A Wobbly Stroll

We all have those days, at least I do, when a wobbly stroll from one place to another is the best we can do. This is one of those days. Here then is a story formed from the tentative searchings of an unfocused mind, a tale that will touch upon technological miracles and upon lovely songs chosen almost at random, all partially obscured by the haze of cigarette smoke. Yes, it’s that kind of a story. I’m interested, myself, to see how it comes out.

To begin, awkwardly: My understanding of how most things work is at the sub-kindergarten level. Combustion engines? I have nary a clue. Harnessed electricity, which, it seems to me, is the driving force behind the modern world? Ditto. Radio and television and Internet transmissions that fly invisibly through the air or through cables and manifest themselves on billions of devices in the homes, businesses and hands of mankind? Ditto once again.

And, in my experience, I’m hardly alone in that lack of knowledge. Practically everybody, I’d guess, is more or less like me in that way. When we hit the power button on the TV or ask Siri a question or turn the key to start the car, we expect our machines to behave properly. And almost always they do. How they do what they do is something we rarely delve into. And that’s okay. Our brains are overloaded as it is.

Needless to say, therefore, I take my iPhone for granted, though it is nothing short of miraculous. Somehow I was living in the dark ages till a year and a half ago, which is when the iPhone entered my life. I could live without it, and pretty easily I believe, but hell, I wouldn’t want to. I love the frigging thing.

Part of its attraction to me, beyond its amazing capabilities, is that it’s about the same size as, and reminds me of, a pack of cigarettes. Man, did I love my cigarettes in my sinning days decades ago, the gratifying and comforting feelings I got from rolling around lit cigarettes in the fingers of my right hand, from casually knocking off the ashes and from sucking hardcore smoke deep into my lungs. But I loved the packs themselves almost as much as their contents. I’d feel fine whenever I pulled a pack of Winstons, my brand, from my shirt or jacket pocket, tapping it just so to force out the tip of my next cig. Holding the iPhone gently, practically caressing it, which I do, brings me back to those glory days.

More importantly, I find my way around the iPhone pretty decently. I’m not boasting, by the way. I’m fully aware that it was designed and programmed with nitwits like me in mind. Texting, telephoning, surfing the web, snapping photos and checking out tunes via Shazam . . . who’d believe that a five ounce contraption could handle all of that and far more? Incroyable, n’est-ce pas?

“What’s Shazam?” I heard someone in the corner table ask. Oh, it’s you, is it? Didn’t your parents ever tell you not to talk with food in your mouth? I’m going to wait till you swallow that load. Okay, that’s better. What’s Shazam? It’s the music-identifying app that gives you the answers within seconds when, to avoid plotzing like a whimpering fool, you have to know right away  the name of the song you’re listening to and/or who is singing it. Hold your Shazam-equipped smart phone in the vicinity of the speakers from which the number is pouring out and voila! — all the details will be revealed on the phone’s screen. As long as, that is, the same recording is stored within Shazam’s database. Otherwise, identification is impossible. There are millions of recordings in there, though, so disappointment isn’t frequent.

Ah yes, Shazam. I’ve been toying for a while with the idea of writing something or other about that bad boy, so taken am I with it. But, in my current wobbly frame of mind I’ll postpone any extensive examination of Shazam’s place in the world. Instead I’ll pursue a flimsy connection that I noticed when relentlessly scrolling up and down the list that the app maintains of my Shazamming history. What eventually jumped out at me was that many songs on the list contained one-word titles. Efficiency aficionado that I am, that aspect appealed to me. What’s more, three of the one-word-titled tunes began with the letter S. I was sold. That’s all I needed to proceed. Sure, the three songs have nothing much in common. What’s more, they amount to a nearly random selection. But what the hell? Randomness can add plenty of spice to life. Anyway, the songs are good, very good. Which, connection-wise, is more than enough.

