Sunday, October 24, 2010

Music for the game room

With the physical setup of the game room complete, the next thing to do was load up the Archos with appropriate music. I didn't stop there, though; it's got a complete copy of my entire music library, which can be accessed fairly easily with the touch-screen. But to suit the location, I've also made a specific playlist of early-to-mid-80s songs that attempts to capture the spirit of an arcade of the time. There's a lot of great music not on that list, even a lot of great music of the time period, because being too inclusive would make the list just feel like "some good music" rather than "hey, we've been transported back to 1984 and are in an arcade" which is the feel I was going for. Thus, I especially went for synth-pop and other distinctively 80s sounds, bands that were big only then (including many of the one-hit wonders of the time), and a definite focus on the upbeat and uptempo stuff they'd be more likely to play in an arcade.

I had to go out and find a few songs that weren't in my collection yet but needed to be in this list, chief amongst them Soft Cell's version of "Tainted Love" which was not in my collection for the simple reason that... I don't hate it, but the amount I like it requires me to hear it only as often as merely existing in this world makes inevitable. I never had to go seek it out to hear it just as often as I wanted. In fact, simply thinking about it would cement it earworm-style in my head so well that owning a copy seems superfluous. Still, it's just the kind of song that would be playing in an arcade, so it's on the list. I've got to (thump thump!) get away...

Getting it required me to go through a collection someone had made of "200 Biggest Hits of the 1980s." As someone who graduated in 1984, who was watching the minute MTV went on the air, and who listened to the radio more then than at any other time in his life, I figured I'd have no trouble at least recognizing the songs, including those I didn't like. And most of them I did, but while there were a few "oh, yeah, I remember this song, I haven't thought about this in ages" moments, there were surprisingly many "this doesn't sound at all familiar" moments too, perhaps 30-40 of them. Many of those songs I didn't recognize seemed so eminently signature examples of that 80s pop sound, that perhaps I don't remember them because they melted into one big undifferentiated mass of sound in my memory. But I usually have an excellent memory for songs, so that seems a cavalier explanation.

This playlist is not something I'd want to listen to over and over; it's only about 200 songs (I decided to avoid letting any one band, however much they typified the sound or were great, get more than three songs -- I think only Duran Duran and Tears For Fears got three, in fact) and a lot of the songs are kind of trashy, formulaic, or cheesy. But they are absolutely two things: fun, and evocative of a moment in history that this room tries to bring you to.

Now, I just hope the dog and cats start getting to be friends so I can get into it (and not have it strewn with cat litter and shredded cardboard).

I have one question. Is "Tainted Love" playing in your head now, too?

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