don’t ask, but certainly do tell

Only my poor children (and occasionally my husband) have to suffer though one of my most offensive travelling idiosynchrocies: I am a radio-surfer. By this I mean that, given a lack of a viable CD to listen to or a companion to talk with, I can spend an hour or two flipping back and forth on the FM, belting out snippets as I hear them, listening to an entire song now and then but most importantly changing back and forth often and compulsively. Perhaps it’s a short-attention span thing, I don’t know. Back when I had my iPod (R.I.P.) I had no trouble listening to entire albums at a time; now, I only carry a few CDs per trip and can tire of them over a couple hours. Now the radio, for all its fun in spontanaeity and unexpected nostalgia or newness can regularly disappoint, and not just with commercials.

Case in point: tonight was a poor night for my habit. Perhaps one problem was just the overwhelming variety and number of stations I could flip through: the clarity of the air tonight made many, many stations available (including one I hadn’t heard before, Victoria BC’s The Q – I listened to tonight’s 9:07 PM to 9:17 PM offerings but bagged off at Neil Young’s “Rockin’ In The Free World”). I noted tonight that it’s really too bad I don’t enjoy Santana’s “Oye Como Va” because I could have heard it about twelve fucking times on eight different stations in a two-hour driving stint, had I wanted to. I did secretly steal a pleased listen to CSN&Y’s “Love The One You’re With” (this getting me through part of the McCleary-Shelton cutoff), pretending like there was nothing better on. I am such a sucker for any CSN&Y (or variations thereof) – it’s my filthy flower-childhood shining through. Past Courtesy Ford on the last leg home I enjoyed a cigarette to Don Henley’s “Boys Of Summer”, a song I am fond of for both the lyrical sadness and the fun ricocheting drum track – although for sing-along value I can’t even hit half the high notes Mr. Henley requires (another great reason no one but my helpless children are in the car).

Along with the thrill of the occasional perfect song comes the not-quite-as-momentous but equally perfect annoyances: notably, tonight, a heretofore unheard version of The Rolling Stone’s “Under My Thumb” (and no, it’s not the Social Distortion version).* Now, skipping over all the specific lameness in what I heard tonight, you have to understand we are talking about a song that was perfect in every way in the original version (the nastiness and misogyny of the original is so great it makes me shiver in delight). See, while some artists’ writings are covered or co-opted with much success (Carol King, Leonard Cohen, Dolly Parton, Bob Dylan) there are some perfect moments in pop music that should remain sacred: The Police’s “Can’t Stand Losing You” (and a lot of their other shit), Bill Wither’s “Ain’t No Sunshine”, Abbey Road, David Bowie’s “China Girl” (itself a cover of sorts, originally released by Iggy Pop), Patti LaBelle’s “Lady Marmalade”, and … I guess any Johnny Cash, really. Seriously, people. Leave that shit alone. I am not saying The Stones can’t be covered – I’m sure they can. But for that particular song, if anyone can find any charm in the first place (and like I said, I can), it should be left as is.

I’m going to stop now before my music snob friends (and you know who you are!) start investing scorn on my ass.

P.S. Along those lines if anyone has seen anything goofy on my account, it’s Ralph’s doing (who’s had my Mac these last few days). For instance, you wouldn’t see me listening to Sleater-Kinney. Ever.

* After I started this post I found thanks to The Q’s searchable database I had listened to Streetheart. The assy-ness of the cover song could in part be explained by the weird Canadian rule that requires their stations to play Canadian music. Not to say all Canadian music is assy of course, but this cover got a boost in the song lottery merely by being citizens.

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