It takes an awful lot of moxie for someone to walk up to a jukebox in a crowded bar and broadcast to all within earshot his at-that-moment musical preference. You'd hope, simply out of self-preservation, that that person had at least given some thought to the key factors one must consider prior to imposing his musical will on an unsuspecting public: style of bar, time of day, size of crowd, type of crowd, palpable vibe, weather, etc.
But all too often, forethought is not the norm with our everyday "jukebox hero." That we've all fallen victim to this inconsiderate bastard who, with no more than a dollar in his pocket, has torpedoed a good mood, is a testament to how widespread the issue has become. So where did this slide away from common musical decency begin? In my opinion, one man's desires trumping the greater good began in 1979, the year that Sony introduced the Walkman to the world.
Follow me here: the Walkman officially blurred the well-bifurcated line between the largely private act of enjoying bad music via-a-vis the generally public act of, say, walking to work. Prior to, poor musical taste would typically remain where it belonged... in the home; with the Walkman, however, you could now listen to all your crappy songs, offending no one but your future self, while at the same time "engaging" with others.
The iPod obviously hyper-charged this phenomenon, virtually eliminating any restrictions that had previously been imposed by the finite space of a cassette or compact disk. This generated the have-it-all/have-it-now mindset that would soon birth the Touch Tunes jukebox, which gets us full-circle back to the original subject: the proliferation of "jukebox hero" and his general lack of musical self-awareness.
All of this crossed my mind last weekend while sitting at the West Alabama Ice House in Houston on a steamy Saturday afternoon. For almost an hour the bartender and I traded tunes - good tunes that enabled the conversation, enabled the aura of the joint to persist - when an unnamed third party brought it all to a screeching halt with a song that deserves to never be played outside of headphones. Which song? Immaterial. But you get the point. He put in five bucks... we left within two minutes.
It's not his fault, of course. The relatively newfound ability to pluck any song ever recorded out of the ether, coupled with the blurry line brought about by portable music gadgetry, perpetuated this great injustice of modern day bar etiquette. Choice, in the end, is a good thing. But it has its consequences. So please... give your pick some thought before dropping in those quarters. Here's a little cheat sheet to get you started for your next Saturday afternoon shindig...
WEST ALABAMA ICE HOUSE
1919 West Alabama