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The Jukebox

I was reading a blog entry on ipods by The Field Negro, where he muses about ipods, how one in four people commuting on the train in Philadelphia has wires coming out of their ears and leading to an ipod. He's one of them, listening to old school rap as he ponders what other people on the train might be listening to.

I always had misgivings about ipods, probably irrational ones. Somehow I wished that there was some device that would take all the playlists from everybody's ipod, shuffle 'em and send em back out, so that, when on that channel, you never really knew what you were going to get. It might be Sly and the Family Stone, or it might be Doris Day. You could always shift back to your own music if you couldn't take it, but you'd have the option of tuning in to the frequency for something totally unexpected, something that somebody else had chosen, and you don't know who.

I don't necessarily want to link the two things, but the intense "personalization" of music represented by the ipod could have something to do with the demise of the jukebox.

The internets tell me that the word "juke" is likely from Gullah, has a West African origin; and that it is akin to the Wolof "dzug" -- to live wickedly. A juke or a juke joint was a rural establishment offering liquor, dancing, maybe some gambling or prostitution. (by the way, I'm not interested in gambling.) To juke is to dance, especially to the music of a jukebox.

A few days back, I went with my daughter to a local pizza place. While we were waiting for our take-out order, I noticed that the place had a jukebox, something I hadn't seen in a long time. I remember that when I was a kid, all the joints had jukeboxes. I distinctly remember playing David Bowie's "Fame" on the juke box at the bowling alley. I remember a restaurant that had individual juke boxes at the tables, supposedly that were connected to a main turntable in an undisclosed location (had to be: can you imagine the cacophony if every table had a different record playing?). In the cooler juke boxes, you could watch a robotic arm grab the 45, plop it on the turntable, and pick it up after the record was played. The price, as I recall, was three tunes for a quarter.

In Mexico City's Centro Histórico, stores of a certain type are grouped together; so you'll walk down a street and there will be several stores in a row, all selling bridal stuff; you turn a corner and it will be all used bookstores, turn another corner and its just luggage. Turn again and it's ... you guessed it, juke boxes.

Today it is rare that you see a juke box in a restaurant, but I was happy to see that one at the pizza place. I got change for a dollar, dropped all four quarters into the machine played:

The Dixie Chicks, "Landslide"
Gorillaz, "Feel Good, Inc."
Gnarls Barkley, "Crazy"

The pies were ready and, sadly somehow, we didn't stick around for the last chords of "Crazy."



Evolution #9

Those are fond memories, those 3 songs for a quarter days.
I also remember when I first started seeing jukeboxes that had CD's in them.
Cool, that gave you the opportunity to play the obscure and sometimes obscene songs from the albums instead of just the hits. Of course the price went up to a dollar.
The best thing I found though, was being able to get a half hour out of three songs with the help from some live albums.
I wouldn't be surprised if they come up with an iPod juke box that holds thousands of selections. I mean, if I can get 15,000 songs in my pocket, why not on a jukebox.
All the same...too much choice for me.
Give me a "box" of 45's any day.
I still can't decide on which 3 items to order on my pizza.

April 2018



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