Elevator Music

new havenWhen I was a younger man (say, between 12 and 24 … a much younger man), and I went to downtown New Haven to shop , there was usually music playing in the department stores like Malley’s and Shartenberg’s.   It was played at a level meant to be a relaxing background to the harried shopper, so low, in fact, that you could really only hear it clearly when you took the elevator to the second floor (women’s dresses and outerwear, intimate garments) or third floor (housewares, children’s clothing and giftware), hence it became known as Elevator Music.  Back then, Elevator Music was primarily provided by the company, Muzak, first in the 1920s by sending the music over telephone lines, later progressing to radio, records and reel-to-reel tape.   By the time I was wandering the stores of New Haven, they were using endless-loop tape cartridges, popularly known as 8-Track Tapes.  Elevator Music consisted of bland instrumental arrangements of popular songs, such as We Can Work It Out by the 101 Strings (we’d call it The Geritol Beatles) or Dave Brubeck’s Take Five by Montovani and His Orchestra (Geriatric Jazz).  For a young man just learning to love rock ‘n’ roll and jazz, it was brutal to hear my favorite songs played as vapid background music.   I wondered, Why can’t they play real music in the stores?

Fast forward.  I’m sixty-eight years old.  I live on the opposite coast from New Haven and instead of going downtown to shop, I go to the mall.   What do you think they are playing in the stores I frequent now?  Real music, or at least what passes with today’s 12 to 24 crowd as real music.  Worse, they’re playing it loud.  In Arizona, they even play it in the parking lots!  When I was 20, I vowed I’d never be like my parents and be out of touch with popular music, but I am, so I haven’t a clue as to the song titles or performers.   All I know is that they’re dull, repetitively rhythmic songs sung in predominantly annoying nasal voices.   That never happened when I was young (Well, there was Neil Young.  And the Trashmen’s classic, Surfin’ Bird.  And I Got You, Babe.  Hmmm).  I know … sixty-eight year old curmudgeons are not anyone’s target demographic, but do they really want to drive me out of their stores?  I do have money.  I Googled Kohl’s Music to find a few examples because Kohl’s Department Stores seems to be the most annoying purveyor of this modern alternative to Muzak.   I not only found numerous pages complaining about their in-store music but a YouTube page dedicated to the songs they play.   Somebody (hopefully 15-24) actually likes this stuff.   If you want to judge yourself, try Happily Ever After by He is We (here) and The Only Exception by Paramour (here).

It occurs to me that the store music industry is discriminating against my generation.   My music, they reduced to lush string-orchestra pap played as background.   Now I have to listen to this generation’s music, played by the original (nasally challenged) performers played so loud it gives me a headache.  There ought to be law.  So … I’m proposing the Affirmative Department Store Music Act of 2013 to assure that the mix of music in our stores matches the age demographics of our population.  According to the U.S. Census, 36% of the population is under 24, 30% is 24-45, 22% are 45-65, and 12% are over sixty-five.  So, for every 10 times a store makes me suffer through something like He is We, they should be required to play three songs like I Turn to You, Christina Aguilera, two like Baby Come Back by Player, and at least one Beatles, dammit.

And play Justin Bieber, go to jail.  It’s the law.  Write your Congressman.

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3 Comments on “Elevator Music”

  1. Rick Gleason Says:

    But, it’s also true, the younger generation, within the demographic you write about (the under 24 crowd), spends a ton of money in the malls. Much more than us old crotchety types. 🙂

  2. Your petition definitely makes sense to me -especially when I do venture out to a musical mall and they blast me out with Rap and such! Not my tastes at all!

  3. Derek Zenith Says:

    Yes, and while we’re at it, shall Abercrombie & Fitch tone down the perfume, please. Not everyone owns a WWI-surplus anti-mustard gas mask.

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