Bobby Shaw Consulting

Show Menu

Liner Notes

Published July 27, 2015

Growing up I was never an athlete, I wasn’t very popular, I didn’t have a lot of friends, and I always seemed to struggle. But I loved music and music as it turns out is for everyone! Even a socially awkward kid from Kansas City, Missouri. You don’t have to be cool to like a certain song, and you don’t have to justify your choices to anyone when it comes to the music you listen to. Music is one of the great equalizers in our society, and I see that more and more today as Millennials, Hipsters, Senior Citizens, Teenagers, and Parents can love the exact same song.
For me listening to music was an escape. I can remember laying in my bed with the turntable in my room spinning Christmas music in the middle of summer and I loved it! I remember how free that made me feel. Even earlier in my life when I was very young riding in the car with my mom, I can remember hearing such classic artists as Jim Croce, Elvis, and the Manhattan Transfer and just soaking it all it and loving every minute of it.
Back then it was 8-tracks, LP’s and 45’s. The cassette really didn’t come on the scene until the late 70’s. And then the LP lost some of it’s appeal as the cassette was certainly more portable and Sony made a killing with the Walkman and for the better part of a decade you could listen to the music you wanted to in the palm of your hand for the first time.
But in 1983 when the Compact Disc arrived on the scene was the game changer for me. Then Dire Straits became the first artist to sell a million copies of an album on CD and it was game on. I won’t argue the case that CD quality is better than an LP (it isn’t!) but it provided an analog to digital experience that erased the pops and hisses of your LP collections, and had the perception of better quality, and the world of digital music arrived.
But the arrival of the optical disc did something else too. As the 80’s and 90’s unfolded more and more titles were re-released on CD and of course anything new was released in this format, sometimes only in the CD format, and record companies figured out that the CD jacket was valuable real estate. Over time artists began to use the CD jacket to communicate to the listener about the recording process as well as the stories behind the songs. Regardless of how audiophiles feel about the CD and the lesser sound quality of the medium, the CD provided a better experience from a liner note standpoint than could have ever been achieved on the album jacket for an LP.
As I mentioned earlier, I love music. And I own a lot of it. My daughter Jamisyn has been helping me with the rather large project of taking my 1000+ CD collection and taking them out of the jewel cases and putting them into some nice leather binders. Each binder holds 80 CD’s but I’ve opted to put the CD jacket in the slot next to the actual CD so that I have the liner notes. So each binder has 40 actual CD’s and we are 14 leather binders into the project, so we’re halfway there!
This has been a fun way for me to introduce my music to my daughter. We have an inside joke in the family that my music is “crusty” and I cannot disagree. I definitely bend the genre spectrum and listen to about every kind of music out there, except rap! Rock, Gospel, Blues, Pop, Jazz, New Age, Country, R&B, and Americana genres are all in my collection. So that has made for some interesting conversation as we’ve worked on the project together.
For me, it has also held special meaning because I am revisiting music that I have forgotten I even owned! But the liner notes of all those CD’s are what has me really remembering why I love all the music that I do. The opportunity for me to hear directly from the artist was such a thrill. I have read and re-read the words dozens of times, in hopes of gaining a glimpse into their lives and into the recording process of particular project I held in my hands, an extension of their lives at a moment in time.
And so the journey started for me in learning more about the artists that I respected and that inspired me. Over the years a couple of my favorite artists have actually become friends and my knowledge of them from their liner notes gave me the feeling that I knew them a little bit before we even met. I think that’s what liner notes are for!
So, back to my little project. I’ve been reading through liner notes that I haven’t read in years and re-engaging with the stories behind the music and it sparked a thought.
Our lives have liner notes too, and they are being written every day of our lives. I have been thinking a lot about what my liner notes will say and if someone picked up the CD of my life in 50 years, what would they read about? What part of my story would resonate with them? What would inspire them? What would make them laugh?
Sometimes classic albums are re-released with expanded deluxe editions and extra liner notes from the artist or producer, and that’s a real treat for music lovers. Sometimes our lives have the same thing happen to them. We get an updated version, a remastered version of our lives and the chance to communicate again what is important to us. What a privilege we have everyday to live our lives in such a way that someone would want to read our “liner notes” and hear our story.
I am committed to living my life in such a way that even if no one reads the liner notes of my life, I will be proud of the legacy I leave.
What do the liner notes of your life say today? What would you change? What will you do differently to tell a story you will be proud of?