Our Digital Fall From Grace

Discussing the history of rock album art, Patrick West expresses nostalgia for a less digital age:

The decline of the album sleeve is symptomatic of a deeper crisis. Things aren’t consumed as they were. Rather, they are increasingly given away or stolen. And when something’s value is 600full-born-in-the-u.s.a.-cover-300x300diminished, so is its worth. As James Heartfield has observed in Mute magazine: ‘The declining value of music also means that it is of declining value to the consumer, so that they will tend to fail as goods that enhance the self-esteem of their purchasers.’

When you don’t pay for something, you don’t take the time to enjoy it. That’s why you come away from a free newspaper website feeling unsatisfied. If you pay for a newspaper, you are much more like to read it properly.

Objects have character, memories, idiosyncracies, flaws. My long-dead grandmother’s pencilled ‘arguments’ with Freud in his books remain my connection with her. A certain skip in ‘Here Comes the Sun’ on my taped copy of Abbey Road will remind me always of a caravan holiday in 1992. And ‘Eddie’, the skeletal icon that featured on Iron Maiden album sleeves and t-shirts, will forever bring me back to a family holiday to Yugoslavia in 1984, where I first saw it. In the digital age, all these moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.