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The Rockologist: Talkin’ Bout My Record C-C-C-Collection

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As a guy who has not only written about, but also obsessed heavily — and some would say rather unhealthily — over rock and roll for the better part of five decades now, my own personal record collection has long been a source of personal pride to me. So much so in fact, that I consider it to be a unique part of my identity.  But the truth is that I'm also guilty of that worst of music-snob crimes. I actually judge other people by their record collections.

Think I'm kidding?

There are a lot of reasons that at 53 years old I'm still single, most of which are probably best left unexplored here. But I'm reasonably certain that at least a few of them have to do with the numerous times I've gone over to a potential Mrs. Right's house for dinner, only to be promptly chased out on a rail for snickering a little too loudly at the Kenny G or Sting CD's sitting proudly atop her stereo. 

Hey, I love to get lucky as much as the next guy.  But all the candlelight and expensive wine in the world just can't warm me up to a woman who actually wears her Phil Collins albums on her sleeve like some kind of proud badge of adult-contemporary honor. Something about all that Su-Su-pseudo-hipness just really dampens the mood for me, okay?

Beyond my love life (or lack thereof) though, this affliction has likewise negatively impacted my professional career. The fact that I spend my unemployed days sleeping well into the afternoon, and my nights toiling endlessly over articles like this one, is no accident. Word of advice to the still employed: Never tell your boss his record collection sucks.

There is a true story I can now recount, about how I was once physically thrown out of the home of a former employer for making a snide comment about his choice in music. I believe the offending quote was something along the lines of how the seventies had called and wanted their 8-tracks back, once I examined his music collection and found it more than a bit heavy on artists like The Steve Miller Band, Styx, and Supertramp.

That guy who goes straight to your sound system when invited over for the big game on Sunday? Yup, that's me. Guilty as charged.

There is however a flip side to this sort of obsessive snobbishness, and that's when an equally musically snobbish friend turns the tables and decides to bust you on your own record collection.

One such friend (who is also a regular contributor here at BC) loves nothing more than to crash at my house after a night of heavy drinking and take over my CD player. He is also very predictable, and heads straight for the same CD's every single time. As a result, what used to be my favorite Alice In Chains album (Jar Of Flies) is now something I can barely stand to listen to.

The other thing this friend likes to do, though, especially if we've been drinking, is argue. One thing he especially loves to do is criticize and pick apart my music collection even as he has commandeered my stereo. The arguments usually start with questions about why I'm missing such "essential" albums as The Clash's Sandinista or McCartney's Band On The Run, yet own hits collections by such "disposable" bands as Duran Duran and Culture Club. From there, things usually end with my friend reminding me of how much my collection sucks, right before he passes out on my couch. I mean, what else are friends for, right?

So the question is, what exactly should the music collection of a so-called Rockologist in good standing contain? And conversely, what shouldn't be anywhere near my CD player? Since my friend has seen fit to freely express his opinion on this subject so many times over, I recently decided to take a closer look myself.

I have about 2000 CD's in my library, and in examining them I've actually discovered a lot about myself. For starters, I have way more records by Abba than I probably should. But going deeper…

Remember those "adult-contemporary" albums I mentioned? The ones I've kissed so many a night of sexual bliss away over?  Well, I'm happy to report that I'm respectfully light on the Rod Stewart (at least post-Jeff Beck Group) and the Kenny G. But I'm also embarrassingly heavy in the Phil Collins and Sting departments (at least if albums by Genesis and the Police count).

Likewise, I also have to admit that although I'm a few Bob James CD's shy of a stint as music director for the local smooth jazz station, I own just enough Sade albums to earn me a spot on the playlist. 

But since this is a Rockologist sort of thing we're talking about, let's get into the subject of actual "Rockology."  What exactly are the albums that no self-respecting Rockologist should be without, and where do these albums fall within the confines of my own collection?

So let's see… Sgt. Pepper? Rubber Soul? Check. Blonde On Blonde? Blood On The Tracks? Check. Let It Bleed? Exile On Main Street? Check. Born To Run? Darkness? Check. On The Beach? Rust Never Sleeps? Check. Pet Sounds? Check. Nevermind? Check. OK Computer? Check. Dark Side Of The Moon? Double-check.

So far, so good. But hold on a second…

Where's Led Zeppelin IV? Where's Who's Next?

To be perfectly honest here, as much as I love both the Who and Zeppelin, both of these albums have been so overplayed by album-rock and classic-rock radio stations over the years, it sometimes feels like hearing them ever again would be like having razor blades driven deep into my eardrums.

Like I said, I love both bands. But I'll take side four of Quadrophenia over pretty much anything on Who's Next. Ditto for "Ten Years Gone" over "Stairway To Heaven." Come to think of it, lately I've been listening to the modern-day croak of Dylan far more than anything off of Highway 61 or Blood On The Tracks. Likewise, I much prefer the icy textures of Radiohead's Kid A and Amnesiac to anything off of OK Computer. I also liked Nirvana much better when the Stooges did it the first time around on Raw Power.

Looking a bit deeper into my own collection, there is also just enough genuine weirdness there to reveal more about my own personality than I'd probably care for most people to know. From the avant-feminism of Patti Smith, Vanessa Daou, and Julee Cruise, to the New Age somnambulism of Klaus Schulze and Bo Hannson, to the complex progginess of Crimson and Porcupine Tree — if anything my collection probably proves me to be a total musical schizophrenic.

So let's make a deal…you stay away from my record collection and I'll stay away from yours. And please don't tell anybody about the Al Stewart albums, okay?

