A Very Personal Argument in Favor of Music on Physical Media

LET’S SET THE MOOD
It’s pre-Spring 1984 in the Midwest; still cold, snowy, and within blizzard season. I’m almost wrapping up my first year of college. This girl in the dorms liked me, but it really wasn’t mutual. She chased me around for a while.

Later in the year, she introduced me to her sister, and something magical happened.

To protect her privacy, I will not be mentioning any specific locations, and will not be mentioning her name. Those details are also not important to the point of the story. All the same, this is in my top 3 cherished moments from the 80s.

I would end up driving to a house where she was house-sitting while the owners were in Florida. We went out just long enough to catch one of those Friday the 13th movies in the theater at the local mall.

I’m bad. I’m bad. Sha-mon. Ya know it.
The white tape on the left side is “1984” by Van Halen. I threw that cassette away recently, because the plastic was starting to degrade, and the info on the tape was almost unreadable.

Then we went to the house, and got there just before a MAJOR blizzard hit, snowing everyone in.

We were trapped and alone. Although we were trapped, I had never felt so free.

She recommended some music, and pulled out a record by NENA from the previous year [1983]. She told me that it was in German. This really piqued my interest, being of German descent.

Of course, I had my trusty boom box. I never went anywhere without that boombox, at least 8 blank tapes, RCA patch cords, 16 rechargeable D cell batteries [and the charger], and the power cord with an extension. I took my music media seriously.

So before she put it on, I asked if I could tape it. She said I could, so I got my patch cords, boombox and everything set up in under 2 minutes. The little stereo she played it on was in the laundry room.

We watched the record spin and the tape roll by. We danced. We played in ways that gentlemen never detail. We talked. It’s one of those very treasured memories that I hope to never forget.

I messed with the brightness and contrast so that you could read the cassette contents. It’s got other loose tracks after the end of the NENA album. We filled the entire tape. Those songs were the soundtrack for our extended weekend.

WHY THIS STORY?
To be anti-climactic, because I just happened across that tape again.

I still have it. Made in 1984, found in 2021.

I don’t need it anymore, really, since I have solid MP3s [which I made from the tape].

I can’t tell you how it survived and kept up with me.

Fortunately for me, this typically happened with cassette tapes. These days, I tend to digitize tapes right away. These tapes are old, and who knows how many more plays they’ve got on them.

I know. I sound like a hypocrite because I am digitizing my tapes as I find them, recognizing that they’re not much longer for this world.

I suppose it would also sound and look bad for me to admit that I have approximately 83 GIGABYTES of music on an SD card in my phone. It’s how I play stuff on the car stereo.


AND NOW: MY ARGUMENT IN FAVOR OF MUSIC ON PHYSICAL MEDIA
Now that you’ve read my story, and have received the proper set-up, I want to refresh your memory on one important part of the story.

Ich Bleib’Im Bett, translated to Engish is “I’ll Stay in Bed.” Who could say NO to that?

It’s the part where she tells me about the record while I’m looking at the album, and tells me that it’s in German. The way she says it gives me shivers. She let me copy it, which is very special to me. I got to look at the record sleeve, and copy the names from that to the tape cover.

Sharing music can be a very intimate thing. And for those who are wondering, I did later purchase a CD in the 90s, to show support for the artist and love for the album itself.

Now that you’ve been refreshed, let’s give that romantic scene a major update.

We’re snowed in the house, all alone. She says, “I got a Spotify playlist you should hear.” She puts it on the stereo from her phone via Bluetooth.

Okay, this situation would have the conveniences of today, but would still occur in pre-Spring 1984.

Stick with me.

Now, here we are in 2021. What would be different with regard to my memories of that wonderful event? I’m sure that whatever music she had picked, it would have been really good, so there are no issues with regard to music choice.

Given that I had an appreciation for her musical taste, the same mood would have been set, and we still would have had the same experience, to a degree.

But a few things would be missing.

One of those things is the physical sharing of the music. She showed me the record sleeve and told me all about the singer and the band. I’d heard 99 Luftballoons before on MTV, but then gave them no more thought. I was reminded that there was more to them than just that one song.

Letting me tape the record was a piece of intimacy that is very important to me, and that would not have existed without the music on physical media. Texting me the link later just doesn’t have the same impact as holding the album, looking at it, asking for consent, and talking about it.

As a follow-up question, what would I stumble across in 2021 that would prompt me to think of her and recall the time we shared? I do have one photograph, which will not be posted online, ever. I’d remember our fantastic time together, but in the modernized scenario, there would be NO music attached to that memory.

The audible element must be linked to the physical elements. With streaming, this cannot happen.

Remember, we went and saw a Friday the 13th movie together. As I write this, I am struggling to remember the precise title of the movie itself. “Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter” was released in mid-April 1984, which is too late in the year for a blizzard. So it must have been a previous release being shown to ramp people up for the new one. It’s my only guess.

I link music to experiences. It made the memories stronger, because to me they become interwoven with the sound waves of the music.

The handling and exploring of the physical media added to the entire experience in a significant way, as did the sharing / taping of the record.

This song always reminds me of her, and the brief time we shared together.

IN THE END
This is clearly an older person’s concern. Young people don’t miss it, because they’ve never experienced it. But for those who relate, we can remember going to buy a record and reading the liner notes in the car while waiting to get home.

The existence of music on physical media enhances the human experience by bringing audio waves into the physical world.

Thanks to the existence of music on physical media, I am left with this incredible memory that has been forged in fires that melt steel, hammered and folded, recalled time and time again, with a complete soundtrack to cover the entire event.

You can hear the entire NENA album HERE. I have also made a YouTube playlist for the rest of the tape HERE.


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Published by DrumWild

Writing about drums, music, and philosophy.

2 thoughts on “A Very Personal Argument in Favor of Music on Physical Media

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