Archive for February, 2009


I’ve sold out….

My friends, I write these words with a deep sense of guilt and shame, disapprobation and yes, even opprobrium.  I have sold out.  I have betrayed my most dearly held beliefs and sacrificed what I once thought were the strongest of principles.  I am a whore, a slut, a trollop.  I feel so dirty, so cheapened, I cannot even look myself in the eye when I behold my unworthy visage in the mirror.

I have purchased my first iPod.

Those of you who might say, “What’s the big deal?  You need to get over yourself, Smith” obviously don’t know me, either in person or from this blog.  Those who do know me understand that I am an avowed antediluvian.  I smoke a pipe, wear a pocket watch, and write with a fountain pen.  My favorite composers are Thomas Tallis, John Dunstable, and Johannes Brahms.  And the important thing here is that those are not the mere affectations of someone who misses the Victorian era.  I genuinely enjoy those things.  Hell, I didn’t buy my first Walkman until two years ago.

It’s Murphy’s fault, of course.  These things usually are.  Although a bit of an antiquarian himself, he seems to have adapted to the twenty first century far better than your humble scribe.  I don’t know why he does this to me.  Maybe he thinks it’s for my own good.  Maybe he’s afraid that he’ll be lonely in the new century without me.  But for whatever strange reasons of his own, he has this insatiable need to meet the new century by dragging me along with him.  This very blog owes it existence to his relentless nagging.

At his insistence, I opened an iTunes account.  Now I have to admit, iTunes is pretty cool.  I have a taste for the sort of music that one just doesn’t hear on the radio much these days.  I have now collected several hours of music I never thought I would hear again.  The Flying Burrito Brothers, obscure Byrds and Gene Clark tunes,  Fairport Convention, and Pentangle are among the out of the way things you’ll find on my playlist.  For those of you who thought The Monkees were only a “prefab four”, download “The Door Into Summer” (alternate mix).  Prepare to change your mind.

But was this enough for Murphy?  No, of course not.  He insisted that the next logical step was my own iPod.  This, however, he could not make me do.  I was adamant in my refusal.

My loathing of the iPod is well documented.  To me, it represents everything I dislike about our society: the blind consumerism, the self absorption, the obsession with owning something just because it’s “new” and “cool”, and the belief that we’re somehow entitled to be entertained on demand, 24/7.  I also deeply resent Apple’s relentless marketing which is designed to make me feel like a lower form of life if I don’t own one. 

Another major problem I have is with the whole concept of downloaded music.   Remember, I come from the generation that grew up with 12″ vinyl albums.  (If you don’t know what I’m talking about here, you’re probably up past your bedtime.)  Albums were the best, because you not only got music, but you got the album cover, complete with artwork and liner notes.  In short, you got “stuff”.

The CD, (which I also viewed with deep suspicion for many years), at least continued this tradition, although in miniaturized form.

But the MP3?  Somehow, it seemed so artificial, so electronic, so virtual.  Virtual, as in not real.  No album art, no liner notes, just a stream of data.  I overcame this hangup enough to sign up for iTunes, but I still prefer to have my classical music (as opposed to pop songs) in CD format.

And so, in spite of my love of music, I have resisted owning one of these devil’s playthings.

Until now.

I have a co-worker name Bill, although everyone knows him as “Bunny”.  I won’t go into why, let’s just say I have never seen a nickname stick to someone like this one has.  But Satan, Prince of Temptation would have been a better name.  Bunny is a gadget guy, and like all gadget guys, he simply can’t be happy with just one iPod Classic.  Oh, no, he has to have the iPod Nano, and the iPod Shuffle, and the iPod WipeYourAssForYou.  He’s like a human magpie.  If it’s shiny, he has to have it.

He was genuinely dumbfounded to learn I didn’t own one.  “Steve, iPods are great.  I can’t believe someone who loves music as much as you do doesn’t have one”.  So I proceeded to tell him of my immovable philosophical opposition the iPod and my deeply felt revulsion at the very idea of owning one.  I told him I would never own one, on principle.  Never.

“You can have my Classic for $50”.


And so, I did it.  I have allowed myself to be seduced.  I comforted myself a little by reminding myself that it was, at least, an iPod “Classic”.  I suppose if one is going to play Brahms and Tallis on an iPod, the “Classic” is only appropriate.  But learning to live with myself was only the second most difficult part of the ordeal.  The most difficult was figuring out how to turn the fucking thing on.  I stared at my new toy when I got it home.  And stared.  And stared.  It is beautiful, in it’s own way, a smooth, shiny obelisk. I begin to suspect that I may be in over my head when I discover, to my dismay, that there is no “on” switch.  Just a circular control panel.  With a button in the middle.


I push the button.  The shiny silver surface comes alive, showing a perfect little color screen.  Amazing.

Now what do I do?

I remember seeing someone stroke the screen, so I try that.  Nothing happens.  Oh, wait, that was the I-PHONE.  Shit.

Now what?

I eventually figure out that pushing the arrows and buttons brings one to the menu, but then what?  I notice how the cursor moves when I stroke the control panel.  Ah, so you DO like to be stroked, after all.  Now I get it.  But why does the cursor move in the opposite direction of my finger?  Strange, Apple seems to have screwed that one up.

It finally occurs to me that you’re supposed to stroke it in a circular manner (I’ll leave the obvious joke alone).  Now we’re getting somewhere.  I plug it into my computer, and my iTunes program comes to life.  At least here I’m on familiar ground.  The two machines sync with each other, and I’m ready to go.

