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December 15, 2009

Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays: Bar tunes

music in barsAfter a two-week vacation, Owl Meat is back in business, with this post about music in bars. Bring it on, OMG:

Good non-live music is a rare commodity in Baltimore bars.

There are a bazillion great songs available via CD, iPod, or even XM radio. But noooooo I have to hear Journey's "Open Arms" for the millionth time. Die Mr. Robato, die!

Down with lazy music programming. Enough "classic" rock and '70s and '80s hits. That was the music I hated in the '80s and now my ears are imprisoned by it.

I think too many bars program the music to not offend anyone, which really pleases no one, and offends me. It take that back. It pleases people who bore me ...

Years ago juke boxes used to define the character of a bar. Presumably the owner picked out the songs available, so it was okay to play anything. On your home turf you may be into hip-hop or punk, but in a random bar there was no shame in spinning some Merle Haggard or Patsy Cline. There was something special and naughty about the strange juke box. I fear that musical strange is gone forever.

Enter the digital jukebox. That thing that has every song every recorded available. It has no character -- or rather it lends no character to the bar.

My phone seems to have more storage capacity than these devices. They seem to have less songs available for the standard rate than the old jukebox of 45s. Why is that? To squeeze money out of you.

Will this e-bandit play Son Volt's "Medicine Hat?" Yes, for a dollar. That's a crime. I could buy it online for 99 cents.

Then there is the problem of coughing up your crinkled dollar bills for that great song you love, only to get it booted by the bartender because someone else hates it. You give me a Guinness and a Jameson and I will play Yo La Tengo's "Cherry Chapstick" or the Velvet Underground's "Heroin" every time.

There are also songs that I play only on a jukebox obsessively, such as White Zombie's "More Human than Human" and Guns N' Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle."

What to do, what to do?

(Photo by Getty Images)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:30 AM | | Comments (30)
Categories: Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays
        

Comments

A 20 dollar bill and "Barking Dogs' Jingle Bells" on a loop in August. You're welcome, Baltimore.

i'm gonna disagree here. while i do agree that the old school jukeboxes do add a certain type of flavor and character to a bar, i don't think that digital jukes take away from it by any means.

take for ex. the digital juke at the Dizz (my home turf). i actually met two of my very good friends who turned out to be neighbors right down the street just by playing a Lucero song, and having them compliment me on a rad song they'd never heard before.

In my opinion, digijukes, foster more of a community atmosphere in smaller places like the Dizz, as they bring up chances to engage in conversation. i mean, don't get me wrong, we still get a fair amount of Sugarland, and Gretchin Wilson on there, but when someone plays "Battery" by Metallica, or "Search and Destroy" from Iggy and the Stooges, you know you've got a drinking buddy for the night.

and yeah, it does cost $1 to hear something you'd otherwise hear on your ipod, but when you're out with good friends and want to take over the music for 20 min., then really, money is the last thing i'm concerned about.

if i haven't convinced you so far, let me make one final argument, on the digijukes, you can play such classics like the theme song from Team America: World Police. "America, F@$k Yeah." If that doesn't get a bar rolling, then i don't know what will.

The price of the song is just the same rent mark-up as goes into the booze. That Miller Lite is $0.75 in your house, but $3 in the bar. So $1 in you house gets you the song forever, but $1 in the bar gets you the song once.

I guess my beef really is that the e-box will offer you a few songs from an album for 25 cents but others from the same album might be a buck if you have to search for them.

The digital jukebox is great for creating your own atmosphere, but it depends upon the bar crowd being open to your choices. I guess it all boils down to a social thing. I still miss the weird jukebox in the random bar.

when i'm at a digi jukebox i like to get my money's worth. so if i'm paying $1 for a song, its gonna be a long song. depending on the mood, "three days" by janes, "so what" by ministry, "people are strange" by the doors, all over 9 minutes long and kick ass.

Q Lazarus - Goodbye Horses.

Worth a buck everytime. Worth 2 bucks if you can get some random drunk to do the Buffalo Bill dance

I was once at Pickled Parrot, in a foul mood, and everyone seemed to be having a great time listening to some really craptastic happy music. So I attempted to play the most depressing song that I could find on the jukebox on repeat, in this case it was Death Cab's "I Will Follow You Into The dark". Unfortunately the Jukebox didn't allow this.

I was a little annoyed at the fact that I couldn't, if I wanted to pay for it, play the same song 3 times.

I was a little annoyed at the fact that I couldn't, if I wanted to pay for it, play the same song 3 times.

Thank god for that. That's just jukebox terrorism.

Back in the day, the Wilkens House on Harford Road had a jukebox. And the "Official Tune" of the bar was Bobby Darin's "Mack the Knife". And this was in the 80s, and the crowd was mostly 20 and 30 year olds.

what, no captcha over here?

