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Columns > Mike Gruenberg - In My Life

Published: 2011/03/31
by Mike Gruenberg

Jon Bon Jovi vs. Steve Jobs

In My Life

Sure like to see the big guns duke it out on the stage of public opinion. Any time you can read about a war of words between two guys with the kind of wealth and power of both Jon Bon Jovi and Steve Jobs, you can expect a knock down drag out war of words. Bon Jovi claims that Jobs is killing the music industry. In a recent interview in the London Sunday Times, Jon, the challenger and peoples’ choice from New Jersey says kids today are being short-changed by Jobs because they are missing the total pleasure of buying music. He is quoted as saying “the experience of putting the headphones on, turning it up to 10, holding the jacket, closing their eyes and getting lost in an album, and the beauty of taking your allowance money and making a decision based on the jacket, not knowing what the record sounded like, and looking at a couple of still pictures and imagining it” Is gone every time a person sends 99 cents in to the Apple ionosphere only to get a song magically appear on their iPad in return for that small sum of money.

Jobs, the Silicone Valley champ simply points to the fact that because of Apple, kids and adults alike now have the option of finding an infinite amount of songs from a vast array of artists performing in a myriad amount of genres without stepping one foot outside their respective homes. Prior to the iTunes phenomenon, music buyers never had the vast array of music before them and now all of that is conveniently at their fingertips. You can choose to spend a rainy day sloshing around your favorite city going to places that sell music or sit in a nice warm and dry room in front of your computer and electronically rummage through a gazillion songs as you sip your favorite beverage and eat the snack of your choice. All the while finding music and even hearing 30 second snippets of every song you ever wanted or did not wanted to hear. So what if you don’t have the ability to read liner notes on iTunes. It’s too bad if you can’t hear the clickety-clack of CD albums being shuffled as you make choices on the Apple Store site. Does it really matter that you need to see the artwork on the album? After all, with the demise of the 12” LP, the print nowadays on the CD jackets have become so small that most people either uncomfortably read the notes through a magnifying glass, get Lasik surgery to bring back their 20/20 vision or just avoid reading them at all.

For all of us, the artwork on our favorite albums leaves us with lasting memories. I remember on one of my trips to London, I had to go to the EMI Studios on Abbey Road just to see where the Fab Four and so many other artists recorded their albums. I was somewhat disappointed that the building was nondescript, but since it was a place that produced such great music, I overlooked the architecture and took in the good feelings that this studio represented to me and countless others. My spirits lifted even more when I convinced my friend, Susan to take a picture of me crossing the street on the same spot as my Beatles heroes did on the cover of their Abbey Road album. Unfortunately, we had to negotiate the busy travel pattern and take the picture quickly to avoid oncoming traffic. Later, the cab driver told us that people were constantly coming to the EMI Studios on Abbey Road to take pictures of the building and walk across the now famous crosswalk. Now if only that Volkswagen with the license plate 28IF were still parked there….Sorry, I digress.

I guess it’s a generational thing. People today are more accustomed to receiving their information instantaneously. We all have become “Googleized”. Don’t know the answer, just Google it! Need to find a restaurant, click it! Need to find an address, GPS it! It goes on and on. My generation got on a bus, dropped a token in a slot to board a subway or when we were old enough, drove to a location to find the music of our choice. We sifted tough the LP’s and found or favorites and/or soon-to-be favorites if we had enough money to buy them all.

Yes, the entire experience of seeking and finding was enjoyable as long as your treasure trove of music was satisfactory. I can admit that among the many diamonds I found, there were many lumps of coal, as well. On all the magical albums I bought, inevitably there were a number of tracks that we graciously called “filler” instead of the proper adjective which I will fail to mention here. Apple and iTunes allows us to filter out the garbage and just give us the music of our choice. That’s a nice touch. Thanks, Steve.

My daughter will tell you that I spent many hours talking about and playing records for her as she was growing up. I think I gave her a good education on Rock’n’Roll 101 and care of my LP’s and 45’s. Even though vinyl is making a comeback and actually represents one of the few areas where the music industry can point to an increase in sales in 2010, we are now in a digital age which means that although I totally understand Bon Jovi and think that he is absolutely correct, Steve Jobs will win the hearts and minds of music buyers today. But, there is always tomorrow.

My vinyl collection still sounds better than the majority of my CD’s. But, then again on a plane, train or automobile, iTunes are transportable and sound amazing. So, I guess there’s room for both.

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