Getting burgled, Led Zeppelin and how the Compact Disc came into my life

This is my humble CD collection circa 2000 in shelves I built myself (that’s why they are bending under the weight). It was categorised by “region” and awesomeness. Led Zeppelin is on the second level (Europe/Australia), extreme left 

ROBBED

When I was 16 my entire CD collection (plus my guitar) was stolen by thieves while me and a household of five souls were asleep down and upstairs.

Naturally it was my fault.

We had just moved into a two-storey terrace on Hopetoun Street in Paddington, Sydney and it was a Friday night and I had arrived home late. Not wanting to wake the household with excessive door-noise, I had accidentally left this door (which I wasn’t quite used to) in a pretend state of lockedness and presumably the door must have blown wide open soon after I had crept up to bed giving some dodgy passer-bys an opportunity to be very, very naughty.

My mum woke up at about 1am to go to the toilet and heard noises downstairs and thinking it was me and my friends – she had shouted down the stairs to “keep the noise down”. Then she heard a random person say, “Quick, get the guitar.” Instantly realising something was amiss she creeped down the stairs to find the house ransacked and the front door wide open. The TV, the VCR and the CD player were conspicuously missing and only their cords and the dust underneath were left behind.

Later we realised they had even come upstairs, right into the main bedroom where mum and her BF slept, and secretly found their way around the bed to steal her handbag and escape unnoticed.

The “guitar” they seemed so intent on acquiring was my guitar — my brand new guitar — which I had only just come by with cash scrounged after selling my first guitar, saving and pawning a few other possessions.

The commotion woke me and I joined everyone in that bewildered “What the Fuck?” vibe you can only get when suddenly ripped from the dead of sleep and realising evil strangers had just come into the house and stolen all your valuables while you lay there helpless. Ugly.

The next thing I did was I ran around the neighbourhood hunting for them on bare feet. Like I was in a movie I searched all the lanes and tiny back streets I presumed “thieves” would use to escape. But it was no use. There was no sign of life, let alone people mysteriously schlepping a bunch of household electronics. So I slunk home to a house full of people mystified about how the intruders had got in and when the cops came we searched and searched looking for signs of entry but found none. Meanwhile I started thinking in my head, “Hmmm….did I close the door properly?” Although it wasn’t explicitly said at the time, it was kinda assumed that was what had happened.

THE SOCKS (an aside)

The only “clue” they left was a pair of mismatched black socks, lying almost neatly in the doorway at the front of the house. No one in the house recognised them. Even though they seemed so creepy and tainted I kept these socks for years in a plastic bag. Maybe I was thinking one day the cops would find our stuff and would require them for DNA analysis. Eventually one day, after a thorough wash, I gave up having them just sit there like an albatross around my neck and actually put them on and wore them to school. And a few minutes later I forgot about their significance and they became a part of my pathetic sock collection. I know that seems really weird but I guess I was taking control, or more likely, I just had a very acute shortage of socks.

LOSS

Initially I was most concerned about losing my guitar – that being the most valuable thing I owned — and that being the only thing I thought made me attractive to the opposite sex.

But gradually I realised my CDs were the thing I missed the most.  Having “my tunes” was now a fundamental in my life. And losing all my music was even more meaningful because:

a) CDs and Compact Disc Players had just become a very exciting “thing”; and

b) I had just fallen hopelessly in love with this band called Led Zeppelin and had just bought their first 5 albums on CD in a frenzy of uncontrollably-shaking enthusiasm — each one every 2 or 3 weeks when I had saved up enough money to add to the collection.

LED ZEPELLIN

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Everything this band did blew me away. They were like a cooler, tougher and more mysterious Beatles — but less “dumbfuck” like Metallica. And because they were such an ancient band I knew nothing about them except for their photos and credits on the CDs and obviously — their music.

And of course they appealed to my new “guitar-brain”. I’d only been playing for about a year but a few of their riffs were easy enough to kinda mimic. Plus their extreme virtuosity was impressive. And crucially — they were the very first band I felt cool about being a fan of. When I scribbled their logo onto my school folder I didn’t feel one bit embarrassed.

And here is where the story of Led Zeppelin and me gets more relevant to that tale of our house getting robbed. See the reason I discovered Led Zeppelin was because of that new “Compact Disc Entertainment System”.

