The Tower of Power….
Friends Grant and JoAnn were recent houseguests of ours.
They came visiting from England, and spent a week here in New York, staying with us.
Like any good houseguests, they gave us a small gift on their departure.
In this case, it was a LaCie drive. To be precise, it was a 2 TB drive. But what made the gift especially interesting was what was on the drive.
Grant was for many years a Disc Jockey in the UK. And the drive? It held more than 24,000 songs.
When I was a kid, we used to hang out at Tower Records. We could spend hours pouring through the bins of LPs and new releases. Album after album. And, if you had really saved your money, and thought about it a great deal, you might… you might buy one. You would take it home and gingerly remove the plastic wrapping and place the record with great care on the turntable and enjoy the latest from The Who or Gensis or perhaps The Grateful Dead. (Yeah, I am old).
Now, suddenly, on demand, (and for virtually no cost) I have all of the albums from The Grateful Dead or The Who or even Squeeze and about 100 British bands I have never even heard of (plus, and God only knows why), 22 albums of Greatest World Cup Hits.
Grant had effectively dropped an entire Tower Records store in my living room, and one which was the size of a paperback novel.
The world has clearly changed, and it is little wonder that Tower Records went out of business.
Yesterday, The Chicago Tribune announced that they were laying off 17% of their editorial staff. This was broadcast last night on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, as a story entitled “The End of Newspapers”.
I was reminded, of all things, of the famous poem by Pastor Martin Nielmoller, ‘First they came….”
When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.
When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.
When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn’t a Jew.
When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.
The impact of both The Digital Revolution and The Web are almost hard to fathom. Tower Records, which had been an institution not so long ago is reduced to a small box on my shelf. The stores are no more. And what digital can do to music, it can also do to newspapers, television shows, movies, books, art, video games – just about any intellectual content that can be reduced to 0s and 1s. It is only a matter of time before NBC and their giant building at 30 Rock are sitting next to my Tower Records store, in another LaCie Terrabyte drive.
The worlds moves faster and faster – but at least I have the consolation of cranking up Bowie’s “Changes” at the touch of a button.
Strange fascination, indeed.