Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Are record clubs the new book clubs?

Music lovers gather for uninterrupted album appreciation at Colleen Murphy's club

A growing number of music-lovers unhappy about the way album tracks are enjoyed in a pick-and-mix fashion have decided to take action.

The rules are strict. No talking. No texting. You must listen to every song on the album.

Classic Album Sundays treat our best-loved records like great symphonies and are being set up in London, Scotland and Wales.

Groups of music fans sit in front of a vinyl turntable, with the best speakers they can afford, dim the lights and listen to a classic album all the way through.

This monthly club in north London is run by Colleen Murphy and for her it is a strike against "'download culture", the sense that music has just become an endless compilation of random songs used as background noise.

"Everyone, stop multi-tasking, sit down, open your ears and do some heavy listening."

The set album this month was Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. We sat in silence even as David Bowie's record was turned over to side two.

The seats were soft, someone had lit some incense. Some people closed their eyes, others nodded in rhythmic appreciation. There was a sense of being collectively submerged in Bowie's music.

"You're not even allowed to use the bathroom here, it's too noisy," says Ms Murphy.

Kate Bush's The Hounds of Love was a previous choice, and a popular one amongst the regulars. Most had heard bits of the record but few could remember sitting through it all the way through.

It is a topic that has been making the papers. Pink Floyd went to court to try to protect the integrity of albums such as Dark Side of the Moon. For music critics such as Neil McCormick of the Daily Telegraph they were totally justified.

"These are works of art at their greatest level. You can pick up a Dickens book and read a little bit of it and get some pleasure but you will not get the same pleasure as you would picking it up and reading it from beginning to end."

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