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8:18 p.m. - November 26, 2005
I Gotta Know Right Now, Today....
On my walk back from the Wabash playoff game this afternoon (Wabash lost, 14-11, ending the season at 11-1) my iPod display froze up.

This has happened before, once, when I was walking to the General Lew to meet up with an old friend who came back into town for a day or two. The temperature was about absolute zero, so I wasn’t surprised that the screen froze up.

Today, though, it wasn’t really that chilly outside, but when I took my iPod out of my jacket pocket, the display was frozen in time, even though the music was still playing loud and clear.

I thought perhaps that connecting it to the computer would unfreeze it, but no such luck.

So I have only one option, I have to play it until the battery runs down. Then the display will reset itself when I give it the juice.

I have it playing in shuffle mode, so the songs are coming in a very random order. At times, I’ve put it down to attend to other issues around the house, but right now “Stacey’s Mom” is blasting in my ears.

When I was cooking dinner earlier tonight, I had it on full bore, but I realized something.

Even though I know a lot about music, I don’t know the titles and even artists of all 11,609 songs in my current library upon hearing them.

For one, I just dumped two Rhino box sets in there, and I’m rather hazy on all of those artists and songs right now.

Secondly, some of my soul stuff from the 60’s is a bit obscure (from another Rhino box) so I’m not 100% sure on that stuff.

And thirdly, some artists make it so that you can’t really remember the title right from the song.

For instance, there are the brilliant Meters (and if you haven’t heard the Meters instrumental stuff, you should, otherwise there will be a hole in your soul bigger than Zig Modelestie’s ‘fro) and I recognize “Tippi Toes” and “Cissy Strut”, and maybe “Ease Back”, but the rest is all kind of, well, a guess.

Helmet is another band that doesn’t lead to title recognition – I know the songs by heart but the titles are rather much secondary. A lot of times, the chorus is non-existent so it’s just a stab at it.

And right now, this very instant, I know this is the Bad Brains, but I need to take a guess on whether this is “The Regulator” or “I”.

So now I have to be patient, and wait until I bleed this sucker dry of battery life, then I can go about with my normal business.

This is one reason that I don’t think I’d really like an iPod shuffle. For some reason, I feel comfortable with a display listing the song and artist (and album, too!), because there’d be songs that stump me upon first hearing, and I’d commit ritual suicide if I didn’t know, RIGHT THEN, what the mystery song was.

(“Glad All Over” by the Dave Clark Five wouldn’t be one though, I’d nail that one right away – neither would “That Would Be Something” by Paul McCartney, or was it “Man We Was Lonely”? See what I mean?)

How is it that I became this informationally obsessed about music? Well, it started really early. You see, kids, albums used to have covers, and the covers (and sometimes the inner sleeve) had all sorts of wonderful information about the band, the songs, the songwriters, the name of the music publishing company (always a treat when the band named their own music companies something 1/3 rude), whether it was ASCAP or BMI (I always rooted for ASCAP, for whatever reason, as a kid), who played what on the record (ALLEGEDLY!), lyrics (maybe) and all kinds of things.

I ate that stuff up.

I remember looking at “Rumors” by Fleetwood Mac a lot – studying the lyrics, the pictures of the band, etc. for answers to questions that I may never have asked. The first one I probably would have asked now is “How long did it take for Lindsey Buckingham to grow that Jew-fro, and is it better than Neil Schon’s?”

With CD box sets and expansive reissues, it’s even better. There is all kind of information and song by song commentary. The Byrds reissues are great, because they even will tell you if the song is a dog or is ‘challenging’.

And I feel let down if there’s minimal information. For example, Superchunk (“Mower” is on right now) at times puts little information on their CDs, just a track listing, where it was recorded, the band members, and how little time it took to make it. I feel a loss, there.

When CDs first came out, I got the entire Steely Dan catalog right away. There’s hardly any info at all – MCA just slapped the albums out there without many liner notes at all. I don’t know if they’ve expanded them or not, as I am loath to buy something again if my copy is perfectly fine – and I know Steely Dan didn’t have many outtakes.

(That reminds me – I gotta buy “FM” on iTunes at some point).

I think we’ve already had a big loss when we downsized from albums to CDs, because the artwork suffers and a lot of the concept is lost. I know you can’t play the artwork, but it gave great insight onto what the band (or the record company) was thinking at the time.

I also believe it was perfect that album were 20 to 25 minutes a side – that caused bands to be conceptually concise with their work.

(Not to mention the alleged benefits of a gatefold album cover – not that I would know anything about that, but I have acquaintances in my closet…)

Now, bands can sprawl all over the place for 80 minutes a shot. Instead of a taut, tight 9 to 12 song album, they can put up to 15 or 16 songs and really lose their focus.

When I first realized that the British Beatles albums held more songs than the American versions, I thought it was the greatest thing and wondered why more bands didn’t try to put 14 songs on an album.

Be careful what you wish for, “ELO Kiddies”.

With the digital age, even more information is lost. I downloaded the Arcade Fire album this year, and I’m kind of lost with it – because I have no liner notes to read, nothing to grab onto and hold. Sure, I can go to allmusic and find out things, but it just seems like I have nothing tangible except the songs.

However, that’s the avenue I’m going to be choosing a lot more in the future, just because of the cost savings.

So while it’s great to be able to hear “Pearl Necklace” by ZZ Top on the go (and marvel how the heck they got away with that on the radio!), I fear that in five to ten years the art of constructing a cohesive, well thought album will be lost, as well as the important information about a band and its songs that you have at your fingertips in the CD liner notes.

Alas, I’m just the “Wicked Messenger” right now. (The Faces version, with Rod Stewart…)


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