Collecting

Just When I Thought I Was Out, The Music Pulls Me Back In…

I have had a hankering to listen to some tunes from my collection of CDs for a long while now. I never realized it would be such a big deal, but when you store your collection in large Rubbermaid containers, it can become a pain. To pull out the ol’ bin from the dark corner of the basement seemed like a very daunting task. Overwhelming, in fact:

So much good music in this bin, but it weighs a ton…and…oh man, forget it. I’ll just listen to music on YouTube…

When my iPod went belly-up two years ago, at the time I said to myself I was going to do something with those CDs once and for all. Rip ’em onto the terabyte so I could reacquaint myself with them. Well, it hasn’t happened, folks. For years, we have been concentrating on gaming and house renos – putting the CDs away, favouring instead other avenues to get music – Sirius Satellite radio, online streaming services like Google, Groove Music and Accuradio – and plain ol’ .mp3s fulfilled the need. Whenever I’d think of reacquainting myself with the CDs, the thought of moving around furniture again to make room to display them seemed impossible.

It was one Sunday in August when the hubs and I were at the mall on the hunt for the game Spot It (highly recommend!) when he said he wanted to go into Sunrise Records. Understand, we don’t do the mall. The last time we stepped foot in a mall was back in March when coincidentally, HMV, the only record store for miles was closing its doors. Sunrise has since opened in its place, and this August was the first time we checked it out. I haven’t bought physical music in a long while (I purchased Man Machine Poem by the Tragically Hip last fall).

Honestly, I have been out of the CD-buying game for a LONG TIME! I have been gleefully watching from the sidelines as Mike, Bop, Aaron, Geoff, Deke, 1537, J., JHubner73 (see blogroll for a who’s who), and the rest of you great music bloggers search, buy and review music. I haven’t bought music on a regular basis in years, partly because of my own self-imposed austerity, partly because of gaming, partly because of the wave of digital media, and well, I seem to get overwhelmed with the amount of stuff that accumulates versus the lack of time and energy to enjoy it. I have written on this blog how music changes my mood; it inspires, it entertains! And I have been feeling like I need to connect with my music again! So when we set foot into Sunrise, I found myself perusing the racks. And you wouldn’t believe what I found:

What?! U2’s The Joshua Tree, remastered!?!

I was in awe. The hubs said, “Well, that’s it, I don’t care what you say, we’re buying it.” Boy, am I glad we did.

The reissue was crisp-sounding, and since I hadn’t heard the Joshua Tree album in a long while, it was fun getting reacquainted with all of those songs. It brought me back to 1987 when Where The Streets Have No Name was hitting the charts. The first half of the album is well known to radio, while it’s also the last half – Trip Through Your Wires, In God’s Country, One Tree Hill, Mothers of the Disappeared – that I love the most. Yes, this is good! Yes, it inspired me.

Following that trip, the hubs and I have since pulled out our three bins of CDs, alphabetized them, and catalogued them using Discogs. Now, I am looking at my current collection more critically.

Lotsa CD-Rs…

Not so amazingly, when we went through the collection, we discovered at least 1/3 of it is burned CDs created from downloading! Looking back, I can’t believe how much effort went into downloading, printing covers and burning the CDs – a whole large Rubbermaid container full! Granted, some of the music were bootlegs or hard-to-find collections, but certainly not all of it! I couldn’t help but feel a bit of guilt.

I have started to legitimize my collection by acquiring the actual physical media of my favourite albums. My preference in media is for the CD (more accessible to me – I can listen to it in the car!), while the hubs is getting the vinyl fever (natch!). Regardless, if there is a remaster available on an album of interest, I will certainly consider that purchase. The ones I have purchased lately have been worth it.

The Majesty!

This newfound interest in my music collection has led me to explore some albums that eluded me back in the day. While I can freely peruse the stacks at Sunrise, the thriftin’ bug also catches my attention. What with CDs as little as $0.50 to $2.99 at the junk shops and used media stores, I have managed to gain some headway on this front, quite cheaply. Many people are dumping out of their physical media, which works out great for me. I’ve been using my two-hour daily commute to my advantage too, by taking my music spoils for a spin in the car and have discovered some really awesome new-to-me albums…and I have also found some no-so-great albums…which I can cast aside, guilt free!

I hope to talk more about my love for the tunes here on the blog. For now, I am just really enjoying this experience.

Down the Memory Highway of Innocence and Debauchery With Archie

Lately, I have been feeling nostalgic, thinking about my love for reading comic books and graphic novels. It was a trip back home at Christmas that found my close bud, Amanda, give me some Archie Pals ‘N Gals ankle socks. To me, they’re all kinds of awesome. I was a big reader of Archies during my formative tween years. Now, every time I look at my feet, I think about my history with Archie comics, how much of a role they played in my upbringing, and how it really kick-started my love for comic books in general.

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If you are not familiar with Archie Andrews, he is a fictitious character who has been starring in his own comic series since the 1940s. A red-headed teen from Riverdale, U.S.A., he rides around town in a beater (a jalopy, to be precise) with his friend, the perpetually hungry Jughead, and his rival of sorts, the arrogant Reggie. Archie and Reggie vie for the attentions of the two main girls, Betty and Veronica, who are best friends, and seemingly polar opposites, as Veronica is wealthy, selfish and vain, and Betty is wholesome, honest and kind. Both girls want nothing more than to go steady with Archie. The stories told in the comic weren’t terribly sophisticated, but they tried to be simple and humorous.

