..Jon Simonds..

Look What They've Done To My Songs

Look what they've done to my song, ma
look what they've done to my song
well they tied it up in a plastic bag
and its turning out all wrong, ma
look what they've done to my song

Music and lyrics by Melanie Safka

My love affair with music started in the back seat of a limo when I was five years old. No. I didn't come from money. My father was a cabbie and my mother was a stay-at-home mom who insisted I spend the summer of '63 at a day camp in a section of Brooklyn that catered to Canarsie. I lived in Flatbush, which was too far off the beaten path for any camp bus to get to. So, the camp hired a limo driver to pick us up in the morning and drop us off in the evening. The limo driver, whose name escapes me, was a big fan of WNEW-AM and always had the radio blaring out the sounds of Tony Bennet and Frank Sinatra, just to name a few. At first, it was corny music, the sort of stuff my mom listened to, but after a couple of rides, my foot started tapping and my head started bopping to the sounds. In other words, this stuff was good.

Several months later, I was allowed to stay up and watch the Ed Sullivan Show where the lads from Liverpool were set to complete their conquest of the world. In the months that followed, I received my first transistor radio and my first record player. It, too, was portable and not much bigger than a loose-leaf notebook. I wore out the grooves on the mop-tops first album and never went to bed without the transistor radio under my pillow. Gone were the sounds of NEW's milkman's matinee as I discovered Cousin Brucie and all at 77 WABC. I hadn't hit my teens yet when prime-time TV lost me to the sounds of the Dave Clark Five, the Herman Hermits, the Monkee's and the Stones. Needless to say, over the years, I've spent a small fortune on records, CDs and even cassettes. Through out it all, however, as radio deteriorated into graphs and charts illustrating what people wanted to hear, I began to crave a means by which I could listen to what I wanted, when I wanted to.

Hi. I'm a Mac.
And I'm a PC.
-Apple Ad

It really doesn't matter what kind of operating system you use, these days, if your computer has replaced (among other things), your record player. The laptop, with a really good pair of speakers, blows the old dust-collecting stereo system right off the shelf and like that old portable record player, you can take it with you where ever you go. I have some 3,000 songs on my 21st Century stereo and have never ventured to a website that offers cost free music. My portable stereo offers an attachment more popularly known as the I-pod. I love this little thing. It plays through my car stereo for an enjoyable hour long ride, back and forth to work. It docks into a speaker station for those eight hours a day I spend at work and best of all, it comes with a pair of headphones for those times when the significant other is going off about getting the garbage out, drying the dishes, or folding the laundry. I've bought songs off I-tunes and transferred my entire CD collection to my portable stereo. So, why am I ready to declare war on the Remarkably Ignorant Arrogant Alliance whom is more popularly known as the RIAA?

A recent Washington Post article reports on an Arizona man who received a letter from the RIAA. Apparently, he is being sued for transferring legally purchased CDs to his portable stereo, or, computer. The RIAA maintains these are "unauthorized copies" of copyrighted recordings and they fully intend to go after any and all who partake in this illegal action. Does this make of me a criminal? If I purchase a record, or a CD, I only purchase the right to listen to said object? If I listen to said object, am I not allowed to let anyone else listen to it? After all, anyone who happens to be around when I am playing said music hasn't paid for the right to hear it. Isn't he stealing the joy of listening, or, maybe illegally listening "cos the RIAA isn't getting any compensation for his pleasure" I have 3000 legally purchased songs on my stereo, or 3000 songs I can't play.

Well guess what? I want to sue the RIAA. I want my money back. I want compensated for my MP3 player. I want the RIAA to give me back every dime I have spent and I want cousin Brucie back on 77 WABC, when I could buy a 45, stick it on my portable stereo (which was really in mono), play it wherever and whenever I wanted to without being hauled off to court and sued for every penny I've tucked away in an old five gallon aquarium which, incidently, is hidden in the same corner of my closet as all my old LPs. But mostly, I want a judge with the guts to get up and ask RIAA members, such as Sony, how is it they can release CDs of recording artists and sell them in the same stores as the Sony Walkman MP3 player?

We think we know what we're doin'
We don't pull the strings.
It's all in the past now
Money changes everything.
-Cyndi Lauper, 1983
Music and lyrics by Tom Gray

* * *