Musical Musings: Breaking Free of Artist OCD

I have to be honest: parts of my music collection are a testament to my version of obsessive compulsive disorder.

I have at least 40 CDs from both Miles Davis and Frank Zappa. I have pretty much everything Adrian Belew, Genesis, Rush, and King Crimson have released. Those items alone make for more CDs than a lot of people I know own.

I harbor no shame. It’s just a fact.

I discover a new band. I fall in love with their album. And just like that, I need to hear every note they’ve ever played. It’s the way my brain works. After all, I don’t want to miss anything.

I want 2019 to be different. Not only am I truly re-embracing Jazz (primarily for research purposes), I’m diving headlong into the bands I learn about via Bandcamp and magazines like JazzTimes and Downbeat. If things go the way I think they will, I’ll be learning about 10-20 jazz artists a month. To say nothing of the 20 or so new bands I’ll read about in Prog magazine.

If things go the way I think they will, I won’t have time for musical OCD.

In a way, it’ll be nice to keep moving through music at a rapid pace. For one thing, I won’t have the time to memorize every note. That keeps the album fresh in my mind, and some of the music will still surprise me. I like that feeling. No matter how much I love a record, I’m always a little sad once I have it memorized.

I’m also looking forward to a deep dive into unknown musical worlds. It’s easy to fall into a rut when you lean too much on your favorites. There are so many artists and albums out there, falling into said rut is all but impossible. I need to face facts: the Jazz world has all but passed me by in recent years, and I have a lot of catching up to do. Then I can worry about getting ahead of the curve.

Of course, there are risks of falling into the same trap with my new program as well. Back in the early 90s, I became completely obsessed with jazz, eschewing all other music forms in the process. I was so into what I was doing, I sold off all my other CDs, most of which had followed me home from my two-year tour in Japan. I’m a smart man, but I can do some stupid things.

I’ll have more than a couple of friends to remind me now and then to listen to something other than jazz now and then. As a personal rule, I’m only allowing myself to have three jazz days a week. It’s a big musical world, and I want to hear as much of it as I can.

So for the time being, you’ll forgive me if I can’t tell you the intimate details of a certain artist’s catalog. I’m not saying I don’t like them. I’m just leaving room for other sounds.

I’ll get back to obsessive collecting soon enough.


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Check out my book, I Can’t Be the Only One Hearing This: A Lifetime of Music Through Eclectic Ears. It’s available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine bookstores.

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