A second hand copy of Bruce Springsteen’s double album ‘The Promise’ at €7.99 – a bargain. But why would anyone have sold an album that they can’t have had for much more than eighteen months? Maybe they had grown tired of it; more likely they had burned copies and then sold the original.
One of the discs was still in the case. Sensible enough it seemed, who would want half an album. This is a place frequented by collectors.
At the counter the record shop owner takes the cases – the empty boxes for Van Morrison and Lou Reed are filled. He looks at the Springsteen case and says, ‘there’s a disc here’.
‘There is, I assumed with your clientele you must have had confidence that no-one would steal half an album’.
‘Half an album? There are people who come in here who would steal anything! Even the empty boxes get stolen’.
‘You mean the world has not grown honest’.
‘Grown honest! The world grows more dishonest by the day!’
There was a moment of sadness. It would have been nice to think that hidden away at the end of a corridor off a Dublin street there was still a place where people enjoyed music for its own sake and were prepared to part with a few quid for good stuff.
Why would anyone steal an empty CD box, though? In times when hundreds of tracks are stored on soulless devices to allow power walking women to listen on their ear plugs, and track suited youths with white trainers listen to electronic syncopation on their mobile phones, and when computer hard drives store enough music to last a lifetime, who would want a CD box?
A box of seven inch vinyl singles sits on the counter, but there is nothing tempting. Boxes of singles could generate hours of conversation. Going through friends’ collections and picking out ones to be played was a staple activity for those who did not dance and who had not found their way to the kitchen at parties. Occasionally, obsessives would worry that the right record would not be returned to the right box, but mostly it was good humoured stuff.
Albums had the capacity to inspire even more interest. First there was artwork on the album cover to be discussed, and then there might be an insert with all the lyrics, before there was any thought of actually playing the thing.
There was something tangible, tactile, visual, in paper and card. Digital downloads offer nothing comparable; nothing more than a few words on a display. What does it profit a listener to have a whole world of music on an IPod or MP3 and to have lost the soul of the artist and the music?