Sleep. Steamboat. Stewball. Those are the songs, in alphabetical order. Their performers are, respectively: Azure Ray, a female duo (Maria Taylor and Orenda Fink) whose music is well-known in certain ambiant and indie pop music circles, though the lasses spend more time on hiatus than they do recording or touring together; The Drifters, rhythm and blues titans whose history of personnel changes during their golden era (mid-1950s to mid-1970s) is dizzying enough to send you to bed with a bad case of the jitters; and Eric von Schmidt, who was a medium-sized name in American folk music during the 1960s and 70s.

I’ve listened to Sleep three times on YouTube since deciding to jot down a few thoughts about it. The song is the first track on Azure Ray’s debut album, which Maria and Orenda presented to humanity in 2010. I’m in tune with the tune. I like its contrasts. Though it’s vocals are dreamy and gauzy, the incessant keyboard chords that initiate and anchor the song give little mercy. Those chords, to me, represent an agitated psyche. The Azure Ray girls are in the midst of love troubles. They can’t sleep.

Dreamy and gauzy are words that don’t apply in any manner to Steamboat. It’s a punchy, bluesy gas, powered by hard-hitting drumming and très cool boogie-woogie piano work. The vocals, lead (Bill Pinkney) and background, are superbly jaunty. The Drifters’ original and famous lead singer, Clyde McPhatter, had left the band a few months before Steamboat was put on wax in 1955, and Ben E. King, another leading star, wouldn’t arrive for a few more years. Hardly matters. Steamboat rocks like a motherf***er.

As for Stewball, well, it’s a song with a highly complicated history. I read the Wikipedia entries about it and came away way more confused than I like to be. The song, it seems, has its origins in 1700s England and has evolved over time, spawning various, differing versions. A lot of folks, including Lead Belly and The Hollies, have recorded one version or another. I think that Eric von Schmidt’s take is awfully fine. At first the song appears to be about Stewball, a talented racehorse. But the final set of lyrics turn everything around, leaving me with the impression that the song’s narrator is using Stewball in a metaphorical sense. What he really is singing about is his regret for the life that he has thrown away.

There we have it, folks. Three wildly different songs that prove, as if we needed proof, that we live in a musical wonderland. Tens of millions of tracks have been laid down in the past 100 or so years. A large percentage of them are out there in cyberspace at our beck and call. It’s a delicious situation to be in.

My wobbly stroll has concluded. Please don’t be shy about adding your comments or about sharing this piece.

Advertisements

43 thoughts on “A Wobbly Stroll

  1. The Artist's Child May 24, 2017 / 12:37 am

    Enjoyed your wobbly stroll around music. You’re right. That is what is so great about modern technology. It can take you in so many wonderful musical directions.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. hairytoegardener May 24, 2017 / 12:56 am

    Enjoyed Steamboat and Stewball. Sleep was okay. But it’s wonderful to be able to pull up any song or the lyrics with literally a finger.

    Change of subject – Have you ever first hated a song and then years later liked it? This has happened to me several times. It’s as if I needed a few more years on me to appreciate it. Examples are Desperado by the Eagles and McCartney’s Silly Love Songs. Didn’t like either initially but years later I did.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger May 24, 2017 / 11:35 am

      Hi. Yes, it’s happened to me too. The only song that immediately comes to mind is Almost Cut My Hair, a tune by David Crosby. I ended up writing an article about it earlier this year.

      Bye —

      Like

  3. Rob May 24, 2017 / 6:51 am

    Shazam is pretty much the only app I ever use. I love it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger May 24, 2017 / 11:37 am

      Hello Rob.
      My wife told me that there’s going to be a quiz show on TV that is based on Shazam. Hard to believe, but apparently true.

      Liked by 1 person

      • marilynyung June 11, 2017 / 9:50 pm

        The show is on Fox and is called Beat Shazam. Pretty fun. Kinda. Britney Spears has been a category twice. Ugh. But everyone in the family can watch it and guess songs from the different eras and genres. So that’s a plus.

