Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Soundtrack of My Life

My iPod is still in its box. I am, I must admit, a little afraid of it.

It’s not that I’m a Luddite or a technophobe per se. I’m writing this on a laptop computer, not all Larry McMurtry-like on some manual typewriter. But I am lazy.

I hate manuals. I don’t want to read about how to get something to work. I just want it to work.

The iPod doesn’t come with an instruction booklet—it has a how-to DVD. This suggests a level of time commitment and complexity that I can only label excessive.

But I’m dying to ride the train with the telltale cord of my little white earphones peeking out from under my coat just so. Or go for a run with the iPod strapped to my bicep like all the other cool kids.

So I’ve taken that all-important first step toward the day when the iPod makes the leap from object cluttering up the bedroom to electronic device that changed my life. I’ve started compiling a list of songs I’d like to (legally) download.

I've already transferred my current CDs onto the computer, so my new-ish favorites are covered. And at some point I imagine I'll be capable enough to hear a tune on the radio and download it while it's hot. But my first priority is to get my hands, electronically speaking, on songs that have already proven their staying power--the ones that I never want to get out of my head. I find it mildly irksome that I already own much of this much of this music. On cassette. Or LP. Or, mortifyingly, in one instance on 8-track. (I loved our 8-track player, which resembled an astronaut’s helmet. It was like a messenger from the future. It had a mouth for the cassette and a lighted number display that clicked to signal the shift from Track 1, 2, 3 or 4.)
Technology, in the form of the CD player, took these songs away from me. Now technology promises to reunite us. I need only to crack the code of the iPod and I can recapture these bits of my past, these pieces of myself.

I hear John Denver’s “Country Roads,” and I’m five years old, sitting on the Whirlybird in the Hatfield’s back yard (or was it the Molar’s) shouting “West Virginia, Mountain Mama” at the top of my lungs.

“Bennie and the Jets” reminds me of our babysitter, Jackie Yohe. We thought she was impossibly cool with her David Bowie and Elton John LPs. I remember us all doing “The Bump” in the living room. And then my parents caught her with cigarettes. Our next sitter was a Donny Osmond fan.

I was solidly in the PG category when the R-rated “Saturday Night Fever” was released, and I’ve never managed to sit through the movie in its entirety since. But the first time I heard “How Deep Is Your Love,” I had to have the soundtrack. It’s Barry Gibb’s favorite and you can’t argue with the man who put the BG in The BeeGees.

Whenever I find myself pondering the popularity of Britney Spears, I take a deep breath and say, “Duran Duran.” If Boy Bands are defined as masters of style over substance and the purveyors of largely throwaway tunes, I guess the Durans qualify. But Missy Clark and I loved them anyway and would sit in front of MTV for hours waiting for their videos to queue up in rotation. I have no idea what became of my life-sized poster of the Durans, or of Missy for that matter. But if I saw her today I know we would both agree “Save a Prayer” is their best song ever and that John Taylor is still a hottie.

I can not stomach another listening of “Tainted Love” but I would like to cherry pick some of my favorites from the ’80s by The Cure, Depeche Mode, Bryan Ferry, Marshall Crenshaw, R.E.M., Style Council, Scritti Politti, Psychedelic Furs, Guadalcanal Diary and Trash Can Sinatras. My sister took one listen to a mixed tape of these iconic “alternative” artists and pronounced, “They all sound the same.” If a person can’t appreciate the difference between “Black Celebration” and “My Ever Changing Moods,” well that explains why said individual was a fan of Michael Jackson.

While my personal Top 10 has evolved into the CD era (currently at #1 is James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful”), previous holders of that distinction still have me cranking the volume to 11: The Pretenders, Don’t Get Me Wrong; INXS, Don’t Change (non-“Rock Star” edition); U2, Eleven O’Clock Tick Tock; The System, Don’t Disturb This Groove; Tears for Fears, Everybody Wants to Rule the World; Oasis, Champagne Supernova; Cheap Trick, I Want You to Want Me.

I can’t wait to hear them all again, in their no doubt digitally re-mastered glory.

All I need to do is take the damned iPod out of the box.


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