Friday Firesmith – Hyena – Measuring time

Whether you realize it or not, clocks and watches are not the only way we measure time, and the way we measure time is changing. It always has been. We just never noticed it.

Back when cassette tapes were about the only means of playing music, and even then they were endangered species, but we didn’t realize it, time was measured by how long half the cassette lasted. Whatever we were doing would be interrupted by the end of side one, and we would stop and flip the tape over, or change music, or have an endless debate as to what to play next. And it was glorious.

Then CDs came in and an entire album could be listened to, and there was some debate as to what to call a collection of music. A tape was a tape, and a disc was a disc, but an album was vinyl. Album became an old word with a new meaning, no matter what the music was played on, it was an album.

But that debate wasn’t long for this earth, either. Suddenly, with digital music, playlists became the thing, and playing an album wasn’t as popular anymore. Suddenly, there wasn’t an end to the music. Literally, you would have a playlist longer than you could stay awake.  

There was a time when you could be alone on the road, listening to a radio that might, or might not, pick up a decent station, and whatever was being played by some random guy who was a disc jockey, was what you got. It might have been a terrible song, it might have been a decent song, but every once in a while, it would be your jam, a song you hadn’t heard in years, and your life would be totally transformed for three and a half minutes. The accidental music you ran into at odd times was one of life’s wonderful moments.

You could hear a song, not know who sang the song, not know the title of the song, and you were totally screwed unless you could sing it back to someone who knew the song. You could die at one hundred and ten years old and not ever know. Now, you can Google the station and a time, and find a song, if you were actually listening to a radio station.

Or go on social media, give the Hive Mind three words from any song, and someone out there is your Huckleberry.  

I’m listening to “Life’s Rich Pageant” by the group REM while I’m writing this. Once upon a time, we listened to the tape over and over again, and it seemed like each side of the tape lasted a long time. Now, the entire album has played. It doesn’t seem that long anymore.

The lyrics never really made that much sense to us, but we liked the music.

Life is like that.

 

Take Care,

Mike

Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.
Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.

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20 thoughts on “Friday Firesmith – Hyena – Measuring time”

  1. Old school music geek here. Still play records, occasionally buy some new. I can relate to the comparison of time and evolving musical formats. Good article.

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  2. The perceived length of an album depends a lot on if you were listening to it or it was background while your mind was elsewhere. I’ll give it a 95 Dick, I can dance to it.

    If a group I liked released a new album, or I heard something on the radio that sounded good, I’d buy the album. Every album had one or two songs that were candidates to become singles because they had all the bells and whistles of a hit. The rest of the album would be songs that were ok, maybe bells, maybe whistles, but not both.
    So the best crafted I’d hear on the radio and the album, but sometimes the other songs grew on me, even to become my favorite on the album. Sometimes a lyric became personal, or the song was playing on a sad /happy occasion. The danger of playlists is repeating songs that grabbed you right away and overlooking some good stuff.

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  3. I saw R.E.M. several times back when they were still a local band, still relatively unknown outside the Athens/Atlanta area; I bought their first five ‘albums’ (Murmur, Reckoning and Fables of the Reconstruction) (the first two of which were on cassette tapes with hand written labels) directly from the band after performances at fairly small local clubs back in ~1983 – 1985.

    I was on the other side of the planet; stationed in the Philippines when they suddenly blasted onto the world stage and became one of the most popular bands in the world. I remember the surreal night I walked (most likely drunk) into a bar, somewhere off Fields Ave; hearing a pinoy band trying to do a cover act of (mostly) R.E.M. tracks; Pretty sure most of that was directly from “Life’s Rich Pageant” since that’s what really put them in the world’s spotlight.

    I stopped buying vinyl and mostly switched to CD around 1982, I remember my first CD was Pat Benatar’s “Precious Time” and other than bootlegs (mostly concert recordings) and tapes from local bands nearly everything after that was on disk. I own at least 500 CD’s but now just about everything is MP3, Not even sure the last time I put a CD in the player.

    I have 3 main playlists; one of which has around 1800 tracks in it; that’s got over 6 straight days worth of music before repeating the same song (if I don’t hit “shuffle”) all downloaded to my phone with no commercial interruptions. I do NOT miss commercials at all…

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    • I have no clue how that sentence became “first five albums” in the first paragraph; I meant the “first three albums”. sometimes my fingers seem to just go on an autopilot wild tangent.

