Thursday, 11 December 2008

iTunes Not My Tunes

A woman as worldly as Judy is able to exact revenge in many subtle and far-reaching ways. She’s not one for the immediate retribution. Any handsome TV star husband who happens to forget her birthday can sleep soundly in his bed for at least a month. There will be no sudden smearing of Vaseline on the bottom of his slippers. No extra-strong horseradish will fill his favourite jogging pouch. She won’t even use his favourite Mach 5 to shave south of Venezuela. Judy’s revenge is a long term operation, to be measured in the months and years. Think of it like old age but with more certainty that you’ll be deeply unhappy by the end of it and possibly missing the hearing in one ear.

This week’s justice was meted out in a uniquely cruel fashion. I’m sure that one exists but I haven’t yet worked out what particular outrage I had perpetrated to account for King Singers finding their way into my iTunes library. I discovered this yesterday, as I sat on a train, enjoying the random shuffle feature on my new iPod Touch. I had been listening to some late period Johnny Cash and watching the English countryside zip by when I was suddenly set rigid in my seat, my teeth creaking, flaking, and cracking as my jaw clamped down hard at the noise of close harmony singing suddenly leaking in through my audio holes. The song was something called ‘Here We Come A Wassailling’. I’m not too sure how you wassail or if it’s a good thing for a group of middle aged men to be doing while maintaining close harmony. But when injected straight into a man’s ears, the effect is like a syringe filled with air plunged into an artery.

The King Singers are Kryptonite to all my super powers. I have been known to choose to live in certain counties only after I’ve checked that there was not a single King Singer within its borders. Yet there they were, as conspicuous and cruel as Zimbabwean justice alongside my many hundreds of tracks by Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave, Lou Reed, Neil Young, Serge Gainsbourg, Kris Kristofferson, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, and John Cale. Those are the artists who provide the mood music to my life. The King Singers are something else. They are the horse’s head left beneath my pillow; the punishment beating that had been coming for some time but was more painful than I had ever imagined.

When I got home, I decided that action had to be taken. By syncing my iPod to an iTunes library contaminated by Judy’s vengeance, I had inadvertently put myself in danger of not just the King Singers, but evils far greater. After using iTunes for many years, amassing a quite vast mp3 collection, the current Madeley catalogue runs to some 20 gigabytes of music. Yet as I paged slowly through the listing, I began to spot records that could only have been put there by a malicious hand, a tone deaf ear. The album titles said it all:

Adam Faith Sing Some God Awful Christmas Hits.
James Galway Pumps Bilge Through a Length of Brass Tubing.
Roger Whitticker Whistles Brahms
Nana Mouskouri Snorts Through A Moustache
Daniel O'Donnell Mallets Chipmonks.

I’ll be honest and admit that I didn’t take much notice of the exact album titles so I’m using some poetic license based on what I heard. I think it gives you a flavour of what I was up against. As much as I love Terry Wogan, there’s no good reason to find his Floral Dance in my library, so I quickly hit it with the defoliant. The same is true of a few other tracks and I knew that I had to delete. There would come a time when the game of iPod shuffle roulette no longer fell my way. I wanted to be sure that no hammer fell on a chamber filled filled with the sound of the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band playing Pink Floyd.

After an afternoon’s work, I thought I was done. However, there was one remaining evil and it only made itself known to me this morning.

I was sitting on the train to Manchester, ahead of my usual two days of hard-baked misery. The carriage was quiet, as to be expected at half past six in the morning. I was trying to buttress my sagging spirits by reading Molesworth and listening to ‘The Raven’ from the album ‘Sunday At Devil Dirt’ by Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan. It’s a great album, reminiscent of Tom Waits crossed with Cash, and I was deep into the zone when the track changed and my pod shuffled.

‘Holy shit!’ was my response.

I make no apology for this. I was listening to the William Tell Overture, which wouldn’t itself have warranted such a response except this version was recorded by The Swingle Singers, or as I like to call them, The Eight Horsemen of the Apocalypse. You can get a taste of the horror here.

Which brings me to my current situation, sitting looking at a wall poster describing the problems of deforestation in south east Asia and plotting points on a map of Blackpool (high-level production work which only those of you in TV will hope to understand). Even given such exciting tasks, it’s hard to find much enthusiasm for life when you’ve been assaulted by the Swingle Singers so early in the day. It’s not as though I’d had chance to arm myself. It’s not as though there were many planks of wood with rusty nails in the end. But I do hope that it shows that you should always take care with your mp3 collection. Do you know what’s in there? Do you know who put it there? And do you know what will happen if some of those tracks ever get free?
I’m just warning you now. Don’t become the next victim. The last thing we need this year is another Swingle Christmas.


Brian said...

Thanks for brightening up my morning with another typically hilarious post. Nice to see the Mark Lanegan & Isobel Campbell album get a nod too.
No new cartoons though?

Uncle Deetou said...

There's nothing like shuffle play to reveal our moments of musical madness..... Great post, thank you.

Dick Madeley said...

Have to type quick... Being watched and followed today.

Brian, yes I have been cartooning but I'm not near that machine to post them. I'm also worried about posting my best cartoons now that I'm going to try to get them published.

Uncle, well, not my moments of musical madness. Except for the Floral Dance. That is one of mine.

Brian said...

Dick, do you have a copy of The Artists & Writers Yearbook? It's updated annually and contains lots of contacts and advice for anyone interested in getting into print.

Dick Madeley said...

I have a yearly subscription, not that it does me any good. Didn't realise they have stuff for cartoonists, though.

Anonymous said...

I cant help with the ipod problem, prhaps it is a mysterious virus and not Judy at all? Things like that can happen you know...

but I can update you on wassailing should you wish as I am something of an expert on obscure Xmas traditions... especially those associated with the Old Gods...

katyboo1 said...

As any fule no, the worst, the worst thing to find on random shuffle is The Fifty Steel Guitars of Tommy Garrett. Hideous.

Harfleag, harfleag, harfleag onwards etc...

Don said...

I must say those album titles are priceless! You should do a bottom fifty albums list sometime along theses lines. Well to be more correct, I would like to read such a list, thought perhaps not in the office as my noises of amusement attract too much attention.