THE AUDITORY PURGATORY OF AMERICA, CHICAGO AND BREAD
by Todd Hartley
I’ve always considered myself a bit of a music nerd, and as I may have mentioned before, I have what I call a phonographic memory — meaning I can remember the words to every song I’ve ever heard but somehow I won’t remember your name the first six times I’m reintroduced to you.
In some ways, it’s great. For instance, I like to sing along with the radio when I’m driving, so it’s nice not to fumble over the lyrics and look like an idiot when other people are in the car with me. In other ways, though, it can be a pain in the ass, and I was reminded of that recently when I started working an almost full-time job in an office near my home.
How near? The other day, I got on my bike and got a good push out of my driveway and coasted to work without pedaling once. Honestly. But that’s not the point.
The point is: The office, which we share with a couple of other small businesses, has music playing over the in-ceiling speakers in the hallways all the time.
No big deal, right? It even sounds kind of nice, and it is for anyone who happens to drop by for a few minutes, but for those of us who work there and lack the ability to tune out background music, it can be tough, and to understand why, you need to understand satellite radio.
Satellite radio is great because it has so many stations to choose from. But each of those stations is narrowly focused and intended for people who might be listening in their car for an hour or so — not people sitting in an office all day.
It’d be fine if it were classical music or something without words, but the station we have playing in the office all day is called The Bridge, and its extremely narrow focus is “mellow classic rock” — also known as “early ’70s wimp rock” — which is exactly the sort of music I know every word of by heart.
To give you an idea of what The Bridge plays, think James Taylor, Harry Chapin, Cat Stevens, the Eagles, America, Chicago — that sort of thing. Don’t get me wrong; I love those bands. I grew up on them. But if you listen to nothing but that for six to nine hours a day, you could go insane.
Every day it’s “Fire and Rain,” “Ventura Highway,” “Take it Easy,” “Peace Train,” “Saturday in the Park.” Hell, you could practically set your watch by “Cat’s in the Cradle,” which seems to come on each morning at around 10:30.
This is why I’m envious of my co-workers, most of whom seem to be able to tune out the strains of “Moonshadow” when it plays each afternoon. I can’t do that. If I hear so much as a snippet, I’ll have all the words leaping and hopping through my head until “Does Anybody Really Know What Time it Is?” comes on and the process repeats itself.
Thankfully, the woman with whom I share space at work has also had her fill of “Sister Golden Hair,” “Summer Breeze” and “Wildfire,” and more or less encourages me to play Pandora radio loud enough to drown out “Carolina in my Mind” as it wafts in from the hallway.
That’s great for me, but now, poor thing, my coworker has to listen to a bunch of esoteric funk nonsense that she’s never heard of. I believe, right now, the shuffled lineup of stations on my Pandora account includes Manu Dibango, Cymande, Geraldo Pino, Skull Snaps, the Beginning of the End and Hypnotic Brass Ensemble. All household names, I’m sure.
I love it, but I have to be honest with myself; most of it probably sounds a little foreign to ears other than mine. Still, I have to think my coworker enjoys it more than hearing “Lyin’ Eyes” for the umpteen millionth time.
So anyway, thanks to Pandora and my own questionable musical tastes, I’ve been able to create a little acoustic safe space around my desk where my ears are protected, but at the edge of my consciousness, lurking, ready to infect my hearing the moment I get up and go to the bathroom, I can hear Paul McCartney calling:
“You’d think that people would have had enough of silly love songs. But look around me and I see it isn’t so.”
Oh, it’s so, Sir Paul. It is definitely so.
Todd Hartley is lobbying to have the channel in the office changed to Liquid Metal or Ozzy’s Boneyard.