        Liked by 1 person

        • yeahanotherblogger June 11, 2017 / 10:26 pm

          Hi Marilyn. I used Shazam an hour ago to identify two songs on the radio. Shazam got one of the two in less than a second!

          Liked by 1 person

          • marilynyung June 11, 2017 / 10:29 pm

            That’s incredible. I still bet my daughter could beat Shazam if the category was Ed Sheeran. Haha! (but seriously, she could)

            Liked by 1 person

  4. sniderjerry May 24, 2017 / 7:00 am

    Hey there Neil, And speaking of “S” How about STILL by Bill Anderson, SUSPICION by Terry Stafford, and SINCERELY by The McGuire Sisters. Have a happy wobbly day. Jerry

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger May 24, 2017 / 11:39 am

      Hey, Jerry.
      I like your choices. I’m partial to the letter S because it’s the first letter of my last name!
      See ya’ —

      Like

  5. Akuokuo May 24, 2017 / 7:00 am

    Great caution sign! Love your wording — dreamy and gauzy too 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger May 24, 2017 / 11:43 am

      Hi, Akuokuo.
      Thanks a lot for stopping by.
      I think you like the caution sign more than I do. But I don’t have the skills to make a better one!
      Take care —

      Liked by 1 person

  6. greenpete58 May 24, 2017 / 7:38 am

    Well, I’m still living in the Dark Ages, Neil, since I don’t have a smartphone and have no interest in obtaining one. I see too many people with crooked necks who’ve been sucked into those toys. But… I’m happy for you that you’re able to identify songs with your I-Phone. Eric von Schmidt… haven’t heard that name in a while. I think he’s most famous for Bob Dylan’s nod to him on his first album way, way back… in the even Darker Ages!

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger May 24, 2017 / 11:45 am

      Hi, Pete. Right, Eric von Schmidt is someone you rarely hear on the airwaves. I’m not sure which radio station was playing the song (Stewball) that I Shazammed. Probably it was the station from Princeton University.
      See you —-

      Like

  7. Alyson May 24, 2017 / 9:43 am

    I have often sat down to write a post, not really knowing where it’s going to lead me, only to find it all comes together really well by the time I reach the end. This is a perfect example of how the “wobbly strolls” are sometimes the best.

    Like you I am a great fan of the iPhone – I inherited my daughter’s a few years back when she upgraded, despite the fact I had always complained about the amount of time she spent glued to it. I have now upgraded myself and find it amazing how my whole life can be contained in that 5 oz. lozenge-shaped device. Just for the fun of it I’ll do a little trawl of my “S” songs (as I loved your lesser-known ones) – Ok, there is “Sitting In The Park” by Billy Stewart, “Spinning Around In the Air” by The Proclaimers and “Strawberry Fair” by Anthony Newley (sticking with the 1700s England theme).

    Very entertaining as ever – thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger May 24, 2017 / 11:48 am

      Hi, Alyson. I’ll have to go over to YouTube to check out the songs you listed. None of them ring a bell with me.
      Thanks a lot for the visit. I appreciate it.

      Like

  8. C. C. Cedras May 24, 2017 / 5:38 pm

    Love Shazam. And, as usual, you’ve introduced me to something new…Azure Ray’s “Sleep” is enchanting. I listened to The Drifters’ “Steamboat” expecting to recognize it, but it’s just a little bit before my time so it was new news. But, I absolutely sank into Von Schmidt’s “Stewball” with nostalgia. Thanks. Again.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. cincinnatibabyhead May 24, 2017 / 10:47 pm

    Ok, the Drifters cut does rock. That sax is a killer. Eric von? Did he have a part time gig as a wrestler? Remember the days of hitting a record store or phoning a DJ and trying to explain a song you heard on the radio. CB would sing a few bars or hum a tune that was so far off I would get the “What an idiot ” look from the store guy and the DJ would hang up on me. I am going to have a smoke and listen to ‘I Almost Cut My Hair’. A classic yeahanotherblogger take.

