A fun little story on the woes of searching for music before the days of Shazam and internet lyrics search. A fun reminder of where we all came from and a hint at where we could see our jobs going in the future. Thanks to John Chiarmonte for his submission! You can find him at Flashdancers in NYC. Check out their FB page here
An industry colleague’s post inspired me to write this true story about me searching for a song I liked back in the pre-information age. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did writing it.
It had all begun in the mid-80’s when I just started learning about DJing and I was building my record collection. You know, when you actually had to leave your house and travel to several different record stores to hopefully find and buy the physical record you wanted. Anyway, I had heard this particular song on the radio in the middle of a disco/funk/R&B live mix on WBLS in NYC. The song was familiar to me somehow but I could not recognize the singer. I guess it was somewhat of a hit at some point in time and I liked it and I wanted it. My only problem was during mixshows the DJs never announced artist and song title because the songs were blended together. So, I knew this could be a bit of a challenge. However, a challenge I had overcome time and time again with many other songs. I mean, I did work in a very popular record store in Brooklyn and was tested daily by customers singing and humming thier wanted songs. Remember back then there was no internet, no smartphone, no Shazam app, no lyrics search. Just me and my memory going from place to place trying to sing the misheard, butchered lyrics and humming the off-key melody to other DJs and music lovers to no avail. This went on for years and years and nobody could figure out the song. But, I’m an optomistic person and I definitely knew someday I would hear it again. But the question was when? And would the fucking DJ say the artist and song title this time? Remember this was still before the digital age of music. So still no display on the car radios showing the song’s info.
Then one fine day unexpectedly, it happened. I was driving up the West Side Highway on my way to work and the song came on. I was shocked and happy and ecstatic. I told my GF at the time “Shhhhhh! I have been searching for this song for years”. Even though she heard my words there was no way she could actually understand how important this moment in time was for me. As I sat there I had mixed emotions. Equally enjoying the song that I liked and couldn’t find for years, yet also waiting desperately for it to finish in hopes the DJ would reveal some info about the song. When the song ended and the DJ cut right to a commercial I shook my head in disbelief. After all these years I had come so close to my goal and had fallen short. Yet, even after this painful incident, I knew someday this quest would come to fruition.
Fast forward a few more years. Thousands of songs now in my digital library from me ripping my CDs onto my laptop. But still not that one particular mystery song. I hadn’t even heard it for years. Yet life had somehow continued and although I didn’t dwell on it, in the back of my mind I was always waiting to hear that song again. The internet was in its infancy and although I was amazed at it’s potential for porn and gaming, if it didnt help me discover this song, it was pretty much worthless. A quick lyric search in Excite and Yahoo turned up nothing. Although at this point I realized that with the advancements in computers it would only be a matter of time before I found my song.
Another year or two and a new form of digital music became popular and I knew it would be my saving grace. Satellite Radio. 100+ channels of digital music streamed to your car with the artist and song title right there on the screen. My next car had to have it. I knew this was the way to my discovery. I made sure I listened to the Disco and Soul stations a lot and after a few months and X amount of Donna Summer songs, Boom! There it was. “My precious.”
So, without further delay I present to you, the song which evaded me for over a decade: