June 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

Difficult not to think that one of the most telling features of pop now is the play-counter on iTunes & Last FM. One of the reasons I buy mostly vinyl now, apart from the correct plea of poverty, is the experience of listening w/out a continual awareness of time, crawling or dashing on, & the number of times you listen to a song. (Like most iTunes users I peek at my Top 25 Most Played list from time to time & usually find it’s full of stuff I just find peculiar, embarrassing & jumbled.) The only way of telling how often a vinyl record has been played is how worn-down the grooves are, how scratched the record is (wh/ may just be a testimony of bad treatment rather than frequent play), how bad the sound’s become (& it’s difficult to tell how bad it was to begin w/ – a bad pressing? too many tracks shoved on a side? (cf. my unlistenable copy of The Beach Boys’ 20 Golden Hits)). The only other court of measurement was the charts, w/ wh/ one’s experience of listening to a record would concur or diverge. (The industry’s award of metal records to mark vast sales seems a comic attempt to solidify this objective measure, to give ‘the popular’ a local habitation & a name.) Reading the first volume of Peter Guralnick’s biography of Elvis Presley, The Last Train to Memphis, the strangeness of the screaming crowds that, by 1956, greeted the band everywhere they played – or even wherever Elvis happened to visit – so loud as to drown out any attempt at a gig, so numerous & violent as to leave Elvis himself struggling to escape their clutches, isn’t simply the seemingly impossible libidinal expenditure (now that pop has become a lifestyle accessory, Hunter wellies for Glasto hung up alongside the Laura Ashley sofa throws; or, at the other end, music for smartphone bus-blasting): the possibility of recognising oneself in the massed objectivity of the crowd, the flashed face of the World Spirit. The slowly ascending number of Last FM plays testifies to the inviolability of one’s island of taste, the justification for solipsism posing as music writing*.

* This can, rather nicely, be seen as a correlate of Rob Horning’s claim that, “To extend the life span of neoliberalism, it needs ideological justification. Facebook explicitly wants to be that. It sustains a subject that is not inauthentic and opportunistic in its perpetual networking but liberated to be and do more. Quantify yourself, increase that quantity.”

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