    Liked by 2 people

    • yeahanotherblogger May 25, 2017 / 7:03 am

      Hi CB.
      I know what you mean about radio stations and record stores — those were the days.

      I might join you in listening to Almost Cut My Hair, but I’ll do it without a smoke (I gave up the habit over 30 years ago).

      Have a good day and a good Memorial Day weekend.

      I’ll be seeing you —

      Liked by 1 person

  10. swabby429 May 25, 2017 / 7:31 am

    It seems like there is just too much music out these days. I’m not seriously complaining, just stating that it’s frustrating to try and keep up with all the really good material.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger May 25, 2017 / 7:40 am

      I know what you mean. I used to try and keep up, but no more. It’s overwhelming.

      Like

  11. circumstance227 May 25, 2017 / 5:47 pm

    Great songs! Or – at least the first two. The third one wouldn’t play. (Certain videos are blocked in Europe – that might be the case here.)

    But what intrigued me more was your relationship to your smartphone which you admittedly don’t understand. (I don’t get it either – for me the record player was an incomprehensible miracle!) Instant music is great. Instant info at our fingertips is scary because it negates the necessity of memory. (And my whole blog is about my memories.) I am proud that I remember my phone number 45 years ago was 771-6972. Today I don’t know my own daughters’ numbers by heart and can barely remember my own.

    We don’t have to have instant access to all information. We used to debate things – converse till the most convincing person won out. Now we disagree, then we google and google wins. We are all wobbly now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger May 25, 2017 / 7:26 pm

      Hi.
      It’s true. Scads of people spend too big a percentage of their time online, whether via smart phone or tablet or whatever. Human interaction suffers as a result.

      Like

  12. K E Garland May 26, 2017 / 6:59 pm

    Stewball sounds a lot like the other song you wrote about the previous week. I’m sensing a theme here 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger May 26, 2017 / 9:44 pm

      Evening, Kathy. You might be right.

      By the way, my wife Sandy and I saw a movie tonight that I don’t recommend. It’s called A Quiet Passion, and it’s about Emily Dickinson. I thought it would never end. It got a good rating on IMDB, but neither of us thought too much of it.
      Enjoy the holiday weekend —

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Alice May 29, 2017 / 7:42 pm

    “I could live without it, and pretty easily I believe, but hell, I wouldn’t want to.” I feel ya, man. I surely do feel ya on that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger May 29, 2017 / 8:30 pm

      Evening, Alice
      Smart phones are unbelievable. I’m typing this comment on an iPhone. There’s little they can’t help us with.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Alice May 29, 2017 / 8:31 pm

        Mine has yet to take out the trash. I ain’t giving up hope yet tho.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. andrewcferguson May 31, 2017 / 2:01 am

    Great stuff, Neil. Like another of your European followers, I couldn’t run the third one, but I’m liking Azure Ray a lot. And the Drifters are always worth a listen.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Martin June 4, 2017 / 5:09 am

    Great tracks and a great post. Loved The Azure Ray, might have to seek out some of their other stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. MJF Images June 4, 2017 / 10:00 am

    I went smartphone 6 months ago, an android. I get what you mean by the holding it thing, though I never smoked. I think I now understand why some people seem to never lower the phone from view, even when they aren’t paying attention to it. More recently work gave me an Iphone, but I don’t like it because I’m used to the android.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger June 4, 2017 / 10:51 am

      Hi.
      Yeah, there’s something sensual and addictive about these phones. That’s modern life!

      Like

  17. Apple Hill Cottage June 5, 2017 / 6:27 pm

    First time here, poking around, and what do I hear but Stewball ! Hadn’t heard it or thought of it for years… and years….
    Going back to listen to Tony Bennet now… Thanks for the trip.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger June 5, 2017 / 7:54 pm

      Hi. Thanks for adding your thoughts. I’m glad I brought Stewball back into your life!

      Like

  18. pjlazos August 4, 2017 / 7:46 am

    You’re like the WXPN of the blogosphere. Thanks for the wobble.😘

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s