As those of us who devour pop culture rags and websites — or write for ‘em — know, ’tis the season to be list-y, as in “Best of 2006″ lists. I’ve done one up for Bullz-Eye, and contributed to another, but I don’t plan on subjecting you to them here. I’m kind of toying with the idea of uploading a Best of ‘06 mixtape early next month, but I dunno. You can probably get more than enough of those everywhere else you look, and if you’ve been reading here for awhile, you already have a lot of what would be on it.
Anyway, what’s on my mind this morning is a nifty little post over at my friend Py Korry’s place, where he takes a look at all the albums he hasn’t listened to on Rolling Stone’s list of the best hundred albums ever. Reading it, I had the predictable reactions (“What? You haven’t heard [insert classic album here]?”), and then started thinking about figuring out which of the albums I’ve never listened to.
It wasn’t long before I realized I couldn’t do it. Not because I’ve heard them all, or haven’t heard enough of them to hold my head up in public, but because I’m not sure about so many of them that I’d never be able to finish.
A lot of this has to do with the fact that, as a wee Jefito, I fed myself a steady diet of mushy MOR — Billy Joel, Eagles, old Elton and Chicago — and did a lot of listening to our local Top 40 station. I think a lot of kids my age had cool uncles who hipped them to stuff like Forever Changes or Loaded, but that stuff was outside my frame of reference until I was all growed up. In fact, I didn’t become truly consumptive with regards to “classic” music until I was in my early-to-mid 20s, which is roughly when people started ripping their collections and cramming them on hard drives (not to mention downloading them for free, but that’s another discussion).
Anyway, for as long as I care to remember, I’ve done most of my listening at a desk, and when I’m not playing an album I’m writing about (which happens less and less often), I’m usually just letting Winamp lead me where it wants to go. Which means I hear a lot of different stuff, but I almost never spend the kind of time with an album that I did as a kid, and I’m often unsure of what I’ve heard and what I haven’t. This bothers me, and it’s something I’ve thought about a lot over the last ten years or so; I love music, so I put myself in a position to hear as much of it as possible…and by doing so, I make it harder to fall in love with what I’m hearing.
(Those of you who have read Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs might remember that Klosterman writes about a similar phenomenon, as applied to all of American pop culture.)
What it boils down to is that I look at the RS list and think: Do I own Exile on Main Street? Of course I do. Have I actually listened to all of it? Well, shit, I’m not sure. I think I must have. But I can’t remember. To some of you, this is heresy, but it’s all about the context of age; by the time I was aware of pop music, the Stones were pooping out Dirty Work, Dylan was Down in the Groove, and the guys from Zep and The Beatles were making Honeydrippers records and Spies Like Us soundtrack music. Their best albums weren’t available for ready absorption through cultural osmosis. You had to reach back and do it. Which is harder to do when your desk is covered with dozens of just-released future cutouts.
I’m not feeling sorry for myself here. I’m setting up the point of this post, which is to ask you how you listen to stuff these days. Do you, like me, find yourself pouring new music into the pool and forgetting about it? Do you take care to spend time with everything you buy? How many of the records on Rolling Stone’s stupid list have you missed out on? Do you care?