o leif, where art thou?

7/19/09

Every once in a while an art form comes along that makes me think, “shit, if I had all the right equipment and mountains of extra time, I’d actually be pretty good at that.” This does not apply to ping-pong, pottery or suspension bridge engineering, but I think I’d actually be kick-ass at the art of the mashup. Stored in my head, in the place where the location of my car keys ought to be, is the tempo, key and rhythm of pretty much every pop song from 1964 to about 2000… with a good helping of stuff since.

Before the mashup, this kind of encyclopedic knowledge was useless, and could only function to annoy others on a long road trip, or to sap the energy of those standing near enough to me while I rant about the motherfucking Pussycat Dolls rewriting “I Will Survive” without even knowing that’s what they were doing. These days, if I were a famous DJ in the Mission District with a large, disturbed following and a hijacked copy of Cubase, I’d be revered as a god – but god knows timing is everything.

As it is, we can all sit back and enjoy the other Aspergian savants who cull these tracks together for our enjoyment. If you haven’t seen it yet, the Rickrolled version of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is genius:

…as is another old mashup favorite, “Toxic Love Shack”:

I’ll always have a soft spot for anything involving the Beatles:

Of course, the day will come when my particular 40-year chunk of meticulously-annotated pop music will be shared by less and less people (assuming it hasn’t already) and there will be mashups of six different tunes, none of which I’ll know. Shit, if you look at the songs above… like “Love Shack” (1989), or the Nirvana (1991)… you’re already going back before any current college freshman was born. This is how it should be, but sometimes I feel like Tessa’s 91-year-old father, talking into a cassette recorder, listing the chords to Broadway tunes that were never to be.

We used to joke about our generations’ insatiable collection of cultural detritus, how we would remember thousands of song lyrics, board games and TV shows of our youth, all of it deemed – even by us – as useless. That wasn’t entirely true; it was always useful as an in-joke or a cultural touchstone, and there are still a few memories left that were never regurgitated and exploited by the nostalgia machine.

But there will come a time when there will be so few of us around, far too distracted with joint pain and resentment to muster a memory about things like Dynamite Magazine and spokey dokes. And then, at long last, it will be true: that heaping, neon mound of trivia will finally be completely useless. I will be in my rocker overlooking the sunset, hear some stupid dialogue on the overhead television and say “Jesus, that is so ‘Barney Miller’. Am I right? Am I right? Can I get a frickin’ AMEN around here?” And the nurse with the Jell-o will say to her supervisor, “Human Unit 793b12 is talking to himself again.”

Until then, however, WE STILL ROOL THE SKOOL. WE’RE SENIORS! And NO, we will NOT BUY YOU LIQUOR, MOTHERFUCKERS!