Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The No-Skip Songs (Part 1)

[This started out as an intro to a list of favorite songs. But the intro grew into a post of its own, so now it's Part 1 of a 3-part piece.]

Music listening has gone through 5 technology phases, sometimes overlapping:

1) Live music (400,000 BC - today)
2) Vinyl records (early 1900s - 1980's)
3) Walkman/Cassettes (1960's - 1980's)
4) Compact Discs (1980's - 2000's)
5) MP3 players (2003-today)

This is a simplification, of course. I skipped 8-track players because, well, they were 8-track players. I've ignored the role of radio and its evolution from AM to FM to satellite to internet. And I'm just winging it on the 400,000 BC thing, on the assumption some early homo sapiens banged some rocks together and liked how it sounded.

My point is this: as a 45 year-old who first got into music in the late-70's, I'm at the perfect age to have experienced every phase of music listening.

I've gone to many concerts, from my first (The Marshall Tucker Band, Nassau Coliseum, October 1981) to my most recent (Eddie Vedder, The Beacon, 3 nights ago).

As a 13-year-old I bought Pink Floyd's The Wall*, tore the shrink-wrap off the LP, put on Disc 1-Side 1-Track 1 (In the Flesh) and listened to the whole album, song by song. I read the liner notes, followed along with the lyrics, and agreed with Rogers Waters that I didn't need no education.

Throughout the 80's I made mixtapes, an arduous process that I took very seriously. I plotted the list of songs, the segues, the length - and then kept two fingers on the record button while I gently laid the needle onto the right song. I named the mixes, and carefully wrote the songs on the case. My college roommates would marvel that I managed my mixtapes with such precision, but couldn't be bothered to pair my socks after (finally) doing laundry.

I'd listen to these tapes over and over, usually on my Walkman. To this day, when I hear the end of REM's Pretty Persuasion, I expect it to be followed by America's Sister Golden Hair Surprise, and that to be followed by the opening drums of Train in Vain by The Clash. Because that's the order they appeared on my very popular Random Hour Mix*.

* This was before I started coining clever names for mixes, such as "Both Kinds" for a country mix. Get it?

And then CDs came. My college housemate, OD, had one of the first CD players on campus, and a modest collection. This was exciting stuff - if for no other reason than it made the making of mixtapes much easier. But the other reason was sound. I know there's this core group of audiophiles who think vinyl is superior, but not my vinyl. My soon-to-be-retired record collection in the late 80's was scratchy, dusty, and sounded like sand in a tuna can.

And now, finally, we get to the real point of this post. In addition to the superior sound, the CD player offered superior navigation. Suddenly, I found myself skipping songs. It was so easy - one button and I can skip right past a song I didn't like. No fast-forwarding, no needle-dropping - two presses, and voila - I can skip directly from Only the Losers to Don't Do Me Like That, without having to listen to Shadow of a Doubt and Century City or having to flip the record. CD players not only changed the sound of the music, it changed the songs I chose to listen to.

And now, of course, we're in the MP3 era. I'm a bit of an iPod junkie. I listen while walking my dog, emptying the dishwasher, waiting on a subway platform. I listen on line at the DMV, while walking to lunch, I listen when spreading mulch in my garden.

I have playlists for all occasions and all musical genres. And of course, I have thousands and thousands of songs.

But here's the thing: even though they are my playlists, my songs - all carefully curated - I still skip songs all the time. Even though Shadow of a Doubt and Century City aren't on the iPod, I still find myself skipping Don't Do Me Like That. (But not Even the Losers; that's a No-Skip song).

All of which is a very long-winded way of saying: here is a list of No-Skip songs. These are the songs that, at this stage of my listening life, I rarely skip. They are not the best songs of all time; they aren't even necessarily my favorite songs. But they are, right now, my favorite No-Skip songs.

But you'll have to wait for Part 2 for that...

Click here for Part 2 of The No Skip Songs


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Anonymous said...

+2 Weeks between Parts 1 and 2? Are you trying to build suspense here? Is this Dallas and Who Shot JR? Well trust me me, I watched Dallas, I knew Dallas, Dallas was a favorite show of mine and Freetime is no Dallas.

Van Morrison said...

Skip THIS, chum. Get on with it already.

Van Morrison said...

Skip. Skip. Skip this. Skip this. Get on, get on, get on with it, get on with it already. Already, chum.