At work today, Shea was all excited about the new ringtone she got for her cellphone so she wanted to play it for everyone. We crowded around her desk and waited while she called herself, only to find out she had no reception in the office since her boyfriend had her phone antennae. What kind of a phone is that? Didn’t detachable antennas disappear in the late 1990’s? Or at least by the time I got my antique-upon-purchase phone? Eventually she just went into the phone’s menu and played it from there. As it started playing, I had a hard time keeping my face from twisting into a grimace when I heard Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl” spewing out of the tiny little speakers. Okay, maybe I didn’t really have any trouble containing myself because I didn’t. I actually grimaced and made a couple retching sounds in the direction of her phone. Of all the possible ringtones in the world, why would someone choose that one? There are four classic rock songs I despise that the entire rest of the world seems to love and that one is number two on my list. I do not understand why people love that song. It does nothing for me at all. At least not anything positive. Fake vomiting is not a positive response, in case you were wondering. Not even among a group of bulimics. We discussed this dilemma for a moment because Shea was irritated that I didn’t share in her satisfaction of the new ringtone. Hey, even the overplayed and no longer enjoyable “I Can’t Get No (Satisfaction)” would have been better than the whiny, repetitious “Brown Eyed Girl”. Shea wisely changed the subject to her dad’s new ringtone, which she proceeded to play for us- The Animal’s “House Of The Rising Sun”. How appropriate. That’s the number one song on my four most despised popular songs list. Time for some more fake vomiting sounds. Will she go for the trifecta or maybe even sweep the whole list? (A quarfecta?)
Luckily she stopped at the top two most despised songs. In case you wonder what other monstrosities are lurking there, the other two songs on the list are Mountain’s “Mississippi Queen” and Santana’s “Black Magic Woman.” I know, I know. Regular listeners of classic rocks stations (if such a thing still exists in the DC radio marketplace) will consider me a heretic. I myself am surprised that I dislike the Santana song because it was written by Fleetwood Mac and I am totally enamored with that group. It might just be a matter of the song’s performance or arrangement by that particular artist though. My finger immediately dives toward the radio and starts stabbing at buttons to switch to anything else the instant I recognize “House Of The Rising Sun”, which is the same moment I hear Eric Burdon’s nasally whine intoning “There is a house in New Orleans they call the Rising Sun”. If you will look at my monthly car tape for February though, you will notice there is a version of that song on it. In defense of my apparent hypocrisy, the song is not the original god-awful version that everyone loves and wants to start singing every time the topic of New Orleans pops up. Instead, this is a dance version, done by Santa Esmerelda, that I stumbled across on the “Kill Bill” soundtrack. The tempo is much quicker, the vocals are completely different (no whining) and the feel of the song is totally different. It’s not a slow, torturous lament; it’s a more rhythmic pop number with a mariachi or Mexican flavor to it.
I don’t know why the whole world loves these four songs and I don’t. Maybe the rest of the world has bad taste? Entirely possible, I say. Just look at the inexplicable popularity of Anna Kournikova. Maybe those exact harmonics clash with my particular brainwaves on some sonic level? Maybe something traumatic happened to me as a kid while these songs were in the background? Can’t you envision “Rising Sun” playing in the scene in a movie where some child gets molested by a neighbor or a hillbilly assaults a female motorist broken down on a deserted road? Okay, I’m getting off track here by figuring out the soundtrack for a grotesque movie but you get the gist of what I’m saying. Some songs I just don’t react to the same as everyone else and I’m not sure why. In most cases, I like other things by the same artist. For instance, I like Santana’s “Oye Como Va”, “Evil Ways” and of course the recent, effervescent “Game Of Love.” With the Animal’s, I enjoy their other hits like “Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" and "We've Gotta Get Out of This Place." Even the monotonously repetitious “Spill The Wine” is listenable for a couple of minutes. Mountain is basically a one hit wonder so I think I am simply reacting to the whole 1970’s generic sludge rock style that I think is epitomized by that song. It lacks the nuance and skill of other similar acts like Steppenwolf, Foghat or Grand Funk Railroad that I’m not overly fond of either but at least they are tolerable in small doses.
