Do I really listen to that much music?


The new 4TB external doing its thing on top of my dusty PC

So yesterday I started to move my mp3 collection to my new external hard drive.  Originally I thought, hey, why not just do a block copy-and-paste all at once? and tried copying bands A through M.  After about twenty minutes the status said ‘5% done; time remaining, 11 hours.’  That lasted until Depeche Mode, when the PC went to sleep last night.  That was easily rectified of course, and I’m now going via small blocks of letters (it just finished N through P a few seconds ago).

So why am I doing this?  Well, I think my externals are just getting worn out.  Currently the collection is on two smaller 1TB externals and I’m starting to have issues with the PC reading one of them.  It’ll work, but if the PC happens to go into sleep mode for any reason, the connection will get all wonky.  No fear, though!  Every mp3 is also copied to a third 2TB external whose sole purpose is to simply be backup storage.  Nothing has been lost!

But seriously, though…why 4 terabytes?  Isn’t that a bit excessive?  Well, no.  It’s a very comfortable amount of space for a collection that’s slowly been expanding for almost forty years.  It gives me space for what I have already and an equal amount of space for any future purchases, rips, or downloads.  [Especially now that I rip my cds at the max bitrate of 320 kbps.  I’m not too snobbish about bitrate, but the higher it is, the better, clearer and louder the sound quality.  And I usually stick with mp3 format instead of FLAC or anything else, simply because it’s space saving and I don’t hear too much of a difference.]

But that still begs the question: do I really listen to that much music?

Well, I don’t listen to every single song in my collection on a daily basis, no.  That would be impossible.  It’s more of a library than just a collection, anyway.  I use it not just for entertainment but for background while I’m writing.  I use it for reference with my music-related writing.  And I share it with a few people on my Plex server so they get to listen and enjoy my tunage as well.  A. likes to listen to stuff occasionally via that route while she’s working.  Not everything gets heavy rotation play, but my library is big enough where I can shift that rotation and keep it fresh.

But yeah. I really do listen to that much music.  If I don’t have a streaming radio station going, I’m probably listening to a certain batch of albums.  Currently I’m going through a bunch of the 2016 albums in preparation for my eventual Best Of list next month.

Some people love vintage cars.  Some love special edition books.  Some love collectible figurines.

Me?  I love music.

Fandom: Approaching an inspiration


The ‘William It Was Really Nothing’ single, released 24 Aug 1984. British pop perfection.

One of the most common things I hear from many British bands in interviews is how surprised they often are when they’re told of their success in America.  I mean, as a writer, I get it; once your art is out there, you only see the response of those who actually connect with you, but you have no idea of the bigger picture.  Quite often, the musicians will respond with a bit of embarrassed surprise that they had no idea how inspiring or influential they are or were.  They’ve only seen it from their point of view as a working, touring musician.  They see the audience and maybe the sales numbers, but that’s about it.

I’m going to be seeing a conversation with Johnny Marr (guitarist extraordinaire of the Smiths and solo, natch) at the Jewish Community Center here in town tonight, and of course I’m trying to think of a good question to ask if there’s a Q & A at the end of the talk.  My first thought, of course, was ‘How does it feel to have written one of the most recognized, beloved, and imitated riffs of the 80s?’ but that seems a bit silly.  On the other side of the spectrum I could go full-on Matt Pinfield and ask about The Smiths being an insanely influential band on US college radio in the 80s.  Or I could just ask him how he tunes his guitars because I can’t figure out how the hell he plays half his licks.

I paid a little extra for my ticket so I get his new autobiography, Set the Boy Free, as well.  And perhaps I may get it signed if he’s going to be doing so.

Last time I did this was a few years back when I saw Peter Hook (bassist of Joy Division and New Order) at the same place.  I ended up not asking any dorky questions, but I did get to tell him his playing style was deeply influential in my own over the years.  [He followed that up with a big smile and asked if I was currently in a band!  Come to find out he’s just as big a music geek as I am and loves meeting other musicians of all levels.]

Looking forward to tonight!


I’m not going to sugarcoat it.  I’m not going to avoid talking about it.  Yes, I am still angry that the Fuckwit is pretty much our next President (barring any Hail Mary play by the Electoral College in the next few weeks — I’d love dearly for that to happen, to be honest).

Is Walk in Silence going to turn into yet another political wanking blog?  No.  I’ll still talk about music here.  That isn’t going away.  Same with my writing blog.  But I’ve decided I’m going to…loosen the rules here a bit.

