More on rich veins: Not fooled by randomness

Have you really thought about how you listen to music on any given day? Do you tend to choose an artist, an album, a period? Or do you just press the shuffle button or its equivalent?

I’m currently using one of my favourite techniques:

  1. Sort out my iTunes library into Time order
  2. Scan through the library very quickly and choose an “opening” song
  3. Go with the flow and listen to whatever songs happen to have the same duration as the opening song
  4. Stop whenever I feel like

I’ve written about this before, but this time I thought I’d share the songs that popped out as a result:

I’m sharing them for a number of reasons, listed and annotated below:

One, an observation on our “social media” culture and the implied transparency

When I scanned the list I was very tempted to take out the Boney M song, but I didn’t. It felt like cheating. It felt like the equivalent of quietly kicking your golf ball out of the rough when no one’s watching. You don’t do that. It felt all wrong even though nobody was watching. So anyway I didn’t do it. And it made me ponder about the cultural and social implications of the renaissance of transparency that we’re all experiencing.

Two, an observation on Wikipedia

I had twenty-one terms to search for, and all but four were found. Every artist was found. At least one of the songs may have been listed as well, I just wasn’t sure whether the Bless You reference was the right one. And I was too lazy to check. But it’s not the point. The point is that I could find seventeen of the twenty-one. You know something? Wikipedia is just one big multipurpose adjective-adverb. Lets you describe everything, qualify everything. Maybe not everything, but it keeps getting better. Many people bitch about the lack of “expertise” in Wikipedia, but I think they’re missing the point.

What point? It’s a bit like the story about Churchill and the looks-challenged woman. As the story goes, this person went up to Winston and said “Sir, you’re drunk” and he replied “Lady, you’re ugly. And tomorrow I’ll be sober….”

Traditional encyclopediae are ugly. Wikipedia on the other hand may be drunk today, but tomorrow it will be sober. Because it can and will improve. Improve in a long-tail way that nothing else can. And talking about improving it, Iwas surprised by the hyphen between Spencer and Churchill in the Wikipedia listing for Winston Churchill. Should it really be there?

Three, just some random mutterings about the specific songs that got thrown up:

If you haven’t heard of them, do listen to Fotheringay. As far as I know, (and as far as Wikipedia knows, for that matter) they produced only one album. While critics may feel that the album was nothing more than a showcase for Sandy Denny’s talents, I think they’re wrong. I really like the whole album. Fotheringay’s treatment of Dylan’s Too Much of Nothing is a delight. Incidentally, the Wodehouse fan in me tends to pronounce the band “Fun-gee”. Anyone know any better?

I never realised that Simon and Garfunkel had just three Number 1s: The Sound of Silence, Mrs Robinson and Bridge Over Troubled Water. Similarly I never knew that Melanie’s The Nickel Song was released by her old label explicitly to compete with her newer releases, the net effect of which was to make her the first female artiste to have 3 songs in the Top 40 simultaneously.

Remembering how gaunt he looked, I used to think that Headlong was the last video that Freddie Mercury ever appeared in; listening to it gave me the impetus to check. And I was wrong, it was These Are The Days of My Life, which was played at the recent Concert for Diana.

If you’re high in the anorak stakes, you may be interested in this comment in Wikipedia’s article on Ruby Tuesday: All post-2002 reissues of “Ruby Tuesday” on CD (comprising all versions on the ABKCO remastered CDs) are missing a vocal overdub in the chorus. The reason for this change has never been officially addressed. Anyone know why?

I’d always thought that John Lennon changed his middle name by deed poll from Winston to Ono, just as Elton John did (from Kenneth to Hercules). So I was surprised to see the Wikipedia entry showing John Winston Ono Lennon.

I’d heard before about Boney M’s massive African following, and been bemused by it. Seemed a bit like Norman Wisdom and his Albanian fan club. Now that I know that Ma Baker was based on a Tunisian tune, it all becomes clear.

Though I’ve known that Chevy Chase has musical talent, I didn’t know he’d actually played with Becker and Fagen prior to their forming Steely Dan.

I’ve never been able to understand any of the reasons why The White Album is meant to have been such a dark influence on Charles Manson. I still can’t figure it out.

2 thoughts on “More on rich veins: Not fooled by randomness”

  1. I basically have two music listening modes. One – when I’m working on my laptop – is to listen to ‘my radio station’ (you can too by clicking on the play button in the right sidebar of my blog…indeed this is how I usually access it too); I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad set and it is better than iTunes shuffle because it includes music that I don’t have (I imagine from ‘friends’ and ‘neighbors’.) Nothing puts a smile on your face faster than hearing a great song that you had ‘forgotten about’ pop up in the playlist…and often I wander over to iTunes and buy it (actually I would do this almost automatically if there was a ‘buy song or album (choose) from iTunes’ button in the player/widget – and I suspect many others would as well…make it easy and people have no problem spending money. Thus so sad that if had to be sold, it wasn’t to Apple. Anyhow this £18/year service is worth every penny. Highly recommended. (or just play my station for free if you can stand my taste in music! ;) )

    The other way (I listen to music) is via my iPod (either on the move or hooked up to home audio) sometimes via shuffle (often highest rated, or recently played) or by artist.

    But if it really were (drop dead) easy to do, I suspect I would be tuned into my station most of the time, where ever I was…

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