Thursday, 13 August 2009

Shuffle Medley

My friend Thom was musing this morning on his 3 song, car park to office, ipod shuffle medley musical accompaniment, and how this might determine the mood with which he enters the building, ready for a new day at the coalface. His three this morning were Dancin in the Moonlight - Van Morrison, Alphabet Street - Prince and Al Wilson's The Snake (yes Peter, I know it's a metaphor, but the woman went home with a snake for God's sake). His musings spookily coincided with my own thoughts, as I have being trying to formulate a posting on my own shuffle experiences of yesterday, which were
  • Tree Top Flyer - Stephen Stills

  • That's When I Reach for My Revolver - Mission of Burma

  • You Don't Know Like I Know - Sam & Dave

I'm sure people more learn-ed than me have written wise words on the topic of how the ipod has shaped our listening habits, and how society is now even more fractured due to us all being cocooned in our own little world, with our own soundtrack. Does anyone today ever phone up a friend and say 'I've got the new ****** album! Wanna come over for a listen?' I guess not, we no longer listen comunally, unless we're at a concert. I'm not talking about listening to the new ELP album in a religious silence, but there is a joy to listening together isn't there? The shared experience? No? Oh put your headphones back on then.

I remember a computing teacher at school telling me that computers only did what we told them to do. In my case, with no interest in such machines (or the people who used them, other than my friend Stu who had a fishtailed parka and liked The Who), this meant nothing to me, other than a vague understanding that we control the machine, rather than it controlling us. The ipod is the same. It only plays what we put into it, although the combinations created on shuffle can create emotionally confusing episodes when sardine'd onto the metro and pressed up against the back of a builder who knocked off early and has been in the pub for three hours. Stale beer and fags smell suit a random Damned track but not Bobby Darin.

I have recently been listening to a podcast of Treasure Island, read by nasal Americans with little feeling for the language. A short burst of pirates, maps and one legged scoundrels sandwiched between Natacha Atlas, Merle Haggard and At the Drive-In, turn the whole thing into something akin to the soundtrack for Carry on Up the Atlas Mountains crossed with the Dukes of BioHazard.

But this is what we're all after isn't it? It's the personal shopper we can't afford. It's the butler we'll never have bringing us our slippers and crack pipe at the end of a long day. It's personalised, monogrammed, hand made and rolled on the thighs of virgins for your own satisfaction. It's not just right up your street, it's knocked on your door, and if there's nobody in it's gone round the back, let itself in, and put the kettle on, and there are two cups with teabags in, one with sugar and the other with sweetner. That's how good it is.

But is it? The ipod can't replicate that feeling you get when you hear something on the radio that stops you in your tracks, and you have to press your ear to the speaker in order to catch who it was, and when the divjockey doesn't say who it is you scramble around in your own head for a fragment of the lyrics in order to find it. The ipod doesn't do that.

I have a wife, and I don't want to swap her (unless of course it's for a re-chroming of my 1959 Lambretta), but the principle is a good one. Lets gather like minded people together, throw our ipods in a dish and go home with someone elses musical mrs.

It seems only fitting to now have a video from The Soundtrack of Our Lives.


  1. Intermission by Panic! at the Disco
    What a Shame by The Rolling Stones
    They Remind Me Too Much of You by Elvis Presley

  2. My mate Thom says

    On the flip side, I am often reminded of the scene in Pulp Fiction where Tarantino's character Jimmy is laughing at the surf-nerd clothes Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta have been forced to put on, and Jackson says something like "They're your clothes, asshole!". Whilst silently mumbling "Oh, christ!" to myself as the shuffle selects a truly shite track at random just as I'm leaving the subway steps with the office in sight, and fumbling to get one finger out of gloves to operate the touch screen, I half-expect to see the iPod screen display in exasperation, "They're your songs asshole!"
    Still beats 'Genius' though.

  3. As I pick out from my CD's the 10th Billy Bragg album, I do think, they are your CD's asshole.