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  4. I finally bought a new truck last year after 10 years on the old one. Boy, was I surprised when I went to load my favorite CDs. No slot anywhere! It’s a brave new world out there…Did you know that The Grammys still has a category for best new album and best new record?

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  5. I guess I’m old, I still like CDs, although now I usually find them in second hand shops. I take them home and upload them onto my computer so I can download them onto my iPod and onto a jump drive which is what I actually take with me in my car. I figure if my car gets broken into and they want my drive, I can make a new one. I don’t have any streaming services at all for music.

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    • old? do you still sit by the radio with your radio shack tape recorder waiting on the DJ to finally play that song so you can complete your mixtape?

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      • I have, and gotten pissed off when he spoke during the crucial first or last part of it. I have also rewound a cassette with a pencil. My son now owns my vinyl collection because they’re retro. I had many great metal albums in there. I also know that the little plastic adapter you put in the middle of a 45rpm record is called a spider.

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  6. OK, I’m thinking playlist is a list of songs you pick out that you like you can request be played when you want music.
    Having AI find stuff for you could bring big surprises plus listening to new stuff makes time pass differently.

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  7. I have 45s, LPs, cassettes, CDs, and MP3s. Of course, many of my CDs are now MP3s.

    I have a thumb drive/jump drive of music and a couple of old radio shows (like “X Minus One”) and, like that1chick, I plug that into the USB port of a car (in my case, a rental car when I travel) so I can listen to my music. By the way, Nissan has the worse shuffle for USB music–it keeps playing the songs it did the last time I drove it, so a lot of skipping happens.

    I have a device that I can use to make MP3s from my cassettes and a device that I can make MP3s of my 45s and LPs, so eventually I will get to that.

    Before I found out that a car’s USB port can be used to play music, I used my iPod Touch and an auxiliary cord to listen to my music when using a rental car.

    I say using a rental car because my current car–a ’98 Honda Accord–does not have a thumb drive. It has a cassette deck and a CD slot, so I am set there–in the cassette deck I have a cassette to auxiliary cord adapter to listen to my iPod Touch if I want.

    When driving around town, I usually listen to a station that actually is broadcasting as a TV station. The whole FM band is between TV channels 6 and 7, so this station basically broadcasts as channel 6 but can be heard at 87.7 FM.

    Unfortunately, some cars I pass have one of those FM broadcasters for their music players–and they have it broadcasting at 87.7, so I get to listen to their music as I pass them–or turn on to a different street.

    I have been to many concerts–even in someone’s backyard–but my dream is to attend a concert where someone plays Toccata and Fugue in d Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach on an organ in a gothic church. I have a CD of that, but I want to hear it live.

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  8. Yvonne, god how I miss the days when vinyl ruled the earth. The smell, the feel of an album between the palms of your hands when you held it be the edges. The putting the needles down perfectly between two songs. It once took skill to listen to music and now it’s just saying out loud what you want and it’s there.

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  9. Keith, REM was still a small band from Athens when a friend of mine was going to college in Tallahassee. She liked the band, but was trying to study for finals and wished they would just shut up, as they were playing near her dorm. Two years later, she paid a hundred bucks for a ticket to see them. I wondered about their ‘first five albums’ thing, but wasn’t going to sweat it.

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  10. Tim, I bought a truck with a thumb drive and had never seen one in a truck before, but I realized life was going to change. I drove to South Carolina listening to Beethoven and didn’t run out of music. Or get tried of it.
    I live for the day I can hear Toccata and Fugue in d Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach on an organ in a gothic church.

    I wonder how we could make that happen.

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  11. I listen to talk radio as much if not more than I listen to music in the car. I was surprised, and a bit disappointed to lean after I ordered my Tesla, that it doesn’t even have AM radio. How was I going to listen to St. Louis Cardinal baseball games while driving? I learned that I could download an app on my phone and “bluetooth” the signal to the car’s audio system but that would be a pain in the ass to do. It turns out that just a few days before the season started the Cardinal flagship station KMOX began simulcasting on an FM channel. So all is good in my world.
    The Tesla has Spotify built in, as well as Netflix, but I haven’t even messed with Spotify yet.

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