About Me

Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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The Touch, The Feel, of Liner Notes
Wednesday, June 19, 2013

I’m old school when it comes to how I listen to music. I still prefer the physical format. The other week I was reminded of yet another reason why I’m such a fan of it.

I was at The Apple Stomp, a two night ska event put on by Asbestos Records at Irving Plaza in NYC. A bunch of old school ska bands came together just for the show, some of whom hadn’t performed together in years. One such band was What’s Your Problem Brian (pictured above, with friends, circa late 90s).

After What’s Your Problem Brian’s set one of the members of the band walked around with a box of CDs. I asked if I could buy an album, but he said he was giving them away because that particular album, Taste Your Own Medicine, was from 2000, and he and the lead singer have moved on to working on a different project. I gladly took one.

On the train ride home I bumped into a friend, singer/songwriter Jim Wolf, and we opened up the album to take a look at the liner notes. We were immediately greeted by pictures of the band. Wolf commented that everything looked very late 90s PacSun. It was a perfect description of what we were looking at, and on a much bigger level, it put the music, and the group, in a specific era, and therefore, historical context. This is something that’s really cool, and completely lost with the digital format.

We all recognize legendary album covers, but sometimes the images inside can be just as telling as to the who, what, when, and where of the album, and the artist/group. Looking at the images of What’s Your Problem Brian, Wolf and I remembered what we were doing during those late 90s years. I immediately went back to my time as an undergrad and was transported back to old dorm rooms, the Roosevelt Field Mall, and some of my favorite local hangouts, most of which are long gone.

Had What’s Your Problem Brian simply handed me a download card, or sent me to a website where I could check out their music, none of that would have happened. I would have enjoyed what I heard, but there would have been very little connection to it.

Obviously we are in the era of the mp3. CDs just barely beat out downloads when it comes to album sales. This makes me wonder what kind of memory triggers this era of music, and the current generation of music listeners, will have. Will a computer screen be required to be on for someone to reminisce? Will playing a song from this era give people a full view of the scene - the clothes, the trends, the vibe of the time? Personally, I don’t think it will.

The 80s is one of the most well remembered decades of music, but an important aspect of the 80s was the unique look each artist had. You can listen to a song by A Flock of Seagulls, but without the imagery you’d never know about their incredible hair! That hair triggers personal memories, indicates when the song was recorded, and creates a picture of what was going on at the time (and yes, I wrote that as “hair trigger” on purpose).

An mp3 might be convenient, it might be cheap, it might be easy to pirate, but it will never give the full view of an era. Something as simple as a few pictures in an album’s liner notes, however, can, and that’s something worth holding on to.


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:00 AM  
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