Though I have owned and used a computer since 1983, I am like a man who owns a perfectly fine V-8 engine automobile and uses it only to listen to the radio -- that is to say, I use my computer as a typewriter. And just as I have never taken a photograph with my telephone, I have never used my computer to listen to the radio. Until this morning. I punched in the name Jeff Beck just for kicks and found an entire radio station for Beck fans. No doubt, plenty of guitar aficionados or just music fans or, of course, computer buffs will know all about this feature; but figure, I had to ask my girlfriend yesterday who Lindsay Lohan and Nicole Richie are. They seem to be the most famous people in the world and I had no idea.
I am hoping, with diminishing hope as each hour passes, that there are enough computer retards like me still out there to form a sympathetic readership for this wide-eyed piece. Otherwise this will certainly read like an infant enraptured as he examines his feet, toes, and fingers -- in my case, a toddler who should have registered this stuff and moved on a long time ago.
I was blindly navigating my way through music sites, idiotically trying to click on even the date and time in the corner of the monitor as if it might be some sort of time machine. (Hey, I wonder if I can find "Dance the Night Away" by Cream. Let's see, that was maybe 1968...) So I click on 2007 a couple of times, as if this makes any sense at all. I wish I could say I was kidding. All I can say about that lapse in even low animal cunning was that I hadn't yet had coffee.
Oddly enough, I found the song in pretty short order through some link relating to guitar music. Within moments I was actually listening to this nearly 40-year-old record. Pure dumb luck, surely; but I wonder what the odds really are? I bet they are fair (taking me as an example and not this one incident) that an individual can approach a current-model computer knowing as little as it is possible to know in this culture about them and within an hour obtain reasonable satisfaction, i.e., some question or task the subject had in mind for the machine. Probably in much less than an hour.
So there I am listening to this song for the first time in at least 35 years, maybe longer, and I am, like Proust with his madeleine, instantly transported. I was walking through a sculpture garden in Lake Forest, Illinois, on a drizzly spring day in April of '68. I am wearing frilly cuffs and collar, what Seinfeld called a "puffy shirt," only mine is kind of purple. I am wearing Levi's bell bottoms, my hair is just over my ears, but my sideburns are past the bottom of my earlobes and are about to get me kicked out of senior class. I am with a girl named Barbara. She lives in a trailer park in Lake Villa, Illinois, and has never seen lavish surroundings like this. Neither have I. (This is the home of the man who owned controlling interest in Morton salt, I believe, whose son was a fan of our band.) This sculpture garden had actual phony Greek ruins scattered around. I had dropped acid with Barbara the night before and set free the woman residing beneath that callow, corn-fed, and ingenuous sensuality. Later, I had to get a shot and was given the nickname "Spot" for several weeks by bandmates.
This was a true memory left unsummoned for decades and unlocked by some happy combination of cyberlink and synapse I may never find my way back to. (By the way, I had heard Eric Clapton had recently made some disparaging remark about songs like this that Cream had performed and how unhappy he was with them -- I have to disagree. They may just be the musical equivalent of my puffy shirt, but they had their place and time.)
I did find Jeff Beck stuff, of course, all over the place, including some very patchy, badly edited old Yardbirds things that are worthwhile to me only in that they revealed Beck experimenting with alternately deranged and then tasteful and unsuspected riffs that may have preceded Randy Rhoads doing Vivaldi by ten years. Footnote stuff, I suppose, for the rock academic.
This kind of experience goes a long way to converting me from a kind of Luddite on the subject of dot.com dementia to someone -- and only Homer Simpson springs immediately to mind, after Mo, the bartender, removed a crayon that had been lodged in Homer's brain for years -- who looks around himself with a semblance of wonder once again and says with awe, "What an age we live in!"