iTunes Advent Calendar: Day 2

Can You Picture That

There

There II

Genre: Rock

Blah, Blah, Blah: I’m tempted to just write nothing here. Many of you will blithely click the iTunes link. Five seconds later, if you’re of a certain age, you’ll be shouting “NO ****ING WAY!!!” and pumping your non-iTunes-purchasing fist in the air.

Yes: it’s a modern cover of a tune by Dr. Teeth And The Electric Mayhem. And clearly “There” are big fans of The Muppet Show because they chose not to meddle with perfection: this is the Beatlemania version. It’s as close to the original as I can remember it.

This is actually a double-barrelled blast of nostalgia for me, sensation-seekers. Because this is probably only the second piece of digital music I heard that was memorable enough to recall the experience clearly, even more than (holy jumping prophets) a quarter-century ago. The first time I heard a computer making music it was at an educational computer fair that my principal and the librarian took me to (I was in fourth or fifth grade and yes, I was already working as a consultant for the school system). It was “A Policeman’s Lot Is Not A Happy One” and it was being played in crisp two-part harmony by a computer with a fairly expensive sound card installed.

But “Can You Picture That?” was the second. It was on an issue of “Softdisk,” a monthly Apple II computer magazine that arrived on a 5.25″ floppy. When I booted off the disk and the table of contents loaded in and the music started, it seemed like a miracle. The technique of making a single-channel sound system do polyphonic music was a pretty big deal. You didn’t need a sound card or a MIDI board or anything that would cost you actual money; if you were willing to accept a certain amount of threadiness in your notes, you could do two, three, even four-part harmony, if you were willing to really press it. The miraculous nature of this was due to the fact that it appeared that you’d added a feature that required new hardware, and yet you’d done it solely with software. It’s sort of as if you’d downloaded a piece of freeware that allowed your notebook to sew hems on your trouser legs if you managed to work them in through the DVD slot.

Needless to say, it made a big impression. My memory of the original show is vague at best but I could tell you what color the carpet was in the room where I played that disk.

Why I Bought It In The First Place: I valuely recall the following sequence of time-wasting: listened to an episode of “Fresh Air” in which Terry Gross interviews Gene Simmons; thought of “Phantom Of The Paradise,” the movie that KISS starred in; corrected myself because I didn’t think KISS was in that movie; consult IMDB; confirm that I was right; think about Paul Williams for the first time in, like, 15 years; hit Wikipedia to see what the guy’s been up to since “Love Boat” went off the air; surprised to learn that he wrote that song; search for it on iTunes.

And people wonder why the recording industry is so confused about how to market music to consumers in the Internet Age…

2 thoughts on “iTunes Advent Calendar: Day 2”

  1. I haven’t listened yet, but I am already excited. We went to a local Trash’n’Treasure market yesterday, and came home with a kiddie-size drumkit. A Dr Teeth drumkit. A Muppett Sound drumkit.

  2. No, you were right the second time. Kiss wasn’t in Phantom of the Paradise. They were in another movie or two with Phantom in the title, though.

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