CDs AND CD PLAYERS

CD players arrived when I was just starting high school. The very first CD player I ever saw was at my friend Siung’s house – and it was a “discman” — which in itself was incredibly cool — hooked up to the stereo. I had no idea I was looking at the future — I just thought I was looking at a very impressive gimmick — but then when it was demonstrated to me I was pretty impressed at how you could hit a button and skip tracks almost instantly.

In the ensuing years I was still not convinced about this crazy new technology and all the hype about them made me even more dismissive. But eventually my mum decided she had enough disposable income to purchase a CD player. When, one Saturday morning, she announced she was going to the store to buy one I was curious, but pretended to still be “meh”. Naturally I didn’t want to go along because I was hyper-adverse to being seen in public with my parentals. And when she made it clear we needed CDs to play on this new contraption I thought about it for a few minutes.

And I didn’t want to be left behind so I said, “Well if they have U2’s Unforgettable Fire you can get that. Just so we have something to play.” And I handed over some money thinking I would give this new “format” a chance and I was doing the household a favour.

And as you may have guessed at the time I was a tiny bit infatuated by U2, mostly because of Rattle and Hum. And I will stand by this judgement, cause early U2 is pretty fucking amazing. A bit self-indulgent — but entirely worthy. And even though Bono is an obnoxiously pious wanker, the Edge is cool — right? (And Larry and Adam too, I guess.)

Anyway. We now had precisely TWO CDs to play on our brand new “Compact Disc Player”.

While I had bought a CD by a band that makes me cringe nowadays, my mum had bought a record called “Led Zeppelin II”. As I gazed over its sleeve protected by that crazy new plastic sheath I decided it had a rather dull cover with a photograph that looked photocopied about 100 times. And I was like, “Wha?” Eventually after I had stopped hogging the machine with epic perusals of my brand new U2 CD my mum got a chance to play me the first track from her purchase. As we should all know — it was Whole Lotta Love. I was like, “whatever” but listened anyway.

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But I could not help but concede this shit was amazing. I tried my best not to show too much interest cause this was my mum telling me what was what — but EVERY song was so fucking good. Even Living Lovin’ Maid which obviously now I have gross concerns about.

So then I officially began buying CDs. I developed a collection of maybe 20 by the time it all got stolen that evening I documented above.

And once my CDs were all gone, as well as the CD player, I still bought the next Led Zeppelin CD I could afford. It was Presence.

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And I had no way to listen to it except in my mum’s BF’s car. (He was a lawyer and naturally rich). And so he had this amazingly “bling” car CD player — a very, very novel thing.  So every night I would just get curled up in his car which was parked on the street and listen in the dark to the my new and only CD — Presence. And it was only the street lights, the LCD on the player, and the occasional pedestrian passing by (wondering what this freaky kid was doing) for company. It wasn’t perfect. It was cold and lonely in that car, and it was surreal and quite anti-social — but at the same time really, really amazing. It has consequently endeared me to that record because those memories are branded into my brain. It was such an experience and effort just to be there with that music. I cannot listen to Achilles Last Stand without being sent back to Hopetoun Street in the dark and sitting in the drivers seat of an Audi A4.

A CONCLUSION

I still love Led Zeppelin. I still love CDs — even though they are mostly boxed up and redundant. I love how the plastic casing gets all scratched and aged. I love how the booklets in all my ancient CDs are so ragged — especially the ones with thick booklets (eg the “Use your Illusions” by Guns and Roses.)

Although I have had stuff stolen since, I have never had the house I lived in robbed like that time back in the 90s, despite at least two occasions where I have left the door to my house (devoid of souls to protect it) wide open for hours. And one of those times was in 2012 it should be said. (I am an IDIOT!)

Oh yeah — eventually the insurance company paid out for the theft. I got a new guitar before the insurance money cause I had convinced my mum I would DIE unless it was restituted.

And then instead of money for the lost CDs the insurance company sent us a gift voucher for Brashes. Very weird — but at the time I thought it was very cool. We thus had this Saturday at the Pitt Street Brashes store (now defunct) where Mum and I and mum’s BF got to buy our weight in brand new compact discs. It was surreal. And I just might say, I saw Nirvana’s Nevermind there in the “extra packaging” they used to do for Cds — like a big long box as wide as the CD but about 30 cms high. (I understand this was so CDs could fit and be visible in record store shelves designed for vinyl.) But I didn’t buy it. And naturally I HATED myself a few months later when I bought the ordinary CD. UGH.

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Me and mum outside that terrace in Hopetoun Street — number 30. Part of me wishes the thieves had stolen that jumper and my earring as well.

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