Why Don’t Jukeboxes Offer “None of the Above”?

Neil Shelton
12 Min Read

You know, it’s getting where music really ticks me off.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking already.  It’s practically blasphemy to speak ill of music; music which “has charms to soothe a savage breast”.

Music, that which has been likened favorably to gold and diamonds, THAT ticks me off?


Remember the old saying, “Anybody who likes kids and animals can’t be all bad.”?  That’s how people seem to feel about music.

Well, that may be so, but give me a chance to explain myself on the subject.  (I’ll get around to telling you what’s wrong with kids and animals some other time.)  It’s not as if I never listen to music, or even that there isn’t a lot of it that I’d even admit to liking, but golly Moses! there’s just so MUCH of it!

I’ve often pondered why classical music, the most refined, seemingly the most evolved of all music came primarily from a period 200 to 500 years ago, whereas a lot of the most modern music seems so comparatively crude and brash.

If you know anything about music, then it’s already apparent to you that I don’t, but like everyone else, that doesn’t stop me from having developed several strong opinions.  My explanation of this seeming incongruity is this: 500 years ago, man’s existence was a coarse, difficult plight.  The average life expectancy was about 23, famine and disease were the order of the day, and music prior to that time had consisted largely of sounds made by pressing, pounding or blowing through different animal parts.

As the Baroque era dawned, man quickly sought to distance himself and his music from the grim chaos that had gone before and the more sophisticated, resplendent and celestial music became, the more he liked it.

Who can blame him?  If all you got to listen to all day long was the grunts and snorts of farm animals or the wails of your neighbors dying of the bubonic plague, a string quartet would sound pretty nice, even nicer than it does today.

However, as luck would have it, time continued, and more different sorts of music began to fill the air.

Today, we have music played on all manner of instruments for people of all manner of taste, even those whose taste it is to prefer anything that will scandalize their parents.

…and I don’t have a problem with that.  If I weren’t so sick of music, I’d like all kinds of it too.

But sick of it I am, and the reason why is because I can’t escape it.

Okay, that’s not exactly true.  Living in a very rural location, I can easily slip out into the forest and spend a few hours among the chirping of frogs and the twitter of birds but, I can’t get my tires balanced and my wheels aligned out here, so try though I may, I can’t spend nearly enough of my time where it’s quiet, and like most everyone else in the modern world, I wind up spending a lot of each day watching television with the family, or shopping, or having tech support pump tripe into my ear, or just minding my own business going from one place to another, and I can tell you, friend, that music is EVERYWHERE!  You don’t have to live in New York to be bombarded with it, it follows you wherever you go.

Take yesterday for example, I needed to run into town to do a couple of things.

Since I’m so sick of music, the radio in my truck is constantly tuned to NPR because I do enjoy an intelligent discussion.  Unfortunately, in this neck of the woods, intelligent discussion ends abruptly at 10:00 am and classical music ensues until 3:00 pm.

Okay, wait, I don’t want to look like a low-brow.  I can listen to the William Tell Overture and never once think of the Lone Ranger, but after about thirty minutes of this stuff, I start to feel like I’m attending a funeral, and if I move to any of the other stations out here in God’s Country, I have fourteen other selections that come down to this: Tears- in-Your-Beer Country/Western or Golden Oldies Rock and Roll.

Okay, that may not sound so bad to someone who just got off the plane from North Korea.  I genuinely like Willie Nelson, and I’m absolutely convinced that Tammy Wynette isn’t nearly as stupid as she looks, talks and sounds, but all day long?… everywhere you go?

That reminds me of the story about How I Got to Be This Way.

A few years ago, I had to go into the hospital for… well, it’s really none of your business, and not germane to the story, but anyway, I had to go into the hospital and when I did, I was put into what was referred to as a “semi-private” room.

In case you’ve never had this experience, let me enlighten you.  There is nothing even remotely private about a semi-private room.  Having a semi-private room means that you have to share virtually every detail of your life with a total stranger lying five feet away.  The only reason that it’s called semi-private is that it’s costing you more than you’d pay for a comparably-long stay in a luxury resort so they have to at least make a passing effort at making it sound better than it is.

On this particular occasion, I hadn’t been in a hospital since a much-earlier incident involving an erector set and a Hoover self-propelled vacuum-cleaner, so I felt a particular novice at invalidism.

My room-mate was precisely the opposite.  This guy seemed to have a malady for every body part that still worked.

Everything he had either ached, burned, or itched.  I learned that he’d been occupying the bed next to mine for going on three years now, and his hopes of leaving it soon didn’t appear to be very bright unless he were to die.  I won’t upset you with a full listing of all of his ailments, but suffice it to say, you wouldn’t wish his condition on your worst enemy.  Just watching the life he had to live filled me with remorse.

That was during my first couple of hours there.

I soon became aware that my hapless companion had only one bright spot left in what anyone would agree was a grim and miserable life, and that was to stay tuned, for every long, grueling minute of every torturous day, 24/7-365, to KWTO’s Radio Ranch and its Radio Ranch-hands, 560 on your AM dial.

Night and day nurses came and went from the room doing things to this poor devil that to this day I wouldn’t want to repeat or even think about.

I, on the other hand, was there to have a teeny little hole cut in my otherwise near-perfect physical form, an itsy-bitsy little TV camera inserted, and very insignificant microsurgery performed.

Was I, by speaking up, going to take away the only thing this miserable wretch had to live for, just because that thing happened to be threatening to turn my brain into mush?

I was not.

So it was that I spent four long days and three absolutely horrific nights listening to 40’s-style cowboy music.  Gene Autry, Porter Waggoner, Cowboy Copas, I heard them all, and I heard them all over… and over… and over again.

Let’s see now, where was I.  Oh yeah, yesterday.  Anyway, shortly after I switched off the radio, I pulled into the tire shop to get one of my tractor tires repaired.

I guess the guys busting beads and fixing flats could have been discussing Kierkegaard or Proust, but on this particular occasion, they weren’t.  They were listening to 60’s rock and roll.

Let me make an admission here.  I grew up in the 60’s.  I used to love this stuff, at least for the first thirty years or so, but isn’t it maybe time to move on?  I keep wondering if my son’s generation is going to be listening to Eminem in the year 2050 and if so, will I be lucky enough to die first?

When I stopped by the grocery store, speakers were pumping out elevator music.  I recognized the tune: “Satisfaction”.  The down-and-dirty, wouldn’t-want-your-daughter-to-marry-one Rolling Stones have been reduced to Musak and what’s left is following you everywhere.

And speaking of the past, I stopped to think of how many private parties I’ve been to where some old geezers jumped up, grabbed guitars and other noise implements, and started wheezing their way through yet another rendition of “Proud Mary”.

Okay maybe you see where I’m coming from.  I’m not saying that music is bad… necessarily, but what if every now and then, everyone just shut up and listened to themselves think for a while?

What wonders might mankind create if more of our environment were quiet enough to encourage deep thought?  Would we really quit consuming so much if the stores didn’t pump mindless little ditties into our brains day and night?  And what about the music?  Doesn’t it do something harmful to your psyche when you hear those old songs that used to stand for new ideas and youthful rebellion being used to hawk nasal-decongestant sprays?

Is NOTHING sacred?

That’s why I’ve devised a plan to begin to take back the air around us.  It’s just one product, one small step for mankind if you will, but it launches us in the right direction, and soon you’ll be able to see one in every pizza parlor in America.  It’s a jukebox with an additional choice, a new touch never offered before.

You drop in a quarter, and for four minutes, it’s absolutely silent.

Share This Article
Leave a comment