Shantel Mitchell/for NPR
Dave Matthews, seen here at Bonnaroo 2010, was a runaway winner of our Owned & Abandoned Sweepstakes. His prize: abandonment.
Two weeks ago, I wrote a blog post — and sent out a tweet on the All Songs Considered account, and posted to NPR's restless army of Facebook-ites — asking readers to name which artists have put out the most music they own but never listen to. Whose CDs sit in the longest, dustiest rows on your shelves? (And, yes, the 1,000th person to reply "What's a CD?" will win a free tote bag.)
My plan was to read all the replies, pick a bunch of funny and interesting ones, and crank out a new question, all in the span of a few days — but then we got more than a thousand responses, many of which were funny and interesting. So, for those who remember all the way back to July 23 (the equivalent of eight months ago when translated to Internet time), here's a quick look at some of your many highlights.
Dave Matthews Band received so many votes, you'd think his fans had organized a particularly ill-advised letter-writing campaign, but close on his heels was poor Tori Amos.
"I own pretty much everything Tori Amos ever put out — live, B-sides, rarities and box sets included," Rebecca McClain writes. "I own, but have never listened to, her last two studio albums. I guess I'm just bored of her. Even the last live show I went to, I couldn't wait to leave; my butt hurt from sitting so long. I don't even have her on my MP3 player, and I'm starting to sell off my collection to try to recoup some of the thousand-plus dollars I spent on her stuff."
Naturally, virtually every super-famous musician popped up — The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, Grateful Dead — with what seemed like special emphasis on artists who've dealt in volume in recent years: the aforementioned Dave Matthews Band, Ryan Adams, Elvis Costello, Radiohead, Beck, Ani DiFranco, Bright Eyes, R.E.M., Phish, Sting, The Cure, Depeche Mode, Rush and so on. Occasionally, readers offered theories while they were naming names.
"My friend has a great name for this. She calls it phase music," Kate Share writes. "All of those albums you buy because you love the band, and then you find someone else you love — i.e., Dave Matthews, R.E.M., Tori Amos, Ani DiFranco, Sarah McLachlan. Then you put them on your iPod (you have so many of these CDs, so you must like the songs), and when they come up in the shuffle, you skip them."
For some, the thought of all those abandoned CDs made them think of rediscovery.
"Elvis Costello's first three LPs were triumphant," Kent Swafford writes. "After that, the music was different, but the first three had been so remarkable that I couldn't help but keep buying. I recently listened to The River in Reverse because of the Allen Toussaint contribution. It may be time to go back and listen to Costello."
"Led Zeppelin," David Sloan writes. "I own them all on CD, even got the remastered versions when they came out, but I never play them. I think I burned out from too many playings of 'Stairway to Heaven' on the radio. But I'm saving them for my next Zeppelin phase, which could come at any moment."
Richard P.: "Will Oldham. But only because I never remember any alias that doesn't start with 'Bonnie.' "
Anna Fonte: "The complete studio recordings of Led Zeppelin are furred thick with dust on the shelf next to all my old Depeche Mode CDs."
Jordan Hirsch: "Probably Radiohead. I love them, love their music, love seeing them live — and am almost never in the mood to listen to them."
Matt Wilson: "Sonic Youth. They're an amazingly consistent band, but what that really means is that they've been remaking Sister for almost a quarter-century now."
Andrew Myers: "They Might Be Giants. But, hell, maybe I need to make another cycle through all those albums again, now that you mention it!"
Stephanie Koehler: "Superchunk. I have all their albums and buy the new ones. Never listen to any of them. I just bought a 7" I'll never listen to last week."
Marlene Bloom Rubin: "I haven't listened to any of my CDs in years! Really, since I had children 15 years ago and lost control of the car music, it's been downhill."
Jeffrey Carrier: "I would have to say Beck and, much more prominently, Tom Waits. I went through a brief period in high school where I was obsessed with Waits, and got just about everything I could buy — which was just about everything still in rotation, given that sophomores in high school don't have a lot of bills. Especially when they don't have a lot of friends, which I have a feeling ties into the whole 'obsessed with Tom Waits' thing."
Gary Miles: "Nobody takes up more space in my collection than Miles Davis. I went through a stage where Davis was all I needed, and I kept adding and adding. Now I rarely listen to anything other than Kind of Blue. I know I'll return to Miles someday. He makes me happy to be sad."
Marc Hirsh: "Guided by Voices. Though that seems like both a cop-out and a cheat, since the sheer volume of music that Robert Pollard upchucked at a steady clip for a decade and a half seems almost deliberately designed to be collected more than listened to. Not coincidentally, GbV is also the single act that takes up the most real estate in my collection, period."
Even in 140 characters or less, we got a few funny replies on Twitter, too: @simonsoup writes, "I have most Smashing Pumpkins records, all gathering dust since 2002 or so, because it turns out they're awful," while @koffeeguy names Bill Mallonee and his band Vigilantes of Love. "Lots of brilliance, lots of whining about brilliance not being financially rewarding," he writes.
I'll give the last words to Mike Rogers.
"Sadly, it's the artists I like the most that I rarely listen to," Mike writes. "Miles Davis, Anthony Braxton, Cecil Taylor, Henry Kaiser, Grateful Dead. With the expanse of the catalogs — and with Braxton the daunting task of setting aside at least an hour per composition — I'm more glad to support the artists than spend all my time listening to them. But I wouldn't get rid of them for anything, because they need to be there when I have an itch that only they can scratch."
If I may tack on an unofficial follow-up question, which artist named here will you listen to the soonest?