Friday, April 25, 2008

Friday Question

We've all heard the question about what music you would take if you were to be stranded on a desert island. That's ridiculous, though. That kind of thing never happens. I've got a better idea.

1. Let's say the laws that govern our universe were suddenly and radically altered specifically in regard to music.

2. Let's further say that an eccentric authoritarian government was able to seize power over every aspect of our lives for precisely one year, after which point their power would expire and everything would go back to the way it was. There is no doubting their power and also no doubting it's precise one-year time line.

3. This government then issues a decree: you must select one band or artist. The music of that band or artist will be the only music you hear for precisely one year, the duration of this government's odd power.

4. You will have no control over which song you hear at a given time. It will be a shuffle of the entire catalog. You can simply choose to listen to music or not to.

5. Often, however, music just occurs during the course of life. So let's say you go with REM. When a child sings Happy Birthday, you will instead hear, say, Cuyahoga. And not kids singing that song, I'm talking about the original REM recording emanating from the children's mouths. The "I'm Lovin' It" commercial jingle for McDonald's might become Gardening at Night. Someone walking down the street with their lips in a pucker will not make a whistling sound, they will producing the full recorded version of maybe Oddfellows Local 151. Every cell phone ring tone is REM.

6. Other people will hear different music of their own choosing.

7. You have no volume control.

8. Again, after one year all will return to normal and your catalog expands once again.

So. You must pick a band or an artist that will be your entire musical experience for one year.

Factors to consider:
a. How expansive is the catalog of work from this music provider? Are there recordings you're unfamiliar with?

b. Considering there's a decent chance you get sick of them, is it a music provider you're willing to risk hating/resenting for the rest of your life?

c. How dynamic is this music provider? Do they represent a multitude of moods and genres or are they one kind of music all the time?

So the question is: Which band or artist do you choose to be your only source of music for a period of one year?

Also, one more thing: this eccentric authoritarian government wants you to explain your choice. If you don't pick anyone, they will automatically assign you Big Country.



Elisabeth said...

Okay, weird scenario. You leave me with no choice but Mozart. Anything with lyrics, repeated ad nauseum, would make me go slowly insane.

john said...

Hmm. I think you have to pick a specific symphony orchestra instead of a composer. Otherwise it's Big Country.

Anonymous said...

I think probably the Grateful Dead. Their catalog is extensive enough -- especially assuming bootlegs are included -- there's a decent chance I wouldn't end up hating them completely at the end of the year. But, if I did, I think I could live with it. And I could spend the year just hoping that the next song I heard was "Friend of the Devil."

Scott Chicken said...

Man, that's hard. And not because of the Big Country threat.

My first response was the Beatles, but factor b (getting sick of them) is a deterrent. But then, I wouldn't want to spend a whole year listening to someone I already hate (say, oh, Celine Dion).

My second response was to go with a songwriter, say John Lennon. Like his stuff in general, and it's pretty broad. Then again, if the crazy government rules that that means only Beatles songs with a Lenon credit on them it rules out some of the coolest songs in the Beatle library. Then again, that's not necessarily bad, 'cause I wouldn't be sick of those ones after the year.

The decision would be much easier if the song list was "band plus solo work by original band members", but it's not. So, in light of that I'm going to have to stick the Beatles collection back on the shelf and go with Paul Simon. He's got a wide range of songs, and more importantly while I like his work I'm not so in love with it that if I never heard them again after a year it wouldn't kill me.

Agen said...

Paul Weller (though that would have to encompass his career with The Jam and The Style Council). Though I wouldn't be averse to Big Country if this edict only utilized their first two albums.

In regards to the factors you cite:

a) His catalog (when including his two bands, which are essentially extensions of all his Wellerness), is very extensive. Sadly, though, I'm familiar with his entire oeuvre, so there wouldn't be many surprises.

b) There's very little chance in my opinion of Mr. Weller lessening. In fact, I've listened to barely anything but Weller this past week (getting ready for his new album).

c) "My Ever Changing Moods" - that about sums it up.

PS - Big Country's rants from Steeltown (the difficult second album) against Reaganisim are eerily familiar in today's political climate.

Amanda from Georgia said...

I get to be the first person to say U2! I do really mean that.

Anonymous said...

