tremble clef

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

a-ha, "The Weight Of The Wind" (1986)

When all is said and done, I'm an old-fashioned guy. I know you might not have thought so, given that I'm such a technological pioneer, probably the only person you know who has one of these new-fangled blog things, or how I'm so cutting-edge with regards to music, throwing down tracks that are da hot shit, by, like, Melissa Manchester and stuff. But I am.

I am, for example, still inordinately attached to the album. In this day and age, when people tend to think of music as a bunch of digital files existing only in a gadget, and less, if at all, as taking physical form, I still am. I make CDs. I'm not talking about burning compilations. I do those of course, but even when I download (legally, of course) an album, I'm all about burning it onto -- no, not just "onto," but "into" a CD. Not only that: I may even make sleeves. My deep dark secret is that I still want my music to look like what I remember music to look like. I would be lost otherwise.

Indeed, I was old-fashioned even before I was old. Growing up, we had no CDs (and I also had to walk through five feet of snow, uphill, each day to get to the market where I could barter for food, etc.), but I was making tapes. Sometimes these were dubs of friends' cassettes, and others, the tapes were copies of my vinyl albums. I bought a-ha's Scoundrel Days on record in 1986; I was looking forward to it because Hunting High And Low was great, and I really liked "I've Been Losing You" despite everyone saying that it was a disappointing first single. (A song in which the narrator, within the first four or five lines, tells us that he put "the gun down on the bedside table," but not what he had been doing with it -- that's good pop.) And it did turn out to be a marvellous album, with dramatic windswept numbers like "The Weight Of The Wind," and luscious ballads like "October" and "Soft Rains Of April."

I also couldn't resist the album because the cover was so great. My copy had the sleeve with a lot of white space both above and below the bleak yet beautiful landscape picture; the band's photo was small, unsmiling, which of course spoke to the serious angsty teenager that was me. Best of all, the sleeve was embossed: in the upper left hand corner was a few blue smudges of "water" that popped off the sleeve. I must have spent hours fingering them. Mmm, tactile. (Disappointingly, there are either versions of the album sleeve that didn't have this feature, or maybe the CD version screwed up the artwork. All I know is that my CD copy, purchased years later, looks like ass in comparison, so much so I don't even want it on this page.)

When I made myself a copy of the album on tape, I had to do a cover. Nowadays that endeavor would be easy: find a hi-res jpeg online and print. In the days-with-barter, I instead scanned my Smash Hits and Number 1s to see if there were usable pics of the album art. For Scoundrel Days, I must have only found the photo that the band used for the "I've Been Losing You" single, but I liked that better anyway (why is Mags jumping? Meaningful!). Add some black construction paper for the cool factor; some masking tape and brown wrapping paper to make the whole thing look "interestingly" rough (and for, um, practical reasons: you try writing the album title on black paper). The result was a cassette sleeve that alluded to the album cover without actually being a copy of it. My genius, obviously, aproached Picassoesque levels.

Okay, maybe not. I was in my teens. Gimme a break. But coming across the sleeve recently, I still kind of like it. So now you too can cut along the edges and insert my genius sleeve into, um, your cassette copies of Scoundrel Days.


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