Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Death Of The Compilation CD

I must be growing up at last. Last year, for the first time since 1993, I didn’t compile a tape or CD of my favourite music of the year and send it out to friends and family as a cheap (not to mention illegal) present, hoping in return to receive praise for my incredibly broad and sophisticated taste in music.

The truth is, I didn’t have the time. The missing compilation also coincided with my first year in almost full employment for over a decade. I remembered what it is that you do with your spare time when you’re working – sleep, eat and then sleep some more, while dreaming about good intentions. I am no longer the bloke who instantly replies to e-mails and then sits impatiently tapping his fingers on the desk waiting for a reply and wondering, “What on earth can they be doing that’s stopping them from immediately responding to my request for an MP3 and full track listing of that rare Blue Orchids live bootleg?”

I also found out what happens when you get into the habit of doing something for years and the suddenly stop it, unannounced. The answer is, nothing.

A couple of weeks ago, for example, I was out with two friends from my football team who always receive a copy of the SAHIP annual compilation. One of them even bothers to listen to it and tells me his favourite tracks. The evening passed pleasantly enough, but without any mention of the void on their shelves in the section labelled ‘SAHIP Compilations, 1994-2006.’ Finally I mentioned it and they just laughed, slightly nervous in case I was going to pull a wad of CDs out of my pocket. I’m more than half sure that the friend who doesn’t normally comment on the CD had no clue what I was even talking about.

Then last week I was in England seeing the very family and friends who for years have been taking delivery of the personal anthology. Again, silence. When I mentioned it, one recipient was kind enough to say that he relied on the CD to have some vague idea of ‘the current scene.’ But I’d be lying if I said he’d fallen to his knees and begged me to get burning in order to re-enrich his meagre cultural existence.

The chief emotion was relief – on my part, that I won’t ever have to bother doing this again, and on their part, because I won’t be badgering them for detailed opinions, track by track. No longer, when they innocently enquire what that song is on my stereo, will they have to absorb the accusation, “What do you mean, you don’t know what this is? It’s track 13 on the 2003 compilation CD - ‘Cutters, Dealers, Cheaters’ by Janet Bean and the Concertina Wire, you fekkin’ idiot.”

I mean, how can people not know that? Such ingrates. It’s almost enough to make me spite them by doing one after all. Maybe I’ll wait until the end of this year when their guard is down. Merry Christmas everyone, and oh, big surprise - 2007 and 2008 double compilation CD! Let me know which tracks you liked the best, eh? By New Year, at the very latest.