As for Van Morrison though, there is no such compromise. I detest everything he does- “Moondance”, “Gloria”, “Domino”, “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You”, et al. Objectively, I can understand why people might like these songs, and a zillion people will probably tell me how wonderful the Moondance or Astral Weeks album is, but they make me shudder for some unexplainable reason. The same way that some people know, for certain, that aliens abducted them and anally probed them, I know, for certain, that I do not want Van Morrison aurally probing me.
As I’m revisiting these songs, I think I might have to expand on my original list of four. Those four were the first songs I consciously realized that I was in the minority for not liking but as the years have gone by, I’ve come across a few other songs that really get on my nerves and should be added to the list. It might sound like heresy but I’ve never liked The Police’s “Roxanne.” Almost everything else in their canon, yes, but not that one. What’s so great about it? First of all, where are the instruments? Most of the song is Sting just wailing out some lyrics by himself. If it is meant to be a heart-breaking torch song, then do a better job of singing it and while you are at, write a couple more lyrics. Repeating the same line over and over again doesn’t make it any more profound- it makes it more irritating. I know it is a standard and everyone else gets all misty-eyed and sings along if it comes on the radio or karaoke machine or gets played at their concerts but I just roll my eyes and wonder what the big deal is. Why can’t I hear “Bring On the Night” instead?
I have gotten to the point where I not only hate Janis Joplin’s “Me & Bobby Magee” but also her whole screeching, mumbling drunken oeuvre. Naturally I dislike her personally too, since she is the embodiment of her musical style. Throw in a couple more songs like Coldplay’s “Yellow” (again with the whiny vocals) and Rhianna’s “Umbrella” (see previous comment about needing more, and better, lyrics- especially for the chorus.) and that brings my list up to eight songs. There are likely others I can’t recall right now because I’ve successful brain-dumped them (or they lobotomized me) but I’ll add them to my list as I come across them. I’ll bet this list eventually gets to 10 songs and I’ll have a “Top 10 Most Hated Popular Songs” but for now I’ll leave it as an informal observation of eight songs I hate even though everyone else inexplicably loves them.
Jumping back to the beginning of this rant, I must say I like the concept of ringtones even if Shea made poor choices for hers. I would actually love to have a phone that rings differently for each person that called me and at this moment I’m mentally selecting song snippets for the different people I know. Naturally it would have to be a song I like since I’ll be the one hearing it all the time but it also needs to be one that fits their personality and musical taste as well. Some of them are easy to pick. For instance, any call from Mike would ring as “London Calling” and John would definitely be Tiffany’s “I Think We’re Alone Now”. If you know them, you know why those fit. Adam Rifkin would be “She Blinded Me With Science”, for no particular reason other than it is eccentric, catchy and distinctive, just like Adam. Michelle can probably guess she would be an REM song, likely “I Am Superman” or “Fall On Me”- you know, one of the few REM songs I’ll admit to liking. Elizabeth would be, um… that’s a hard one. First thought that came into my head was Meredith Brooks’ “Bitch” but that is just me being mean. The song doesn’t epitomize Elizabeth, just the “bad Elizabeth”. Of course, if she is calling me, she’ll never hear what I use for her calls but just to be safe I think I should go with one she’d like better. She’s more of a classic pop tune, like “Moon River” or “Mack the Knife”. Since I’m not a huge fan of “Mack The Knife” (It flirts with inclusion on my list. Oh, gotta add “Duke Of Earl” as one of my most hated songs. Talk about writing a lazy chorus!), maybe I’ll go with something like The White Stripe’s “My Doorbell” or Weezer’s “Troublemaker”. Yeah, actually “Troublemaker” seems apt- it captures her provocateur side without being too mean to her so she won’t hit me if she knew it was assigned to her.
