Shuffling along in an iPod world

Happy 5th birthday to the iPod.

I was kind of slow to get on the bandwagon, mostly because it was (and still is, although not as much) so damned expensive to join the iPod club.

But like a lot of people, once I got the thing, I was hooked. It’s a cliche to say it but I’ll say it anyway: it changed the way I listen to music, both because it allows me to shuffle through thousands of songs of all genres throughout an entire century of recorded music, and because I can carry all that tunage wherever I go and have private access to the sound library, and not have to listen to the traffic/street noise/supermarket Muzak/lawn mower/sounds of nature.

Here’s a blog post I wrote after I got my first iPod, about how I thought (and still think) the iPod is today’s Barbie as a consumer item.

I don’t see a downside in the iPod or the digital restructuring of the music industry. I have songs, personal recordings, books, podcasts, videos, and a lot of other digital hoo-haw scattered throughout my two ‘pods, and I have them going while I work, play, drive, eat and sleep.

As a baby boomer, I’m pretty darned aware that the iPod has allowed me to wallow in my penchant for nostalgia. Michael Agger wrote a pretty insightful essay about the iPod (and boomers’ relation to the little white wonder), and I agree with a lot of it.

The iPod is an evolution of the Walkman, the first personal audio device, which was invented in the late ’70s by Sony in Japan, and began appearing stateside in the early ’80s.

But the Walkman couldn’t shuffle songs for you. Like a lot of people, I’m sometimes tickled by how the iPod on shuffle mode seems to be able to put songs together in a way that seems… well, intelligent. I guess it depends on how diverse your music collection is, but my iPod ends up being like a very interesting radio station — the most interesting I’ve heard in a couple of decades, in fact. It’s not just that I have great taste, either, though I’ll grant that my ego thinks so, a little bit.

It’s just that by playing the obscure next to the famous, the forgotten next to the overplayed, it gives all music a fresh new context. I have a lot of CDs because I was a music critic for a long time. I’d be the first to admit I didn’t get to know much of my music collection. And, I have lotsa friends who have more wonderful music collections than I do. Plus, in the waning days of the original wave of Napster-driven digital downloading craze, I was, let us say, very enthusiastic about checking out a lot of stuff I’d never had but always wanted to hear.

So my iPod isn’t about hearing the same couple-hundred songs I already know by heart, in differing order each day. I often won’t hear the same song for days, or weeks.

Anyway, I came across a post by Jihaan Kerjeker on Gather.com where he was inspired by another Gather.com member’s idea and posted the first 20 songs that came up on his iPod on shuffle mode. I added my 20 at the moment to the list of comments that followed his post and decided to re-shuffle and present the new first 20 here:

1. Love – Building on Fire — Talking Heads
2. Mi Tumbao — Tres Coronas
3. On Your Way Down — Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint
4. Put the Message in the Box — World Party
5. The World Unseen — Rosanne Cash
6. I Want to Spend the Night — Bill Withers
7. Certainly — Erykah Badu
8. Do Not Be Afraid — Windbreakers
9. Prove It All Night — Bruce Springsteen
10. Crazeology — Charlie Parker
11. Sweet Lovin’ — Poco
12. Ecstasy — White Animals
13. C-Jam Blues — Johnny Hodges
14. The Long Day Is Over — Norah Jones
15. No More Mr. Nice Guy — Alice Cooper
16. Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door — Television
17. Hot Burrito #1 — The Flying Burrito Brothers
18. St. Judy’s Comet — Paul Simon
19. Cheaters Don’t Win — Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks
20. Ateni Bniti (Part 1) — Chaba Fadela

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