I decided to include the Wild Cherry album cover for a couple of reasons. One, it was a pretty sexy, eye-catching cover in its day, and two, it represents something to me. I was sixteen years old when this album came out, and I wanted it. I really wanted it. Since the year was 1976, I did what kids did back then – odd jobs, like mowing a neighbor’s yard, or washing their car until I had the $5.99 I needed to run out to Yard Birds and (finally!) grab the album.
I don’t mean to say that life was hard in the 70s, because it wasn’t. Contrary to the myth, we didn’t walk five miles to school barefoot in the snow. I rode with Mrs. Anderson and Bus #9, unless I smarted off too much, in which case I might have had to walk for a few days.
No, I mention this because it speaks directly to how inaccessible music was at that time. I didn’t know for sure if I wanted the whole album. I mostly just wanted Play That Funky Music. But, if I wanted to hear that song when I wanted to hear it, not when the radio wanted to play it, I had one choice: go out and buy the album.
Today, if a sixteen year old kid wants to hear whatever the 2017 version of Play That Funky Music is (I hesitate to think what song that might be) they have a lot of options. I suppose they could still buy the CD, but I doubt they would. Instead, they would go to YouTube or Spotify and listen to it as many times as they want. Then, if they still liked it, they could download it from iTunes or the equivalent for .99. Ultimately, they’d probably load it onto their phone that already has three or four thousand songs on it competing for their attention.
And… that’s the key difference to me, because even though I fanatically loved music at that same age, when I finally bought that Wild Cherry album, it brought the number of albums I owned up to about eight. Because I had access to far fewer songs, I think it’s likely that each one of those albums meant more to me. I can still recall every musical nuance from every one of those albums: The Beatles Abbey Road, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, even The Carpenter’s Close to You.
Don’t laugh. I love The Carpenters.
I can’t help but wonder whether today’s 16 year old loves their music with the same intensity. This is not a direct comment on the quality of today’s music (a topic for another day) but on the sheer volume of the music available today. If I’d had access to 5,000 songs on my iPod as a teenager, I don’t know if those albums that I love so much would resonate with me after all these years. It feels a little like trying to take a shower by standing under Niagara Falls. It’s overkill.
So, what do you think? Does the volume and accessibility of music today detract from the passion for music?