Around 3AM one late night last November, I had just finished reading Wired, noting a cool piece on Steven Soderbergh loving ‘mash-ups’ as a cultural concept when my mind flipped to the mammoth Herculean task undertaken these last 3-4 months - catelogueing my 35,000+ CD collection.
Kate, who initiated this project has been truly unbelievable, the backbone, with her calm persistence, consistent chipping away and tight supervising of the whole operation.
Other team member shouts must go to Craig, Jahan & Holly to name but a few. I didn’t ever think it would take such a short time to achieve so much. Throughout, a re-occurring memory cloud had been hanging, one of my earliest, gently haunting me in a surreal not scary way:-
Aged about 5 or 6 in the US, in a San Francisco bookstore, I spent some time tidying up the shelves and the bookstore manager gave me a book for my obsessive (!) efforts. A cool book if I remember well, interactive, with things like a furry tail to carress and scratch & sniff pages. Anyway, that’s it, how I see much of my 'Modus Operandi' as an edit process - re-arranging, tidying, filing, collecting, amassing, ,archiving, purging, pruning, shedding etc..
Back to the process of the Herculean task. It started about 18 months ago when sorting thru loads of crates from storage. Vinyl was pruned off, selling it, if I had the same CD. Some of the vinyl of course was kept for emotional, memory reasons (or if it was unmixed/bonus track on there etc.!!!) but generally if there was a digital copy, it stayed. Most of this vinyl was taken to Record & Tape Exchange (‘Church’).
So after getting rid of the vinyl, catelogueing began late August 2005. I researched some software companies and zoned in on Collectorz. Their Flic-Barcode reader sounded cool, you beep the barcodes and hey presto up comes the data, after searching Amazon & CDDB/Gracenote etc. Alas, it was too good to be true, so many CDs didn’t scan and it looked like we were going to have to do this the hardcore way i.e. put each CD in the drive, let the drive read the CD, gather the data from the site, spit the CD out and repeat ad. nauseam.
Kate had been doing this for several weeks, time permitting whilst simultaneously checking e-mails, watching TV and web-surfing. Similarly Craig was on it whilst checking his e-mail, the web, watching DVDs, having lovely meals cooked and ploughing thru those CDs, loading them in 1 by one (limb by limb - dibee dibee dibee!!!). This threw up loads of double copies - further trips to 'Church'.
A slight panic early on when CDDB/Gracenote withdrew its licence from Collectorz and for a split-second I thought we may have to abandon or re-start however via the very quick & helpful Collectorz.com Forum with the likes of 'Old Geek' and even being able to speak to the guys who created the Collectorz software, we carried on, using freedb instead of CDDB/Gracenote.
Craig’s 'Modus Operandi' was ‘very methodical’ as he described it, wasting not one second in between the CD drive spitting out a CD and him having the next instantly ready to go in, balanced with biscuits and DVD viewing.
After the 'first pass', a big pile of ‘computer says no’ CDs came to light, which basically meant they had no data submitted on sites so most of the details from these were inputted manually.
About 2 weeks into doing this solely on my office computer, we realised we’d need another couple of laptops for multiple people to tackle the databasing on an ongoing basis. This would also need Wi-Fi/Wireless as the internet databases like CDDB and Freedb need to be accessed. Wi-Fi/Wireless, the irony, more wires & cables. Couple of technical problems with the router but Mr. Smooth Operator, Jahan was always on hand to get us back on course, an efficient tech-pilot ready for take-off & landing.
As the task neared its end, I used the anology of driving past a building site for a few weeks seeing no progress and then suddenly one day, a whole housing estate or block of flats has sprung up in front of you just like that. The CDs did this to me just before Xmas, when the main room and over half the ‘Wall of doom’ (an approximate 6 columns by 4 rows, 3 deep) was complete.
Holly, another invaluable member of the team, hammered away, unlike Craig, wanting no food, no music, no TV, just loading up the CD-drives one by one - Hardcore!!! Amazed that the drives never packed up by now, only a couple of times did CDs get stuck and a one-off occasional memory glitch.
