WEATHER WITH YOU by CROWDED HOUSE Story by Smokie Dawson

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WEATHER WITH YOU by CROWDED HOUSE Story by Smokie Dawson

Smokie Dawson
Williamstown, 2017

From the very first moment I opened the box in which it lay cozily packed within, it was a thing of wonder to me.

I purchased it on an auction website at a price much cheaper than for what I had seen it advertised in the local shops. Nonetheless, it was still a significant financial outlay, and I approached the letterbox daily with a mixture of trepidation and expectation until, postmarked ‘Hong Kong’, the parcel arrived. It was not much larger than a cigarette packet. In an instant I had it unwrapped. Too impatient to bother with the detailed instruction card, I had plugged my new iPod in to my computer and was downloading music files onto it before the postman had even turned the corner at the bottom of my street.

Over the best part of two decades my cd player had provided stoic and unwavering service, living well beyond the manufacturers’ intended built-in obsolescence, until it expired – presumably exhausted – while halfway through Dark Side of the Moon. It was ironic that The Great Gig In The Sky was to be its eulogy. The cd player’s final protest was to force me to prise open its tray with a screwdriver and retrieve the Pink Floyd disc. I packed away the broken pieces of the machine into a box and consigned it to the hard waste collection, and replaced it immediately with the shiny new digital music player.

Initially, I had downloaded thirty or so of my favourite albums onto the still unfamiliar gadget. And although we were still getting to know each other, my favourite discovery had been the ‘shuffle’ option, which continually played songs at random. This function both transformed the music player into my personal jukebox, and removed from me the burden of choosing which music I might want to listen to at any given moment.

When I plugged it into the amp, pushed the “Shuffle Songs” button for that very first time and the opening chords of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here wafted through the speakers, the fact that my new device might have sarcastically been bidding farewell to my old cd-playing friend did not even register with me. After all, it was not such a coincidence, for it only had roughly 300 tracks to choose from. But that day, it was sending a missive my way, and the realisation would soon dawn on me that my iPod had a mind of its own.

With music having always been an integral element of my everyday life, my iPod Classic soon became irreplaceable. It was accessible and portable. Where I travelled, it travelled. We were inseparable. And all the while, I was continuing to download songs onto its 160-gigabyte hard-drive. But as well as merely playing music, I became aware that this iPod had a habit of playing games with me when in ‘shuffle’ mode. Teasing me; testing my musical knowledge.

How else to explain it randomly choosing Bob Dylan’s Tangled Up In Blue followed by Jimi Hendrix’s All Along The Watchtower (also penned by Dylan).

It once played Elvis Costello’s Watching the Detectives and The Pogues’ Dirty Old Town in succession, almost with a nod and a wink to acknowledge that it too knew Costello had produced the latter song. What was the logical explanation for it unfailingly throwing in a track by Springsteen, my wife’s all-time favourite artist, any time she happened to be listening? Its most regular trick was to play around with the Finn brothers: perhaps Tim Finn’s Staring At The Embers followed by a Crowded House tune like Weather With You, or maybe Six Months In A Leaky Boat by Split Enz with an ensuing Paul Kelly and Neil Finn duet. It was a little freaky, but harmless fun all the same.

The relationship with my “portable media player” began to fracture when my sons introduced me to the convenience of on-line music streaming. I saw the dependence on my iPod weakening before my eyes. Just as I had abandoned my trusty and much-loved turntable for the wonder of the now-discarded compact-disc player many years previously, the manner in which I listened to music was evolving once again. When I discovered that the Spotify app on my phone could stream music via Bluetooth through my car stereo, the iPod and its cumbersome connector cord’s days were numbered. Now I had over 30 million tracks at my fingertips. Merely eight years old, the music player was consigned to a shelf amongst the hundreds of compact discs I no longer played; each was a small reminder of how my music-listening preferences had changed.

But for reasons mostly unknown to me, the immediacy of streaming could never quite replace the satisfaction of buying, owning, and holding music in my hands. And the streaming service’s omnipresent “Daily Mix” – chosen especially for me – was not so much spookily playful as downright nefarious, with the accompanying emails bordering on harassment. Dis-satisfied with these intrusions, I decided to rescue the iPod from its abandonment on the shelf. Turning it on, I noticed that some of the pixels on its screen were lost forever. We were both showing signs of ageing. I connected it to the amp and, with my forefinger, I spun the click wheel around to the “shuffle songs” option. Would my old friend excuse me for the months of neglect?

Of course it would! As if slipping comfortably back into an easy conversation that had been rudely interrupted, the familiar opening bars of Crowded House’s Weather With You burst through the speakers. I chuckled to myself. And I knew that all was forgiven.

