Used to be a dive-like joint I frequented, this has been many years past, and the place had a unique jukebox. Everything from Big Band and original swing to modern and post-modern hits, country, metal (“METAL!”), local, regional, international, punk, just a very eclectic mix. Not unlike my old mix-tapes (CDs), some years distant, as well. There was some Americana and Texana, but those taxonomies hadn’t been invented yet.
Alongside that legendary jukebox in an idyllic dive bar, that place burned to the ground years ago, the secret was in the mix. That jukebox was tightly controlled.
The Jukebox — in an appropriate juke joint — has to reflect certain noir moires, which that place respected. The last time I saw it opened up for (mechanical) surgery, the jukebox was playing CDs, not real records, but still, the equipment looked antique and weathered. The plastic buttons looked like the square, whatever era that is, late 1970s type of equipment.
Post Mid-Century Modern?
Portions of the chrome-like trim on the edge of the display was worn from drunks leaning into the machine.
That one place had the undeniable aromatic blend of stale cigarette smoke, shows an age, spilled beer, and drunken vomit, but just a tinge. Truly, a “dive,” a drinking man’s bar. Dark in the day, with weathered souls bellied up and nursing ruins of a life.
My fascination stems from that playlist, the pre-recorded and programmed material available on The Jukebox, and how that represented random, apparently bizarre choices.
That playlist was tightly guarded, wrangled, controlled. Perhaps this is an early example of the process of curation.
In part, what I do is curate. I also wrangle, coerce, and chide. Plus, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become a big proponent of the Oxford Comma, not that it has anything to do with this.
The Jukebox, that single jukebox was the genesis of an idea, and more as a metaphor rather than as a physical object.
Consider playlists are being tuned by algorithms in the cloud these days. That loses the actual emotional content, and while it might be easier, still not the same. Lacks that laser-like focus of the wide-open format. Bereft of the human touch, life-like sensibilities — and tastes.
The Jukebox is now metaphor, an analogy, a symbol that represents an idea.
That jukebox, not any jukebox, but that particular one, in an institution that is long-gone, now more myth than spilled memories. However, the notion of that apparently random yet tightly curated list of songs, that’s an example of what I do within my own work.
Examples, metaphors, analogies, and improbable tales are part of my work. Seems pretty random.
Like the one jukebox, though, there is a method to the apparent random selections.