The collection is deep, some have called it 'Art', others total obsessive madness. I'd calmly defend that calling it passion providing happyness, something Oxford dons once discovered and researched as 'Flow Experience', a trance-like state of happiness.
I don't see much difference in the time/energy put into record collecting as compared to the religious football nut who goes to watch his team play live every week, the gym freak working out to that rigid schedule, the person who must play the lottery every week, maybe with the same numbers each week, attending church every Sunday etc. etc. - all beehaviour patterns that have a repetitive element, that's all.
One friend suggested I enter the CD collection & myself into the Turner Prize. As for how & why I've collected all this, well that's another lengthy chapter though here's a little insight into the 'Collector's Mentality', summed up beautifully from the 'Lust' edition of a recent 'Colors Magazine':
......of 2005 goes to my moody (only joking!) old mate, 'Mave The Rave', aka Mavis, aka Julian Segal. Gotta big him up for his excellent Dave Gorman-esque 'Greeting The 500' challenge which is still running tings for about another 3 weeks and just won one of Yahoo's 2005 web site 'Finds Of The Year' (See Mave in ITN action here).
Fall back even further!!! Mave coined "Big up your c*ck!" (c) + other silly in-joke lingo that's done the rounds over the years for those in the know; SKEECH!!!!
Does he have an Amazon 'Wish List'?
If so, it must be easy (via Amazon) to find out which P.O Box Cave he's dwelling in....
We get many such e-mails as below and yes, unfortunately due to copyright clearance, the MTV Megamixes never saw the light of DVD day and continue gathering dust on my digi beta shelf and MTV's. Time & permitting, we may try to clear some for this web site but in the meantime, try BitTorrent, Soulseek etc. or watch/tape late night MTV and MTV Dance in the hope of the odd random play.
One of the first Video Megamixes James Hyman created was in 1992, a collaboration with Coldcut which simultaneously aired on MTV & French TV station, 'Canal Plus' for the 'L'Oeil Du Cyclone' programme, so if you're really super-sleuthin', hit 'Canal Plus'.
Complete MTV Megamix & BBC Mix tracklistings here.
From: Paddy [mailto: firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: 16 January 2006 22:52
To: James Hyman
I'm a big musics enthusiast, I've always been very keen on the megamixes that you did on MTV's PartyZone and am sad to no longer see them, Have you any ideas as to how I could see these again? I figure they havn't been released on DVD due to copyright and licensing as if that was the case I would be watching them right now.. I used to have about 10 of them on video that I just taped but those tapes are long gone along with the megamix slot and probably partyzone too. Have you any suggestion? Oh and lastly I'd like to congratulate you on the quite estounding work you did on them, they where extremely inspiring to me and greatly influencial on my own work and well thats about it, I am not worthy! haha. Any help would be greatly appreciated. All the best for 2006, Paddy Q
From: James Hyman
Sent: 16 January 2006 22:57
To: Paddy [mailto: email@example.com]
Paddy, really good to hear from you and your kinds words, re: Megamix. Enclosed is the full shows/tracklistings and you're right, the main reason for the unavailability of them was copyright and clearance. It was discussed several time to try and do this but very time consuming as you can imagine.
I do have all of the mixes on master beta format but all they are doing is gathering dust.
Sorry I can't help any further.
From: Paddy [mailto: firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: 17 January 2006 00:44
To: James Hyman
Thanks for getting back to me.
I read you did about 200 volumes, 98 for MTV and 100 for channel 4, that sounds like a hell of a lot considering too that they where made up of parts, am I getting this wrong? What are you planning on doing with the masters, I find it hard to imagine them just sitting there gathering dust over the years.. Hope I can get to sleep tonight :(
only jokin :)
From: p q [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: 17 January 2006 02:41
Thanks, fairplay tye for sending me the tracklistings.
