Thursday, March 25, 2004

Music milestone

Over the past two months, I've managed to earn 15 credits at iTunes from the Pepsi free download giveaway. This gift of music would mark an important milestone in my life; the first music I would purchase in purely digital form.

I began to think back to the other music-purchase milestones in my life. And here's the ugly truth:

• First record - Ray Stevens' "The Streak". My dad went to college with Ray Stevens here in Atlanta, and I'd known about him because of that. When The Streak hit big when I was 7 or so, I had to have it.

• First album - Bill Joel's "Glass Houses". Yes, I'm ashamed about this, but I'm man enough to own it. At 13, this seemed like pretty good music to me, and "It's Still Rock & Roll To Me" does have references to skinny ties and punk rock. In my defense, I have two older sisters, and they had nice collections ranging from AC/DC to Kiss to Devo and The B 52's, so it's not like I usually listened to lame things like Mr. Joel.

• First album on cassette - I really don't have an idea what the first cassette I bought was, because our m.o. was to buy dirt cheap blank cassettes and copy our friends' albums. The only pre-made cassettes I remember buying back in the day were Rank & File's "Long Gone Dead" and Beat Rodeo's "Staying Out Late with Beat Rodeo". They must have been on some kind of mega-sale.

• First CD - Elvis Costello's "My Aim Is True". I actually bought this CD before I owned a CD player. I was just so impressed that something as cool as Elvis was available on CD. It was also my way of making amends to the musical gods for my initial negative reaction to Elvis when my buddy Dave introduced his stuff to the group. I hadn't opened my horizons beyond fast and loud at that point.

And so now I've hit the latest milestone - the first digital download purchased. I've sucked down hundreds of tracks through Napster, Kazaa, etc., but I've never paid for one (for the record, I have purchased a number of CDs of artists I first found "illegally" online).

But I realized something as I was in deep thought - determined not to repeat the tragic "Glass Houses" purchase - about this decision: I really didn't care much about buying a song online.

Personally, I don't see a lot of value in buying songs online. I'm not a fan of "singles". If I like a song, chances are pretty good I'm going to like that artist's whole album, and I'd rather just buy the physical CD (I like liner notes). And if I want to sample a new artist, I don't believe grabbing a tune through Kazaa is such an evil thing. I imagine the Kings of Leon are happy I downloaded their stuff, which led to me buying both their EP and their LP. I became a fan of theirs directly as a result of "stealing" their stuff online.

But I've got 15 credits to burn, so let's see what kind of stuff I can find for Pepsi to buy me:

• Johnny Cash - "Hurt". I'm using my first official online music purchase to pay tribute again to The Man in Black. There's not a lot of music I get emotional about, but if Johnny's version of Hurt doesn't affect you, you're less than human.

• Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros - "Redemption Song". And the second song serves as a Joe Strummer tribute. "Redemption Song" is released after his death? And he also has a version of it recorded with Johnny Cash released after both of their deaths? I'm starting to scare myself. Let's move on.

• Dash Rip Rock - "Leave Me Alone (With My Bottle)". Somehow or another, Dash's "Ace of Clubs" album made it to iTunes. I'd just like to see the look on my old buddy Bill Davis' face when the 6-cent check from this iTunes sale arrives at his house.

• Jet - "Are You Gonna Be My Girl". It's a catchy tune, so for once I'll make my introduction to a retro-70s throwback band a legal one.

• Anthrax - "Got The Time". Back in college, I fell asleep on the couch one afternoon with MTV on. I dreamed I heard a speed metal version of Joe Jackson's "Got The Time" and was freaked out the rest of the day. Turns out I wasn't dreaming. It's about time I owned the Anthrax version.

• Kiss - "She". Kiss' album "Dressed To Kill" was released on my 8th birthday, and when I discovered that a few years later, I always thought it was cool. And "She" is a favorite of mine.

• The Cramps - "Tear It Up". iTunes has "Songs The Lord Taught Us", which is again pretty cool. In high school, the record store at the mall had a copy of this, and every time Lee and I would stop in, we'd try to convince them to sell it to us for cheaper than it was marked. They never would, and I doubt they ever sold it (at least not at full price).

That's 7 of my 15 tracks, and I think enough for tonight. I'm open to suggestions as to how I should spend the other 8.

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