Tag Archives: ipod

The chase is over!

If you read Sunday’s article ‘The thrill of the chase’, (if not, go and read it now, then come back) you’ll know that there was still one record that has eluded me for the best part of 20 years.

‘Earthly powers’ by A Man Called Adam.

The one that got away - or did it?

The one that got away - or did it?

Well, inspired by a comment posted by ‘Don Pash’ this evening, I decided to pick up the trail that had gone cold for more than one of us for a considerably long time.

This time I decided to unleash all the powers of the Internet on my quarry and conduct the search in cyberspace.

Thrillingly, a Google search bore fruit instantly, with a link to this clip on Youtube, which enabled me to listen to this classic slab of Acid Jazz for the first time in 18 years.

For nine and a half minutes I was transported back to the very late eighties, and the last time I’d heard this song, travelling in a car with my parents and my little brother, who introduced me to the awesome tune in the first place.

Appetite duly whetted, I ploughed on through the many search results, some promising a tantalising download, but failing to produce the goods. However, I did finally manage to track down a retailer willing to supply the 12″ vinyl version, the aptly titled ‘Hard to find Records’. The only snag is of course, that I don’t own a record player.

Further diligence paid off though, and I tracked down the only CD in existence on which the track is included, Totally Wired & Illicit Grooves: Acid Jazz – The Birth of a Scene 1987-1990 which I have now ordered from Amazon and should be with me very soon.

That elusive, now deleted, track will be on my ipod within the week.

Not only am I delighted to be reunited with this great song after all this time, but it seems somehow fitting that I located it using the power of technology. The ‘search’ argument that started with Spotify, via independent record stores has come full circle and ended with Google. As another wise correspondent suggested earlier this week “vinyl, CD, mp3, itunes, Spotify, they all have their merits, why can’t we all get along?”.

I believe we can, and just to prove it, Don Pash, I bought the 12″ version from Hard To Find Records for you. After all, that’s what big brothers are for.

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Is Spotify really killing music … already?

Spotify - ooh isn't it evil!

Spotify - oooh isn't it evil!

I’ve been using Spotify for nearly three weeks now, and have managed to convince a lot of other people to give it a try. Everyone who has done so has been very impressed, from techie expert work colleagues who have quoted my blog article on Twitter (thanks Patrick!), via old friends I’ve caught up with online who confess to being addicted (cheers Martine!) through to my dear old dad (a sprightly 66 year-old ‘silver surfer’) who’s quite besotted with his new toy.

However, as media coverage of Spotify increases and more and more people are discovering its benefits (40,000 new subscribers per day in the UK and counting) I’ve noticed several articles and opinion pieces that suggest its widespread popularity is not such good news after all.

It is perhaps unsurprising that some scaremongers and professional pessimists are trying to suggest that Spotify is evil, arguing that it is the noughties equivalent of home taping (which did kill music, obviously!) in the early eighties. This is the UK after all, and we never miss an opportunity to respond to something innovative and useful by shooting it down with a barrage of cynicism.

Apparently many people have reacted to the concept of Spotify’s huge music library being available for free by claiming that they (and by extension everyone they know) will never buy another CD or pay for a download as long as they live.

Utter nonsense.

Why that argument is rubbish

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that the opposite is true, and that Spotify is a catalyst for music lovers buying more CDs than ever. In the online forum debates I’ve monitored (including an interesting one on the Word magazine website) Spotify enthusiasts are openly confessing to having bought a plethora of new CDs because they have discovered new bands or as a direct result of having so many more opportunities to ‘try before you buy’.

I’m sure it’s true for a lot of us that the more we listen to good music (and new music especially), the more we want. I call it the expanding appetite argument, and it’s holding as true for me as I search for more and more new bands on Spotify as it did on holiday in Brittany with regard to fine cheese, fresh baguettes and good wine! I haven’t yet converted my newly researched albums into actual purchases, but it’s only a matter of time, especially with a birthday coming up on Saturday……

I also think people will use Spotify to track down music they’ve lost touch with and then seek to purchase elsewhere. My dad and his best mate have already done this with a couple of obscure 60’s tracks that they couldn’t locate on itunes, and then realised via Spotify that they’d been looking for the right song titles but the wrong artists. The ‘correct’ tracks are now duly downloaded from itunes as required.

