The Friday Morning Listen: Jimmy Webb – Just Across The River (2010)

So I’m lazing around the other morning, trying hard (and failing) to put down the reading material and at least pretend like I’d like to get to work before noon. It’s just that I was surprised to learn of Jimmy Webb’s interest in Concorde memorabilia. And what’s so fascinating about a world-class songwriter being enthralled with a supersonic commercial aircraft? I’m not really sure.

Part of what caught my attention was not so much that it was Jimmy Webb, but that it was somebody collecting anything. It seems like in the modern world, people spend so much of their lives in the digital realm that the idea of physical collections is quite an anachronism. Webb is clearly not in the virtual-only generation but that made me wonder if collecting in general is a thing of the past.

Of course, I went through all of the usual collecting phases as a kid: rocks (Oh, how I loved snowflake obsidian), stamps (for some reason, a huge percentage of mine were from Spain), and buttons (rock bands, political slogans, and the like). This was before I caught the music bug. After that…it was all over. First I had stacks of 45s, and then albums, which turned into CDs and then back into albums. Sort of.

What’s interesting about the actual process of collecting — no matter what the object of desire is — is that the act of discovery always contains that “Ah ha!” moment. While some folks collect as a means to complete a set of something, others get a buzz from the happy accidents of discovery. What? They made a Grease picture disc? I’ve got to have that! I’m in that group. I never really cared to own all of the import versions of Darkness On The Edge Of Town (Though I did stumble onto one from Holland a few years ago. Yes, I bought it), I was more than happy to fork over silly amounts of cash for Bruce bootlegs. I practically lived on Live at the Agora Ballroom during the last two years of college.

Is there a digital equivalent to this? Are people hoping that their Pinterest collections will last a lifetime? Will digital scrapbooks perform their necessary function over the long haul? I hope something steps in, because it’ll be boring retirement for these people if they’ve got no way to look back then it’s time to do so.

I do understand the idea that sometimes people can go over the line with this stuff. Hoarders do nothing more than make unsafe apartments (and create reasons for more bad television) and their “joy of discovery” seems to have more to do with quelling certain brain signals. But that doesn’t mean that healthy versions of these activities don’t exist. If Jimmy Webb loves to collect artificial horizons from the Concorde, what’s the big deal? Similarly, if I blow my stack upon seeing that Texas high school battle of the bands vanity pressing, there’s no harm done.

Suddenly, I’ve got the urge to go poking through my old box of 45s. I haven’t heard the Ohio Players “Funky Worm” is years. Maybe tomorrow morning…just before leaving for work?

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Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he writes several weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.