Known Johnson

July 1, 2005

The used haul for today

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 11:02 pm

Having gotten off work a bit early due to the holiday, I had some time to kill before picking up Alissa and the accompanying Unknown Johnson. I also had a couple of hefty credit slips from Zia simmering in my wallet. If you know me, you know I go in these cycles – for a period of time, I’ll swear off of trading in CDs. Then I’ll have saved up a number of things I’ve decided just don’t suit me for whatever reason, trade them in and grab a bunch more stuff. I’ll maintain this rate for a while, and then suddenly I’m itching because I’ve realized that my collection has once again reached a completely arbitrary size that sets off alarm bells in my head, and I’ll begin the difficult process of evaluating what is and what is not important to me. I know this cycle because I’ve done it over and over and over again. I’ve tried to be a good collector – picking up this and that, completing collections of artist for the sake of completion, expanding my interests – but I always find that I’m simply not cut out for it because once I’ve completed a collection, I realize that some of it, and sometimes a lot of it, doesn’t appeal to me all that much. I’m simply not a collector – I’m just a musical explorer.

It’s the whole “the point of a journey is not to arrive” mantra. I enjoy discovering how an artist developed and what happened to an artist throughout their career, but once I’ve hit that point where there’s really nothing left to pick up, the things that I love and the things that I don’t begin to stick out, and it seems asinine to hold onto all these CDs that I know I’m not going to listen to. So there’ll be this awakening of sorts where suddenly throughout my entire collection unloved and unloveable CDs make themselves very obvious, and I wind up with stacks and stack of discs to shed from my collection. It’s really a pretty fun time – I wind up with hundreds of dollars of credit with which I can explore many other artists, and I do.

One thing I’ve recently started doing is thinking of my CD collection as I would an art collection. People buy art, they put it on their walls, they enjoy it for a time, and then they auction it off to start a new collection. That’s what a lot of music is to me – art. I’m curious about it and want to know about it just as art collectors want to know about that hot new sculptor or painter. When they’ve gotten what they needed out of the art, they move on. The old art helps fund the new art, and no one blinks an eye at this practics. But tell people you’re trading CDs in . . . well, they just look at you like you’re crazy, like you can’t possibly appreciate the music the right way. I appreciate it, believe me. But I also appreciate the deepening of my knowledge that comes from being able to let go in order to gain new things to experience.

The biggest threat I find is the worry of overdosing. Just as I go on these purges, I binge on new things. If I find something that appeals to me in particular for any combination of reasons, I’ll do everything I can to get my hands on pretty much everything they’ve put out (at least that which is reasonably priced – I don’t go in for bid wars on CDs on Ebay. If it’s not at or around the normal price of a CD, I wipe it from my head. I do have some sense of the ridiculous.) What often winds up happening is that I end up just hearing too much of something, and no matter how good it is, once I’ve hit that saturation point, it’s pretty hard to go back. So I’ve learned to try and space things out . . . it’s a little thing called “patience,” something most people probably learned decades before I did. But I’m good at learning things the hard way, apparently.

I’ve become very sensitive to struggles and how they change how you perceive the value of things. I know people often assign a higher value to something they’ve worked so hard to get, but I usually find the opposite is true with me. If I find myself stressing out over tracking down that one CD, I can be assured that by the time I finally do find it after obsessively searching for it, I will almost unfailingly be disappointed. So a new tactic for me has simply been to wait in most cases. Take, for instance, Bob Mould’s classic post-punk band, Hüsker Dü. I’ve had plenty of chances and just as much desire to buy up every disc of theirs that I find, but I’ve simply decided to enjoy what few I have and will pick them up only when I find them used. The strategy has worked – instead of overdosing in a short time period, I’ve given myself a good long time to enjoy this disc or that disc, and then the Gods smile upon me and stick a used copy of some other title in the racks. And I have credit. I’m relaxed and happy to find a bargain and that disc sounds sweeter than it ever would have before. And so today I ran into a used copy of Hüsker Dü’s New Day Rising for $8.99. And it is good. Victory is sweet, but it’s best when it slips into your grasp rather than being forcibly taken in a fierce, sometimes expensive battle.

These seem like simple things to most people, I’m sure, but you have to be in the mind of a collector, which I guess is what I’ve got going on upstairs (if anything.) I don’t think in terms of what’s popular, only what’s new, or what haven’t I heard, really, or that gap left by an album missing between a couple of others – the completion of a story, if you will. I seemingly have to will myself away from obsessing because it’s simply so easy to do. I think I’m pretty successful – at least I haven’t turned out like some of the freaks I read about on music messageboards, the guys who buy every pressing of every album by any artist . . . just to do so. I don’t get that, not at all. In that sense, I’m anything but a collector. I’m not out there seeking the original German Polydor pressing of The Who’s Who’s Next on CD simply because I don’t have it and it’s rumored to be the “best sounding” version of that disc. I think that’s really pretty sick, actually. That’s when a hobby turns from being about enjoyment to simply being about one-upsmanship, even if no one is around to one-up.

And that’s why today was so rewarding. I had time to kill, some “free money,” and suddenly a handful of wonderful things slipped into my grasp, all of which were things I’d been looking for for some time. First a used copy of sludge-metal act High On Fire’s Blessed Black Wings, with bonus live DVD, in the “new arrivals” bin for $8.99. (And the label, hand-written by an employee, which reads “the ‘blessed wings’ are charred ‘black’ because that’s what happens when you get ‘High On Fire.'” I must find a way to make sure this case never gets destroyed, because that’s priceless.) And then the aforementioned Hüsker Dü, then a lone copy of Second Skin by Failure/Year of the Rabbit mastermind Ken Andrews other band, On, for a mere $6.99. And then a used copy of former Guided by Voices guitarist/vocalist/song-writer Tobin Sprout’s Demos & Outtakes for $8.99 (which AllMusicGuide states was limited to 1000 copies. Neat. Again, I’m not a collector, but if I happen to run into something that is collectible, who am I to complain?) Each one a name I’ve been looking for every single time I set foot in Zia, each something I’ve searched Amazon and for used copies, each something I finally decided to let fate decide if I should have. Fate smiled on me today, and each of those discs is as good as I was hoping they would be.


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