I plug in my headphones.  They’re a pair of Koss cans.  Yes, I wear cans.  Even on the airplane.  Especially on the airplane.  I don’t like buds.  Only a full size can can cancel out the sound of the little bastard wailing in the seat behind me, beside providing full surround sound.  I wear cans.

But I digress.

I plug in the headphones.  I play a song.  I am amazed.

Now you have to bear in mind that I have only heard a lot of the songs on my iTunes through the tinny speakers that the computer came with.  I’ve been meaning to get better speakers, but blogging isn’t the only thing I’m a slacker about.  But now, with the sound being pumped into my head through a decent set of headphones, the experience borders on an epiphany.  I spent most of today with the silly thing in my back pocket and the cans glued to my ears.

My downfall is complete.  I am now a confirmed iPod whore.

But I will never wear it in a thunderstorm.



Who knows where the time goes?

Okay, I am now officially on a Fairport Convention kick.  I really don’t know what it is about Sandy Denny’s voice that gets to me so.  It was not a particularly strong voice; sometimes she barely seemed to be singing above a whisper.  And yet a more expressive voice I’ve never heard.  Whether it was an old English ballad or an original composition, every word seems to flow from her heart by way of her soul. I think she could sing the alphabet and it would move me to tears.

This song is more well known in this country in the version by Judy Collins, but this version is the original and, in my opinion, far and way the best.  Enjoy.


Across the evening sky, all the birds are leaving
But how can they know it’s time for them to go?
Before the winter fire, I will still be dreaming
I have no thought of time
For who knows where the time goes?
Who knows where the time goes?
Sad, deserted shore, your fickle friends are leaving
Ah, but then you know it’s time for them to go
But I will still be here, I have no thought of leaving
I do not count the time
For who knows where the time goes?
Who knows where the time goes?
And I am not alone while my love is near me
I know it will be so until it’s time to go
So come the storms of winter and then the birds in spring again
I have no fear of time
For who knows how my love grows?
And who knows where the time goes?


Percy’s song

I heard this song on the radio about twenty years ago and always wondered what it was and who by.  Now, through the wonders of the internet, I know.  Downloading this song revived my interest in Fairport Convention. Although this is actually a Bob Dylan song, I think it’s easily the best cover ever done, even better than Joan Baez’s.  Enjoy.


Bad news, bad news, come to me where I sleep”
Turn, turn, turn again
“Say, one of your friends is in trouble deep”
Turn, turn, to the rain and the wind
“Tell me the trouble, tell me once to my ear”
Turn, turn, turn again
“Joliet prison and ninety-nine years”
Turn, turn, to the rain and the wind
“Oh, what’s the charge of how this came to be?”
Turn, turn, turn again
“Manslaughter in the highest degree”
Turn, turn, to the rain and the wind
I sat down and wrote the best words I could write
Turn, turn, turn again
Explaining to the judge I’d be there on Wednesday night
Turn, turn, to the rain and the wind
Without a reply, I left by the moon
Turn, turn, turn again
And was in his chambers by the next afternoon
Turn, turn, to the rain and the wind
“Would you tell me the facts,” I said without fear
Turn, turn, turn again
“That a friend of mine could get ninety-nine years”
Turn, turn, to the rain and the wind
“A crash on the highway, flew the car to a field”
Turn, turn, turn again
“There was four persons killed and he was at the wheel”
Turn, turn, to the rain and the wind
“But I knew him as good as I’m knowing myself”
Turn, turn, turn again
“And he wouldn’t harm a life that belonged to someone else”
Turn, turn, to the rain and the wind
The judge he spoke out of the side of his mouth
Turn, turn, turn again
Saying “The witness who saw, he left without doubt”
Turn, turn, to the rain and the wind
“That may be true, he’s got a sentence to serve”
Turn, turn, turn again
“But ninety-nine years he just don’t deserve”
Turn, turn, to the rain and the wind
“Too late, too late, for his case it is sealed”
Turn, turn, turn again
“His sentence it is passed and cannot be repealed”
Turn, turn, to the rain and the wind
“But he ain’t no criminal and his crime it is none”
Turn, turn, turn again
“What happened to him could happen to anyone”
Turn, turn, to the rain and the wind
At that the judge jumped forward and his face it did freeze
Turn, turn, turn again
Saying “Could you kindly leave my office now please?”
Turn, turn, to the rain and the wind
His eyes looked funny and I stood up so slow
Turn, turn, turn again
With no other choice except for to go
Turn, turn, to the rain and the wind
I walked down the hallway and I heard his door slam
Turn, turn, turn again
I walked down the courthouse stairs and did not understand
Turn, turn, to the rain and the wind
And I played my guitar through the night to the day
Turn, turn, turn again
And the only tune my guitar could play was “The Old Cruel Rain And The Wind

-Bob Dylan



Sometimes you come across something that is just too beautiful not too share.  Written by the late, great Sandy Denny, it tells the story of the last hours of Mary, Queen of Scots, and is one of Fairport Convention’s most entrancing creations.   Denny’s vocals are deeply moving, as always, but pay particular attention to the haunting background vocals as well.


How often she has gazed from castle windows all
And watched the daylight passing within her captive wall
With no one to heed her call
The evening hour is fading within the dwindling sun
And in a lonely moment, those embers will be gone
And the last of all the young birds flown
Her days of precious freedom, forfeited long before
To live such fruitless years behind a guarded door
But those days will last no more
Tomorrow, at this hour, she will be far away
Much farther than these islands, for the lonely Fotheringay

Sandy Denny

taking up a glowing cinder with the tongs and lighting with it the long cherry-wood pipe which was wont to replace his clay when he was in a disputatious rather than a meditative mood" ~ Dr. John H. Watson ************************
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