As a child of the 80s, I was well aware of the Reagan and Bush I years.  I understood what the GOP tried to do not only to the Democrats but to pretty much anyone who didn’t toe the company line.  I saw how conservatives tanked the economy.  Hell, I even saw how Thatcher ruined the UK.  Granted, I was a teenager and didn’t really have much idea what to do in response, and I lived in a stable household and made do without a lot of extravagant things (because that’s what you do when you’re a good Roman Catholic American — starving kids in China and all that).  I found my solace in college radio.  The rebelliousness of its sound was enough to validate my irritations.

Now I’m 45 and I’m trying to figure out how the hell to combat anything the Fuckwit and Shithead Jr (his veep, natch) will try to do to curtail the standards of life for those who aren’t White, Hetero, and Rich.  And how to respond to the ‘oh, it was just a joke, we didn’t mean it’ gaslighting.

I mean, other than going onto Twitter and venting.

As much as I hate to use the phrase, I’m thinking of the long game.  I’m thinking not of what we can do now (not that I’m avoiding it — I know of countless other people who are already calling representatives and writing emails and letters and going on marches), but preparing what we can do if that fails.

In a weird way, I’m still somewhat inspired by college radio here.  I’d commented on Twitter a few days ago, in a rare lighthearted mood that day, that my approach was like alternative rock.  Think of it this way:  back in the 80s, college radio was considered weird and stupid and you were a weird outsider if you liked that sort of thing (and maybe even taunted or beat up because of it).  And ignorant conformists cannot handle the square peg.  But it sang to you, knew exactly what you were feeling and thinking at that time, and that was your own vindication, however small.  Then, in 1989, Love and Rockets’ “So Alive” hit the Billboard Top 5.  And then two years later, Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” hit the charts and HOLY SHIT did that change things.  Mainstream radio was never the same.

Point being — you may be that outsider.  You may be the one who feels disenfranchised by the bullies and the ignorant jackasses.  But you know who you are.  And in this day and age, you know there are others out there just like you, hurting but holding on through sheer stubborn will and self-preservation.

Focus on that.  Fight back.  Focus on remaining true to yourself, and fuck everyone else if they can’t handle that.  Feed on it.  Expand on it.  Be what and who you are, not what they want to make you.

And make that the mainstream.



[NOTE: Yes, I know calling those two names is petty. Give me that — it’s just me vocalizing just how much I detest the two men, and I’d rather not use c**t in my blog if I can help it. Furthermore, please do not try to argue with me that ‘it was a democratic vote, they won, get over it.’  Say that to all the people who couldn’t vote because of the GOP’s obvious system-gaming and voter suppression.  Say that to all the women who now fear that their health care is threatened.  Say that to the LGBT who feel threatened by Pence’s bigotry.  Say that to the Muslims and the Mexicans and the immigrants who now feel that their country’s leader and his growing cabinet don’t give two shits about them.  And then look at those who are reveling in the Fuckwit’s win and are now spraypainting swastikas, tearing off hijabs, beating people up, and telling others ‘go back home’ when they are home.  And then explain to me how that’s a fair system.]

Time is relative


Time is weird and messes with your head.  Of course, anyone can tell you that.

For example:  while I was recently celebrating the twentieth anniversary of when I started working at the record store, I started thinking about some of the music I was listening to in 1996:  Failure’s Fantastic Planet, DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing…, Tricky’s Pre-Millennium Tension, Sneaker Pimps’ Becoming X, Kula Shaker’s K, and so on.  It seems a good long time ago; I was 25 and broke but I was happy because I had a job I truly loved and I had my writing.

And you know me: I’ll still listen to stuff from my youth: the classic rock of the 70s, the synthy pop of the 80s, the grunge and Britpop of the 90s.

So…many years later, and I’m going through my old mixtapes from the early 80s, compiling some of the tracks for a digital version for my mp3 collection.  I think of myself back then in 1986, a spotty kid at 15 with big dreams of being a writer and a consummate music collector (heh).  They’re a mix of old and new rock songs taken from one of the few stations I’d be listening to while doing my homework.  They’d have two-fer Tuesdays (and three-fer Thursdays!), album sides, and ‘wayback machine’ tracks.

And one of the songs is The Beatles’ “Rain”.  One of my favorite tracks of theirs, recorded in mid-1966 in tandem with their Revolver album, both of which would be released the summer of that year.

And it dawns on me:

It was 1986, and I was listening to a song that was only twenty years old at the time.

