Sunday, May 13, 2007

Using New Technology to Answer Old Questions

When I was in college I listened to a radio station that offered up a canned play list of songs that included a mix of oldies and contemporary songs, but nothing too harsh. As today, I didn’t care much for the hard-hitting rock music. Of course, by today’s standards, even the hardest rock in the 1970s was rather mild.

They played this one song quite often. I liked it, but I didn’t know what the title was or who sang it. I knew it was a bit of an oldie, but not too old. I wanted to own the single, if only I could figure out who the artist was.

In those days, Tom Pickett had a record store in Columbus, on 25th Street. He always had a nice collection of older 45s, so I decided to go in and check it out. I told the clerk about the song I was looking for, but since didn’t know the title, I sang him a couple of lines.

He immediately told me it was Linda Ronstadt. He then went to the oldies bin and pulled it out. After weeks of not knowing, I finally got my song.

Years later, more like decades, I was bothered by another song I had listened to frequently when I was a teenager. At this point, I must point out that when I was a teen, my musical taste was not main stream. It still isn’t, but back then I sort of cared. I tended to like Country Music way back before it became cool to listen to. My favorites were cross-over hits, though, mostly by the likes of Glen Campbell and Bobby Goldsboro.

The song, the memories of which were tormenting me, was by Glen Campbell. I remembered listening to it on a home-mixed 8-track tape. But I had paid someone to record it for me so I didn’t know the name of the song even then. I just knew I liked its melody.

But I was stuck with not knowing until the advent of the home computer and the Internet. A few years ago, I remembered the song again. I still didn’t know the title, and a thorough search of produced nothing familiar. So I went online and posted one line of the song lyrics on a message board dedicated to oldies music.

Within a few hours I had my answer. Not only did someone recognize the lyrics and reply with the name of the song, he also told me which album it was on. The problem was, the vinyl album had not been converted to CD, which is why I couldn’t find it on Amazon.

Not to fear, I just logged onto one of those song-sharing services to see if someone had converted it to digital. Someone had. I downloaded it and listened to it for the first time in about 30 years.

A few years later, the original album was finally released on CD, so I got a cleaner copy of it.

The same scenario has happened to me several times since then. And now, thanks to the Internet, I know exactly where I can find the answers to those burning questions such as, “What is the name of that song?” or “What was the other movie that guy played on?”

With sites such as the Internet Movie Database and All Music, I don’t have to wait decades to find my answers to those questions.

My computer even helps me to get my facts straight. By ALT-clicking on Linda Ronstadt’s name, a little window pops up telling me I had indeed spelled it correctly. Not only that, it shows me her picture and gives me a brief biography.

If only I could have had this much information at my fingertips when I was doing that high-school research paper….

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