iPods, Cheesy Wotsits and the Changing Experience of Music…

iPods, Cheesy Wotsits and the Changing Experience of Music…

Here’s the first column from new RCM contributor Andy Pritchard, a musician/songwriter based out of North London, England…

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Now I love my iPod as much as the next man. Tube journeys are transformed by plugging in and closing my eyes, even if I do have to have it so loud that what’s left of my battered hearing was last seen choosing the stairs at Covent Garden. But I do have a problem with iPods and MP3 players per se.

You see in my humble opinion, what they have done is turn music into a purely personal experience.

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Long, long ago when I was in the first flush of youth, you’d get a phone call saying “ We’re all going round Fred’s house tonight he’s got the new Eagles album” Off we’d trot, share a Watney’s Party Seven and some Cheesy Wotsits and listen to Hotel California …together.

We’d pass around the lyric sheet, absorb all the info off the album cover… “Hey didn’t Bill Szymczyk used to engineer for BB King?” and critique the whole thing ready to regurgitate it all at school the next day. (In the hope of impressing the girls with our great knowledge and wisdom of all things cool… )

You see music, whilst having immense personal meaning and emotional resonance, is by its very nature, meant to be shared. When John Lennon wrote Please Please Me in the front bedroom at his Auntie Mimi’s it wasn’t just for his own benefit. Stack me, imagine a world without The Beatles, it doesn’t bear thinking about.

At its best, it can hold up a mirror to popular culture, good and bad.

Is there anything else that can mark the timeline of our lives so succinctly as a particular song?

The Real Thing singing “You to Me are Everything” through the long hot summer of 1976. The gritty London’s Calling by The Clash reflecting the apathy and angst of a generation at the end of a decade of excess.

Or look at the way it has been at the forefront of change and a barometer of all that’s wrong in the world. Take the Civil Rights movement of the early sixties, artists from all genres wrote of the massive social injustice taking place in America. From the blues of Nina Simone’s Mr Backlash to the soul of Wilson Pickett’s People Get Ready, on through the folk of Pete Seeger’s We Shall Overcome and Bob Dylan’s The Times They are A Changin’. Not forgetting Sam Cooke’s timeless classic A Change is Gonna Come and John Coltrane’s haunting jazz masterpiece Alabama. Right across the musical spectrum, artists with something to say, and the courage to say it.

People’s perception of musicians is normally of laid back bums, a la Shaggy in Scooby Doo but history would tell us that when something needs to be said there are plenty around prepared to ‘grow a pair’.

But it seems with the dawn of the iPod we have somehow stifled the power of music. Like Kryptonite to Superman or Delilah’s scissors to Samson, by making it such a personal experience we have taken away its strength and purpose.

Music should provoke a response, be the catalyst for discussion, unite people.

In November 1969 Pete Seeger led 500,000 people on a rally to the White House singing Lennon’s “All we are saying, is give peace a chance” Music right at the very forefront of the campaign against the Vietnam War. Would that kind of response ever happen again? I think not, Obi-Wan.

So this is my proposal: you get a table and say six chairs. On said table you place a selection of fine ales, peanuts etc. You then invite five mates with the instruction to come prepared with a song that means something to them that they must talk to the group about for say three minutes. Have a discussion, drink a beer, grab a peanut or two.

Maybe have themed nights, you know, songs from the sixties, songs about tractors whatever…share it, dissect it, embrace it, lets reclaim music for the people…and take those bloomin’ earphones out…

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