Those are the easy ones. Some of the others are tougher. Vicky, John’s wife, is easy in that it would be a country song but since I haven’t heard anything by the artists she’s currently into, I’ll have to go with a country song I like so maybe Toby Keith’s “I Love This Bar” or Alan Jackson’s “Five O’Clock Somewhere”. I have no idea what my sister is listening to these days, so I’m not sure if I should go with stuff she used to like, such as rap, or with I song I associate with her, like anything on No Doubt’s “Rock Steady” album. I’m leaning towards “Hella Good” or “Sneaking Around”, both of which I like. Mom and Dad are easy. If I do both of their phone numbers (home and Mom’s cell), then I’ll go with Glenn Miller’s “In The Mood”. If I label Mom’s cell phone separately, I’ll give her ABBA’s “Ring Ring” because of our Swedish heritage.
Steve Bondi would be Martika’s “Toy Soldiers” because he liked that song when it came out and also he eventually joined the Army so he actually is a soldier but since he is in as a doctor, he was more of a toy solider. The most important reason though is that it will probably annoy Bondi to know that is my ringtone for him. If he really whines about it, I may agree to change him to “Secret Agent Man” since he used to be an FBI agent as well. Bondi provides me with a plethora of options since at various times he was a lawyer, FBI agent, doctor, soldier, computer programmer, geek and college radio programmer, to say nothing of the possibilities based on his personality. On top of that, he’s married and has three kids, once of which is an adoptee. You know, I think I’m slightly jealous of Steve. Curses! What a bothersome realization! I’ll have to make sure he never finds out. Even though I’m blogging about it…. That isn’t as difficult as it sounds since Steve never reads this. Ah, the benefits of obscurity, even among my friends!
I have a friend that I play poker with, but it will be easy finding one for Faith because she always plays her namesake songs. The only decision will be whether to go with George Michael’s “Faith” or Journey’s “Faithfully”. I sometimes get a call from Cat Thornton and she would be another tough one, like my sister, because I don’t know what music she is into now and what overlap it has on songs I like. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of her favorites are on my least favorite list, particularly since she has ties to New Orleans. Maybe I’ll go with a horse song? I like Michael Martin Murphey’s “Wildfire” which is about a horse. There’s America’s “Horse With No Name” which is not about a horse. I’ll have to think about her selection.
I also get calls from people at work and my boss and I’m thinking that for those I should label all of them with the same ringtone- the John Williams’ score “The Imperial March”. That what plays when Darth Vader makes an entrance in the Star Wars movies. If I’m getting called at home by someone from work, something bad must be happening. Ergo, Darth Vader’s theme. John Williams also has something on the opposite end of the spectrum from evil that is appropriate for a ringtone for me. If any of you give me a ringtone, you may think you should go with the Bee Gees or Billy Joel or Juliana Hatfield or someone else I always ramble on about. All are great artists and there’s tons of good songs to choose from, but what I’d really like is something that fits my idealized version of myself, what I wish I was. For that, the only appropriate choice is John Williams’ “Raiders March”, the theme music from Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Ever since 1981, I’ve wanted to be Indiana Jones. You can make it happen for me, sort of, with the four seconds it takes your phone to ring before you pick it up. Please?
