20,000 songs in her pocket

Your Working Girl is going on holiday (hurrah) and has been spending the better part of this week thinking about what music she’d like to take with her. And that set her off thinking about the magic of being able to even consider taking her music with her. If only for the iPod alone, Steve Jobs should probably be beatified. And Your Working Girl is more surprised than anyone about how it all panned out.

To tell you the truth, Your Working Girl can was a late adapter to the CD. It took Bruce Springsteen’s Tunnel of Love album released in 1987 to make her to give up the vinyl ghost and buy a CD player. She had to. Sam’s was selling the CD for $16.99 and the vinyl “commemorative” album for $45.

She bought the CD for $16.99 and hotfooted it up the street to buy a CD player for $99.99. A bag in each hand, she went home and listened to Tunnel of Love like she did any record – from beginning to end, again and again. And while Your Working Girl missed having to turn over the album at the mid point (How was one expected to have a favourite side?), she loved that album the same as she loved every Springsteen album – a lot.

Your Working Girl particularly remembers the scorching video of Springsteen singing Tougher than the Rest, one of the albums singles with his then back-up singer Patti Scialfa. They stared each other down as if to say I’m daring you as they performed one of the most hardscrabble love songs of all time. No guessing necessary why Springsteen and his first wife, Julianne Philips, announced their separation during that tour. Bruce was not going to live out the rocker, Hollywood starlet trope. He was going home with a Jersey Girl.

Your Working Girl took a look at the Tougher than the Rest video for the first time in a long time last night, and discovered it is still one of her favourites If you are in love, out of love or haven’t seen love in such a long time that you’re not sure if you’d recognize it if you did see it, then this song is your song. Believe it. Click here to take a look. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_91hNV6vuBY

But what makes Tougher than the Rest such a great song is the rest of the album. It wasn’t just a love song. It lived alongside Brilliant Disguise, a visceral break-up song about a marriage soul-destroyingly on the rocks: So tell me what I see when I look in your eyes/Is that you baby or just a brilliant disguise.

Or the song Spare Parts whose romantic opening line is Bobby didn’t pull out, Bobby stayed in/Janey got pregnant, wasn’t that a sin. It was about a teenage girl who got pregnant and her boyfriend Bobby who skipped out. It continued: As he [her son] lay sleeping in her bed janey took a look around at everything/Went to a drawer in her bureau and got out her old engagement ring/Took out her wedding dress tied that ring up in it’s sash/Went straight down to the pawn shop man and walked out with some good/Cold cash

In the context of the album, Tougher than the Rest was love song that declares love to be unglamorous, tough and full of hard bargaining, but worth putting putting yourself out there for anyway: Some girls they want a handsome Dan or a good looking Joe/Some girls want a sweet talking Romeo/Well around here baby/You learn you get what you can get/And I want you to know darlin’ that I’m tougher than the rest.

Your Working Girl can dig up her feelings about that song like it was yesterday. It ended up not mattering to Your Working Girl that it came on a CD or vinyl. It was an orchestrated, visceral and sustaining experience either way.

So Your Working went blissfully along, buying and playing CDs for 14 years. She even started appreciating how little room they took up compared to albums.

Then ka-boom.

Steve Jobs launched the iPod in 2001 with the declaration that you could put 1000 songs in your pocket.

Forget the record distribution companies (who stubbornly refused to acknowledge the reality of this new technology), album covers, jewel cases and liner notes. Forget spending weeks deciding on your next album purchase. Buy a song for 99¢, load it onto your computer and then copy it onto a storage device that slid smoothly, but with satisfying heft, into your jean’s pocket. Also forget milk carton containers for album storage or tall-boy IKEA CD towers. No thanks. Don’t need those anymore either. And while we’re at it, forget the album. Why do we need to buy the album? Just download the good songs and ignore the filler.

Your Working Girl is as guilty as sin on all counts. Despite her love affair with the album, she dropped it like the hottest of potatoes in favour of a shiny new iPod as soon as it hit the stores.

She’ll tell you she’s got her reasons.

Like the fact that prior to the iPod, she was overly fond of the mixed tape, compilations friends made for each other with themes like Sunday Afternoon, Tunes to Study By or the promising, Night Music. John Cusak in High Fidelity was Your Working Girl’s kind of guy. He loved the mixed tape. She loved the mixed tape.

And what’s an iPod if not mixed tape heaven. It’s just not called a mixed tape. It’s called a Playlist. And what used to take an evening of sitting down with your CDs or records and loading each one up to capture a song could now be done in a few minutes sitting in front of your computer. And burn it so a CD for your buddy. What’s not to love, right?

So after she uploaded her CDs into her iTunes and stored the CDs away in a box, she started buying her music 99¢ at a time. She bought songs, not albums. And the hits, as hits do, just kept on coming. And they haven’t stopped.

A few months ago, she downloaded some Black Keys, three great songs from the El Camino album – Lonely Boy http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_426RiwST8, Gold on the Ceiling http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6yCIDkFI7ew and Little Black Submarines http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6k8es2BNloE . Take a look at the videos if you want to see how great these songs are. Lonely Boy in particular is a really cute video.

But now, Your Working Girl is feeling bad. She feels like she’s missing out. If these three songs by the Black Keys for example are so great, imagine the album — one song playing after the other, in order. She’s thinking now she should have bought the whole album. And that maybe she’ll start buying albums again instead of just songs.

Over the next few weeks, Your Working Girl will be visiting a few cities in Europe and aiming to spend time being Your non-Working Girl on a beach in Greece. So believe her, Gentle Reader, when she tells you she’s grateful to be able to take 20,000 songs in her pocket. But maybe she’ll sort her playlists into albums. And listen to them too. That’s what holidays are for, right?

Happy rest of August. See you in September.

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