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About Glen Boyd

Glen Boyd is the author of Neil Young FAQ, released in May 2012 by Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard Publishing. He is a former BC Music Editor and current contributor, whose work has also appeared in SPIN, The Rocket, The Source and other publications. You can read more of Glen's work at The Rockologist, and at the official Neil Young FAQ site. Follow Glen on Twitter and on Facebook.
  • http://jonsobel.com/ Jon Sobel

    Year of the cat, dude… year of the cat. Oh, and y’know, I’ve always felt that when it comes to Nirvana, it wasn’t the Stooges who did it first… it was the Troggs.

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Touche’ my man. Yes sir, Touche’ indeed.

  • zingzing

    hilarious, if sad and honest. i’ve judged people on their music taste before, made girlfriends angry by vocally criticizing their choice of music at their house or in their car or in front of their friends or… well, just about anytime/place that it stinks. i’ll generally be attracted to women by looks, fall in love because of personality, but stick with a relationship depending on whether or not i can convert her into decent musical taste. relationships are work, but only when the music taste just isn’t there.

    i choose my friends based a lot on music taste, and even once got into a fist fight with a good friend of mine because we didn’t feel the same way about a drummer (it was shellac’s drummer, so he might have appreciated it).

    still, i think that comparing music taste is easy. you can throw out names left and right, figure out what someone likes about something in 4 minutes (as opposed to 2 hours for movies or a week for books), it’s cheap, it’s got common history, it’s accessible.

    and because comparing music taste is easy, it’s a good way to test if two people have some common interests. someone who’s into adventurous music will be into other parts of culture in the same way. so it’s a good way to establish what kind of relationship you’ll have with a person.

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    I broke up with a girl once based on the fact that she’d never heard of Bob Dylan, but loved Styx. I figured there was no way it could possibly last…

    -Glen

  • Greg Barbrick

    Pretty funny Glen, and I love the albums you chose to illustrate your point.

    But what kind of friend would drunkenly commandeer your record collection, then pass out on your couch? Sheesh!

    Oh yeah…

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    The Amazon picks at the end ring any bells? LOL…

    -Glen

  • http://marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    i think it’s possible to see if you’ve got something in common with someone by looking at their collection, though i don’t know that the examples of disagreement really point to much.

    what i mean is that everybody has things they don’t like or are supposed to like but don’t…and i don’t think it really means much. glen’s example of Led Zep IV. or, to use examples missing from my own collection: New Order, Joy Division, and early Genesis. most of the manchester stuff left me cold as did the proggier Genesis era. what does that mean? i dunno. i don’t think anything, really (though both glen and zing will probably disagree).

  • http://willkillforfood.com Lisa McKay

    Really good read, Glen, although I have to say my own views probably line up more with Mr. Saleski’s. My husband and I (34 years married now, mind you) have fairly divergent musical tastes, although certainly there are areas of overlap.

    I think it’s probably more interesting to be with someone who encourages you to experience music you might not gravitate to on your own (I have to credit my husband with developing my taste in classical music, for example), and vice versa.

    I suspect that what some people’s tastes convey is a lack of curiosity, which is a deal-breaker in and of itself, but probably extends to more than just their musical collection if you really stop and think about it. In other words, it’s a symptom, not a disease.

  • http://www.kitotoole.com Kit O’Toole

    Excellent article, Glen. I found myself smiling numerous times, recognizing times when I’ve judged people based on their collections. Of course, I have to say it–you don’t have “Band on the Run”? Sacrilege, man! :)

  • Warren Melnick

    It is good to hear that you are still open to newer prog like Porcupine Tree. So many in our generation stopped being open minded to bands like this a long time ago. But I do have to echo Kit here. No Band on the Run?

  • zingzing

    saleski–you and i could never date. not that that’s an issue. it’s inhuman to dislike new order. go listen to “the perfect kiss” on youtube. there’s a studio live version on there that’s marvelous. (it’s the official video.) phil spector level stuff towards the end.

    as far as early genesis goes, “prog” is a dirty word in my house. although i do like a lot of peter gabriel solo material.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    I’m going with what Mark and Lisa said.

    I have learned to like all sorts of music. I even like some opera. Never learned to like ‘Band on the Run’ though. Still if I were single and I liked someone, he could like it and it wouldn’t make a difference to me.

    Year of the Cat–love that! :-)

  • http://marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    sorry zing, that song makes me cringe. so much for our romantic future. ;-)

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Thanks for the comments everyone. As far as the whole Band On The Run thing goes, I always liked Speed Of Sound and Venus & Mars better, but that’s just me I guess.

    As for Zing and Saleski? Too scary a thought to even consider…LOL…

    -Glen

  • Greg Barbrick

    Just a bit of clarification:

    The exact quote was: “He has Duran Duran Arena?” (indignant question)

    “And he doesn’t have Band On The Run?” (righteous anger)

    Glen rocks, but needs Band On The Run, Who’s Next, and Sandinista! in his collection. He does have Jar Of Flies though.

    -Greg

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Yes I do have Jar Of Flies…as you are always so sure to remind of each and every time I see you…

    -Glen

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/a-geek-girl/ A Geek Girl

    Gah. I can’t stop laughing. Drunken friends and great music. Is there anything more precious in life?
    Just went rounds –over shrimp, crab legs and Ying Ling– with a friend in ‘the business’ over my opinion of Clapton. A man he knows and is fond of.

    The best part of our argument? That it will be continued over wings and beer again tomorrow night. Gotta love a good music fight!