Years ago, when people made mixtapes on cassettes, I received an excellent one from a friend in college. It was filled with peculiar songs from bands I’d never heard of, but there was one song in particular that blew me away. It didn’t fall into any category of music that previously existed. It was one of those times where you fall completely in love and think This is the song I’ve been waiting my whole life to hear. (Moments like that happen pretty frequently to anyone who loves music, but less as you get older.)
This cassette got beat up over the years. Most of the bands on it where hard to track down; it was all rare material and b-sides from artist most people had probably never heard of. That one song continued to kill me over the years.
Eventually the cassette died, or my patience or ability to listen to cassettes died, and it’s been in a drawer for years.
The other day I was thinking about that song again and was overcome by a need to hear it again. I emailed the friend who’d made me the tape. I asked him what the name of that song was, and if by any chance he had an mp3 of it.
He wrote back and attached an mp3 that he explained was an edited version of the original track. The first version had only ever been released on a limited-edition cassette, and was almost impossible to track down at this point. The edited version starts off just the same as the original. My love for the song came flooding back, and I thought Oh man, I bet Josh would love this. But I kept listening, and although the edited version is familiar, it’s not the same. It’s just similar enough to tease, but just different enough to make it feel like cheating. There’s a weird part in the middle, and they took out a noise I liked, and the part at the end is totally different, and totally not as good.
Because the edited version was released on CD, it’s the one that became the more ubiquitous of the two. Everyone I know who might like this band only has the edited version. I wonder if they even know about the original version.
I thought about sending the edited version to Josh anyway, but decided against it. How would I even frame it? Listen to this song, and if you like it at all, just imagine how much you would love it if this part here repeated like a broken record, and if instead of that guitar noise at the end it sounded like computers dying.
Never mind, forget it. What if somehow, ten years from now, I find the original version on mp3? He’ll already have formed an opinion of the song based on the edited version. He’ll never hear the song the way I did; his experience will always be asterixed.
So even though I told him about this experience I’d had with this song, I refused to tell him the name of the song.
What this means: I would rather risk him never hearing it then allow him to experience the song in a half-assed way. Which is an odd thing to realize about yourself when you’re a person who writes stories and puts them on a website on the internet.