Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Pssst: A supermarket sound check

I was walking through a Publix supermarket the other day when I heard a familiar song coming through the store's sound system:

Pretty little hairdo
Don't do what it used to
Can't disguise the living
All the miles that you've been through

My first thought: Can supermarket play diminish a song's intrinsic value? A crazy notion, I admit. A song should be judged for what it offers the listener, not WHERE it might be heard -- something the artist has no control over (like so many other variables).

Yet there I was in Publix, searching for the impossible-to-find Sun-Bird Hot & Sour soup mix (this cold will not go away). And suddenly I was wondering if I needed to knock the Jayhawks' "Save It For a Rainy Day'' down a peg or two. Or just sing along.

"Rainy Day Music'' might be my favorite album of 2003. It's filled with great songs, harmonies and guitar work, and reminds us -- especially in these crazy moments of weakness -- that Gary Louris is a musical genius. Yes, here comes another PSSST (Personal Six String Sanctuary Tout).

Looking like a train wreck
Wearing too much makeup
The burden that you carry
Is more than one soul could ever bear

I had come to my senses by the time I reached the checkout line. "Whoever chooses your music deserves a raise,'' I told the teller. She smiled. It was, after all, raining outside.

I headed out to tackle my next chore, hoping very much not to run into the song again at the Beall's Outlet store.


  1. This begs the question:
    Which is worse: Cool bands like the Jayhawks and the Old 97's playing over the supermarket sound system, or balladeers like Paul Anka and Pat Boone singing covers of popular rock songs like Stairway to Heaven, Smoke on the Water and Proud Mary?
    If you really want to cringe, check out a video of Anka singing Black Hole Sun.
    (The Master figures the cover songs are a greater affront to our music sensibilities. After all, the cool bands have been on the soundtrack of many TV shows already -- even nonconformists like Lucinda Williams! -- so the supermarket loudspeakers is just the next logical step.)

  2. OK, I just heard Lucinda's "Right in Time'' at an Outback. I'm over it. Better they play our music than the crap we're used to hearing in public haunts. But I'm pretty sure I was the only one at the crowded bar who recognized the song...