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Dear Little Bobby,
People used to buy records, but it seems like now they don’t even bother to listen to them if they are free. My bandmates and I are wondering how these trends are going to affect us. In this culture of DJs, shuffled playlists and microwaved burritos, has the idea of listening to a whole album completely died?
—Still collecting vinyl
Dear Still collecting,
My tastes are completely pro-album, but it seems that I am in the minority. In fact, I almost only listen to full albums from start to finish, even in the car. I put an album on, and I almost always listen to it all the way through. Then when it is over, I put on another one. I enjoy the narrative of a good record. I enjoy letting myself be swallowed by it. Putting on Dark Side Of The Moon and having THAT experience is literally a world away from putting the “Adele channel” on Spotify, Pandoracamp, or wherever.
I am completely fine with singles too, I love the early and mid-’60s single-driven era. A lot of them are great songs, played by fantastic session players or garage bands. Oftentimes the production was top-notch and inventive, utilizing two or four-track recorders to bounce and layer the sounds. Back then if you wanted to make a cut on a track you got scissors out and cut the tape. You also hoped like hell that you did not mess it up, because there was no “undo” button.
One of the most significant changes occurred when The Beatles released their Sgt. Pepper album. Fans (and critics) were floored with this first concept album and were taken to another time and place. For me, Pink Floyd epitomized this mindset by recording albums which are very much like experiences. It is not just the sound effects and explosions which create this feeling, it is the all important narrative. Even the instrumental tracks tell a tale, and when the tracks are played together, as a whole, the arc of the music becomes more pronounced.
Our culture does not value patience. We want the new song by that new person NOW! Then the collective “we” gets tired of it and we do not want it anymore. Plus, did you hear about that one pop singer who got fat? Did you hear about Brittany Spears? Poor thing turned into a woman and we decided that we liked her better as a girl, so her career was over.
Let’s talk about Prince. Prince believed in the album format. He also believed in getting paid for his work. I am not suggesting that you and your bandmates eschew putting your music on YouTube the way Prince did, but the anti-album, anti-artist, anti-music trend is a strong one.
And I say fuck it. If your band wants to follow that trend, making pop which is more machine than music, go right ahead. But if you want to make art, I suggest that you do that instead. Of course that art does not have to be in the shape of a vinyl record. It can be whatever you define it to be. It is true, albums are not as popular as they use to be, but neither are books or critical thinking for that matter. I say keep making ’em and listening to ’em… and keep reading books while you are at.
—Little Bobby Tucker
“For the first time in forever, I bought a record for a rainy day
Pretty soon they’ll be gone forever, or at least that’s what they say” —”Rainy Day Record,” Mercury Rev, 2015
Dear Little Bobby,
My roommate thinks I’m crazy for making my own deodorant, toothpaste, mouthwash and more. He says, “Only a dirty hippy would make their own bathroom products.” He claims they are not “real” and therefore they don’t work, even though each recipe that I use is from a trusted source using quality ingredients. Can’t I be resourceful without being labelled a dirty hippy?
—Tired of chemicals in my body
You can be resourceful all you want, but as long as you have a narrow-minded, jerk of a roommate, it sounds like he will continue to label you. What a shame. My girlfriend makes her own toothpaste and mouthwash, AND she lets me use it. I like it. It is much more economical because she buys the ingredients (baking soda, spearmint, etc.) in bulk and combines them herself. This saves a lot of money compared to the Johnson & Johnson/Jekyll & Hyde version of body care products.
I do not trust Big Pharma, Big Oil, Big Shampoo or any other big company that is big for the sake of being big, i.e., profit. I especially do not trust them when it comes to what goes on, or in, my body. Just because a product has a VERY long list of ingredients does not mean that the product is that much better. In fact, usually the opposite. This goes for body care products as well as, and especially, for food. A lot of products that Americans buy by the millions and billions of dollars are filled with so many chemicals that most of us cannot even pronounce what we are putting onto or into our bodies. These products and the people that make them are NOT to be trusted, even though they tell us that we can trust them.
The FDA and USDA are both underfunded and understaffed. And far too often, what resources they do have are misappropriated and misguided. Often they are tasked with regulating the same corporations which pay their salaries. Big Pharma and Big Agra are KILLING us. Sometimes it is indirect, but often they are DIRECTLY killing us by not only allowing toxins in our foods and body care products, but by allowing these corporations to fill our rivers with animal SHIT. We will soon be running out of clean drinking water in this country and when we do, we will wish that so much drinking water had not been poisoned to make hamburgers.
Till then, I encourage everyone to make their own toothpaste and mouthwash and also to grow some food while they are at it. Some friends and I own some land in far southwest Texas and we catch what little rain water there is for bathing, cleaning and, in case of an emergency, we will drink it. It is the desert after all.
When Americans (including me) begin taking these things more and more seriously… when we begin to wrest power back from the hands of corporate warlords… we when get back to doing for ourselves what we now have machines, corporations, animals and the less fortunate doing for us (think of the workers in Nike sweatshops)—only THEN will we have some hope of making our world sustainably better. One of the best ways to secure our future is by thinking globally and acting locally. It does not get much more local than doing things yourself.
More power to you! Maybe one day your roommate will pull the stick of “Degree Deodorant For Men” out of his arse.
—Little Bobby Tucker
“Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves,” The Eurythmics, 1985