Sunday, April 1, 2012

Pazz and Jop Made Me Do It!, or The Spreadsheet: Part One

In between beers the other night, Nutboy and I were talking about how we go about deciding what records to buy. As I’ve said before, Nutboy is a jump-right-in kind of guy, so he gets what he feels like when he feels like it.

“What about you?” he asked.

I was doing some hemming and hawing when he helped me to the end of my thought.

“Oh, you do your research.” And left it at that.

He was being kind. Totally non-judgmental. But even without any sarcasm attached to it, the word was loaded with negative connotations. You could almost hear someone say “Research?”Really, Jaybee? It’s only pop music, for God’s sake!

Now those are fighting words, but since they were only taking place in my head, I kept my cool. Besides, Nutboy might not understand why I was suddenly punching myself in the face, even if Bob Dylan and Jane’s Addiction recommended it.

I quickly changed the subject (How about those Beatles, eh?) and we ended up having a fine old time. But afterwards, over a breakfast beer, I realized that I had to face this dark secret of mine and come clean.

It's something I've very vaguely alluded to a while back.  But now it’s time for me to confess - to explain how I buy records. This will be painful for me - possibly worse for you.

It's about the spreadsheet.

Radio, Radio:

Let's start back before the Stone Age, when I was a child.

From about 1965 to 1969, you could count on the local AM pop stations to play great music, so there was no effort involved in finding it. All you did was turn on the radio.

I don't remember hearing a bad song on the radio until at least 1970. “For the Love of Him” by Bobbi Martin, comes to mind. Hearing it now, it’s really not so bad, even if it has the distinction of being like the first rat signaling the start of the bubonic plague.

And soon there were more, and more. Bad records were crowding out good ones. If I wanted to hear good music, I’d have to actively seek it out. I started impatiently switching back and forth between those two pop stations, trying to find something I liked. I was doing it so much that I didn't even have to look at the dial anymore.

By now I was thirteen, and if I heard a song I really loved and had some spending money – two big ifs at the time - I could buy a single.

Finally, the Partridge Family and Osmond Brothers - clans that have wreaked more havoc than the Corleones - chased me from the AM dial altogether. I’d been checking out FM by then anyway, and was hearing more album oriented music, which was, almost by definition, more hit or miss. (Or maybe my tastes were becoming more rigid. Ask Bobbi Martin.)

And LPs cost more, so I’d really have to save up if I wanted one. It was getting harder to hear something I liked and harder to buy it when I did.

Cliffhanger alert:

Voice of the Narrator (Me): With good music and money in short supply what will our hero do? What will he do!?!

Voice of Jaybee’s Mom, circa 1973: Get a job, that’s what he’ll do, if I have any say in the matter!

Jaybee: Aw Ma, you ruined the cliffhanger ending!

Jaybee’s Mom: So it that what you’re doing while I’m here working my fingers to the bone? Hangin’ off cliffs? You have a fine head on you for that now, don’t you? And how much do they pay you for that anyhow? When I was your age….

Jaybee: CUT!!!!

Coming up: Jobs, Quotes, Critics, Friends and Hearing Voices
That is, if it’s okay with my mom.

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