Feb 212011

Sshh...Be vewwy vewwy quiet...

I’ve been noticing songs played in places more than usual for some reason, and in particular the songs that jump out and make me think, “Who programmed this? And why did they do it? Is this some kind of joke?” It’s not so much that I hear songs that I haven’t heard in a long time, or just seldom hear, but it’s songs that seem to fit into the overall scheme of what’s happening, but just seem a little obscure to be anything but a nod to a possible Music Nerd in the audience.

For a case in point, I’m in Columbia, South Carolina the other day at IHOP, and all of a sudden The English Beat’s “Mirror in the Bathroom” is on. I’m thinking, “Wow – this is pretty cool. One of those Songs in the Wild Sightings I’ve been noticing, but then they play “Rock Lobster” and a whole slew of quirky early ’80s songs and I know this is a theme, and not an actual rare sighting. The real rare sightings are the ones that probably fade into nothing unless a Music Nerd is there to see it, like the first song that had me thinking about this a few weeks ago.

We were at Tuesday Morning (some store that sells overstocks and buyouts, I think) and all they play are the country hits of the day, but after a little bit I hear Neil Young’s “Cripple Creek Ferry” and I know this is a true sighting, because it’s so short that it’s almost subliminal in that the only reason the programmer tossed it in was in the hopes that someone, somewhere, might know that this guy is just doing his job and he hates that crap as much as any reasonable Music nerd would. That piqued my interest, and I mush admit I have been paying more attention in stores and restaurants lately (I think my wife thinks I’m ignoring her, but I’m actually working here!). I was in a place call Charming Charlie’s (if you’re male, never go there – it’s awful) and they play horrid dance music really loud. But all of a sudden, blasting out loudly, comes the worst Jam song ever. Yeah, they actually played “Beat Surrender.”  They went straight back to pop tartlets and pretty adolescent boys after that, and I had to admit, for a minute, my least liked Jam song actually didn’t sound so bad!

I really don’t see or hear this stuff often, and what reminded me I wanted to write about it here was a few days ago when I was getting gas and the gas station was playing NRBQ’s “Ridin’ in My Car.” I thought it was like when I heard “Mirror in the Bathroom,” but this was a true sighting. The next songs had nothing to do with cars and were the usual prattlings of Taylor Swift and Toby Keith. I felt really fortunate to hear that little NRBQ song. It’s usually a fake out, and part of a theme, but catching a true Song in the Wild is pretty rewarding. Bird watchers may be on to something. What sightings have you had lately?


  13 Responses to “Sightings of Songs in the Wild”

  1. hrrundivbakshi

    What an excellent topic, 2000 Man! This sort of thing happens all the time, and I must think on it. In the meantime, I’d like to address the notion of “Songs Of the Diorama” — the exact opposite of what you seek here. I’m talking about songs that are stuffed and put on permanent display in exactly the same place, in perpetuity.

    This has been on my mind lately, since, during pledge week, I frequently turn my radio dial to the local classic rock station. Over the last week — I swear this is no lie — I have on multiple occasions turned to my wife before switching the car radio on, saying: “BAD COMPANY!” or “QUEEN!”, punching the “on” button to hear *at that very moment* a song by said artist. I have also, in the last week — and understand I only listen to the car radio during my 20-minute commute to and from work, and during quick errands on the weekends — heard “We Will Rock You” two times, “Feels Like the First Time” two times, and “All Right Now” *thrice.* If that isn’t rock taxidermy, I don’t know what is. I now have a morbid fascination with the awfulness of classic rock radio.

    Sorry for hijacking this thread — this has been top of mind for me recently, and your excellent post gave me the excuse I needed.

  2. I don’t know what station my son’s orthodontist had on this morning, but I was dying to hear a Song in the Wild. Instead it was a nonstop flow of thoroughly mediocre, white man’s coffee table rock: Dire Straits’ deep cutz, recent Richard Thompson, and the like. What a weird genre. Dire Straits has a solid half dozen songs that I’ll go to the mats for, but I was reminded today why I don’t own any full album by them.

  3. misterioso

    Pince-nez, please: All Right Now is, of course, by Free, not Bad Company. Enjoy! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htuxb-m4-ng

  4. misterioso

    I was listening to the first Weller album the other day and recalled that there was a time when I heard “Above the Clouds” from that several times in supermarkets/pharmacies over the course of some time. Which always struck me as odd.

