I’m old enough to remember when elevator “canned music” first appeared; I remember hearing it the time I got lost in the Hudson’ s Bay department store in downtown Vancouver. I don’t know how old I was – memories of crying, a woman in a grey skirt, and relentless music. For years afterwards, anytime I heard big band music, or instrumentals my stomach churned without mercy. Instrumental versions of big band classics, middle of the road pop hits from the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s playing softly in the background of department stores and elevators, had a way of making me want to bolt for the nearest exit.
As with most things background music has evolved over the years; instrumentals giving way to soft pop, top 40 hits, and vocals rather than generic “muzak”. This wasn’t so bad – definitely an improvement – I could shop to Creedence Clearwater or Sheryl Crow. Occasionally a bizarre instrumental version of Elvis Costello’s Watching the Detectives or Talking Head’s Road to Nowhere assaulted me – annoyed that somewhere, somebody thought instrumental covers of these songs was a good idea. I wanted to scream “what focus group told you this would make me buy more avocados “. It had nothing to do with my pre-school trauma, more an indignity to music that had been part of my life.
Today I was in a grocery store where Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water blared. It struck me as absurd, ridiculous – a holy crap moment. All I could think was that a bunch of “guitar heroes” had left the basement and found jobs. A few hours later I entered an elevator to London Calling by the Clash. This is just plain wrong – a punk anthem about apocalyptic events all the way to the 18th floor. It may be that my reaction stems from middle age – who wants their youth flashing before their eyes as the ride in a box full of sour looking business suits. All I can say for certain is that grocery smoke and elevator clash are a really bad idea.