I'm a dj, well more of a bedroom dj approaching his horizon, I've never had a lot of time for my practice well not as much as I'd like due to work and studies and I'm a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to art, I also love making music but again, I'm still learning, I'm actually using fruity loops now(don't laugh!).. I've always been into mixing and (mixing) all genres of music (bar comercial type crap that has no meaning or reason but to make someone lots of money) and all those years ago around 98-00 when I seen your work and EBN's(YES EBN!!) with not just the new idea of video mixing but also the various styles mixed from Kraftwerk to Tom Jones(!) I got enormous inspiration and a real striving hunger for creativity which has grown over the years that I soon hope to be able to get serious about, sorry for rambling on but I'm sure you don't mind hearing what you've sparked.. ;o)
I don't mind me e-mail being posted in the blog, just let me know when you do get the Megamixes blog up, I'm interested in anything related to it.
Take care and keep up the great work!!
Equally, Soundhog (whose latest mix aired on 'The Rinse' Xmas eve) is to Mash-Ups & Bastard Pop, what Scorcese is to the Oscars; highly knowledgeable/talented guy + awesome body of work that never gets enough recognition by the masses, only by those really in the know.
I hope I don't get addicted to watching this year's Celeb-BB, never have been so far, though the fabulous freak-show cast could get me right royally hooked. It's certainly & potentially the most glam-sleazy, tabloid (Faria), grimey (Maggot/GLC & Preston/Ordinary Boys), cross-dressing (Pete Burns/Dennis Rodman) and catty (Jodie Marsh vs. Traci Bingham) line-up to date.
Hilarious comments on GLC's web site to big up/support Maggot, my money could be on him doing what Bez did best last year - win! As for Barrymore, been having some heated discussions with mates, one of whom finds him a disgrace and is appalled at TV glamourizing fallen celebs. I do have some sympathy for the man; we do not know the full story behind the whole swimming pool incident. Without wanting to get too, er, deep, surely, aged 31 Stuart Lubbock was a responsible adult, aware of the sex/drugs/rock & roll dangers lurking in the glitzy/glamour world of showbiz?
I've had this (pictured above) back(b)log of bytes & pieces, built up over the month from things that have caught my eye as inspiration, references etc. - enjoy the digital digest & Happy New Year, may all your dreams come true etc.
THE TIMES - 27 JULY 05
ESKI! ESKI! as Wiley would cry, Stuntman Eskil Ronningsbakken performs a handstand while cycling naked across a tightrope between 2 peaks in western Norway - no safety net, pure rude boy!!
Also back from July 05 & another bonkers performance artist, Mark McGowan. Stunts include trying to catapult a pensioner into space, walking backwards for 11 miles with a 27lb turkey on his head whilst shouting at fat people, scratching 50 cars with his keys & photographing the 'evidence'.
Last July he 'ran on empty', leaving a tap running for a year.
This Guardian piece gives the whole story - tearing!!!
RECORD COLLECTOR - CHRISTMAS 2005
Props to Matthew Hodgkinson, obsessively hunting down the 142 singles from John Peel's hallowed wooden record box:
UNCUT - SEPTEMBER 2005
For the 100th issue, the magazine got 100 Rock/Movie icons to choose
Music & Films that changed their world. All were pretty interesting selections, though Mark E Smith bigging up Bo Diddley and Brian Eno doing the same for Chris Morris & Brass Eye sincerely stood out by a mile:
Boy, I could rant on about the PSB's for yonks, how their music shaped much of my adolescence etc. This book fuelled more love for Neil/Chris and their body of work with Chris Heath's sharp, dry & deadpan on-tour diary, a style perfectly suited to the PSBs themselves. Some choice quotes:
"The next station is called Y-100 and there they are greeted by a man called Al Chio.
'Are both of you into Motown?' asks Al.
'Why are you asking?' says Chris defensively. 'It's a loaded question.'
'When I was growing up,' answers Neil, 'it was the Beatles and Motown. I used to like the Supremes.'
'Chicken Supreme, I like', says Chris.
As at most radio stations, they are asked to do loads of station ID's whereby they introduce each of the station's DJs and various local campaigns. One of today's is 'Hi! This is Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe urging you to participate in recycling - everyone's help counts.'