Smokie Dawson will be part of our final show for 2017: Newport Bowls Club, Saturday evening 25 November.

 

My parents were children of the Beatles generation.
I had little choice but to love music. Regular contributor to partner site The Footy Almanac. My Stereo Stories debut was Before Too Long by Paul Kelly.

By | 2017-10-20T17:14:53+00:00 October 20th, 2017|Pop, Singer-songwriters|13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. JD October 21, 2017 at 7:12 am - Reply

    I feel your pain (and joy) Smokie letting go one format and moving onto the next. I also have a mountain of lonely old cassette tapes in the shed I only rediscovered recently – and to my joy and wonderment they still play perfectly on my old boom box I dusted off.

    Is there a song with a more distinctive and uplifting opening few bars as Weather With You? I’d like to hear it.

    • Smokie October 27, 2017 at 9:03 am - Reply

      JD,
      I reckon I’ve got a box of cassette tapes in storage somewhere. However, I do not own a tape player any more.
      And yes, the opening bars of WWY are indeed uplifting and unmistakeable.

  2. Shane John Backx October 21, 2017 at 8:44 am - Reply

    I too still have the old cassettes in a cupboard and happily spend hours transferring the playlists ( especially the homemade compilations ) from them onto my ipod. As I’m a music dinosaur my ipod will last me until I cark.

    • Smokie October 27, 2017 at 9:04 am - Reply

      SJB,
      It is showing signs of wear and tear, and can be temperamental at times, but I also really hope my iPod lasts until I cark it.

  3. Chris Phillips October 21, 2017 at 9:46 am - Reply

    Love this story, & the mysterious song juxtapositions & wink of robo-digi irony. So well articulated. Always love your stories Smokie. As I was reading up to the bit where you had moved on to streaming, I thought to myself, ‘I must ask Smokie if he wants to sell me his old ipod, music intact’…then I got to the next paragraph…sigh…oh well, it’s good to be back in touch with old friends who know you well, as your ipod does. Looking forward to seeing you again soon.

    • Smokie October 27, 2017 at 9:07 am - Reply

      Thanks Chris, but alas there is no chance of me selling the iPod. In fact, when I slip off this mortal coil I am tipping that there will be a bunfight between my three sons for possession.
      Looking forward to you singing Milky Way in November.

  4. Hugh Jones October 22, 2017 at 2:21 pm - Reply

    I’m with you Smokie! Recently I started working back in the CBD, meaning a daily commute on the sardine can from Newport. I also dusted off my iPod to accompany me on the journey and am loving hearing my favourite old tunes shuffled around. It’s also driven me into local op-shops in search of CDs that others have discarded.

    • Smokie October 27, 2017 at 9:08 am - Reply

      Hugh,
      For all the pro’s and con’s of Apple Inc.,
      I do heartily commend them for the iPod.

  5. John Butler October 23, 2017 at 9:40 am - Reply

    Onya Smoke.

    As I approach the age where I am classed as an artifact myself, I maintain my attachment to musical artifacts. For all their convenience, the sound of mp3’s never matches the sound of my stereo system, IMO. I still have a Sony Discman that occasionally gets taken for a stroll.

    Yes, I know, I’m a dinosaur.

    • Smokie October 27, 2017 at 9:09 am - Reply

      A Sony Discman? Wow.
      But I do agree that despite serving a convenient purpose, mp3’s do sound tinny.

  6. DBalassone October 23, 2017 at 12:52 pm - Reply

    Great piece Smokie. How ironic that the last song on your stereo was Pink Floyd and the first on the ipod was also Pink Floyd. The cosmos surely playing a joke on you there. I get the ipod shuffle tricks as well from time to time. The other thing I often get is listening to a song in the car and then seeing a sign or a street name that quotes the lyric I just listened to. Example, listening to ‘Dear Prudence’ while driving on Station St, Fairfield, I pull up at the lights and see a sign on the Grandview hotel about mobile phones that has the text ‘Come out and play’. Weird.

    • Smokie October 27, 2017 at 9:10 am - Reply

      Thanks Damo.
      My iPod does have a mind of its own. But I just wonder sometimes whether I am looking too earnestly for links between tracks!!

  7. Rick Kane October 27, 2017 at 2:23 pm - Reply

    Hi Smokie

    Love it. The idiosyncrasies of the shuffle might well be one of the wonders of the electronic age. I will disagree on one point. I hate the iPod. And Jobs as well. The iPod sound quality is so poor and iTunes stranglehold refusing to allow FLAC quality files to be played meant I haven’t used one of Job’s sound systems for many a year. Oh, and I am a grumpy old man. See you in Newport so we can continue this over a beer. Cheers

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