We don't need no stinkin' captcha.

I think you've hit on something PCB. I think I miss old jukeboxes as relics, as time machines to some musical past. The new digital boxes are like everything now: everything available all the time.

"That's just jukebox terrorism."

And THAT is a great idea for a song name. I want a song called "jukebox terrorism" playing at a bar where people are otherwise picking crappy songs.

And it should definitely be at least 20 minutes long.

Maybe these are before most people's time... when I was growing up in NY diners used to have individual jukebox controls, little glass boxes where you could flip through selections and play songs just for your booth. Does that make sense? They had them on the last episode of the Sopranos which featured Journey BTW.

I want a song called "jukebox terrorism" playing at a bar where people are otherwise picking crappy songs.

And it should definitely be at least 20 minutes long.

Dave, I'm on it. Let's get a Baltimore metal band to record the most harsh, grating sound possible for at least seven minutes, and let's get it on a local jukebox pronto. Midnight Sun is on the case!

Inna Gadda Da Vida - Baby!

i keep looking for the Decline, by NOFX, but alas, someone forsaw that as a problem.

Baltimore bar during the day: all 80's, all the time. These are the songs I never liked and have now heard roughly 8,000 times.
Baltimore bar at night: Keep the 80's and add in new pop/rap. More music I don't like. I'm wondering if we're every going to finally hit the 90's (when I was a teenager) or if we're just going to skip that entirely.

Thank god there's beer!

"Then there is the problem of coughing up your crinkled dollar bills for that great song you love, only to get it booted by the bartender because someone else hates it."

Is this for real?
I got away with taking a chance on Yoko Ono's "Kiss, Kiss, Kiss" (B side to Lennon's "(Just Like) Starting Over") in an Irish Old Man's bar with no complaints.
And someone else played it after me!

FHT, I'm curious about that too. What horrible crap are they going to brainwash us with as classic 90s music? Creed? Biink 182?

"Dave, I'm on it. Let's get a Baltimore metal band to record the most harsh, grating sound possible for at least seven minutes, and let's get it on a local jukebox pronto. Midnight Sun is on the case!"

I was thinking of something industrialish, along the lines of Ministry circa "Psalm 69". Only longer.

Worst case scenario, "Jukebox Terrorism" just becomes code for all 28 minutes of "Reign in Blood".

I was going to suggest Einstürzende Neubauten for jukebox terrorism, because they have songs recorded at a construction site that use actual industrial tools and materials but I kind of like all of their stuff. Blixa Bargeld rules.

Then I realized that this has already been done as best as best can be by master troublemaker Lou Reed for his 1975 contractual obligation record Metal Machine Music. It is as annoying as anything could be, and that' was the point.

Enjoy:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zr0KkzbbqPI

How happy am I that a rather mediocre column turned into jukebox terrorism. Oh happy blog.

Old Man Ginjoint-
Thanks for the warm and fuzzy flashback to Metal Machine Music. Ah the olden days of walking to my neighborhood LP vendor ,where two friends and I would pool our money to get the-three-records-for-$10 deal; they had to post a special sign next to Reed's monsterpiece that asked if you'd actually listened to the record, and warned that it could not be returned- well, who wouldn't take that dare?

Of course it sucked.

I remember going to a record store in Mt Washington that had that sign for Metal Machine Music.

It doesn't just suck; it's a masterpiece of suckotrash.

What's a record store?

Best bar song ever - Don't get 2 Close 2 my Fantasy by Ween.

Also, paying a buck for a song isn't that bad, you just have to pick really long ones to make it worth it...

Echos by Pink Floyd, for example.

Careful with that ax Eugene.

What's a record store?

A magical place from the past where I spent hundreds of hours looking through bins of obscure stuff.

Then the record companies brought out CDs (what's a CD?) and literally bought all the vinyl stock and melted it. Evil, just evil.

Worst bar closing song – Closing Time

"Maybe these are before most people's time... when I was growing up in NY diners used to have individual jukebox controls, little glass boxes where you could flip through selections and play songs just for your booth. Does that make sense? They had them on the last episode of the Sopranos which featured Journey BTW."

This is incorrect-- the little wallboxes at each booth in a diner merely send selections to the main jukebox, like a remote control. In fact, the 1950's wallboxes used in the Sopranos final episode never had speakers in it. Speakers systems in wallboxes didn't come out until 1963.

These songs aren't played just for you, they are played through the speakers of the main phonograph, the house sound, or anyone else's wallbox (if they happen to be late enough models to have speakers in them) once they drop a coin in their unit to make selections. It never fails to amaze me how many people thought that the little wallboxes were just private programs or records for the person sitting at the booth.

whomp whomp

Way to demystify JohnnyJukeboxCat. You sure know a lot about that stuff.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at erik.maza@baltsun.com. Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.
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