Another reason the ‘killing music’ argument is bunk is that a lot of people will always prefer the physical product to a download, even more so to a track they just ‘stream’ whilst online and never actually ‘own’. For the same reason Amazon’s Kindle and the Sony Reader will never replace actual books in the hearts and hands of the world’s readers. I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling oddly dissatisfied when I can’t check the lyrics of an intriguing song because I’ve downloaded the album rather than having a CD booklet.

It’s equally true that it’s far too early to expect Spotify to achieve domination over the music industry, despite its impressive impact so far. For a start, there are still way too many holes in the library at the moment for it to pose a serious threat. Although there are millions of songs available to stream in an instant, that’s not always such a big deal if it doesn’t include the ones you’re looking for. Whilst I have been very impressed to find many new albums available on the day of release, there are still several offerings by fairly high profile artists missing. I’ve been seeking one or two albums I expected to find for well over a week, and eventually my impatience may get the better of me and send me to itunes or Amazon. I’ll then offset such a purchase by settling for keeping another couple of albums on Spotify playlists for the time being.

Having a huge selection of songs to stream to your laptop is brilliant, but it’s actually quite irritating when you’re away from your computer, or without wireless broadband access and the only songs you want to listen to are of course on Spotify rather than your ipod. That happened to me several times whilst on holiday the other week, and it proved to me that I’ll never stop buying music in favour of the streaming alternative.

For all these reasons (and the simple fact that even though many of us have got excited about Spotify, the majority of the British public if asked would still probably think it was an acne treatment) I’m sure that the doom merchants predicting the death of music (again) at the hands of this latest Internet phenomenon are a little premature.

But, watch this space ….

However, this state of affairs may depend on what the creators of Spotify have up their sleeves in terms of new developments and changes to the business model. With rumours that they are developing a Spotify app for the iphone gaining more credence, and Daniel Eck’s assertion that “people will pay for music if packaged correctly and it offers them something special” we may be seeing major changes to this product that will make it considerably more of a threat.

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What does your life sound like?

I’ve recently returned from a very enjoyable week’s holiday in a cottage in Brittany (I missed you too) and discovered an interesting note left for me on Facebook by a friend with impeccable (and eclectic) musical taste.

Apologies if you’ve already come across this little game, but although most of these FB quizzes suck (as Sarah rightly suggested) this one proved quite diverting and worth the four minutes or so it takes to complete.

If your life was a movie, what would the soundtrack be?

An intriguing premise for sure, and the rules are as follows:

  1. Open your library (itunes, ipod, Media Player etc)
  2. Put it on shuffle (very important!)
  3. Press play
  4. For every one of the ‘stages of life’ below, type the name of the song that’s playing
  5. When you go to the next ‘stage’, press the ‘next’ button
  6. Don’t lie in order to pretend you’re cool.
  7. Read through and be amused (or bemused) by the results
  8. Do the exercise again, picking the songs you would have preferred to turn up!

I’ve added the last couple of steps myself, (7) to replace the directive to pass it on to friends (in case you don’t want to!) and (8) to give you the chance to redeem yourself if the original answers turned out too embarrassing or just plain weird.

It’s your life, after all!

The movie soundtrack of my life is …..

The stages of life are listed below (in bold) together with my answers. I didn’t cheat, and got some interesting results …

Opening credits Connection – Elastica

Waking up Super-connected – Belly

First day of School Go Karts – The Bees

Falling in Love Easy Skanking – Bob Marley

Fight Song Up All Night – The Young Knives

Breaking Up Little Bear – Guillemots

Prom Why? – Tracy Chapman

Life Dolphins – Beth Orton

Mental Breakdown Look Up – Zero 7

Driving So Tonight That I Might See – Mazzy Star

Flashback I Love You – The Bees

Funeral Song Race For The Prize – The Flaming Lips

End credits

Song 1: The Fear by Travis; cross-fade into song 2: Radio Ga Ga by Frank Sidebottom

A strange mix, but not a bad soundtrack really. I was particularly impressed by the uncanny segue from the opening credits to the wake up song, and mightily pleased that the end credits finished with Frank Sidebottom’s mercurial take on Radio Ga Ga. Thank you.

How does your life sound?

What about you? Have a go and see how your soundtrack shapes up.

I’d be very interested to see your results – feel free to post as a comment below or write it on the wall of the Facebook group for this blog.

I’ll add my ‘Fantasy Soundtrack’ answers – see step 8 – in due course when I’ve had a bit more time to mull it over.

