So, when I was writing my initial post on this blog, about Romanticising Music I always had in the back of my head to refer to High Fidelity, the Nick Hornby novel from 1995 as this a) articulates what I was trying to say far better than I ever could and b) it offers some interesting (although supposedly fictional) views on the record collector, their wants and needs.

At first glance High Fidelity doesn’t sell the life of the record collector or record store owner, they’re often painted as sad losers who hang out in the shop looking for rare copies of albums, or as drop outs who never achieved career goals. That said the novel offers up one piece of relationship advice that has stuck with me since, “it’s not what you’re like, it’s what you like“. It’s truism I’ve held since and my own relationship history can attest to it, where I’ve not enjoyed the same things as someone, be it music, film, books or TV then a relationship may struggle, it’s the times when you’re staying in, not really doing too much when the common ground really matters.

The other quote that really stuck with me and feels relevant to the ideas in this blog is when the protagonist splits with his girlfriend and finds comfort in rearranging his record collection ‘autobiographically‘:

“Tonight, though, I’m trying to put them in the order in which I bought them. That way I can write my own autobiography without picking up a pen. Pull them all off the shelves, look for Revolver and go from there. I’ll be able to see how I got from Deep Purple to The Soft Boys in twenty-five moves. What I really like about my new system is that it makes me more complicated than I am. To find anything you have to be me, or at the very least a doctor in Rob-ology. If you wanna find Landslide by Fleetwood Mac you have to know that I bought it for someone in the fall of 1983 and then didn’t give it to them for personal reasons. But you don’t know any of that, do you?”

For me this is the crux of my own digital vs physical wrangle, if your music is all on a hard drive it loses the character of something like this, iTunes doesn’t have the option to filter by (ex)partner or by the friends you were hanging out with at the time. Digital music filing systems will tell you when a file was added to a drive but that probably isn’t when you first heard it, you probably deleted the mp3s from your short-lived foray into Drum and Bass or Jazz but having the physical copy there you can take that trip down memory lane, for better or worse, you can laugh about the fact you bought that novelty record or have a little sigh over the album you bought with that one you had a crush on at school.


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