Ancestral Memories of Elevator Music

Ancestral Memories of Elevator Music

I made an astonishing discovery in a nautical-themed restaurant in Maine the other weekend. The music piped into the dining room was an odd choice for a linen-tablecloth restaurant, but it spoke to me in an oddly compelling way. Like Navin R. Johnson, I found myself oddly drawn to this deeply, er… swanky music. I had to ask what it was, and, when I found out, my new purpose in life was to buy the CD and listen to it, over and over and over again.

I’m talking, of course, about the forgotten work of Herb Alpert.

Forget all those pained post-ironic recapitulations of lounge music that you see in the hipster rack at Tower Records — this is the straight dope, the font and wellspring of American Muzak. Once I feverishly pulled the cellophane off the CD and stuffed it into the stereo, I felt like I had discovered one of the Platonic Forms in all its perfect, paradigmatic glory. An MRE scan would have shown entire lobes of my brain, unused for years, springing into frantic activity — the part that controls shag carpet, for example, and the part that controls watching “The Muppet Show” on black-and-white TV. “So that’s what that’s called!” I found myself exclaiming over and over again as “Tijuana Taxi“, “The Lonely Bull“, and “Casino Royale” resurrected the ghosts of long dead commercials, game-show jingles, and trips through the produce section in the shopping card’s kiddie seat. I feel like I’ve discovered the fabled source of the Nile.

I bought Johnny Cash’s 16 greatest hits at the same time, so now my MP3 player is juxtaposing “Folsom Prison Blues” with “Spanish Flea.” Damn, maybe I should start worrying about my wasteful consumption of irony.

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