In the meantime, enjoy selecting the movie soundtrack of your life ……

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The Curse of the Earworm

Don’t you just hate it when that happens? A portion of, or possibly a whole song gets stuck in your head on repeat, and there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s not just you – it is a well known phenomenon and there have been many studies conducted on the condition – it has also been termed less snappily by neurologist Oliver Sacks as ‘involuntary musical imagery’.

Apparently some people are more susceptible than others, but most people have been afflicted by it at one time or other.

But none of these academic studies have answered the most pertinent question about the earworm: ‘Why is it it never a good song?’. It’s invariably some irritating cheesy pop monstrosity from the ’80’s, a nauseating soft rock ballad or the latest anodyne dance music track to feature on a far more forgettable TV advert.

I don’t ever remember having a really great song stuck in my head, it’s always been something I would never have chosen to listen to in the first place – an alien invader burrowing its way into my brain and destroying my musical taste one vapid chorus at a time.

I have no data to back this up, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the earworm hadn’t become far more prevalent in the past couple of years. This would be thanks to the baffling popularity of polyphonic ringtones and that weapon of mass distraction, the mobile phone that ‘comes with music’.

So, what can we do about it? Admit defeat and spend needless painful hours humming tunes we wouldn’t be seen dead downloading. Or do we decide to fight?

There is no known cure, but apparently some medications that are used to treat obsessive complusive disorder can alleviate the symptoms of earworms. So, if you are one of those poor unfortunates who are slaves to alphabeticising their CDs (see yesterday’s post) you might just have the answer within your grasp.

For those of us without access to such remedy, I would suggest that there are a few precautions we can take, which though unlikely to cure, may at least reduce the amount of earworm incidents we suffer. They are:

  • Carry your ipod or other mp3 player with you at all times and create an ‘antidote playlist’ stuffed full of killer tunes, the likes of which you’d be happy to have in your head all day;
  • Avoid listening to breakfast shows on all commercial and local radio stations on your way to work. Choose your own tunes or stick to 6 music on DAB;
  • Don’t travel on public transport without noise-cancelling headphones;
  • Learn to hum several of your favourite songs – you can then hum loudly as a counteractive measure should an earworm incident ensue;
  • Avoid colleagues with poor musical taste and the habit of whistling the last song they heard on their car radio and/or bursting into song whenever anyone says anything that reminds them of a song lyric;
  • Insert an earwig/small spider/bee/pencil into your ear, in order to take your mind off the offending song.

This is not a definitive list, but just a few suggestions to be getting on with. Whilst the first three are valuable life lessons that we would do well to adhere to in any case, the last one might be a step too far for many of us.

Mind you, it’s all relative: faced with the choice between an indefinite repetition of Dire Straits’ ‘Money for Nothin” or a perforated eardrum, I might just risk the pencil!

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A great band beginning with ….

This is going to be one of the regular features of this blog. It was inspired by a game I started at work recently when my colleagues pleaded for some brief respite during a dull dark Monday afternoon in the office. You start with the name of a band or artist and then the next person has to name one that begins with the last letter of yours. And so on. Until you get bored, or in our case until we resumed work, almost immediately of course.

If our experience of playing it is anything to go by, you’d be advised to brush up on your bands beginning with ‘s’, ‘n’, ‘o’ and ‘y’ which tended to crop up the most often, or prove the most challenging.

The last time I played that game was at school, and we have become a lot more used to the alphabetical categorisation of music since those long gone days thanks to the ubiquitous ipod and good old fashioned OCD.

So, in honour of all those poor souls enslaved to arranging their CD or vinyl collections in strict alphabetical order I will attempt to write an article extolling the virtues of a great band beginning with each letter of the alphabet.

However, I refuse to cheat and I won’t feature a band just to make up the letters as it were. I won’t be feigning a love of XTC just because it’s got challenging. On the other hand, some letters will require more soul searching than others as I have to make a decision between an embarrassment of riches.

Heading off pedants at the pass, I’d like to emphasise that I’ll be using the same alphabetical ordering system as itunes, which means you ignore the word ‘The’ in band names, and artists are ordered by first name, not surname. It may seem confusing at first, but if you have an ipod you are probably accustomed to it now, or have just realised why you can never find the band you want to!

One other rule is I will try and include as many bands I’ve discovered recently as possible, to increase my chances of passing on a useful recommendation or endorsing some of your recent favourites too.

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