Existential Stuff Crisis

Editor’s Box from fRoots 361 (July 2013)
Lately, I have been having an existential ‘stuff’ crisis. I thought I’d managed to substantially de-stuff when I upped and moved fRoots Towers to the Bristol Dungeon two years ago, but in all truth most of life’s baggage came with me.

I got rid of nearly all my vinyl back in the last century at the point I realised I hadn’t played any for years and both my turntables had died in their sleep. It hardly bothered me, since by then I already had more CDs than I could ever hope to play. For the past decade, swearing that I would never ever build another set of shelves, I have operated a strict one in, one out policy — resulting in an annual filing crisis. I gave away vast piles of books when I moved but still have too many. All the deteriorating VHS tapes went to the recycling centre with the realisation that I’d never have the hours to re-watch — let alone digitise — them before the images faded. The hundreds of cassettes from Africa that I’d hauled back to the UK in the ’80s and ’90s all got donated to the National Sound Archive. But still I’m drowning in stuff. My mother’s shed is full of multi-track master tapes of albums going back 40 years. What do you do with those?

The problem is that I get constantly distracted by procrastinating in what I poshly refer to as the ‘archives’. This isn’t just the proper archives — sixty-plus cardboard filing boxes full of other magazines and folk/roots/world music memorabilia that I’ve collected or been given down the decades, or the eight large filing cabinet drawers full of photo prints that mercifully have hardly been added to this century since digital photography took over. That stuff’s easy to deal with — I can just will it to some academic institution and let them inherit the problem of deciding whether it actually has any value or interest beyond a handful of anoraks, or should be consigned to a skip.

No, the real ‘archive’ problem is that I obsessively hung on to every single contract or letter for every gig I ever did, every diary from my teenage years, many years worth of what we called ‘gig log books’ detailing set lists and frank appraisals of every date we did in folk clubs, colleges, wonderful Belgian bars and gruesome German discos. And every professional pic and amateur snap that I could lay my hands on. Lately — it’s probably an age thing — I increasingly find myself away in reveries about past events, departed friends, lost loves and bonkers happenings. And I’m not sure if this is healthy, or wise.

Our fRoots columnist, the otherwise very clever Ms Kinder, has been trying to persuade me that there’s a book in all this and attempting to prise it out of me. So far, I have been unable to convince her that it will never get published as so few people would want to buy it. If, as one hears regularly, even household names can’t shift meaningful quantities, what hope is there for the pitifully obscure? But what other way is there to deal with it and then move on? Heaven forbid that I write another song called Living In The Past!

Ian Anderson (No, not that one …)


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