This is so easy and the answer for everyone is Ween. Broad catalog: check. At least 8 studio albums, plus tons of demos, unreleased and live work. Stylistic diversity: check. This is the band that written pirate chanties, Prince style slow jams, and an entire album of country music. I don't see how you could possibly go wrong.

Glenn Fleishman said...

I'd have to go with Elvis Costello (attractioned and impostered and solo) because he's one of the few musicians with whose oeuvre I'm actually more than passingly familiar. I mean, I could choose Steven Reich, but then I'd be insane in a matter of days. Or The Police, but I'd be two-toned in perhaps hours. I once listened to a single Suzanne Vega album for about 15 hours (long story; long working night in which I wasn't really listened) but that might give me some sense of the horror of a year of unfettered artists.

Anonymous said...

Please, the only acceptable answer, the only guy with a broad enough catalog that has at least a half-dozen distinct styles, is Tom Waits. The early stuff is different from the 80s stuff which is different from the 90s stuff which is different from the current stuff. And all the single tracks he's produced for soundtracks and so on. This is the correct answer.

Christopher said...

The B-52s - not the most extensive catalogue, but most of it is bouncy, peppy, retro-futuristic, ass-shakin' pop-music groovin' that I could never tire of hearing.

john said...



Anonymous said...

Ween is a great choice, for the diversity of their material. I don't like most of it enough to listen to it for a year though; I'm going with Elvis Costello. Dread the idea of hating him after a year, but I would count on a well-dispersed shuffle. He's given us a good year's worth of material to listen to. Can we just turn off the music if we need to at some point?

Heather said...

Wilco. Small catalog, but tight and diverse all at the same time. The only thing I'm not familiar with is Kicking Television, but that's just the live stuff, so I'm not afraid of what I might find there - it can only be a bonus!

Sure, the volume control could get bad for parts of Ghost is Born, but the emotion that would evoke would also be perfectly in tune with the sound of the music. Pure irritation!

I am willing to take a chance on Jeff. I really am. I just find it hard to believe that I could ever get sick of the lyric "Our love is all of God's money" And Hummingbird, well, that leads me to my Theory.

See, I have this idea that certain melodies just match the shape of our souls, that we will always love the feel of them in our bodies, the way swinging on a swing is just ALWAYS fun. I was listening to a Nat King Cole song as I walked MY 3 miles to work, and thinking I could just swing along to that forever.

This theory also leads me to support the Elvis Costello clan here, because I'm pretty sure he wrote some of those melodies for us. Also, I wouldn't pick Paul Weller, but My Ever Changing Moods? It gets me that way.

And if my theory proves wrong, then at least I would be free of this nagging feeling I have that no matter how much I really really love Wilco, it's still a little pretentious of me. And well, they're getting ready to go into the studio now, right?

Okay, I guess the swing wouldn't feel good if you had a migraine, or food poisoning, but that's when I'm happy you gave us the off switch John. And I love the idea of someone singing Heavy Metal Drummer to me instead of Happy Birthday.

Kimm said...

At first, I thought - No Way... too tough to choose. It can't be done with any hope of getting it right.

Then I realized, there is one artist I could live with for an entire year even when I do NOT get to pick which tunes out of the repertoire I hear.

Jimmy Buffet

When I saw some of the other answers, I knew I was right. As much as I love the Beatles, I'm sure I'd get sick of it after a year.

As much as I love the Dead, I absolutely KNOW something off of Dick's Picks 497 would drive me batsh*t crazy to have to listen to all 18 minutes of it.

Similar arguments go for all the others too.

But just about any random Buffet tune is fine by me any time of day or night, for weeks and months on end. I'm as likely to hear and enjoy Little Miss Marker as Let's Get Drunk & Screw and of course some, like Marseilles, Son of a Son of a Sailor, and Pencil Thin Mustache are just classic.

And while most of the songs are fun, it's not saccharine and there is a variety of style that makes him very enjoyable over the long haul.

I dunno - maybe he planned his career around what he'd listen to in the more realistic scenario of HIS getting stuck on desert island forever...

Anonymous said...

The Beach Boys. Huge catalog, especially if bootlegs are acceptable. I could not get sick of them (I may have already listened to only Beach Boys music for a year; I go through periods where I get obsessed). They went through about 6 different phases of music...