  5. I like these “songs in the wild” sightings but haven’t had one recently. I think there is something to your observation that wacky 80’s is kind of trend in retail music these days. Must be the 35 – 45 year old demographic sweet spot for chain restaurants and retail outlets.

    I did hear a great music cue recently on SciFi channel’s “Being Human”. The show’s primary female character is a spirit coming to terms with the fact that she’s dead and she was hanging out with another spirit who had been haunting the earth since the late 80’s. All set to the Psychedelic Furs “The Ghost in You”. Well played, music supervisor!

  6. “London Calling” in a Target a couple of weeks ago. I even texted my friend about it.

  7. 2000 Man

    I was shopping with my wife again today, and no luck on sighting an elusive song. The radio station here in FLA is more predictable than hvb’s and the mall thingy we were at played a 50’s motif outside and all the stores did their own thing, and did it poorly. I even walked into the Bose store because I saw they still make the 901’s. I’m not a fan of the Bose sound, but I’m no hater. I just don’t like the reflecting characteristics they’re so proud of, but the stuff seems to last for decades. Anyway, I wanted to check them out and didn’t have a cd or anything with me, and the guy demo’d their flagship speakers with an ipod and a Sade song. Those 901’s still sound pretty good, but I don’t think they’re for me.

    I gotta say, the song that really floored me and got me really trying to spot these is Cripple Creek Ferry. It’s not even a whole song, is it? I wonder how you get that job, and if you can make any money doing it?

  8. Yeah, “Cripple Creek Ferry,” for its brevity and place on its native album, must have been really weird to hear in the wild.

  9. I work for a mall property, so my office is in the underbelly of the mall. There is a knob on the wall that looks like the timer on a sauna. I turned it up one day and was blased by 80’s pop music. This is the same MUSAK feed to the entire mall. 345 days a year it’s the bublegum hits of the 1980’s and 20 days a year it’s Christmas music.

    Something about 80’s music in the mall that just makes sense. Tiffany, Thompson Twins, Go-Go’s, Duran Duran, lots of Eurythmics.

    They played Can’t Get There From Here (REM) the other day and I kinda teared up for a second.

    Dave Edmunds Information sent me into a week long Dave Edmunds / ELO obsession. The mall FYE Music Store clerk suddenly had a run on Out Of The Blue, Time, Discovery, DE7 and Twangin’ in a single week. Had to be a record.

    Strangely I swear I heard “Spaceman” by The Killers the other day (2009?)

    I printed up an MTV logo and taped it to the “magic80’s music switch”. People come to my office and look at it funny. If I notice I will turn it up/on as if that is just a normal reaction.

  10. I agree. Bose is much better for home theatre than music. I had an “in” and paid wholesale for a system so that it would blend in (the big ass 70’s speakers with fake wood had to go). I find that I dont play much stereo music at all on them anymore. Music DVDs sound great though.

  11. saturnismine

    satellite radio and the pervasiveness of the ‘shuffle’ mentality have a lot to do with this.

    right before i moved to savannah, i was in the port richmond Wawa (for the uninitiated, that’s a convenience store chain akin to 7-eleven; this one is in the heart of classic rock / oldies country, but near the hipster-infiltrated neighborhoods).

    while I was pumping gas, i noticed that instead of the usual Oldies 98 fare, we were getting some very up-to-date pop stuff.

    Then comes an MGMT track, and then something much noisier and sloppier by the Black Keys.

    *very weird* to hear this stuff at a place where the cashiers call you ‘hon’ and think that new music started sucking after disco died.

    when i went in to complete a few other purchases (man does not live by wine alone; the occasional bag of Herr’s hits the spot, you know), i asked one of the cashiers what was up with the tunes. she said it was either the new satellite radio or “someone’s frikkin’ iPod” and immediately yelled across the store to the manager: “I told ya nobody would like this new music shit. They’re already complainin’!” Then she pointed at me. “right here! He don’t like it.”

  12. I’ve discovered that a pretty good place to hear songs in the wild is the ShopRite near Snyder Ave. and Swanson St. in South Philly. They pipe in some sort of oldies music service, but whenever I’m there I hear at least one or two obscure garage or R&B nuggets that you’d never hear on oldies radio anymore. I’m wondering how long it’s going to take before an uptight customer complains and ruins a good thing.

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