June 12, 2010

A couple weeks ago, I accepted the fact that it was time to replace the iPod.

After watching me mull it over for a few days, Paloma encouraged me to purchase a new device.

And I did opt for space, enough space to file most of all of the music I’ve gathered and have it at my fingertips.

The new iPod shows that there are 33,215 tracks loaded into it. The total is off by approximately 2,500 or so as there are 250 or so sides of albums ripped from vinyl and stored as a single track.

(laziness prompted me to rip each track individually when Paloma and I started buying vinyl two years ago)

Supposedly, it is 98 days of music.

It would require – give or take – one year to listen to all of it, provided I put in a 40-hour work week.

(I hashed out the math while having a smoke at my actual job)

I hold in my hands a small universe of music, yet I lack the power to gather enough time to listen to it all.

And, as Burgess Meredith learned in that acclaimed episode of The Twilight Zone, even time isn’t always enough.

So, here are four random tracks from the new iPod…

The Verve – Slide Away
from A Storm In Heaven

I’m not sure how I stumbled across the debut from The Verve in early ’94. It might have been from reading about the British quartet in Q or some other music magazine from the UK which was enthusiastic about the band.

I quickly became a fan of their dense, swirling psychedelic-styled modern rock and lead singer Richard Ashcroft struck me as a near-perfect representation of a rock star with his angular features, tousled hair, and indifferent swagger.

Unfortunately, aside from a brief bit of attention after Nike used the song Bittersweet Symphony from 1997’s Urban Hymns in a commercial, The Verve was generally ignored in the States and the masses missed out on one of the best bands of the ’90s.

The Equals – Just Me And You
from First Among Equals: The Greatest Hits

Sometime in the mid-’90s, I received a copy of a two-CD collection of The Equals as a promo. At the time, I had never heard the band’s lone US hit from the late ’60s, Baby Come Back, or even knew that it was their song Police On My Back that The Clash had covered a decade or so later on their epic Sandinista!

However, I had heard Casey Kasem mention repeatedly during the summer of ’83 that Eddy Grant, who was rockin’ down to Electric Avenue, had originally been in The Equals. It’s Grant who wrote and sings lead on the soulful, mid-tempo Just Me And You.

Stevie Wonder – Higher Ground
from Stevie Wonder’s Original Musiquarium I

And up pops one of those “tracks” which is actually a full album side – in this case, side three of the great Stevie Wonder’s 1982 two-album compilation Stevie Wonder’s Original Musiquarium I. In addition to the leadoff song – the shimmying funk of Higher Ground – that side also featured Sir Duke, Master Blaster (Jammin’), Boogie On Reggae Woman, and That Girl.

That single side alone would have made for an impressive career for most artists.

David Gray – Please Forgive Me
from White Ladder

Channel-surfing late one night, I stumbled across a video that immediately stopped me in my tracks. The frenetic images of a bustling city street matched the hyperactive twitch of the arresting melody. Above the cityscape a non-descript fellow sat playing a piano that seemingly hovered in mid-air.

At the end of the video, the tag identified the artist as David Gray. The name seemed familiar and, as I searched the memory banks, I realized that I had actually seen Gray, opening for Shawn Colvin a good six years earlier. I even owned an early album of his that I had filed and forgotten.

In 1999, a lot of people owned a copy of White Ladder (and rightfully so).

Somewhere Don Meredith Is Clearing His Throat

May 27, 2010

As a kid at the time, one of the highlights of Monday Night Football was – at some point late in the game with the outcome no longer in doubt – hearing commentator Don Meredith croon, “Turn out the lights, the party’s over.”

(According to Wikipedia, Dandy Don also announced that he was “mile-high” before a game in Denver)

If I was that Lipton tea-lovin’, ex-Cowboys quarterback, I’d be cuing up the Willie Nelson song on my iPod, for my iPod.

If the device was Old Yeller, well…

(and, as an odd aside, I realize that the last time I saw Old Yeller, I watched it at a friend’s house with a couple of cats who were unaffected by the flick)

Yes, the iPod is slipping.

I first noticed an occasional, unrequested skip over a song or some other indifference to my command.

Now, there are other symptoms, occuring with greater frequency, that lead me to believe that it’s a matter of time before the longtime companion heads off to eternally dream of electric sheep.

I wasn’t keen on the iPod when I acquired it as a prize. I had an mp3 player. It worked well. And I didn’t necessarily feel the need to have tens of thousands of songs at my fingertips.

It was a throwback to college and most of my twenties when I was used to having a dozen or so cassettes in my backpack for the Walkman.

And there was a method to my madness.

Though I understood that lots of music, easily accessible, was cool in concept, I liked the fact that having fewer songs in one place made me more inclined to listen to tracks I might have overlooked, thus, discovering new favorites.

I can’t say that I was wrong.

How many times over the past three years have I skipped over a song by The Jam because I wanted to hear something I knew and loved?

I quite like The Jam, but aside from a handful of songs of which I am well familiar, I have another 60 or so songs by the trio of which I am far less – or maybe not at all – familiar.

(I bought Paloma the box set years ago)

But, instead of taking the time to check out an obscure track – be it by The Jam or Bob Dylan or whomever -when it shuffled up, I often shuffle forward to find something I know.

(because I do need to hear Fleetwood Mac’s Sara one more time)

I’ve been doing research for this iPod’s replacement. And, of course, it is the model with the greatest storage capacity – enough space for damned near everything I own – that has caught my eye.

And someday, I might actually give all of those songs by The Jam a listen.

Here are four random songs from the iPod…

The Beatles – Back In The U.S.S.R.
from The Beatles

Pat Benatar – One Love
from All Fired Up: The Very Best Of Pat Benatar

Tom Jones – Thunderball
from The Ultimate Hits Collection

Marvin Gaye – I’ll Be Doggone
from The Very Best Of Marvin Gaye