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Monday, November 07, 2011

The record collection that matters is the one in your head

On Friday night, having recorded an item for BBC Front Row about the fact that I can no longer kill time by hanging around in record shops, I went on to spend an hour doing just that. It made me think of lots of records I hadn't thought of in ages.

Of course with Amazon and iTunes we can now access far more records than can be accommodated in even the biggest record shop, but what we don't have is any equivalent of the record shop's display function. All that often bewildering range has been replaced by the tiny window represented by the home page of iTunes and it's harder and harder to remind yourself what you might like to listen to. That rack of records that you used to run your finger down has been replaced by a computer "containing" everything. You know it's all back there but you don't know what lever to pull to bring it forth.

In the future we'll increasingly be presented with limitless range behind the tiny window. To deal with it we will increasingly fall back on the music we can immediately call to mind and that often means the music that we first heard at an age when we were unusually receptive. In my case that's the 70s, a decade which was far broader than cheap jokes would suggest. If I set my internal compass for that decade I can instantly come up with a whole load of records that I love from that time. If somebody asked me to do the same for the 90s I'd go blank.

If you're interested in what came out of my head yesterday, here are 66 of them.