It’s the Same Old Song

In which The Author decides to buy some headphones

In The Dog, the Dog, He’s Doing it Again, I mentioned the fact that the gang in the Prince of Wales have yet to come to terms with the jukebox. It’s partly because it’s a Twenty-first Century Machine, and therefore (by definition) way beyond the capabilities of most of the regulars. Some of them seem to think that ‘you can get everything on here.’ Apart from the fact that it would be completely impossible to store that much data in a standalone machine, it would take someone with only a passing interest in music less than thirty seconds to disprove that claim. Even so, that Urban Myth still rears its head almost as often as the bullshit about Aberdare Cenotaph (see For the Fallen.)
Olly’s theory about the Survival Value of myths, half-truths and absolute bollocks seems to have some validity here. If the Truth ever came out, the conversation would stop dead in its tracks. People would have nothing to talk about. It’s much easier to talk crap than it is to shut the fuck up and listen to reason.
Anyway, there are two very compelling reasons why the jukebox can’t possibly offer the range everyone seems to think it can:
  1. The fucking thing isn’t connected to the Internet. The Start screen proclaims that it has ‘every Top 40 hit since 1952,’ but it hasn’t. I mentioned some of the glaring omissions in Snap, Crackle and Pop. It doesn’t even have the latest Top 40 releases until the company sends the pub its weekly CD of updates. In its database of (maybe) 10,000 or so (mainly) singles, there isn’t enough storage for the B-sides, never mind all the LP tracks, live recordings, alternative takes and remixes which we’d have to take into account.
  2. It wouldn’t matter whether it had every record ever released or not. The simple fact is that most of the regulars live in a musical Time Loop which ended somewhere between the Bill Grundy Incident and the death of Elvis Presley.
Let’s take a representative sample of today’s offerings and you’ll see what I mean:
Walk Away by Matt Monro (three times);
Some maudlin power ballad by Whitney Houston (three times);
It’s Now or Never by Elvis Presley (twice in ten minutes!);
Volare by Dean Martin;
Penny Arcade by Roy Orbison (twice);
Kingston Town by UB40 (twice);
The Wonder of You by Elvis Presley (twice – so far…);
a crapload of Meat Loaf, Queen, Cher, Adele, and some more Whitney Houston songs.
Finally, the token youngster (i.e. under 35-year-old) gets to hear his choices: some fucking Euro-dance shit.
We should be grateful that Candy isn’t here, otherwise we’d have had a string of novelty hits like Grandad and Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs as well. Ross hasn’t been in today, so we’ve been spared at least a tenner’s worth of The Eagles, Steely Dan, and similar 70s stoner-soft-rock. There’s no sign of Janis yet either. She normally comes in on a Friday evening, so I’m already psyching myself up for The Sound of the Suburbs by the Members and My Way by Sid Vicious before I head home.
The jukebox isn’t the easiest of gadgets to use if you’re still a Twentieth-Century Boy or Girl, I grant you. You need to know how to navigate a touchscreen, how to spell your favourite singers and/songs, and how to decide between the fifteen icons (maximum) which appear in response to your request. On the whole, it’s much easier to default to the ‘Popular at this Venue’ screen. This (of course) gives you the choice of Matt Monro, Elvis Presley, The Eagles, and so forth, in a fantastic self-reinforcing structure. It reminds me of Jakob Bronowski’s commentary in Part 2 of The Ascent of Man, over a film clip of the nomadic Bakhtiari tribe in Northern Iran. Their lives are so predictable and so monotonous, Dr Bronowski tells us, that they don’t even need to come up a new tune.
Modern Jazz passed most of the regulars by as well. Some of them have got as far as The Ink Spots and the Glenn Miller Orchestra, but they’re the adventurous ones. One of Miles Davis’ more laid-back tracks from Kind of Blue is enough to disrupt the space-time continuum in here.
Gema and I fried everyone’s brains a little while ago, by stacking up a load of David Bowie and Brian Eno tracks. Even though none of them was issued later than 1977 (apart from Ashes to Ashes), we could feel the locals lining up to chuck us (and the jukebox) through the window. Last week, Carys and I nearly caused another riot when we decided to select Robert Wyatt’s version of I’m a Believer.

At least it was a change from the shite we hear day in and day out.
(Here’s a perfect example: One of the evening regulars has just got to the machine. I know exactly what tracks are going on even before he puts his money in: Silver Lady by David Soul and You’re So Vain by Carly Simon. He can’t even think of a third song to use up the rest of his quid’s worth! Just how boring and predictable are these people’s lives?)
LIDL in Aberdare are advertising next week’s offers in the leaflet I picked up earlier. Their star item is a pair of ear defenders which double as an FM receiver, and have a jack where you can connect an MP3 player. By the way, if anyone missed my birthday this year, that’s a less-than-subtle hint…