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I wasn’t exposed to Archie until I was 9 years old. It was our housekeeper who gave me my first Archie comic as a birthday gift –  Archie Jokebook Digest #12. It was funny, graphic and easy to read – three things in my reading material that I was gravitating toward at the time. That comic digest launched an insatiable appetite for reading and collecting every Archie digest magazine that would be released from 1984 to 1987. It became particularly dangerous when I discovered Lefebvre’s, the used bookstore located down the street from my dance class had used Archies; my sis and I would speed down the street on our break and pick up 5 double digests for a $1.

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My mom wasn’t terribly happy with this new-found hobby. As a kid, I struggled with reading comprehension in a big way (I was diagnosed with dyslexia). Archies are not the sort of reading material that one would think would foster good reading habits. For me, I had hit a wall with reading, and unlike my sister who enjoyed reading everything she could get her hands on and could read a 200-page book in one day, reading for me was hard work. Archies piqued my interest; they had short stories and were funny. My mom eventually relented. Archies weren’t Treasure Island, but at least I was reading something.

I wound up with a sizeable collection of Archie digest magazines that I would often use to trade with neighbourhood friends. Somehow, my sis and I would also end up with Archies that came from friends of my Mom whose children had grown out of reading them, and this was always a trip. The Archies were usually in traditional comic book format (not digest), older publications from the 70s and early 80s, and were the same Archie, but with an older twist. Archies in the comic book format weren’t sold in any store I would frequent. An Archie digest was always available in the supermarket aisles (as it still is today) but the comic book proper was not accessible to me, so it was always fun to get something like that.

Among these Archie comic books I seem to recall some Archies that were, shall we say…not your typical Archie Comics. Allow me to preface this by saying, from the age of 3 to 19, I went to church every Sunday, and was raised in a Christian home. Even though we were raised in this environment, we didn’t have Christian literature crammed down our throat at every turn. My Mom was a firm believer of having a strong moral compass; having that, a Christian could live in a secular world. Even so, it wouldn’t be so far fetched to have Christian Archie Comics passed down to us, would it?

Christian Archies. You read that right.

I thought I dreamt it up somehow, but a Google search confirmed my memory – Christian Archies did exist. We somehow got a pile of old musty comic books that seemed a little mature in a Rex Morgan kind of way; certainly not something I would be attracted to at all at my young age. I remember a comic book in the pile, based around the story of the Prodigal Son, called Live It Up.

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I’ll never forget this cover…

In this pile of what seemed like “boring” comic books, were Archie comics. I mean, they looked like Archies, but, they weren’t your average Archie Comic.

The execution of the characters looked similar for the time, but the stories were…different. Archie and his pals were going about their lives, when all of the sudden, someone whips out a Bible, or you find Betty praying in the school cafeteria.

Christian Archie SOME ELSE BETTY PRAYING

The comics were drawn by Al Hartley, a born-again Christian who was one of Archie Comics’ artists. He convinced the president of Archie Comics to introduce a line of Christian comics that included Archie Pals ‘N Gals. There were 19 Archie titles in total. I’m not hating on these comics, in fact, I am a little fascinated by them as an oddity. However, as a kid, I secretly found them a little hoaky and definitely didactic. Consider, in a normal day Archie chasing after Betty and Veronica. Then in a parallel Christian comic book, have Archie abstain and in fact be disgusted by sex and imagery of sex. Even as an 11-year-old, you could not breeze past me that something was a little different about these Archies.

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While we are recalling Christian comics, let’s go to the dark side of Archie comics. I also seem to remember a story where Archie and Betty almost do it. You read that right – Archie and Betty almost get it on. <cue the Marvin Gaye>

I know, that must sound really weird. I mean, it’s not surprising that Betty would want to get it on with Archie considering the history they have. At any rate, I thought *for sure* my memory was playing tricks. I googled a lot, and thought I was having a Mandela effect moment, where over the years, my memory warped into thinking that it was true, when it was actually an active imagination turned into a false truth. But, if it wasn’t true, what was?

Thank goodness my reference librarian skills worked. I eventually found what I was looking for. Yep, I did.

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The story, called “Saved By the Bell” comes from Betty and Veronica Comics Digest Magazine #25 from July 1, 1987, and I totally remember owning that Digest. So it goes, Betty calls Archie sexy in a conversation with Veronica…

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Sexy? What!

Later on, Betty spends a quiet evening at home, and Archie invites himself over. And, well…

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The context of the story was burned in my memory bank. It’s so out of place with the wholesomeness of what an Archie is, and I have never read any Archie like it since.

We have the Archie comics of my youth – funny, innocent enough. We have the Christian Archies which take the moral tone. Now, we have dirty Archies where Archie and Betty almost bang. Bizarre. The end of innocence?

It was after the summer of 1987 when my interest in Archie began to wane. My tastes changed and I moved on to other things. I also craved more mature reading materials, and as I was getting a handle on my reading disability, chaptered books became more of an interest. Archie was slowly fading from memory.

About 10 years ago, my Archie Comic collection from childhood returned to me by way of a Boomerang gift from my parents. In usual fashion, my Step-Dad handed me a box on my way out the door: “Here, you’ll want to take these with you…” My comics were in terrible shape, having wintered in the garage for years, on top of the abuse they got when I was a kid. What do I do with these?? I had no time or patience to leaf through any of them to keep them as I was packing up our house to move to Stouffville. All of them wound up at a Barrie, ON recycling plant.

Today, I think about Archie comics as a novelty, and have considered buying particular ones if I come across them in my travels. If anything, it’s always fun to look back at this part of my life. I appreciate my experience and memory of reading and collecting Archies, and the memory of Archie and the gang is obviously still very strong.