Once again I find myself flailing around for holiday gifts. Music used to be my go-to gift, but no more. While there is much to recommend the Streaming Age, it has taken away music as a gift. Very few of my friends still listen to music in the physical formats that pre-dated streaming. And while I could give someone a digital album, the absence of an actual object makes it seem impersonal.
During our musically formative years, my friends and I learned about new music - and each other - by giving albums as gifts. To this day, the best gift I ever received was a perfectly square package containing the first three albums by The Clash which my friend, Steve, gave me for my Bar Mitzvah. Not just a great gift, it was a gesture of intimacy, one friend sharing his passion with another.
Such was the power of Steve's gift that long before I had a son, or even a girlfriend, I fantasized about presenting my unborn child at his Bar Mitzvah with mint copies of every classic Rolling Stones album: "Here son, now you are a man." That vision got me through future childbirth classes, dog-eats-baby prevention lectures and diaper-changing tutorials. But the digital age has ended that dream.
I suppose I could buy my son digital copies of the albums at the iTunes store, and tell him to watch for an email from Apple with instructions on how to download them. But that doesn't quite fit the fantasy. Plus, the physicality of the albums is important. Can someone legitimately identify as a Stones fan without ever holding the "Sticky Fingers" album cover in their hands and contemplating its irreverence? There is also the unthinkable risk that my son could, with a mouse click, reject the digital Stones albums and instead download One Direction.
So instead of records, I have decided to try to give my son experiences that will convey the rich history of the music and my connection to it. Last weekend we watched documentary footage of the Stones recording in Muscle Shoals. And when they come through town on what probably should be their last tour, we will be there.