Sunday, June 15, 2008

What's on yer iPod?

I was at a gathering two weeks ago upstate where automakers had made a total of 43 hybrid or low-emissions vehicles available for journalists to tool in.

I came across an elderly man, not a surprise in the auto-writer world. Big, tall, friendly guy. Three of us--man, car flak, me---were talking about--something.
Saw an iPod on the guy's belt buckle.

People's iPods intrigue me. And here was a man of about 70 wearing one. Get to know the iPod playlist, you get to know the person.

Asked this man what was on his iPod. Ready for anything.

"I don't know what's on it," he said. "My daughter loaded it."

Ok, no sin. When I was a kid, I did not know the names of any of the artists whose songs I heard on the radio, which was then full of actual songs one could sing. I didn't know, for example, that Foreigner was popular. Who cared? It wasn't like I was going to go see them.

So this man listens to his iPod without judgement or expectation. Doesn't know what's on it.

I listen to jazz in that way. Songs play all day long on XM next to my desk---I cannot work if there are vocals---and if I hear a song I love, I download it into the arsenal of music that gives me sublime joy, pleasure---and combats the music Washington Mutual, Starbucks and Barnes 'n' Noble would force me to listen to.

On another level, the man's lack of knowledge into his own playlist is astounding. My iPod, which I got last summer, contains about 2000 songs I've personally uploaded, and I am never without it.

That said!

Top 5 downloads this week:

Donovan, "Atlantis": I'm reading Donovan's autobio, and am surprised to find him much more popular and influential than I gave him credit for, knowing him only for his hits like "Sunshine Superman," "Mellow Yellow", "Hurdy-Gurdy Man" and the rest. I also find him, in his writing, appropriately mystical, like his songs. He says he dropped out of the music business in the 70s, disgusted over the business aspect of it.

Enrico Caruso, "Over There": It was 1918, and the trenches were packed. (I just got done reading "World War One For Dummies", which my scholar brother Nick Max says I shouldn't be embarassed of as it sums nicely and is well-written.)

When Caruso, the greatest tenor the world has ever known (but whose high C always gave him trouble) gets to the lines, "That the boys are coming/The boys are coming/The drums rum-tumming everywhere", it sounds like the goddamn studio walls are going to fall down. You've never heard that patriotic call to arms sung with more feeling.

Emerson, Lake and Palmer, "Hoe Down": I've played this song in public dozens of times, all before I was 20, and I'm reuniting with the same cats I played it with as a lad at a party come August. My chance to play bass, and the bass on "Hoe Down" is quick quick quick.

Leonard Nimoy, "The Ballad Of Bilbo Baggins": Bass saxophone. Cute backup singers. Flat, ugly vocals by Nimoy. And charming. Very 60s.

Journey, "Don't Stop Believin'": 80s bloat at its best, but perfect pop song sung perfectly. I heart Steve Perry, even though Neil Schoen has replaced him with a soundalike, Arnel Pineda:

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