Randy Erickson

Randy Erickson

Nothing makes me feel older and more out of touch than looking at the list of top-selling artists on iTunes and only having heard of a third of them, at best. And it struck me recently that most of the time I might not even recognize these top-selling songs, even by the artists whose names I recognize.

I used to be a top-40 music expert back in the late 1960s and early 1970s. I was one of those kids who would sneak a transistor radio into bed at night. I grew up in Minneapolis and I’d listen to WDGY and KDWB until I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore — or my little brother ratted me out.

By the time I had my own room, I also had a stereo with a turntable and I could be my own deejay. When I got a car, the first chance I got I put an eight-track tape deck in it so I could choose what I heard — and didn’t have to endure the insipid radio commercials.

Ever since my early teen years I’ve basically ignored what’s popular in the quest for what’s good, and this is a totally subjective thing. My favorite songs tend to have lots of guitars and drums, with maybe some harmonica or saxophone. I don’t mind a tasteful banjo lick now and then. There should be singing, too, preferably with some harmonies at least on the chorus.

I suspect you don’t find so much guitars, harmonicas and sax — and definitely not banjos — in the top songs list on iTunes. But I don’t know. And I need to know now. I’m responsible for covering arts and entertainment for the Tribune since last May and one of these days maybe ZAYN or Rae Sremmurd or Migos or Jon Bellion or Niall Horan will come to our fair city.

I need to get caught up.

So I recently signed up for the premium version of Spotify. I had resisted using Spotify until now, and not because it doesn’t pay artists very well (which is a pretty good reason). When Spotify first started up, I was seeing all kinds of posts on Facebook that so-and-so was listening to a song. Did I want Spotify to notify my online family and friends when I was digging into the Osmond Brothers catalog or listening to some other guilty pleasure, like maybe Gene Pitney or The Cowsills?

Nope!

But it turns out that they don’t post anything to Facebook unless you specify, and Spotify offers a practically infinite number of listening choices. It has almost everything. I’ve actually only struck out on one search yet — a late 1970s Marty Robbins album that someone has asked me convert from vinyl to a digital format. They had plenty of other Marty Robbins choices — about three dozen albums and a bunch of his songs in karaoke format.

When I first started exploring on Spotify, it was like going down a rabbit hole into a musical wonderland. Look, there’s Bachman Turner Overdrive’s second album. And there’s the Edgar Winter Group and the Dwight Twilly Band and “Hocus Pocus” by Focus, and the complete works of The Replacements — but only one Replacements song with a karaoke version, though, so there’s room for improvement.

In less than the time it took me to write the last few paragraphs, and I’m not an extraordinarily slow writer, I created a playlist with the top 10 songs for the first week of the year on iTunes. They were all there.

Now I just need to find the time and the steely resolve to get through a session listening to the now sounds of today’s hitmakers.

I did see that Spotify posted a job this week on its career opportunities page online: President of Playlists.

At first glance, it sounded like something I might be interested in, but then I looked at the requirements. The successful applicant had to have won a Nobel Peace Prize and “at least eight years experience running a highly regarded nation.”

Seems like someone who will soon be in the job market has me beat out for the position. Thanks, Obama.

Rock on …

Randy Erickson covers arts and entertainment and county government for the La Crosse Tribune. Contact him at 608-791-8219 or randy.erickson@lee.net.

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Randy Erickson covers arts and entertainment and county government for the La Crosse Tribune. Contact him at 608-791-8219 or randy.erickson@lee.net.

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