I entered the Twilight Zone a few months ago.
I returned from a trip to Best Buy with a CD player that put me back $200.
Yes, they still make CD players. Yes, Best Buy still carries them although they tried to hide them in the Tracy store as if they were embarrassed to sell them. And, yes, I still occasionally buy CDs as in once a year.
You might ask why would anyone in their right mind — (that might be a key clue) — would buy a CD player in the year 2021? I do, after all, have a subscription to Sirius radio that costs as much each month as a transistor radio encased in leather cost back in 1965. It allows me to get an app so I can access their 200 plus channels on any device I want to when I’m not driving.
And even people born when the Andrew Sisters and Mills Brothers were the cat’s meow got hooked on iPods and have downloaded music to smartphones.
I’ve never gone there.
I jog a lot as in every day. I’ve never, however, done so with a music device of any sort plugged into my ear. If I’m in the mood for music when I’m torturing my feet I call up a selection in my mental jukebox. But basically I’m of the school of thought that I want to be able to hear what is about to hit or bite me.
It’s been years — alright, five decade — since I’ve invested in fairly high quality devices to play tunes. And that was with — don’t laugh — an Emerson turntable with wimp speakers. I say wimp because back in the 1970s owning 2-foot high box speakers often led people to question your manhood. You didn’t have real speakers until you got a set pushing 100 pounds and the size of a refrigerator requiring you to rent a U-Haul truck with a dolly to get it into your house.
You had no music creed unless you had at least a half dozen stereo system devices ranging from a standalone turntable with a $100 needle to an equalizer along with a half mile or so of cords.
Those who were born in the unenlightened era before MTV debuted are probably asking why I didn’t dive into 8-track that was at its zenith in the mid-1970s.
It had a lot to do with never having seen anyone trying to untangle vinyl after a turntable turned into a twisted mess.
I bought dozens of 45s. Sometimes I splurged on LPs. I remember a few 45s I played almost non-stop such as “Itchycoo Park” by The Small Faces, “What is Truth” by Johnny Cash, and “Ode to Billie Joe” by Bobbie Gentry.
In retrospect that was kind of a bizarre grouping of music for a teen boy in the 1970s as I was all over the place. I grew up listening to my grandmother’s 78s collection that included such Arthur Godfrey classics as “I’m a Lonely Little Petunia in an Onion Patch” to what would be a seriously politically incorrect song today —“The Too Fat Polka”.
Yes, that is polka music as in Lawrence Welk.
I was not into polka. His songs were mostly silly ditties that caught my attention as a substantially overweight 8-year-old who didn’t quite see the irony in thinking “The Too Fat Polka” was funny music.
At any rate, say what you want about Lawrence Welk but I’m sure if he were around today he’d be cuing up the accordions as show guests equipped with black support socks hit the dance floor as he goes, “a one, and a two, and play that funky music white boy.”
While I was never a fan of polka music per se, it was a hundred or so cuts above what I refer to as rap crap. It’s the sub-genre of rap music that finds new ways to use vulgar words as pronouns, verbs, and adjectives while demeaning women and desensitizing listeners.
But then who am I to judge?
I’ll admit I got turned off my music being hijacked for sophomoric vulgar reasons thanks to Alfred E. Newman.
As a kid I would buy a copy of Mad Magazine every chance I got. I made the mistake of buying one with a low quality cardboard vinyl record tucked into the center.
After playing “It’s a Gas” featuring Alfred E. Newman belching to saxophone music once, I decided to toss it.
Unfortunately an older brother decided to retrieve it from the trash.
He loved the record. He loved it so much he’d put it on every time his friends came over and my mom was at work, crank the stereo up all the way, and play the 45-second recording over and over again.
There is little doubt in my mind if Thomas Edison realized the phonograph he invented would beget someone voicing Alfred E. Newman recording a series of non-stop belches including one so long it made listeners wince he would have taken a sledge hammer to his device.
I ventured into cassette tapes when I happened to buy a 1978 Firebird T-top that came equipped with a player.
You haven’t really enjoyed music until a cassette tape decides to unravel in your Delco in-dash deck player with push buttons that decided to get stuck.
My switch to CDs came when GM decided to go whole hog with CD players in the mid-1980s.
By that time I had tossed all of the well scratched 45s I had bought from the racks at Tower Records for 99 cents apiece. While the sounds like chump change California minimum wage was $2.90 back then.
I’ve also been known to crank up the music.
Sometimes Garth Brooks’ “Against the Grain”, the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” before Mick Jagger started chug-a-lugging Geritol, or Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild” resonate better — or actually pump you up a tad more — when they are a bit louder.
That’s why I bought the CD player and speakers that together is one-tenth the size and price of a single typical high quality 1970s era speaker and at least 10 times better in terms of the output quality.
As to how high I crank it up it isn’t so loud as to wake the neighbors let alone the dead.
I wish I could say the same about a regular connoisseur of vehicle vibration music that turns down my street on a daily basis You can hear it as he turns the corner a block away.
Equally charming but a tad harder to wrap one’s head around are motorcyclists who have the volumes on their radios cranked up past the “jumbo jet taking off” setting.
Forget what Mr. McGuire told Benjamin (aka Dustin Hoffman) about plastics in the movie “The Graduate.” Invest in hearing aids.