Forget downloads: I remember when music still mattered

The government has announced a major shake-up of copyright laws.
Finally, the Digital Econony Act will make it legal to copy music and films to a computer, iPod or similar device.
It won’t affect me one bit, of course, and I dare say I’m not alone.
I have never downloaded a tune or a movie and I wouldn’t know where to begin.
I am a complete techno-phobe. I resisted email like an absolute Luddite. I don’t have an iPod or an iPad for that matter. My mobile telephone is basic, to say the least.
I can barely set the video (sorry) DVD recorder – which is just the way I like it, to be honest.
Back in July 2006 I said goodbye to an old friend – someone many of us grew up with.
After 42 years Top Of The Pops (TOTP) disappeared from our TV screens with little more than a whimper.
Ratings had been on the slide for some time and what killed TOTP wasn’t the advent of the compact disc.
It wasn’t even the sparklingly charismatic presenting duo of Fearne Cotton and Reggie Yates. No, honestly, it wasn’t.
What did for TOTP in the end was the internet which meant that people were finding new ways to access the music they liked.
Suddenly, the charts didn’t matter anymore.
Not only could people download albums and singles by their favourite artists but websites which gave new acts the chance to shine were springing up all over the place.
Performers whose music had only ever been heard via the internet became overnight sensations.
Without such websites like MySpace then artists like the Arctic Monkey and Lily Allen would perhaps never have been discovered.
Even so, I reckon the internet has actually done more damage than good to the music industry.
Apart from anything else, I can never forgive it for putting the final nail in the coffin of the charts.
I can’t be the only one who misses their weekly fix of movers and new entries.
Surely I’m not alone in wishing that the old-fashioned way of monitoring the music scene was still available.
In its halcyon days TOTP had more than 15 million viewers on a Thursday night.
We got to watch our favourite bands perform (sometimes they weren’t even miming) and experience the cultural melting pot of musical tastes.
Where else could you get Duran Duran, the Pet Shop Boys, Bananarama, Cliff Richard and Bon Jovi in half an hour?
Back in the day we all knew what was number one in the singles chart. How many of us can say the same now?
Not many, because the truth is no-one cares anymore.
If you ask me there is something desperately sad about the fact that there are now generations who have only ever known music via downloads.
Getting your music from the ether strikes me as a pretty soulless affair.
Never mind social networking: How can it possibly compare to the shared experience of watching TOTP then nipping up Hanley with your mates at the weekend to scour through the racks for the tracks you wanted?
I have friends with tens of thousands of songs on their iPod but I would never swap their hi-tech for my vinyl collection.
Just think of all the fantastic album covers you’ve got tucked away in a cupboard somewhere.
Each one is a work of art – complete with sleeve notes, photographs and lyrics.
The other night I watched a TOTP2 Eighties special.
It included such gems as a live performance of I Wanna Dance With Somebody by Whitney Houston, poodle-haired Scandinavians Europe rockin’ out to The Final Countdown and T’Pau’s China In Your Hands.
But it was the last song which took me back to a time and a place which is special to me.
The track, from 1988, was The Only Way Is Up by Yazz and The Plastic Population.
Having watched that original episode of TOTP I then recalled dancing to the song with my Port Vale fan mates in Regime’s nightclub – with the chorus doctored to ‘the Vale are going up, baby, Division Two now’.
Not that original, granted, but the memory has stuck with me all the same.
Yes, downloads may be the present and the future, but I think I’ll stick with my vinyl and the occasional trip down memory lane with TOTP2 to a time when music still mattered.

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