Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Music Box: Obsessive Completist Disorder

I had to laugh the other day when I was reading a review of Michael Chabon's new book in which he claimed obsessive compulsive disorder ran in his family: from his grandmother who “washed Dixie cups fresh from the package in soap and hot water,” through his father, who was an “obsessively completist collector” of things like stamps, bubblegum cards and Ovaltine premiums.

I thought, Grannie's a nut. But doesn't everyone do the latter? Well, apparently not. (Read on.) Although I still don't think it qualifies as OCD, I have -- after getting a horrified reaction from a co-worker and fellow Rosanne Cash "fan" upon telling him that I bought her new album THREE* times in order to obtain all of its bonus tracks -- come to realize that like Chabon's father, I do suffer from a perplexing case of obsessive completist disorder. Truthfully, I don't see much wrong with it. When you're a fan of something, what's even remotely not right with wanting to get your hands on everything related to the object of your affection? But then I think of how I spent the bulk of my youth digging through piles of dusty albums and ragged 45 rpm singles in used record stores, looking for that missing [Prefab Sprout/Everything but the Girl/Bananarama] song, even going so far as to planning my vacations around locales most likely to have even better music shops -- and more recently, the endless nights scouring the Internet till the sun's come up looking for "just one more Shakespears Sister b-side" or "that Kim Wilde song that only came out in Germany," and occasionally I do have to wonder what it would be like to live free of these, um, concerns.

Oh, and did I mention that I write this as I'm listening to "Foxbase Beta," the latest $50 ass-raping offering from my fave Europop band, Saint Etienne? No, it wasn't enough that I bought their debut album when it came out in the early '90s -- as well as everything they've put out since. (And they've put out A LOT: every single as a Part 1 and a Part 2 -- b-sides galore! -- and every year there are fan club CDs, plus Christmas CDs, plus box sets of their endless catalog of "unreleased" tracks.) Or that I JUST bought the new 2-disc "deluxe" reissue of said debut, "Foxbase Alpha." (So far I've bought four of these reissues.) But then they announced that fan club members could buy this "Foxbase Beta," which is actually their debut album that was given an all-new sound when Richard X "re-produced" it from the master tapes. My immediate reaction was, "No fucking way. I just shelled out another 50 bucks for the remastered 'Foxbase Alpha.' I don't need a 'refreshed' version of what is already a classic." But then a friend asked me if I'd ordered my copy yet and I could feel myself getting antsy, like I was missing out on something. Lying in bed the next night, I realized fighting the urge was useless -- so I logged on and ordered me one. (It just came via parcel post yesterday and it's FABULOUS -- by the way. I only wish I could now pick five of my all-time favorite albums and have someone "re-produce" them, too. I wonder what "Parallel Lines" would have sounded like if Richard Gottehrer had had the con?)

And while I still maintain that this "disorder" is merely an active hobby -- how could I have THIS MANY Saint Etienne albums but then NOT get "Foxbase Beta"? -- what I do find puzzling is how it doesn't hold true across the board. While a quick look at my bruisedfruitcds site -- which features all of the vinyl-transfer and compilation albums I've made of b-sides and other rarities -- will reveal the full extent devotion to "my" bands, I've never quite been able to figure out what makes one click while another doesn't.

For instance, I discovered Joan Armatrading around the same time I found Rosanne Cash. Saw videos -- "Drop the Pilot" by Joan, "I Don't Know Why You Don't Want Me" by Rosanne -- and fell in love with both. Yet for some reason, Rosanne became an all-or-nothing proposition, while I've been completely satisfied with one of Joan's best-of CDs all these years, never even really considering buying anything else. While the most obvious explanation would be that I like one more than the other, in reality it does not seem to be that true. ("I Love It When You Call Me Names" et al. thrill me every bit as much as any of Rosie's finest.)

I have everything I can get my hands on by Chris Isaak -- whom I adore. Yet I only have "Ocean Rain" and, as of yesterday, "Songs to Learn and Sing: The Very Best of Echo and the Bunnymen." But I don't feel I like Chris more than I like Echo. The only explanation I can think of is that something marked certain acts "mine" while others were someone else's, or "of the masses." Echo and the Bunnymen were kind of my brother Terence's band, so perhaps subconsciously I let him "have" them, but still bought a few things because deep down I loved them too. (And what's up with my only having one O.M.D. album???)

