Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Wandering Through My Past

About 30 years ago I met Jeff (RIP), about whom I have posted here, and he and I became best friends. Jeff grew up in the Detroit area and knew a *lot* about the music of the 1950's and 1960's, and one day I told him that when technology permitted I would have a jukebox that included every tune that made the pop music top 20 from 1955 to 1969, the music of my youth, basically. We were both sure that one day technology *would* provide for this, but of course we had no idea of what form that might take.

In the 1990's mp3 came along, and in 1998 I decided that *this* was it, this was how I could acquire and store all tunes I needed. A company named MusicMatch had created a software jukebox that ran on home computers and sold for $19.95, with free updates as they were released. I bought a copy and I am here to tell you that there has *never* been a better music management program for home users and their PC's.

In the beginning, hard drives did not have the capacity to store all the music I wanted - I think that when I started I had a 20MB (roughly twenty million bytes) hard drive, but I knew that the technology would increase that at a faster rate than I would acquire music. My "completed" jukebox takes 7.02 GB, about seven billion bytes. Today you can get a drive with a trillion bytes.

I also needed to know *which* songs were top 20/1955-1969, and I acquired a copy of Joel Whitburn's "The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits." I recommend this book, which is updated and released every several years, to anyone seriously interested in pop music. I've owned three editions, and they all begin with 1955 and end at the year before the release. For all the top 40 songs it provides title, recording artist, charting information, record/CD label information, tidbits about artists and songs, yada yada yada. Did you know that the Herman's Hermits novelty hit "I'm Henry the VIII, I Am" was a hit in 1911 for someone named Henry Champion? Oh, stop it. You did not.

I began collecting "my" songs in 1998, purchasing music CD's based on the Whitburn book and using downloaded software to convert the songs to the mp3 format. With the acquisition of "Hopeless" by Andy Williams (#13, 1963) last week, I reached my goal of . . . well. what amounts to *my* definition of the top 20, 1955-1969.

Why "my" definition? Well, the Whitburn book blindsided me. When it was several years old I had worn it out. It's a large and thick book, and pages were falling out. I replaced it with the latest version, not seeing the trap. I'd bet you don't see it either.

In the interim between the releases, the creators of the book had consulted - and incorporated - more polls, more criteria, etc., and I found to my horror that the new book had a slightly *different* version of what songs had made the top 20. Got it? My first edition of the book said that *these* songs had made the top 20, and my second edition of the book said *those* songs had made the top 20. The two sets were *nearly* identical, but not quite.

I had a Notepad document which began as a complete list of the records that the first edition said made the top 20, and which was modified by deleting each entry as I acquired the song. I bit the bullet. I went through the new edition artist by artist, checking to see that either I already had each song I needed or that it was in my "needed" list. If neither of those things were true it was added to the "needed" list.

You know what's coming, right? Right. When I wore out the second edition and acquired a third, I ran into the same problem. However, I had anticipated it and decided that my "needed" list was frozen forever after the incorporation of second edition changes. We're talking about nearly 2,600 songs here, which had begun as 2,400 and something. I had (and have) no reason to believe that the book wouldn't alter that list with every edition, and I wasn't going to do several weeks of work with each new book.

In full screen mode, my MusicMatch Jukebox (MMJB) displays 30 songs at a time. I've set it up so that for each song I see (from left to right) the song title, the recording artist, the year in which it peaked, its peak position, and the song duration. More information is available by right clicking on one of those fields.

In addition to my originally defined set, I have a couple hundred songs on there which didn't make the top 20 or weren't in the 1955 to 1969 period, but are there simply because it's my jukebox and I want them there.

If this is already TMI, you might want to skip the next post.

1 comment:

Dramlin said...

Go You!!! I wondered if you'd ever finish that list. Gee, I wonderif you have any I want *snigger*
Reminds me of the first time I walked in to your house and UBH40 were singing "Red Red Wine". You asked if I knew who wrote the song and were totally stunned when I said "Neil Diamond" lol