Grateful Dead and Elvis C. are also fine answers.

Anonymous said...

THIS IS TOO HARD FOR ME, MR. MONKEY DISASTER! I'm, I - stop badgering me with your ten dollar words! How can you ask such a question while pointing a gun loaded with Big Country at my head? Pointed at my ears, rather.

Yeah, yeah - ten yards, delay of game.

Um. Peter Gabriel? Including the Genesis years and the Afro-Celt Soundsystem? Um. Um. (sweat, sweat)

Nah. Gotta go Beatles.

dup said...


Now I know after a year there would be some regrets (or sooner or later I would have "To Serve Somebody") but the catalog is so big and the hits so many and the lyrics so rich that I'm hoping it would hold out for a year.

Anonymous said...

The Rolling Stones. They have like 12 decades of music. The late 80's and 90's stuff would pretty much appear on cloudy days only so, in Seattle, the great stuff wouldn't get overplayed.

Imagine someone coming up to you on the street and all you hear is "Please allow me to introduce myself, I'm a man of great wealth and taste..."

Awe yeah.

Kimm said...

I sent this to my Dad and my husband, even bigger audiophiles than I am, to consider.

Yesterday, my Dad came at me with his response, which he had so dutifully begun tapping into his iPhone before he discovered the vagaries of Google account management that apparently necessitates LOSING all of your comments during the process of getting signed up.

Sadly, it means you get my pitiful record of his response rather than his formidable wit.

Anyway, I had to admit that he topped me. He likes Buffet too and all the other really great suggestions here but notes that the artist with an even bigger catalog than most of those mentioned already and who has also a massive range of styles due to having recorded with absolutely everyone under the sun is Willie Nelson.

He cited specific examples as well, but mostly my brain lost all that information in round of cursing justifiably aimed at Google that soon followed.

I still maintain that if you have to listen to ONLY the Beatles for an entire year, you're likely to get Honey Pie one or twelve too many times and you'll end up hating them forever and that would be a serious shame. Maybe it's short enough that wouldn't happen, but why take the risk?

MintyJ said...

I've been thinking about this. for me, it's the Cocteau Twins. Easy. Especially because of the volume thing. I can handle anything from the Cocteau Twins' catalogue at any volume in any way at any time in my life. Whenever, however. Over a loudspeaker at a store. As a ringtone. Replacing the chirpy "WALK" sounds at some intersections. It'll make me happy and relax my shoulders a little. Weird layery nonspecific vocals, shoegazey guitars. Pretty prettiness. I'm in for the year. Yup. You betcha. It'll be awesome.

Tina Rowley said...

It has to be The Beatles, there's no way around it. The world has conspired for long enough to try and make us sick of The Beatles already, and it hasn't worked with me yet. And there are pockets of this and that album that I haven't spent that much time with yet - I'm looking at you, Revolver - that I wouldn't mind having worked into my schedule without having to think about it. I'd get sick of them, sure, after a while, but I'm going to wager I'd recover in less than two years.

I thought about Prince but then I was like, OH NO. There's about ten years of his career that should be completely off-limits. It'd be like playing Russian Roulette only with mostly bullets.

Cara said...

This one required some discussion with friends over the weekend. My first instinct was a composer, like elisabeth, but John shot that down! Argh!

My decision: Sinatra. Huge catalog. Music I'd want to listen to at home, and also out and about (in a bar, at a restaurant, at parties). He can be mellow, he can be ring-a-ding-ding.

Christopher said...

Yes, really. I could probably listen to "Love Shack" or "Junebug" continuously for several weeks straight.

Anonymous said...

Duke Ellington.

nancymcjensen said...

I would choose something I already hate
1. because in the off chance it had any redeeming value I would recognize it over the course of a year's musical lifetime illustration. And if I didn't, I would feel truly vindicated
2. I don't want to hate Elvis, the B-52's or even the blessed Bono, and I've worked enough restaurant and retail to know I would. (I still can't hear Willie Nelson without shivering and thinking of Carbur's in Auburn ME.)

So I gotta say Led Zeppelin. No, Metallica, yeah Metallica.

Anonymous said...


Or Willie Nelson