Friday, September 15, 2006

Breaking the Chain

I am recording a sketch for radio. I am just recording a demo at home as I think this is a better way of demonstrating the concept than a script. I am about to start recording when I have an idea – the sketch would be even better if I could get the old BBC Formula 1 music and use the bit that goes DUMMM, DUM-DUM-DUMM DUM-DUM-DUM-DUM-DUM DUMMMM. Once I have this idea I know that I cannot go back to recording the sketch without the music, despite the fact that it will only ever be heard by one other person. I am a perfectionist like that.

I know that this piece of music is The Chain by Fleetwood Mac, from their Rumours album. I also know that I do not own a copy. And I know that if I download it from somewhere like iTunes there will be all sorts of digital rights management issues so that I won’t be able to copy and paste the bit that goes DUMMM, DUM-DUM-DUMM DUM-DUM-DUM-DUM-DUM DUMMMM. And I will have to pay 79p.

I am scared of using illegal file-sharing software in case a burly policeman comes knocking on my door. I don’t want the contents of my hard drive to become an exhibit in court as my collection of internet pornography is embarrassingly small and conservative in nature. (That’s conservative with a small ‘c’. If I got off on pictures of Ann Widdecombe that would be extremely liberal. And if my pornography were Liberal in nature then a dodgy MP3 file would be the least of my worries.)

I do find a Russian website that promises any song for just nine cents though. This sounds like a good deal, particularly as it will be in MP3 format, so I can easily get the bit that goes DUMMM, DUM-DUM-DUMM DUM-DUM-DUM-DUM-DUM DUMMMM. But I am wary of giving my credit card number to a dodgy Russian businessman in case when I get my next statement I find that I have just spent £21m on Shaun Wright-Phillips. I would not know what to do with him. (Apart from play him wide on the right, obviously.)

So, I email a friend who I know will be in, in case he has a copy that he can rip and email to me. I am not sure about asking him though as his musical tastes are both eclectic and didactic. Either he will be insulted that I think he possesses a Fleetwood Mac album, or he will be condescending because I do not already own such a seminal piece of work. He doesn't reply. That could mean anything.

I could trek all the way into town and try to remember where I bought CDs before the internet, but the thought of buying something by Fleetwood Mac from somebody half my age fills me with horror. Even if I explain that I only want it for the bit that goes DUMMM, DUM-DUM-DUMM DUM-DUM-DUM-DUM-DUM DUMMMM, and that it is for a show that I’m sure all “da kidz” will listen to.

Then a memory stirs. Perhaps I do own this album after all. When I was a student, my friend Amy moved house and stored some things at our place. She collected them, but left behind a shoebox of tapes. She never wanted them back as they were a load of 70s music that her brother gave her because he didn’t want them any more. I took ownership, eager to broaden my musical horizons, but it was a bit like buying a complete set of classic novels. I never played a single one of them.

I have, however, taken the shoebox of tapes with me on each of the seven occasions that I have moved house since, each time thinking, “I must either play these or throw them out, not just put them in the wardrobe”. And I have a feeling that one of the tapes is Rumours by Fleetwood Mac.

But where in the wardrobe? An entire wall of our bedroom is floor-to-ceiling shelving behind sliding doors, storing many large boxes of things about which I have thought, “I must either do something with this or throw it out, not just put it in the wardrobe”. It is like looking for a box that is hidden amongst many other similar boxes.

The shoe box is, of course, in the very last box. But when I open it I see that it does indeed contain a copy of Rumours by Fleetwood Mac. I am overjoyed. There was a reason for paying seven different sets of removal men to transport it from one home to another over the past 16 years. I must remember to tell my girlfriend this the next time she suggests having a clearout. Triumphantly, I take it out of the shoe box.

The case is empty.

The inlay flutters to the floor.

Defiantly, I pick up my guitar and try to work out the tune. DUMMM, DUM-DUM-DUMM DUM-DUM-DUM-DUM-DUM DUMMMM...