As I've said in the past when explaining my disdain for download-only music, collecting music is (obviously) something I really enjoy. But sometimes I do have to wonder why the casting director of "Obsessed" hasn't broken down my door. Oh, wait. Maybe it's because that "ridiculous" CD tower is blocking it.

* I preordered "The List" months ago on Then it turned out her concert was the Friday after the Tuesday the album came out, so I had to have it faster than Amazon could ship it in order to "cram" for the show. So I bought it on iTunes the day it was released, not entirely feeling put out because it included an iTunes-only bonus track with Neko Case. Then the Amazon disc arrived. Then I read that Barnes & Noble had an exclusive bonus track too, which she had performed at the concert (imagine my anal horror when she did the song at the concert and I didn't know it -- gasp!), so I bough that one, too.

Look Forward to These Songs
For My Ladies Lyrics
Ron Browz
Inhibitions Lyrics
More Milli Lyrics
Time For Miracles Lyrics
Adam Lambert
How You Did It Lyrics
The Wait Is Ova Lyrics
Push You Away Lyrics
Bad Boy Lyrics
Solider Lyrics
Million Dollar Mexican Lyrics
Baby Bash
Get your blog's here.


Danny in WeHo said...

I am not kidding... just as I started reading this blog, out of the 8025 on my iPod (which is on shuffle right now) Heart Full of Soul by Chris Isaak came on! Neato!
Anyway, I was the same way with DEVO (since early teen), Elivis Costello (since late teens), Pat Benatar and Chris Isaak (since early 20's). Luckily I grew less obsessive when I got older and their output lessened(save Elivs, who reliable releases stuff regularily) Once in awhile I find myself discovering someone and then going back to find their older stuff and collecting- like AIR whom I discovered on the Lost In Translation soundtrack a few years back... I'm trying not to, but I keep going back farther & farther and buying & buying.

rODDY said...

I can empathise entirely with your sentiments -though I don't think I've simultaneously bought three copies of any album for bonus tracks etc - yet! When I started collecting I used to get vinyl to pore over the cover art and then the tape to play on my Walkman. Things have only got worse since. If you want a Joan Armatrading album where you don't need to skip any tracks I strongly recommend 'To the Limit' It's quite hard to find too - which makes it all the more desirable :)

Jimmy said...

I love Joan Armatrading and I recommend "What's Inside" from '95. It's one of her best.

taffy said...

great musicbox blog entry on obsessive music collecting.

and coincidentally (or not) I spent last night listening to Foxbase Beta as well. Love it! This is a reproduction i can embrace. I didnt play the commentary on CD #2 - that will wait for another day. But as you said, how could i go out of my way for all the fan club editions, various compilations, cd singles, etc, and not get this item. altho i have as of yet resisted buying any of the 2 disc deluxe reissues.

but speaking of 2 disc deluxe reissues, i just bought the one of Duran Duran's Rio, and cant wait to play it. maybe not your cuppa tea, but jeez i love that album.

you already know of my love for echo and the bunnymen, but dont think OMD has come up before. yes, another group i am compulsive about - every album is delicious, and the sparkling reissues of the first 4 titles are so very very worthy.

i think i will be buying the kraftwerk box set when it finally comes out, even tho i have all the albums on CD. seeing that they're the beatles of synthpop, i'm compelled to hear them in remastered glory!

Anonymous said...

you could be talking about me, it's uncanny. got the list and foxbase beta and they're brilliant. you should look up the xx's new album, it's the sexiest thing i've heard in years, i just know you'd love it. love the blog, regards philip

richard said...

ken --
anal horror, it makes me wonder about radio stations that promote "dengue fever" and then i scratch and ponder -- oh, that was the problem in los angeles. similar to when one looks at a place and recognizes, there's that color, and that one, and over there, and this one, and wait check that out -- yet, in reality, as i've said, if los angeles is the entertainment capital, thank GOD, i can entertain myself. yes, Fox Base Alpha much like Joan Armatrading LOVE it, yet, obsession -- i can appreciate that you LOVE music -- just as, i explained to someone last night, there are those who can't wait until someone releases something -- the concept of cocooning doesn't resonate -- like a rabid, cross-eyed mangy chihuahua dry-humping your leg, they've gotta be there. singing with laryngitis even's called, pneumonia not your dick in my throat. personally, i wouldn't want to be known as, "dengue fever".

that's funny. thanks.

nojarama said...

St. Etienne, Joan Armatrading & Chris Isaac... my head just exploded in delight! I really need to get that "Foxbase Beta" ASAP myself!