Having an ipod really makes you look long and hard at your music collection, and even harder at the collection of your spouse. I went hard at the ripping and updating for a while, but at 4000 odd songs, and at least half of the collection to go I've lost a little steam. I really should get back into it because most of what's on it is Mrs A's and I need equal musical representation.
A nice (read average) night for us is sitting on the balcony with a glass of something cold and mind numbingly alcoholic, playing songs on the stereo inside via the ipod via the itunes attachment. Putting the songs on shuffle means that whoever is in control at the time can quickly fast forward a song before the other party hears the opening bars and says,
"Nononono don't fast forward, listen to the lyrics, they take me right back to that time behind the dunnies in primary school when I was six"
in the vain hope that you will instantly be transported back in time by their memory, enhanced by piccolos of pink methode champenoise.
Between us we have a hugely eclectic mix of styles. The six year gap in our ages presents itself most forcefully when we talk about the formative years of teenage hood. Six years sees a lot of changes in musical fashion.
Covers to me are a peculiar phenomenon. I argue that there are very few that are anywhere near as good as the original. Off the top of my head I would say Joe Cockers version of A Little Help from my Friends and Barbara Streisand's New York State of Mind are the only two that I prefer to the original. Watching the Detectives by Duran Duran is a wonderful version, but so different from the Elvis Costello original that the comparison need not be made.
Except that Billy Joel is Mrs A's other God. It's pretty easy to rib an Aussie bloke for not only knowing of, but arguing a case for Barbara Streisand but I tried to stick to my guns. She then came up with John Farnham's version of Help, arguing that it was so much better than John Lennon's. Touche.
Music does suffer from it's decade. The Rock'n'Roll of the fifties, the free love hippie trippy music of the sixties. Disco from the seventies. The New Romantics of the Eighties. I'm not sure about the nineties, I'd stopped listening by then. But a song which may or may not be good represents as much of a memory as it does a form of art. I love the lyrics of Watching the Detectives and Shriekback's Cradle Song. I love the beat of My Sharona and Echo Beach. The one song that was slightly varied to make ten others played by Joy Division and then New Order suited them, suited the decade, and suited the style of dance at the time.
On shuffle the ipod brings up songs that you forgot that you had, and songs do have an amazing power to transport you to a time and place forgotten for years. You also tend to take more notice of songs that you previously considered to be anthemic, but now you take another look.
As I said, music does not have to be lyrically or musically brilliant to be considered good. It just has to come from the right band in the right era.
Take a band like Queen. Big name in the industry. When they wrote a song we listened. It was good. It had to be. They were Queen dammit. Now imagine You're my Best Friend being written and sung by the contemporary Bucks Fizz. It would have disappeared without a trace.
If Obladi Obladah had been written and sung by the Clash they would have been lynched. Without Ziggy Stardust's androgynous persona Starman would have been the B side of a failure. Imagine If Paul McCartney had written Imagine, and John had joined Stevie Wonder for Ebony and Ivory.
Imagine if the Spice Girls had sung the Sex Pistols version of God Save the Queen. Actually that would have been fine, cause they rock. Especially Sporty.