Impulses

itunes.jpgTo piggy-back on a post my sister wrote, I’m a slave to the iTunes.

Lately, the near mention of something song-related and I’m off to the site like Pavlov’s dog. Recently I read about a concert version of Chess in Riedel’s column and it immediately sparked my interest in a musical I hadn’t thought or cared about of in years. (I ended up downloading “One Night in Bangkok” and “I Know Him So Well.”) I’m reading Rick Bragg’s All Over but the Shoutin‘, and when he made mention of women in”long black veils” it pinged my brain: next time on the iTunes, download the Cash song. And thanks to the success of the film Juno and its soundtrack, I’ve been revisiting my Moldy Peaches catalogue.

Back in ye olden days when I grew up, one had to traipse to the record store and buy the whole album if interested in a single song. (Or purchase the cassingle — yes I am that old!) Now, the cassinglev idea thrives on iTunes, only its not the label-mandated release, but any song from any album. Which is in a way good.

While I’ve often prided myself on my musical tastes in the last decade-plus, it was not ever so. In the interest of full disclosure, the first CD I ever bought, from Costco, to play in my family’s new CD player, was Milli Vanilli. Though I had some cultural assimilation through friends during middle school — U2, Tom Petty, Megadeth, Guns N’ Roses, etc — it all washed over me in a sonic wave. Music didn’t speak to me. At the time I was a bit, um, cut-off.

I redeemed myself after the Milli incident with purchasing the B-52s and R.E.M.’s “Out of Time.” In high school I dutifully listened to Offspring and Nirvana and Pearl Jam, mostly in friends’ cars, thought I never felt like it was “my music.” I Bought Green Day’s “Dookie.” I truly loved Portishead — my first heartbreak and the plaintive wails of P-head’s Beth Gibbons butted up nicely. I became enamored with lounge music, like Esquivel, and the burgeoning retro lounge/swing movement — Combusible Edison, Love Jones, the Squirrel Nut Zippers– from reading from reading RE/Search magazine.

College brought an increased breadth and depth of musical knowledge, fueled by friends with better tastes than me, and of course weed. Every new roommate came with a back catalogue of essential artists: the Smiths, Dead Can Dance, Depeche Mode, Pavement.

Also, it was the era of OK Computer. If that album didn’t blow your mind, well. I spent those years disdaining the Top Forty kids; if you got your music spoon-fed by repetitive radio DJ’s then you deserved your cultural illiteracy. Then again, it was also the period we were convinced that electronic music — Prodigy, the Chemical Brothers, the Crystal Method– was the new paradigm. Boy that was a cold, sobering morning when the drugs wore off and that wasn’t the case.

Growing up, my parents’ album didn’t interest me: the Carpenters, Sinatra, George Jones and Tammy Wynette. Yet, “Elvira,” by the Oak Ridge Boys, did. I played the hell out of that single on my grandma’s stereo. On my childhood record player I had the Beatles’ “Revolution” and Snoopy Vs. the Red Baron. I didn’t grow up in musical household, per se. Or I don’t remember music being played often, the interest came later. My father became more active in his church choir. I came home from a high school drama class with a taste for musical theatre, which unfortunately ushered the Andrew Lloyd Weber era into my household. For which I am still sorry.

When I first moved to New York, in the days of the Strokes’ ascendance, finding new music was a sport. I went to see bands like Scissor Sisters, paying for a live show a pittance compared to what tickets go for now. I proselytized then, and rightly so, but now I’m too broke/tired to see the “next new thing” and breathlessly sermonize. I don’t care for the Arcade Fire. Vampire Weekend? I guess. Maybe. Who cares, really. Ugh.

Now I “get it” but I don’t necessarily want to buy it. Or something! Albums and artist loyalty has taken a backseat to nostalgic whim; my iPod is currently filled with random songs. I used to enjoy “the hunt,” i.e. reading about an artist, buying their CD, taking the gamble. Now I just download a song off a music blog and if I like, I may go to iTunes and get the whole shebang. Otherwise, I have an odd assortment — a smattering of new mixed with a passel of old and sentimental.

I still buy the physical albums of artists I consider myself a fan of, but when the urge strikes (it’s dangerous when intoxicated), or the vaguest reference emerges, I usually end up at my laptop, cradled in the bosom of iTunes, needlessly purchasing a song I probably didn’t want in the first place. Progress?

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3 Responses to Impulses

  1. It’s funny, because I’ve always thought of you as very music literate. But then, just as I was wallowing in god-awful Webber, you were moving on and becoming the music-savvy person I know today. And I forget, too, that our childhood was spent listening to ABBA, oldies, Hank Williams, and The Four Aces. Isn’t it weird? Mom and Dad love music, love dancing, but I don’t think of our house as being very musical, either, not until you and I got into theater.

  2. jellykean says:

    The 15 songs you gave me on my ‘mixCD’ are like tiny cultural oasises, oasi ? in the barren wasteland that is my ipod!

  3. ephemerist says:

    Yay, I’m glad. Also: now I need to find out he plural of oasis. Just googled. It’s oases. who knew?

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