Vitalogy is a reminder of our need for adventure (at least for me).

Yesterday, I listened to Pearl Jam’s Vitalogy album all the way though for maybe the first time because it’s the 574th best-selling album, and I’m tracing that list from the top. The band’s prior recording, Vs., had been such a disappointment that I didn’t bother with its follow-up.

Vs. came out while I was a freshman at Carnegie Mellon University, so buying it took some doing. I had to decide if the cost was worth the tradeoff on my slim budget, find a music store in an unfamiliar city without the Internet, figure out the bus schedule, and ride back-and-forth across town, observing people along the way.

It feels like we’ve lost something by making everything so easy.  Tom Petty once complained that CDs and tapes took something out of the musical experience.  Vinyl records came in this large, beautiful envelope, like a poster packaged with the music.  CDs and tapes would fit in your pocket.

At least you still had to go to the store and find them.  There was an adventure to it, and if you didn’t know what, exactly, you wanted, you had to make an actual decision, because you could only buy so many.  And sometimes the experience was all you had, because the album proved a disappointment, like Vs.

Of course, I never could have listened to all the best-selling albums back then.  Even knowing what they were would have taken extensive research, and listening to them all would have been a heroic quest.

As in so many areas, what we need is a way to revive the sense of adventure, tangible experience, and risk without imposing a phony scarcity.

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