Bollocks! My iPod's on Shuffle!

Sometimes I think my iPod is possessed by a nefarious artificial intelligence. It's got 1000 songs on it, but when I put it on shuffle it still manages to come up with a sequence of songs which I have a hard time believing is random. I find myself wondering if it's trying to make some sort of point or express a musical opinion.

Today it brought me a tour through my musical past with glimpses of the punk era from the very start before punk was really identified as a movement to the last revival of punk in the 1990s, and just to prove that it was indeed random it threw in the best versions of three of the most covered songs ever. And interesting retrospective and an enjoyable listen as well.

So once again, I put the iPod on shuffle and hit play, and this is what it came up with.

The Best of Creedence Clearwater Revival The Best of Creedence Clearwater Revival
Creedence Clearwater Revival

Song #1
Midnight Special
Words and Music by Leadbelly
Performed by Credence Clearwater Revival
Arguably the best of CCR's covers of old blues songs, combining the evocative lyrics and catchy tune of Leadbelly's oft-recorded original with their clear, clean presentation for a result which is original. In the process it almost completely loses the sad, blues character of the original and becomes bizarrely upbeat, though it will always have a bit of an ominous feel for me because of its use in John Landis' American Werewolf in London. But all in all one of the most successful reimaginings of a blues classic into a rock classic 40 years later, and damned hard not to sing along with even now when the song is almost 70 years old.

Song #2
Rare Old Mountain Dew
Words by Edward Harrigan, Music by Phil O'Neill
Performed by The Pogues and The Dubliners
A classic Irish street ballad dating back at least to the early 19th century, redone by the best of the traditional Irish bands and the best of the Irish punk bands. They alternate verses and surprisingly Shane McGowan is almost comprehensible when he sings his parts. It's a cheery tune, not nearly as morose as it could be, lifted up by the silly repetition of “skiddery ai, dum dum diddle diddle ay” in the chorus, which would make any song hard to take seriously.

Never Mind the Bollocks Never Mind the Bollocks
The Sex Pistols

Song #3
God Save the Queen
Words & Music by The Sex Pistols
Performed by The Sex Pistols
The Sex Pistols' second single, delayed for release so it could coincide with the Queen's Silver Jubilee and renamed for the occasion. It's quintessential Sex Pistols, with grinding guitar, random screaming and lyrics which include inexplicable pauses to fit the meter and strange forced rhymes, but it somehow all comes together into a punk classic. Being musically retarded and a freshman at a small college in central Pennsylvania's Amish country I didn't actually hear the song until about a year after it was released and by that time it certainly seemed to fit the nihilistic context of the times for America as well as it did for Britain, though I sort of wished we had a queen to rail against since Jimmy Carter just seemed too harmless to hate. “no future, no future, no future…”

Aural Sculpture Aural Sculpture
The Stranglers

Song #4
Under the Name of Spain
Words & Music by The Stranglers
Performed by The Stranglers
I don't know why this song is on my iPod. I never particularly liked it. I can only think that I put it on the iPod in order to keep “Bring on the Nubiles” and “Nice N' Sleazy” company. It's the biggest hit The Stranglers had, and it's catchier than most of their droning and tedious later output. I guess it's about the last song they did which preserved any shreds of the punk spirit which characterized their early releases. I think Aural Sculpture was their third or fourth album, and by that time I'd lose interest in their music, only to rediscover this song playing on MTV which pretty much damned it forever, given the trend towards playing awful crap which characterized MTV in those days - though they at least still played music back then. I might delete it from the iPod, but not tonight, because the random shuffle has already moved…

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About Dave 536 Articles
Dave Nalle has worked as a magazine editor, a freelance writer, a capitol hill staffer, a game designer and taught college history for many years. He now designs fonts for a living and lives with his family in a small town just outside Austin where he is ex-president of the local Lions Club. He is on the board of the Republican Liberty Caucus and Politics Editor of Blogcritics Magazine. You can find his writings about fonts, art and graphic design at The Scriptorium. He also runs a conspiracy debunking site at IdiotWars.com.

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