the office.

I recall my very first brush with purchasing recorded music. My buddy Kevin Patrick and I were in 6th or 7th grade, and fans of Cat Stevens. We dearly desired his album “Tea for the Tillerman,” but only by combining our allowances was this possible. So we formed a conglomerate: The Tea for the Tillerman Purchase Association. The terms of the corporate contract were thus: 1) The TTPA would purchase said CD from Swallens. 2) Co-founder Patrick would commence to possess and appreciate company assets for a period of two months. 3) After expiration of said time, co-founder Imbrogno would take stewardship of assets. 4) Said agreement would be in force in perpetuity, until the end of time or Dec. 12, 2012, whichever came first.

This agreement held for a year or so. Then Kevin moved away, taking Cat with him. “Kevin,” I said, after running into him five years later upon a return visit to his hometown. “Where’s ‘Tea for the Tillerman’? I’m due, buddy.” Kevin did that thing with the corner of your mouth that indicates ‘Here comes the bad news.‘ “Burned up,” he said. “Apartment fire. Sorry man.”

I still say (according to the TTPA corporate charter), he owes me, like, $6.37, half of whatever an album cost back in the early ’70s. With interest accrued at the rate of inflation and compounded quarterly, my rough estimate is that Kevin owes me $4,345.23. Being the fair business partner I am, I will take an iTunes card from BestBuy for $9.99, so I can download the entire album. Into my pocket. (Thanks again, Steve! You’ll get back home someday).

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3 Responses to “The First Album”

  1. admin Says:

    It came to me, after posting this question to Facebook (“What was our first album/CD purchase?”), that there is an age cut-off to that question. And you need to modify it for people of a certain (younger) age: “What was your first song download?”

  2. Karan I. Says:

    Maybe for young, young ones- I mean, you’re not FB friends with a bunch of 10-12 year-olds, are you?

    • admin Says:

      No, not quite. But you never know who’s reading you. And what IS the generational dividing line or year when downloads trounced CD sales? It is a different experience entirely downloading a single song to holding a CD or (in its day) exploring the artifact and artistry of an album. Where is the tactile experience of music from downloads? It’s all cerebral. (Although when I play Glenn Hansard’s ravishing “Falling Slowly” his bug-eyed, black and white countenance stares out at me from my iPod while the song unspools — so there’s that. Which is not much.)