So for someone of my parents’ age, “Rain” would have been considered a sort-of recent song in their memory, just like “Midnight in a Perfect World” is to me.

In fact, I was on the phone with my mom the other day and she says she remembers hearing “Hey Jude” on the radio when it came out, and being blown away by how long it was.  Radio rarely ever played any songs over four minutes long (and even that was stretching it), so hearing a hit single that’s seven minutes eleven seconds long was indeed unprecedented.  [I believe the only other pop song of similar length that got as much rotation was probably Richard Harris’ “MacArthur Park”, which was released that same month.]

The upside of this?  Once more, chronology puts things into a clearer perspective for me.  In my youth when I’d hear Elvis singing “Heartbreak Hotel”, I’d think man, that song is so ancient.  Now, however?  The song might have been released sixty years ago, but in the general scheme of things, it’s not that far back.  Rock music as we know it is still a relatively new genre.  Just like FM radio (1978), hip-hop (late 70s), techno (80s-90s), music videos (mainstream 1981), and so on.  And we know people who were alive and aware of it all when it was new.

It’s all a bit mind-blowing.  But fascinating.

Streaming: Amazon Music


Believe it or not, I’ve tried numerous streaming apps and sites, and I’ve pretty much found them all wanting.

I know, I know…I’m picky about what I listen to if it’s not my own music collection.  I’m not including streaming radio stations here, like those provided by Sirius XM or the numerous terrestrial stations out there that offer the ‘listen live!’ button at their website.  I’m talking about sites and apps that are built for streaming music: Spotify, Groove Music, Tidal, and so on.  I mean, they’re just fine for what they do best, and they have their own fans, but they’re not for me.

I know exactly why: my tastes and listening habits tend to vary widely, and most of these places just don’t offer enough music that would capture my interest.  I’ve tried many, and with each of them I find myself constantly hitting the ‘next track’ button.  [And even worse, if I have the low-end or free subscription, I have to wade through commercials every five or six songs.  Don’t get me wrong — I grew up with terrestrial radio on every waking moment of my youth, so I’m used to the ads.  It’s just that getting them after skipping too many songs pretty makes me like the app or site even less.]

Recently, however, I signed onto Amazon Music, and I think I finally found what I’ve been looking for.  It’s essentially a rebooted, much more refined version of Amazon Prime’s music streaming, and it’s well worth it.  It features streams of numerous complete albums available digitally at Amazon’s website (and where I buy most of my mp3s nowadays), across numerous labels and distributors.  I get to listen to the entire album before deciding if I want to download it.  It also offers curated playlists if I’m so inclined.  I’m not one for listening to a randomly generated playlist — for that I can just listen to a regular radio station — so this really works out well for me.

The price isn’t that bad, either.  It’s $9.99 a month ($7.99 for those already signed up for Amazon Prime), about the same as most streaming apps and sites.

Yes, yes, I know…giving more money to The Man by signing up with Amazon, but when the product provides exactly what I’ve been looking for and wanting, it does feel kind of silly to not use it on principle.  [Noted, I’m a frequent visitor of local brick and mortar stores for all kinds of things, enough that I rarely use Amazon for ordering things on the regular.  I also use other music downloading sites for my collecting.  So I don’t necessarily feel guilty for using Amazon for this sort of thing.]

Has anyone else used it yet?  What do you think?

Classic Rock: Zebra

I was a huge fan of Zebra when I was in junior high.  I remember hearing “Who’s Behind the Door?” on WAAF — and seeing the video on MTV — and being totally blown away by the music.  I loved the sound of synthesizers back then, especially if they used the strings setting.  [I’d later get into Giuffria a year or so later for the same reason.]  I even got to see them live, when they opened up for Loverboy at the Worcester Centrum — my very first big arena concert.

I bought the cassette of the self-titled debut album right about the same time, and I nearly wore it out within a year.

Decades later, and I’m listening to it on mp3, and it suddenly dawns on me — this album sounds almost exactly like a Porcupine Tree album.

Think about it:  both lead singers are guitar virtuosos who write beautiful and complex melodies.  Sure, one sings in falsetto half the time, but never mind.  Plus the keyboards play a strong and vital part in the music, giving it a darker ambience.  There are a few shorter pop songs here and there, but there are also some lengthy prog-jam pieces in there as well.  It’s no wonder that I became such a huge PT fan in the late 90s.

I still pull out this album every now and again and give it a listen.  I’ll listen to album two, No Tellin’ Lies, every now and again as well, but this first album will always be a particular favorite of mine.