Of tapes, laptops, and Freddie Mercury

Monday was a rather exciting day.

I was given another 60 or so audio tapes. And there are more coming.

I was also given two laptops; a Dell Inspiron 4000, and an ancient AST Ascentia 900N. Today an IBM Thinkpad 560N joined the collection of outdated and antiquated hardware. And there might be more coming!

All for free, of course, all from different generous colleagues, and all hopefully quite capable (a few tweaks and minor upgrades aside) of fulfilling the silly thoughts and ideas of future projects and functions currently buzzing through my cranium. Linux/FreeBSD/DOS, here we come!

So where does THIS go?

Then there was discogs.

On April 30th, the so-called Master Release function (MR) was finally unleashed.

Suggested, discussed, designed and drafted more than two years ago, this function allows various formats, editions, re-presses, re-issues and versions of an artist’s singles, EPs, albums or music video releases to be grouped together (the criteria, perhaps purposely so, are a little vague and open to interpretation) so that an entire discography can be viewed in primarily a chronological order based on an artist/band’s “body of work”.

What it effectively means is that the CD and vinyl and cassette versions of the same album are now lumped together and “appear” as one MR unit — depending on the current view.

And thus, certain users went forth and did some lumping. We lumped together what should be lumped together, and we argued about what shouldn’t be grouped together. We found bugs, requested some features, and found more bugs, and most of us are happy as feverish piggies in brown matter for reasons that only rabid, OCD fans will appreciate or understand.

Deciding what to group, however, is not very easy — particularly with acts that have been around for a while and have released albums on a wide range of media and seemingly dissimilar formats — let alone in different languages, titles or territory-specific versions spread over different decades!

Here, for the sake of demonstration, is what I’ve described Queen’s classic “Greatest Hits” compilation album from 1981 as:

This grouping gathers the widely divergent array of variations and formats of Queen’s phenomenally-successful first “Greatest Hits” album, originally released in November 1981. It is available on LP, cassette, 8-track, Reel-to-Reel, and of course, it was later re-issued on CD (1986 onwards) and MiniDisc (1998), some in typical remastered fashion.

Taking a strict “all killer, no filler” approach to song selection from the 1973 to 1980 period, the original (UK) version included 17 hits — as do many other international editions, although some of these feature a bewilderingly different gallery of sleeve art.

Later editions, however, begun to include the 1981 hit “Under Pressure” as an 18th track while some international flavours also modified the song selection and sequence in favour of lesser hits in those territories.

Simultaneous to the album release were the “Greatest Flix” video assemblage (available on VHS, Beta, Laser Disc, Activision) as well as the “Greatest Pix” book.
“Greatest Flix”, in turn, has since been remastered and re-released under the new title “Greatest Video Hits 1” on DVD in 2002 (grouped separately for the sake of overview).

Needless to say, there are countless re-issues and bootleg/pirate/copycat versions of each.

Some could be grouped here but BEWARE of non-related items bearing no more than a similar title — the North American versions from 1992, for instance, share nothing but the title, cover a different career period and belong in their own grouping.

And make no mistake: there’s a substantial amount of research, insight and guesstimation involved in the details contained in those paragraphs (and I’m constantly tweaking it). It took me about one week to rummage through the several hundred distinctly unique and different items that form the bulk of just this one band’s discography.

I’m truly terrified of touching the Beatles or U2 because of their plentitude of bootlegs.

Image credits: Unknown

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