I had one of those old man yells at clouds moments the other day, when thinking about how easy it is to find media these days. When I discover a song in a TV show or movie or out in the real world — that last one, admittedly, being less likely these days for all kinds of reasons — it’s no big thing to find out what the song was, who recorded it, and buy it. All it takes is a Google search of some lyrics (assuming, of course, you can remember some of the lyrics at least close to correct), maybe a listen on Spotify or YouTube, and then a click to whatever music purchasing platform you prefer to use.
I like to think that I would’ve loved that a good 20 or so years ago — hell, make it 25 years — when my music buying was at its peak. At that point, it felt as if I was surrounded by music and still hungry for more, with a significant amount of my free time spent in record stores, rifling through the bins in the search for the next thing to get obsessed with.
Much of that rifling came from attempts to make connections between things, or search for the origins of particular sounds or elements. (I spent far, far too long trying to find if Badfinger really was the originator of the close harmonies of bands like Queen and Jellyfish, to my shame.) Much of the delay came from the fact that I’d think I’d have tracked down something I wanted to hear, but wasn’t willing to pay the money for a complete CD, or album, or whatever, if all I really wanted was one song, leading to a lot of back-and-forth while wondering if I could afford it, or wanted to.
What made this low level of obsession worthwhile, of course, were the mistakes and misfires, the things I bought by mistake and then realized that I loved even more than I could’ve expected, or the B-sides and album tracks that quickly became favorite songs. That, more than anything, is what I find myself missing today: The happy surprise that rewards the devoted search. Is there some way to recreate that these days, I wonder?