'I did that one already for Japan,' says Neil.
'They should have recycled it, saved the tape,' says Chris.
"Back in the dressing room, we watch the NBC internal live TV feed outside the Oscars ceremony. It's funny because you see all the cameramen touching up their hair, picking up their noses and fighting to get interviews with the same stars.
'This is so much better than the proper coverage', says Chris.
'It's very Andy Warhol', agrees Neil. 'You just have a camera and there's all these stupid people standing around talking drivel. This is what they live for, the Oscars. They're all in a tizz.' There's an Oscar party at our hotel tonight. 'I'm thinking of complaining about the noise at about one o' clock', Neil says, 'and then demanding a refund on my room. I might call the police.' Within two minutes he has rather changed his tune. 'I'm sorting out us producing Madonna's next album tonight. That's what I'm doing. Starting October 1st - write the songs in September, out in March.' He fakes a resigned sigh. 'Oh, she can pretend to write the blasted songs and have a third of the royalties.'
His eyes return to the TV. 'Why doesn't some serious movie star like Liz Taylor arrive?' He considers this. 'Actually, serious film stars don't make films, do they? They're sort of beyond that.'
Ivan (tour manager) comes in. 'OK. here we go. It's contract time.'
Neil and Chris pour over the contracts.
'My gross income?' splutters Neil. 'It's none of their bloody business!'
Chris looks back at the Oscars screen.
Talk drifts on to actors.
'Who is it who listens to 'West End Girls' to get into character?' Neil asks us to remind him, but no one knows.
'We don't like him,' Neil prompts. Still can't remember. 'Mickey Rourke!' he eventually exclaims. 'He did it for Angel Heart.'
"We plan a trip to Prince's nightclub, Glam Slam.
'Do you want a car or a cab?' asks Ivan.
'Are we paying?' asks Neil.
'Yeah,' says Ivan.
'Let's get a cab,' says Neil.
Neil and I go shopping in downtown Minneapolis. He buys cassettes of the new records by REM and Joni Mitchell, this week's New Yorker and a copy of the academic journal Partisan Review because it includes an article comparing the crimes of Lenin, Stalin and Hitler.
'That's two magazines I'll never read and two tapes I'll never listen to,' he says, 'but I enjoyed buying them.'
"It's a tale full of so many back-stories that each could make a book in itself, as Hoskyns weaves his way through the careers of not only the Eagles, Browne, Mitchell & CSNY but also James Taylor, Carole King, Little Feat and others who were attracted to the denim-clad, coke-fuelled scene that coalesced in the canyons in the hills above Sunset Strip.
The drugs caused some to self-destruct, including David Crosby and Gram Parsons, and the coke had an effect on the music, too, numbing it into sterile AOR. But when it came to the end of the innocence, fame and money were ever more corrosive, as elitism and egomania replaced the openness on which the vibrancy of the scene had once been based. Tellingly, it's left to Ned Doheny to provide the moral of the story. A talented singer-songwriter, Doheny came from old money and had his own trust fund. Yet he was the only musician in (David) Geffen's sauna that day in 1971 who didn't graduate to the Lear jet of greed of superstardom and it's given him an interesting perspective on his erstwhile colleagues. "Let's say that somwhere down the line you make $500m, what good does that do you if you've sold your soul into the bargain?" he tells Hoskyns. "I don't know anybody who's benefited from success - benefited as human beings. While you're busy being dazzled by the kaleidoscope of fractured light and advantage, part of you is being drained away. And you don't even see it."
Hoskyns' own conclusion is even darker, for he sees not merely personal tragedy in the holes in the souls of a few decadent, damaged rock stars, but the pernicious roots of a cancer that has eaten into the very heart of our society. In selling themselves for fame and riches, the singers and songwriters of the '60s and '70s, who we followed in the belief that they were soundtracking an alternative and better way to live, actually helped to incubate the disease of celebrity that plagues modern culture, and have contributed to the creation of "a world where passive consumerism has replaced emotional engagement and political commitment."
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