I grew up with a strange appreciation for elevator music, an affliction many doctors have referred to in Latin as maxime album, or in English as extremely white.
It could be because I would often visit my great aunt and uncle who lived down the dirt road from my grandma, who often kept me as a child during the summer. They had some sort of strange TV antenna that seemed to only capture two shows — “Hee-Haw” and “The Lawrence Welk Show.”
How they could love those two shows on opposite extremes is beyond me, but obviously some of those sounds in the background seeped into my brain as I turned out to be kind of a Hee-Haw guy and Lawrence Welk was a master of elevator-style music.
Or it could be that I equated such music with the city. They didn’t play any music at the stores in my hometown. Of course, we didn’t really have any stores in my hometown beyond the IGA, and the owners of that only would have played elevator music if there were such versions for “Kaw-Liga,” “Mule-Skinner Blues” or “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ with Lovin’ on Your Mind.”
When my family ventured into big cities like Macon, Columbus and Albany, though, we would occasionally hear elevator music in stores with such amazing features as, well, elevators and those deadly escalators.
My tastes evolved over the years, however, and turned more toward smooth jazz than orchestras doing covers of AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells.” Yes, I like the kind of jazz that makes real jazz enthusiasts barf and scream, “That’s not jazz!” I like folks like Bob James, Earl Klugh and Larry Carlton. Have I completely lost you now?
You’ve probably heard their music while shopping, even if you didn’t know who they were. You likely didn’t even notice there was music playing. You just kept filling your buggy with items like socks, paper plates and pickled pigs feet.
Recently, though, I was stopped in my tracks by a song while I was shopping at a super-gigantic major grocery chain store. It was that classic, easy-going, elevatory tune, “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns N’ Roses.
This was considered hard rock when it came out during my teenage years. You’ll still hear it a lot at sports arenas when they try to fire up the crowd at kickoff or at a critical moment. I believe it has stood the test of time as one of the greatest rock songs ever from one of the best albums ever.
But shopping music? How rough must today’s music be if we are now shopping to Guns N’ Roses? What’s next? Will the jeweler be playing 2 Live Crew as you shop for a lovely necklace? Perhaps we’ll be dining at one of those fancy Italian restaurants — like Fazoli’s — to the light tunes of Slipknot.
Fortunately, I wasn’t the only shopper who noticed this. I saw several folks look up toward the ceiling in disbelief. Meanwhile, I was trying to navigate the vitamin aisle while rocking my head back and forth and playing air guitar — which made it difficult to focus and resulted in my grabbing menopause vitamins instead of men’s multivitamins. The good news is my hot flashes have cooled down.
The bad news is that I was pretty fired up by the time I got to the back of the store where my wife was slowly perusing Christmas items.
“Come on! We’ve got to buy something to grill! Meat section! Now!”
Later, I scared some poor kid to death when I threw up my arms as he cut in front of me in a checkout line. I thought my wife was behind me with the cart, but she had gotten distracted by another Christmas thingy. “You need to get me out of here before I hurt somebody!” I told her in an effort to get moving.
I already hate shopping and obviously don’t need extra firing up. It took 15 minutes to calm down as I popped open the chocolate milk and played the Watercolors smooth jazz station all the way home.
Chris Johnson’s annual “Year in Preview” is now online at KudzuKid.com.