Playlist #18: skip, skip, play…

Marc Hall invites us on a journey to listen to the comforting classics and (not so) secret shames on his iPod… 

As ever my faithful iPod will be loaded with 16 GB of music. I usually have a few folders set up so I’ve always got a good cross-section of music available.  There will be a folder set up for forthcoming festivals, loaded with bands that I’m trying to accustom myself with before the weekend arrives. I’ll also have a folder for new albums, you know, the type that have been picking up rave reviews on Pitchfork, or have made their way into my consciousness. This works great for me, it’s how I learn about new bands and keep my own tastes fresh. However, sometimes no matter how great this new stuff is you can’t beat the odd oldie slipping in there from my ‘classics’ folder.

On my daily commute, a clear pattern in my listening habits has developed. iPod set to random, it’s 7am, I’m bleary eyed and it’s fair to say I’m still on auto-pilot until my first caffeine hit of the day. The first 15 minutes is spent iPod in hand, skipping through songs until I reach the opening chords of the first recognisable tune. It’s like I’m playing SongPop against my sub conscious. It’s not that I don’t want to listen to unfamiliar songs, more my half-awake mind and body craving the safety and reliability of the familiar; a safety blanket so to speak. Before you know it, I’m stopped at traffic lights and suddenly all too aware of the attentive glances from the car next to me, wondering why that strange bloke is singing full blast to Dinosaur Jr at such an early hour. As my journey continues, so does this pattern of skip, skip, play…

You’d think by classic song I was referring to universally acknowledged greats, the songs ingrained in everybody, music fan or not: Heroes, Stairway to Heaven, Hey Jude, Sympathy for the Devil; the big beasts making up the Rolling Stone top 500 songs of all time. Nope, not here. Think Mother by Danzig or Adam Green’s Buddy Bradley. These are my classics. Until recently, I wasn’t even aware I had a ‘classic song’ section in my head, but apparently I’ve been subconsciously building a library over the years, only to be revealed during dawn outings in my car. Now arguably, these aren’t the ‘greatest’ songs ever, but hey, they get me to work!

Finding their way into this library are songs that were on my periphery back in the day day, like Cannonball by The Breeders. When you hear those opening chords there’s no way your fingers will succumb to any involuntary ticks and skip to the next song. It’s hard to deny Cannonball its ‘great song status’, but for me, that was earned through the memories of dancing to it at nearly every indie disco since 1995 – more often than not in the still, and much missed Mardi Gras.

This trick of nostalgia even transfers over to bands that I wasn’t a fan of, such as The Offspring. Here is a band I was more than happy to ignore: I’d stop dancing if they were played in a club, pass up on the chance to see them live, and I’d show no interest in any new material they produced. Not now. As with many other bands, maybe one song will sneak onto my iPod, usually via a soundtrack, or a mistake in the playlist filters. So don’t be surprised one morning if you’re that person staring at me singing You Gotta Keep Them Separated at full blast before the Sun has had a chance to rise.

Music has other ways of tricking you into believing you’ve always been a fan of ‘such and such’. In recent years we seem to have had an influx of adverts using slightly below the radar artists. I’m thinking Apple’s use of 1,2,3,4 by Feist. Before you know it that catchy little song is programmed into the ‘good’ section of your memory banks, ready to produce a warm glow years later on your rediscovery of it.

The more I think of it, perhaps this isn’t a new trend in my listening behaviours. Time span-wise we’ve had access to MP3 players for over ten years now, and it’s fair to say that the way we listen to music has evolved during this period. So much so that the songs I casually loaded onto my first iPod are now the ones that I geek out over, moving me to think “oh, I love this song”, without always knowing what it is. This happened to recently while watching, ahem, Cabin Fever 2. The opening credits were sound-tracked by something familiar and catchy and hearing it was akin to being reunited with an old friend. It turned out to be Dancing on our Graves by The Cave Singers, one of those ‘festival playlist’ bands I referred to earlier. I look forward to embracing these – very particular – future classics in the years to come.

Marc Hall

Posted on 30/07/2012 by thedoublenegative