That’s it for ringtone picks right now because I can’t think of anyone else who might call me on my cellphone with any regularity. If you disagree with any of my choices, please let me know what you would have picked and I promise to consider it, as long as it isn’t on my list of hated songs and as long as it isn’t too expensive to download. (Yeah, I know I can get a program to make my own ringtones from a CD, but I’d rather just spend ninety-nine cents to download it.) Some of you may think all this pondering over ringtones is an exercise in frustration, given the antiquated nature of my cellphone. A month ago, you would be right because I’d still be rocking my beloved “Zoolander”-sized phone from 2003. When I went to Florida in October, however, things changed. My mom and I were discussing cellphones during a car ride with my aunt and uncle and Mom claimed that we had very similar phones. Well, aside from both of them having buttons and a screen, no- they are not similar. My phone doesn’t connect to the internet, it doesn’t text very well, it can’t take pictures at all and the screen is the size of a silver dollar. So, no, my Mom’s four year old is much better than mine. At that point, my uncle pulled out his spiffy new smartphone for Mom and I to admire. Mom thought it was nifty but was put off by “all the buttons on the side and all the things to figure out.” Uncle Bill told her she wouldn’t like the iPhone then if she didn’t like side buttons and lots of options. She agreed and we all sheathed our respective phones in our pockets, purses and waist-belt “holsters”.
The next day, my uncle showed me an iPhone 3G that he had lying around. It was sitting on a shelf because he wasn’t using it anymore and he wondered if I wanted it as a replacement for my own caveman-era Samsung. Um, yeah! I told him to think about it overnight because if he still felt that way the next day, I’d definitely take the phone off his hands. Don’t iPhones cost about $200? Heck yeah I want it. When my phone dies, I’m getting an iPhone, so why not have one handy for when that happens. So I left Florida with a free iPhone. Thanks, Bill! That is awesome. Two weeks later my old phone died. Talk about serendipity.
My next day off, I swing by the AT&T store to activate the iPhone and to see how horrendously expensive it will be to get a new phone/text/web package to go along with the new phone because there is no way I will have the phone for just phone calls. That defeats the purpose of a smartphone. I got really irritated when I tried to return a text message with my old phone. I had to push a button three or four times to get the appropriate letter to appear in text message and then I repeated that slow process for each of the other letters in the text. Not surprisingly, I texted very little and they were always short messages. And they cost me twenty cents a text, coming and going. I wanted all the bells and whistles this time. In fact, a bell and a whistle are some of the options for what plays as the alarm sound on my alarm clock feature although I went with the xylophone since I won’t confuse that sound with anything else. I hear alarm noises so often (cars, smoke alarms, TV cop shows) that I ignore them but when was the last time you heard a xylophone playing?
To upgrade my current phone only plan to the AT&T digital plan which included normal web browsing was an extra…. $15 per month? Oh, definitely sign me up. You Tube here I come! If I become a heavy user (i.e. Facebook addict on top of the You Tube usage), that package is only an extra $25 a month. Okay, I’m diving into the future. Granted, with a 3G iPhone, it is the future circa 2008 but that’s still a big step up for me. So for the last few days, I’ve been playing with my phone, checking out websites, transferring numbers, figuring out all the features. It’s been really neat. The next challenge is the App Store. When I tried loading the Angry Birds or Facebook or Netflix apps, I get the message that my phone needs to be updated with the 3.0 software first. Well, my dial-up modem at home doesn’t do that very well- I’m getting error messages every time I try- and the internet access at work blocks iTunes. Not the whole Apple site, just iTunes which is where the phone software updates are housed for some reason. Hey, Steve Jobs- I’ll buy stuff from iTunes. You don’t have to force me to go there. First though, I need to get my phone fully functional. Can I go to an Apple store and get them to do it for me?
Even at halfway operational, my new phone is way more cool than the old one. So ringtone selection is not just a theoretical exercise anymore. It will soon be a reality and I will know who is calling me before I even look at the phone and I will be able to make calls to other people at the same time I’m adding movies to my Netflix queue. How awesome! Of course, the conversation that follows will probably be less inspiring which is why it is so important that you make my ringtone be “Raiders March”. That way, when we discuss how much longer it is before I arrive or what to get at the store, we will both be humming that theme. Bum ba dum ba, bum ba dum! Doesn’t that make you feel happy? Technology will soon take the place of narcotics. I’m hooked already.
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6 months ago