Jukebox zero

The trend toward quantity over quality blows

Jukebox zero The trend toward quantity over quality blows

“Lard, you can see it,
in the clouds up in the sky
Lard, can you feel it,
in our pores and in our hair
Lard is all, lard is divine, lard is control
Lard whips and chains are soul.”
-Lard (with Jello Biafra)

A disturbing trend is sweeping the land, and it absolutely must be addressed. I'm speaking about a relatively new digital jukebox technology. It's called Touch Tunes and it is evil as it is pretty.

Now, I'm no hater of progress or change. Jukeboxes have come a long way since those old, Wurlitzer, 45-RPM, A-side/B-side jukes. I remember the one they had at my alma mater-a small dive bar in upstate New York called The Acorn Pub.

What an inglorious box of shit that was: with the worn needle, the flimsy paper speakers that incessantly buzzed, and the view-window was so clouded you could barely read the crappy songs inside-which were the basic, top, top, topmost of the top-40 hits: “Freebird,” “Stairway,” “Ramblin' Man,” “Country Roads,” “Roxanne,” “Layla,” “Crazy,” blah blah yadda blah.

These days you've got the CD jukebox, which kicks those old Hurdy-Gurdies right in their mechanical sphincters. The CD jukebox is a regal thing, sitting there in the corner like a King on a throne, songbook flapper opened wide like a bejeweled robe-each disc another diamond inside the cloak of the great and good emperor.

Unlike those old Wurlitzers, which forced you to choose only the overplayed hit singles, the CD jukebox has entire albums from which to choose. Deep cuts. Obscure gems. Undiscovered treasures. So now, when you want to sink your teeth into Warren Zevon, no longer will you be forced to select “Werewolves of London” yet again. Now there is “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner” and “Lawyers, Guns, and Money” to devour. Tired of “War Pigs” yet? Well how about munching on a little “Rat Salad”? “Rock Lobster” got you down, down? Why not go even deeper with “Dance This Mess Around” or “52 Girls”?

Even Jewel is a jewel inside the bejeweled robe of the jewely jukebox King. And that's just fine. Because this box is big enough for Pieces of You and Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables. That is what is so wonderful about the CD jukebox. We may all co-exist peacefully with our various musical tastes-no matter how much your taste happens to suck.

But Touch Tunes is poised to destroy all that.

Touch Tunes is a company that makes these new-fangled, digital jukeboxes. The popular model is The Maestro. At first, The Maestro seems very excellent. You touch the screen and flip the pages and can't believe how many CDs are in there. Until you realize it doesn't carry the whole album, just one or two top cuts. And it's the same overplayed bullshit you always hear on the radio. And, and it's the goddamn, turdsucking, censored versions. And, and, and you can't even store local music in The Maestro. It's national bands only.

Yesterday, the owner of the Tilted Stick in Ocean Beach told me how the Touch Tunes salespeople had been besieging him to convert to The Maestro.

“They wouldn't let up,” he said, “Finally, I had to tell them, ‘Look, we support local music here. And we don't support censorship. This is a bar. Everyone is old enough to hear the uncensored versions.'”

Atta boy, Mike.

See, good jukeboxing is a worldview. It takes vision and drive. And the great jukeboxes go down in history-like the famous Pink Panther box (now defunct), or Pacific Shores, or The Alibi, (circa 1992-1998), perhaps even the Tilted Stick.

The Tilted Stick employs a proactive, hands-on system. They rotate discs constantly. Employees are involved in the disc-selection process. They offer an eclectic mix of genres: from Tribe to Rage to Marvin to Carlos to Cake to Outkast to The Clash to good old Johnny Cash, and even to a CD called “Ed Decker's Choice Cuts.”

The Stick also maintains a fierce allegiance to local music, with B-Side Players, Yer Mom, Downs Family, Rap Bastardz, Psydecar, Slightly Stoopid, Jason Mraz and Sprung Monkey.

The Stick embodies everything a juke joint should be. Touch Tunes is the evil opposite of that. Which is why I wish I were a bar owner and the Touch Tunes people had tried to get me to convert.

“You know it's a touch screen,” they'd say.

“I hear with my ears, not my fingers.”

“But it's got an incredible light show.”

I hear with my ears, not my eyes.

“The music is stored digitally.”

“My ears are analog.”

“We've got the Bose sound system in there.”

The Bose sound system? Really? Wow, yeah, um, well, you know what-fuck Bose. Bose Blows.

“But it can hold 2000 songs.”

“Don't you understand?” I'd say. “I need more than ‘Sweet Jane' and ‘Jane Says.' I need ‘New Sensations,' and ‘The Power of Positive Drinking.' I need, ‘Idiot's Rule.' I need ‘Perfect Day' and ‘Summertime Rolls,' Jesus Christ, is that so hard to understand?!”

“Dude, calm down-it's just a jukebox,” says the salesman, backing away.

“It's more than just a jukebox, you turd. Touch Tunes is a symbol of the ever-increasing emphasis on quantity rather than the quality. It's America's obsession with the lowest common denominator. It's Lard, can you see it? It's everywhere: in the government, in the corporations, in the media, in the people, and now it's in the goddam jukeboxes. And I blame you. So get your ass out of my store before I crank a Mower tune and blast it out.”

E-mail ed@edwindecker.com and editor@SD citybeat.com. Decker's “Choice Cuts” CD is rotated monthly in slot No. 29 of the Tilted Stick jukebox (4970 Voltaire St.)