I have lunched with enough record company executives to know that the long, slow and increasingly painful death of the music industry as we know it is not being a) ignored, b) exaggerated, or c) willingly accepted. Sure, the old business model has collapsed, downsizing has become the norm, a record store closes every day and CD sales make for embarrassing reading. But while the industry's meltdown continues (like an old 7" single left out in the midday sun), there is hope.
As music becomes more disposable – free online, given away with newspapers – the record companies have successfully engineered a luxury heritage sector, repackaging classic albums (with outtakes, remixes, etc), producing boxed sets, inventing extravagant new formats and resequencing back catalogues to cater for a market of punters prepared to pay upwards of £15 for a premium product.
And Neil Young has just jumped the shark. Archives Vol. 1 (1963-1972) comes in three formats: an eight-CD version, a 10-DVD version, and the one that's staring at me now, like the obelisk in 2001: A Space Odyssey, the 10-disc Blu-Ray version, a box of nearly 200 songs (many of them rare or unreleased), with concert footage, unseen photographs, interviews, time-lines, posters, lyrics, scribbled notes – a multi-media smorgasbord that is truly monumental.
For the past two weeks it's rarely been out of the car CD, although I have to hide it when my wife is in with me; the only music she hates more than Neil Young's is Steely Dan's, and she hates it with a passion she usually reserves for politicians and the people who man BT phone lines. It's an aversion she has carried from her youth, when Young's whining miserabalism epitomised everything she hated about pop.
But for men of a certain vintage – c'est moi! – that miserabalism will forever be associated with a period when this sort of music felt genuinely, innately "alternative", an antidote to the sort of urban sophistication we were too young to aspire to. And now there's an awful lot more of it ... in a very, very big box.
Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'Reuse content