You're Really Only Very Small / 3 December 2001
The world is atwitter with Compact Discs, still not widespread enough to debunk any rumors. The Compact Disc Digital Audio System offers the best possible sound reproduction—on a small, convenient sound-carrier unit. Printed on every single booklet. For best results, you should apply the same care in storing and handling the Compact Disc as with conventional records. A gent next to me on the plane has a portable player and he takes a disc out and looks at the back of it, as mesmerized as I am by the rainbow-embedded reflective surface. It involves lasers, that much is known. We are in the future. And the sound quality? Forget about it. Like being right there in the room with the band, they say. Like knocking back a glass of pure, clean water straight from the spring. Your old albums will come to life, unveiling secret treasures.
They come in long boxes the height of an LP so they’ll fit in existing shelves. I cut off the fronts and pin them to my bulletin board. The first one I get is Security which was shrewd because it is, as proudly proclaimed on the pink ribbon printed across the corner of the cover, a full digital recording. The disc spins, a laser is fired somewhere, and the song begins, and I’m not blown away, and then Peter lets out a long chant/howl and by gum if he isn’t right there in the headphones with me. I’m nervous about handling it, unsure of how to return it to its case while only holding the edges.
Then I get Sgt. Pepper, also in the long box, with the mustache and badge you can cut out and wear, and the standard convenient sound-carrier unit boilerplate against the wavy psychedelic pattern that originally adorned the paper sleeve. You can hear the piano bench creaking under Paul’s ass as the final note fades out, they say, and you can, but more revelatory is “Within You Without You,” which nobody seems too crazy about, the album’s token George bhagwan song, but I respond to the drama in the strings, I think (FORTUNE-TELLING THERAPIST’S NOTE: And the beat of the tabla woven into the drone of the tamboura will certainly lay the groundwork for later proclivities, I mean certainly!), which is so potent that it makes the following song just about unlistenable.
Ten or twelve go-rounds later I do hear something new, just like they promised. It’s right at the tail end of the instrumental break in the middle, right around three minutes, forty-five seconds—it’s George, very quietly scatting with the music, keeping the beat, da, da, da da-da da-da, one-two.
Suddenly this wasn’t music being created up on high, ages ago, handed down from generation to generation, forced upon us by our parents like good posture. Suddenly this was a song being played by a guy. The twenty years that separated the performance and the listening (and yeah, a big deal was made about twenty years ago today, the motivating factor behind this special-edition sound-carrier unit) contracted, evaporated, and I’m left with a second or two of weightlessness, vastness, where all the tooth-grinding hippiness of the lyrics click—the space between us all, try our best to hold it there, we’re all one, life flows on. These little nonsense syllables spoken into my ear as if the intervening twenty years had never happened.
And the worst part, the part that George’d probably hate the most, is that the catalyst is nothing but a new piece of plastic technology. My revelations are cheap, crass, spoon-fed, and I keep them stacked high on a dusty IKEA bookshelf.