Today’s music depresses me

Sorry for not blogging much yesterday but I was hanging out with the guys in our high-resolution digital downloads group. These are the guys who are working on next-generation digital streaming technologies that will let you download music at way better sampling rates than ordinary CDs (at a premium price, of course). The goal now is to match and then outdo vinyl, which these guys insist is still the best sound available. What I love about these guys is that they’re engineers but they’re also total music freaks and they all have backgrounds in recording studios and so forth. They love music. And they love to get high. They’ve got their own building on the campus with a listening room that’s completely sound-treated and loaded up with the finest gear money can buy, plus loads of comfortable couches and chairs, and cool rugs and black lights, and this killer music collection.

Yesterday I went down there, got stoned, and kicked back for a listen. They had this German turntable that costs some ridiculous amount of money and looks like it fell off a spaceship, plus some Spectral Audio amps and a pair of Wilson Audio Alexandrias which to my taste are a bit overdone; I prefer my old WATT Puppies, but whatever. Anyway. They put on an album I hadn’t listened to in years — Robin Trower Live, first released in 1976. Mindblowing. I’d forgotten how good he was. We just sat there, pinned to our chairs, stoned out of our minds, saying stuff like, “Man. Wow. Hmmm.” And trust me these are some jaded dudes who are not easily impressed. Then we listened to the same music on remastered high-rez digital and it was close but still not quite there with the vinyl.

But the real point, the one we all made to each other, was this: Can you imagine if Robin Trower came along today? He couldn’t even get a record deal. It’s hard to believe today that only 30 years ago there was a market for guys who were just flat-out virtuoso musicians, guys who could fill a stadium with people who just came to hear some amazing dude play his instrument. No back-up dancers, no flashing video screens, no lip-synching. Just three guys on a stage. And people would sit there and listen. We all agreed that the music business sucks today. Then we all felt sad. Then we all felt old.

Then we fired up the monster bong again and listened to side one of the Live album on vinyl and everything was cool again.