August 17, 2016

Cheers to the Scratched CDs

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As I was driving on my way home from work this week, I felt I needed some music with a little bit of energy to keep me awake on my commute. I scanned through my Ipod and landed on Rise Against’s The Sufferer and the Witness. I was immediately taken back 10 years ago to when I bought the album in 2006. I remember driving to Walmart to buy it (it was on sale and I wanted to save money) when it first came out and ended up getting the censored version because Walmart isn’t a big fan of profanity.


That record was a giant part of my punk-rock/post-hardcore rotation when I was 16. It was regularly switched out for Senses Fail’s Let It Enfold You/Still Searching, Silverstein’s Discovering the Waterfront, and Saosin’s Self Titled. Thus began the inevitable scratching of records that plagued my teenage years.

2006 was a time when CD players in cars were a rare commodity for teenagers in my hometown. If you were lucky, you had an older brother or car savvy friend to install an aftermarket CD-Player so you could jam out with some style (thanks Stefan and Shawn). Auxiliary cables and USB ports weren’t standard yet and the best way to listen to music in your car was still with CDs. A huge part of my musical identity was dependent on the amount of music I had covering the floorboards of my 91 Sunbird. As a teenager, I was naturally reckless in the caring of my personal possessions. CD’s never went back into the cases, they were just tossed in the backseat. Their fate was to soak in the sun or get stomped on when friends hopped in the back for 4th meal at Taco Bell. Each trip had to have the perfect soundtrack, especially with friends. Turning around once you got in the car and rummaging through all the CD’s laying on top of each until you found that one would leave the rest disheveled and bruised.

The first time you realize your CD is too scratched to play correctly is infuriating. It’s an immediate ejection from the player, inspection of how bad the scratches are, a wipe off with your shirt, and then an insert back into the player. Normally this routine is good for at least 2-3 more times before the inevitable happens and the disk is done for good. This meant a new step in the process of selecting CDs. Each CD you grabbed had to be inspected for scratches and the severity would determine what you were going to listen to next. No one wants to hear one of their favorite songs get butchered when they’re jamming out.

I eventually developed a system to combat this. With every album I owned backed up on my computer, I could burn new copies to replace the originals in my collection. Each album would have a corresponding roman numeral “II” or “III” on it for the amount of times it had been replaced. Eventually I found myself with a CD case large enough to fit my collection in. That helped alleviate the amount of scratching the library had taken and put an end to the reign of horror these compact discs had seen. Despite all of this, you still felt a sense of accomplishment when you had warn down a CD so much that it needed to be replaced. It was a moment when you felt like a true fan and had done them proud.

Today’s music world is built for our convenience. Streaming, bluetooth, auxiliary cables, and USB ports make listening to music easier than ever. That sense of wondering how many times you’ve played a song/album can be calculated now quite easily. It’s something that has made any music lover more grateful. Every now and then though, I miss the feeling of knowing I played an album to death.

Written by: Patrick Marion

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