You work in music long enough or listen with deep ears long enough and you will pick up things. I’m not talking about chords or changes, more the snippets and samples that exist in music. What happens to me when I hear something familiar, something from someplace else, is that I freeze and my mind goes into full Rubik’s cube mode: twisting and turning the song around in order to make sense of what I’m hearing in my head and put it into a proper context. A perfect example comes from years ago while working in the back room of the bookstore I worked in. I was doing returns or something wacky while listening to a collection of instrumental funk/r&b. Just working along, listening but not really to the songs when alluva sudden a track hit. Hit me hard, square in the solar plexus. I knew it, I knew the song, but from where? Rushing over to the player I looked at the case and located the song: “Soul Drums” by Pretty Purdie. I listened to the intro once, twice, three times. I stood in front of the player, ignoring my work (which some would say was my typical status in those days). I tried to listen and anticipate the next part of the song that sampled “Soul Drums.” Finally it fell into place and I rushed out onto the floor, scouring our then-impressive inventory, grabbed the disc where I thought I’d first heard the sample, brazenly opened it and took it into the back to play. I put the disc in the player, pressed play and listened as “Devil’s Haircut” by Beck started to play. I was right; that was the song I’d heard those drums on. This sort of thing happens less and less now, for a variety of reasons. One of the reasons is the fact that samples nowadays are so brazen, so easily identifiable, that there is no sport in finding the source material. Perhaps there are still areas of music that do this, but I’m not as up on these things as I used to be and I hear it less and less. But it happened to me a few nights ago, and while totally different in some ways, my brain reacted as usual.

I was at my computer, doing something work related. My wife was in the other room, watching a show about 20-somethings in New Jersey. I hear this song, this lyrics snippet, Hello-oooh-ooh-ooh. That’s it. I croak, “What is that music?” I get up and go into the other room to try and hear more or at least rewind the DVR to relisten to the music. The DVR was turned off, so that snippet was lost. And so I sat there thinking and relistening in my head to this little snippet of lyric that I know I had heard before. But where? My listening choices now are all driven by myself, meaning I find all the music I want to hear and put it on my iPod to listen to on the way in to work.

Since I have a growing lack of familiarity with so much music  now, I consulted with Google to help find my wacky little dance song with the word “Hello” as the primary title. Guess what? I found it. This isn’t owing to any particular skill, just sifting through songs until I found the right one. The song is called, get this, “Hello,” and it is by a Belgian DJ named Martin Solvieg. Once I found the name I found the track in my library and was not entirely shocked to discover that the song was on Fatboy Slim’s free New Year’s Eve mix from a few months ago. It made sense. See, I LOVE these free Fatboy Slim mixes (however I am very tired of the Manu Chao song “Clandestino”—it has been on the last two mixes). I can’t think of any other premium artist doing this, releasing high-quality free music. Four mixes gets you about three hours of music and all the mixes showcase a true great continuing to create wonderful tapestries of sound.

Now back to “Hello.” After I listened to the mix again and then went to YouTube, I found the official video for the track. Holy cow, the video is great. It made me think of an old video in the sense that there is a story being told using the video as the medium with the song as the soundtrack. This is the kind of video that you never forget and the type of video that you will always associate with the song. And I think this video is great because it is what it is and it made me sad to think that so many videos now are so unoriginal and run of the mill.

The video is set to a tennis match between the artist and another DJ. Right from the get-go you get the sense that this is a video of quality as both men have ratings–DJ rankings. One might miss or not quite get little details like that, but they add so much. Then the video plays out in a fairly straightforward manner in terms of the story: an underdog getting crushed yet coming from behind. I won’t say anything else apart from imploring you watch the video and see for yourself. Even with a song that is a dance music track you feel emotion build and momentum shift. I marvel at the video as I wonder how much of this they shot during the French Open or some other tennis tournament. The crowd is too real; it just feels like a proper video where the crowd is a real crowd, not a crowd of extras. And it is great; the song is pure sunshine and inspires smiles. I must also disclose that when I first found the video I missed a small link on the top left side of the YouTube video. When I looked I noticed that you could watch the “Extended Video Version,” which I did. The story, strong enough even in miniature, blooms with a few more minutes and is well worth watching from start to finish but leaves you hanging where the edited version feels closed.

Speaking of extra, later on in the evening I was flipping through the channels and mulling around the room when I heard the snippet of the song that started my whole quest to locate what I had heard. The song was used in a commercial, a commercial for a new line of Trident chewing gum. Chewing gum. I hadn’t heard the music used as a bumper on that show featuring 20-somethings in New Jersey on MTV. I had heard the music in a commercial for chewing gum. Where did we all go wrong?

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  1. […] On this April Fool’s Day, Mike Vincent’s acoustic memory isn’t playing tricks. Read how a short piece of melody, rhythm, or bassline can lead to new music discoveries, or let you rediscover music you’ve forgotten in “Snippet.” […]

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