Everything changes when I acquire my first CD player: a Sony Discman. It’s easy to take the analog-to-digital transition for granted some 600+ discs later, but I still remember the first two I owned: PM Dawn’s famously, fatuously titled Of the Heart, Of The Soul, Of The Cross: The Utopian Experience and Let Them Eat Bingo by Beats International (a.k.a. Fatboy Slim back when he was merely Norman Cook). I purchased both at Camelot Music, a chain store situated in a massive retail space that used to be a Captain’s Steak Joynt (their spelling, not mine) restaurant near Southridge mall. Bingo was my first-ever cut-out bin purchase, because for only $6.99, I just couldn’t pass up a two-year-old album from a band I vaguely remembered liking. I bought a majority of my CDs from Camelot that year, primarily because they had one of those ridiculous *Buy 15, Get One Free* frequent buyer cards that I thought was a real deal.

What impressed me most about compact discs? Certainly not their superior sound or endurance over time--I scratched at least one or two by year’s end. No, what I really enjoyed was the ability to jump to whatever song I wanted, whenever I wanted to, without ever worrying about rewinding. CDs gave listeners more options, more power. You could sequence the songs to your liking, or leave it up to the automatic shuffle option. I took an article writing class that spring semester, and I believe one of my themes cogently argued, “Compact Discs or Cassettes: What Really is the Better Choice?” (Gotta love a 17-year-old’s tendency to italicize the words that really matter).

Initially, I sought to replace a few of my cassettes in the CD format. After all, I felt a little naked with this brand spanking new player in my possession and only a half-dozen discs to play in it. At this point, I can’t discern any rhyme or reason as to what I bought. James Brown's 20 All Time Greatest Hits! was surely the first pre-1980 music I ever owned, while I got U2’s Achtung Baby not so much ‘cause I didn’t think I could live without my very own copy of the song “One”, but because a popular classmate I admired owned it (or at least, wore a U2 tour T-shirt to school).

That summer, I eagerly awaited new releases by The B-52’s, Deee-lite, and INXS (Welcome To Wherever You Are, which I hated at the time but is still on my shelf; Kick is not). With a newly acquired driver's license, I began making weekly trips to neighboring libraries to borrow CDs and make cassette dubs of them (lucky me, I could hook up my Discman to my boombox). I checked out some jazz on public radio while scooping ice cream at Baskin Robbins (and one grotesquely fat female customer called me "crazy" for doing so). I read The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Life slowly rolled on.

Then, everything changed again when R.E.M.’s Automatic For the People came out in October and I borrowed a copy of The Beatles’ Abbey Road from the St. Francis Public Library in November. I’ve already written about the impact these two albums have had on my life (click here and here); I’m guessing it was coincidental that I discovered both of them weeks apart, since one did not directly lead me to the other. I don’t think being on the edge of seventeen had much to do with it; I doubt coming across something else as potentially influential (like The Replacements or Neil Young) at that age would’ve thrown me off on a path radically different from the one I actually took.