Saturday, June 12, 2010


I learned something very important a few weeks ago, something I should have known already: When you haven’t been getting much sleep, don’t try to do anything of a technical nature—like, say, operate machinery. Of any kind.

Every now and then, I go through short bouts of insomnia. When it happened again recently, it occurred on a Friday night and repeated the following night. So there I was, lying in bed on a Friday night (technically a Saturday morning) at 2:30 a.m., wide awake. I needed something to do to kill time, and I had no desire to watch the mostly obscure movies or the Z-list-celebrity-hosted infomercials usually airing on TV well after midnight and long before dawn.

Then it hit me—this would be the perfect time to work on that fun project I had kicking around in the back of my head for a little while. It had occurred to me that April 2010 marked the 40th anniversary of Paul McCartney embarking on his solo career—and that he’s never put together a CD box set that encompassed all of his solo material from 1970 to the present day.

Paul McCartney, 1970.

And by box set, I mean a full career retrospective—complete with alternate versions of the hits, live performances, unreleased songs, and demo recordings. (The Beach Boys and the Who put out such box sets in the early 1990s, and they are FANTASTIC.)

Given my vast collection of McCartney material, stuff that was commercially released and other recordings that I’ve, shall we say, “stumbled upon” over the years (bless you, Internet!), I realized that I could put together a complete, professional-sounding McCartney box set for my own listening pleasure. It would encompass 8 CDs, with disc #8 serving as a “bonus” CD featuring all of the demos, alternate versions, and unreleased material.

So I got out of bed, sat down at my computer, and began creating the CDs. By 5 a.m., I had finished four of them and was finally feeling that I could go to sleep. I figured I would finish the project the following weekend, if time permitted.

I woke up later that morning at 8 a.m., and managed to get through the day on only three hours of sleep. And when I went to bed that Saturday night, I found myself once again lying in bed with my eyes wide open at 3 a.m.

I reasoned that I might as well finish the McCartney project. So I returned to my computer and started burning the remaining CDs. At around 4:30 a.m., I was working on the last disc. In my disc player drive, I had my CD of McCartney’s 1975 Wings album, Venus and Mars. In the burner drive was a recordable CD. The Venus and Mars CD was a first printing, released in 1987 and considered to be the best-sounding version of the album, superior even to the remastered edition released in 1993. And I’d kept my copy of the CD in great shape—pretty much in the same condition it was in the day I bought it at the late, lamented Tower Records in downtown Manhattan.

CD first printing, 1987.

As the last disc was nearing completion, I felt my eyes getting heavy, and I was yawning more and more frequently. Great—I could finally get to sleep. But then, a window popped up on my computer screen, informing me that there was an error and the recordable CD had been rendered useless. I was PISSED. All I wanted was to finish this project and go to bed with a sense of having accomplished something—even something as trivial as a Paul McCartney CD box set that no one but me would ever listen to. And there I was, so close to being done, and my damned computer was now prolonging the process and delaying me from hitting the sack. I’d have to do the last disc all over again.

Could I have waited till later, and created the last disc in a more rested state, with my brain more fully functional? Sure. But I was SO CLOSE to being done, and I just wanted to get it over with. And I doubted that I would be able to get to sleep knowing that I left the project incomplete. So I decided to forge ahead. Without looking down, I hit the “eject” button on one of the disc drives, took out the disc, and crushed it in my hands. After all, I was never going to use it, right? Plus, I was pissed and aggravated and had some aggression to work out. For a brief moment, I felt satisfaction.

Then I looked down. And this is what I held in my hands:

Oh, sh%#.

Yes, I hit the wrong disc drive.

My jaw dropped. My eyes bulged. I stifled an anguished, Charlie Brown-style “AAAAAUUUUGHHHH!”

Then, I simply lowered my head in defeat and self-loathing.


So… the aftermath? Well, after about a month, LOTS of searching, and a couple of mishaps that I won't get into here, I found a used copy of the 1987 first printing of the Venus and Mars CD at Marketplace, being sold by an independent e-seller. I took a chance and ordered it. Fortunately, the CD was exactly as the seller described: in excellent condition. In fact, I’d say it was more or less in the same condition as the CD that I had destroyed in a haze of exhaustion and stupidity. And it was reasonably priced, considering how rare the first printing is these days.

The replacement copy--yaaaaayyy!

So yeah, I lucked out this time.

By the way, I finished the McCartney box set—and it came out pretty darned great, if I do say so myself.

Okay, going to bed now. But I’ll tell you this—if I can’t get to sleep, I’m staying the hell away from my computer.


  1. "Venus and Mars" was the very first album I ever bought with my own money when it was originally released on vinyl (followed by K-Tel's "Goofy Greats" compilation).

  2. Not to nitpick BUT that's not the first pressing of the CD. "Venus and Mars" was originally released on CD by Columbia Records in 1984, a couple of years before Paul returned to Capitol/EMI. Then came the Capitol CD that you have. There is also a DCC audiophile gold CD and a 1993 remaster.

  3. Hey Anonymous,

    Yeah, I guess you're right about the 1984 release from Columbia. Oh well!

    I did make mention of the 1993 remastered edition.

    The Capitol CD from 1987 is considered by many audiophiles to be the best-sounding version of the CD.

  4. Its a good story, but I preferred the live telling of it at that BBQ joint because I got to see your facial expressions as you relived every agonizing moment!!!

    At least you were able to replace it since then

  5. I had a similar experience when my first iPod Touch decided to completely scramble my iBook. Made no sense. Wound up staying up until 4:30 am trying to fix it when I realized I had just wiped my hard drive. Thank goodness for backing up!

  6. I felt the pain as I read the blog. Another thing not to do at the wee hours is to send emails. Bad, bad, bad. No matter what tou send, you think about it the next day with the same Charlie Brown-style “AAAAAUUUUGHHHH!”
    :p Looking forward to your next blog installment. And, hope you get some sleep.!