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Holding Rock and Roll

Once upon a time, we held the rock and roll experience in our hands.  

Remember album art work and liner notes? The "new music" experience for six decades included opening the package, absorbing the artwork, reading the lyrics (if they were included), and eventually listening to the music so much you scratched the vinyl/CD or warped the tape (never had eight tracks so can't speak to their durability).  

Our ability to literally feel the music is being lost in the internet age. Buying and listening to an album on iTunes, and staring at information on a screen, no matter how interesting, just isn't the same as buying an LP, tape or CD.  Technology is supposed to make things efficient but instead it has wound up stifling the music-listening experience. 

Often holding something tangible in our hands is essential to connecting to art.  

I get goosebumps when I watch a particular scene from Cameron Crowe's "Almost Famous." Eleven-year old William Miller is gifted dozens of records from his sister (played by Zooey Deschanel). He sits alone with the records, exploring the cover art work, while Simon & Garfunkel's "America" plays in the background.  

It reminds me of when I first bought and listened to Pearl Jam's "Vitalogy," on tape. It changed my life forever. For the first time, I experienced the process of listening to music. The music was a melodic series of guitar, bass, and drums weaving in and out of each other like a symphony of angst. Tied in were words that spoke directly to my introverted 15 year old self: "cannot find the comfort in this world." Throw in Eddie Vedder's emotionally vulnerable yet aggressive voice, and I was one obsessed girl.  I played Vitalogy so many times I warped the tape.

Rock and roll became my life. I wanted more and I knew just where to get it. I remember shortly after getting into Pearl Jam, I rummaged through my older brother Christopher's tapes. I don't know what drew me to it - maybe artist reputation, maybe hearing Chris's praise - but I pulled out Bob Dylan's timeless "Freewheelin' Bob Dylan." I turned out the lights in my bedroom, popped the tape in my radio, laid down in bed to read the liner notes by the light emanating from my orange lava lamp, and was transported to 1963.  Dylan's crackling vocals on songs like "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright" had me hooked.

My dream in high school was to be a rock journalist, which combined my first two loves - writing and music. I even had my own music column in my high school newspaper. Even though life had others plans for me, I still get sentimental about that time in my life. When I see the album covers for Vitalogy and Freewheelin', and countless other albums that I listened to in the 1990's, I immediately revert back to those moments of teenage exploration, revelation, and understanding. The art wasn't just heard in my ears, it was seen through my eyes, and it was held in my hands.

What album did you listen to growing up that significantly changed your life?  How has new technology changed your music-listening experience?