Confessions Of A Fan

   

by Stephen Moore

My name is Stephen, and I'm a CDaholic. It started innocently enough, the occasional bit of music here and there to help me get by. Perhaps a single to keep me going until the album came out. I mean, I didn't think I had a problem. But now I live from one obscure foreign release to the next, and the words "Promotional Copy. Not for resale." make my heart beat quicken. I'm an addict.

OK, perhaps that was a touch frivolous. But I'm sure that some of you have felt it too, the buzz, the thrill of finding that one last single to complete an artist's back-catalogue. To be a fan, to need to buy the same single three times over just so you have all the formats.

This article's not really for you. It's for the other guys, the ones who are sitting there reading this and thinking "What's this person on?", it's an explanation of what it is to be a fan, and it's a How To manual for people who'd like to be fans but don't really have the obsessional mindset.

My own problem started in late June of 1995. Before then I'd been 'into' music. But I wasn't really a fan, I'd buy albums I liked and the occasional single. Then it happened. 'It' was my accidental discovery of Cathy Dennis's debut album just sitting in my local Our Price. I quite liked the album I'd got, so I decided to buy this one too, it was after all a bargain.

A bargain that would end up costing me thousands of pounds...

I got the album. I listened to the album. I loved the album. Really, truly loved it. Other records had entertained or fascinated me before, but never in quite the way this one did. It managed to get inside me and not let go. So I started looking for other stuff by Cathy Dennis. As it turned out I had all her albums by then, but I discovered a video was available. So I ordered it. Then I found some old singles lying discounted and forgotten in my local Virgin Megastore. I bought them, even though they were identical to the album versions of the tracks.

And by August 1995 I was a committed fan. I searched the Internet high and low for information on this artist, but there wasn't any single useful resource. So I took everything I knew and pulled it all together into a web page. Not a great page, or even a good one, but it was a page and it was mine.

By now the fanaticism bug was really getting to me, I was getting into other artists and groups in the same way, becoming fascinated by and addicted to music, not to any one artist but to the music scene in general. The mid-90s was a fantastic time to be getting into music, everything was new and exciting and the whole industry was changing all the time, which meant that there were always new groups and new albums to discover.

From then I've just bounced along from one group to another, continually fascinated and entertained by music. Not just today's but also music from years ago which I discovered all over again.

Along the way I started buying albums from Japan because they've got more tracks than the UK versions, and tried to collect Promo copies of singles and albums, not because they're any better, but just because it gives a visceral thrill to know you've got it first.

So, that's my story. I'm sure a few heads are nodding in agreement, and also a few shaking in disbelief.

And now, it's time for... The Young Person's Guide To Becoming a Fanatic.

Step One:
Back catalogue. It's all very well having the latest release from your favourite bands, but do you have their original EP? You know, the one that had 4 pressings on an obscure label somewhere in South Peru. You don't? Well then get to it! Look on Esprit (http://www.eil.co.uk), they probably have cornered the market on all four copies, a snip at fifty pounds. Or perhaps some entrepreneur is selling it on eBay.

Step Two:
Experiment. Never be scared to try something new. If you see a single at £1.99 that you've never heard of, but it looks interesting then buy it! It might be woeful, but it might be great. And if some people who seem to like similar music to you start talking about a new band, then give them a go. Never be scared to try new things, man shall not live by Steps alone.

Step Three:
Promos. Yes, yes, it's all very well being first in the line for the new Oasis album. But what about journalists, or record shops? They get it early! You can too if you're willing to pay above the odds for a copy. Promos usually end up at specialist record shops, such as Esprit, or your local independent. Just don't go into HMV and ask for one, they'll laugh you out of the shop.

Step Four:
Globalise. Having the UK version of an album's all very well. What about the Japanese one? The one with the extra tracks. Or the singles. Do you have the Japanese singles? The little tiny three-inch CDs with practically no B-sides. They're often tracks not even available in the UK.

And finally...

Step Five:
Support. You've done all that, you've spent every penny you earn feeding a habit which means that even you forget half the music you own. You're not going to last the distance though. Not without a good strong support network. And that's where the internet comes in. It doesn't matter how bad the band you're into is, you're practically guaranteed to find likeminded people out there somewhere who'll share your fanaticism, and who'll curse you when you get the promo first. UKMIX is a great place to start, join the mailing list, and have a look at the directory. There's a lot of like-minding addicts out there waiting to help you.

Above all else, enjoy it. I might make it sound like my love of music has ruined my life, but in the words of Meredith Brooks' "Bitch" 'I wouldn't want it any other way'. Fan life's great fun. Join in.