In my last article, I wrote about how much music a radio director can receive in a week. Unlike when I first started in 2000, it doesn’t all come in CDs anymore. There are still plenty of discs that do arrive via mail, but just as much is culled from the web as well as digital services. I’ve never counted how many new songs I hear in a week, but there’s a good chance it’s more than most people hear in months. And since most songs I hear are quickly discarded right after, unusable for whatever my needs are for the week, upwards of 90 percent of those songs I’ll never hear again.
On one hand, it’s an odd way to absorb music, but I usually don’t mind. I’ve always got off on trying to find the next great song. Not out of ego for discovery, but more like a drug addict. There’s a complete rush when I find one that really kicks. Anyway, after I wrote the last piece, it got me thinking about my own consumption. Like any job, you can get lost in the routine, and to paraphrase Ferris Bueller, if you don’t stop every now and then, you might miss something. I was missing something. And I had a seed of an idea that it had something to do with relationships.
When I was younger and had the luxury of time, my evenings would be spent consuming an album. Rush to the CD store after school and straight home after so I could shut the door, pop in the album and pour over the liner notes. Was there any names in there from other bands? Oh, he’s also the manager for this other band. My favorite parts were always the artist’s publishing names. Most were inside jokes that I’d never know, but almost always found entertaining. I still get a kick out of In One Ear and Out Your Mother Music (Kim Thayil of Soundgarden).
These days, I hear full albums in fragments, if at all. If an album really connects with me, I’ll still go out and get the vinyl, but even then I’ll maybe flip through the liners once at a glance, give it a spin during dinner and then the record gets put up with the others, filed for another lifetime. Honestly though, I don’t mind much, as it takes a helluva connection to a group of songs to really knock me out anymore. But still….
One night, while lying in bed right before I dozed off, the words rang clear. RS 500. Surely you remember at the turn of the century when Rolling Stone announced the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time? It’s been updated twice, the last in 2012, and while there is always room for debate, it’s pretty solid. I thought I’d do a listening exercise that, while at home, I only listen to the greatest albums of all time starting from the bottom. Just the best and nothing else. Each album would get its play from start to finish. My attention would be present, though multitasking would have to be allowed.
I’m under no timeline, and with life as it is, it may take me a very long time to make it all of the way through the list, but I’m it in and see no reason to stop. The discovery of long lost gems alone is worth the mining, but more so because it’s the way music deserves to be listened to. I may not have the complete space to treat it as I did in my teens, it may only be a quick glance at the liners, but when you’ve got the great music in the world playing, some things are bound to stand out. I’ll let you know in my next article what finds have been dug up.
All in all, it’s about reconnecting to the long player. In a time where so many are deeming the world a singles society, music can become disposable. Don’t let it. Take the ride yourself as often as you can. The healing powers, the community, the journey of art, it’s all locked within those grooves. Just push play. Then sit back and see where it takes you. And then tell a friend.
Kyle Meredith is the music director of WFPK and host of the nationally syndicated “The Weekly Feed.” Hunting bears was never his strong point.