Al Green is literally crying "Tired of Being Alone" through my computer speakers at the moment. The horn section is punctuating his every teardrop with short blasts of bittersweet pain. The background singers are trying in vain to soothe him. Still, Al Green cries. Itís absolutely beautiful. Thank you Napster. Now, why does somebody want to throw me in jail?
I donít know how long itís been since Iíve heard this song, let alone heard it on a regular basis. Do you think any radio station in America, the Western Hemisphere, Europe or Communist Asia is playing this very song at this very moment? Not very likely. When Al Green opened for the Dave Matthews Band recently in Chicago the audience reacted with a big shrug and a smattering of boos. "Who is this guy?" they wanted to know.
Why hadnít they heard of Al Green? Radio programmers have forgotten millions of people just like me. "Tired Of Being Alone" is nowhere to be found in todayís marketplace. And thatís all radio is. I guess I could have ransacked the entire CD selection at my local Wal-Mart, KMart and Sam Goody, then I could have bought everything Iíd ever heard by spending this monthís paycheck, next monthís paycheck and plopping down my VISA, Master Card and ATM card. You gotta figure that sooner or later I would have come across Al Greenís 1971 classic piece of soul "Tired of Being Alone." But at that point I certainly would have been tired of being alone.
Instead of that truly sad scenario, all I had to do was sit down at my computer, ponder for a few seconds, type in Al Green under the artist search section of Napsterís search function, and within seconds there were 92 songs displayed. "Tired of Being Alone?" Oh Yeah, I remember that one. I think I might have liked it. Double click. Download. Then Bam. Wow. Iím basking in soulful seventies pop music.
At this very moment I have George Jonesí "The Race Is On", Aerosmithís "Sweet Emotion," and Steve Earleís "Telephone Road" simultaneously downloading. Iím up to 92 files now. I donít see any end to it. And I donít see the crime in programming my own computer radio.
Our greatest rocker, Bruce Springsteen, is known to step up to a microphone, his face dripping with the sweat of a hard nightís work and yelling in mock horror: "Iím just a prisoner... (dramatic pause) of... ROCK AND ROLL!" Well, if Napster is a fucking crime, then come and get me too.
The truth is Iíve been a Napster of one kind or another for most of my life. When I was lad of ten in Chicago I took my portable cassette tape recorder and in broad daylight I held the microphone to my radio speaker to capture the glorious music from WCFL and WLS. A guilty confession: I paused the tape recording during commercials. Bet I can land six to eight years for that one. In my early 20ís I volunteered as a DJ at the University of Illinois Chicago Circle Campus and routinely borrowed albums and taped them at home. But I always returned them. Iím not a thief.
Later, when I joined the Air Force and became a disc jockey for the Armed Forces Radio and Television Network in Athens, Greece I thought Iíd died and gone to heaven. Sure the beaches were beautiful and the women were topless. But you should have seen the AFRTS record library! Many late night taping episodes followed.
What has all this lifelong nefarious Napster behavior done to me and the recording industry? My album collection at one time was in the 300ís. My cassette tape library must have totaled just as many, although it never once occurred to me to count them. Now my CD stacks are piling up all around the house.
The record labels still got a lot of my money. And I got a lifetime of great music. Iím the richer man because of it. Youíd think that the recording industry would appreciate that.
[from Rock & Rap Confidential/2000]
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In This Issue ||Home Taping (Record Reviews) ||
On the Radio
The Hidden History of Rock and Rap
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