Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Bottleneck Duane

Media! They say movies are the greatest entertainment; over a century trillions of dollars have been invested in them. Films capture and compress culture and history, thus play an integral role in education and progress. Though denied by the guilty, much of what folks do follows screen examples: how to express intimacy, imagine innovation, protect against enemies, react in conflicts, and stop stupidity. Films marshall acting, costumes, dialogue, music, plots, settings, sounds, special effects, and visual imagery. Prestigious awards are given for exceptional examples. Anyone who directs or produces them agrees the single most important element to success is superior sound. You have to hear what’s being said while music sets an emotional tone; one cannot obscure the other, rather, balance and clarity must be achieved, even though noisy action usually dominates.

A book of fiction takes longer to read than watching the same story on film. Although something will always be lost in translation between each medium, movies might even bring new perspectives and improve upon themes. Like bicycling, the key lies in time you save. Conversely, documentaries, nonfiction in film, can often be inferior to reading, convey simple but useful reality dragged out over strained imagery and stumbling interviews, and minimize layers of input, such as action or music. Books efficiently collect gospel truths, jurisprudence canons, personal testimonies, or science texts. Religions are founded on books that lay down laws. All media fill niches along a continuum from waste of everyone’s sweat to well worth your time. Which you choose is up to you.

Through songs bishops and clerics exhort congregations to behave. Muezzins melodiously call muslims to prayer 5 times a day. Music supposedly soothes savage souls; assuredly, certain chords stimulate neurons in weird ways. Even more than books and films, songs decode meaning, encapsulate events, represent culture, and take only minutes to hear. They suit attention deficits and audiences enduring contemporary stress. Sometimes merely bundled memes, tunes become neatly packaged commodities sold for basic monetary units, a buck each. They'd even be called d-i-y currency if not for the facts that billions of them discourage scrutiny and only those in demand temporarily posses value. Songs are more like ripe fruits than safe deposits. But interdependency among books, films and songs elevates each to an invaluable portal into the unknown.

Had he not died at 24 years old in a motorcycle crash in 1971, Duane Allman might have enjoyed his 69th birthday and fulfilled a promising career. Despite playing on only 3 Allman Brothers albums, though scores of others including Derek & the Dominos’ platinum certified Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, Duane gets rated among the best rock guitarists, second only to Jimi Hendrix. Duane never completed high school, majored in guitar instead. Influenced by B.B. King, Elmore James and other blues and jazz greats from his Southern roots, his style featured slide, which he produced by sticking his ring finger into a Coricidin bottle. A subsequent Allman Brothers album was dedicated to him and named for his reply to an interviewer about his involvement in counterculture, “Revolution? Evolution... When I’m in Georgia I’ll ‘Eat a Peach’ for peace.” While not about bicycling per se, these Allman lyrics signify, “Well, I’ve got to run to keep from hiding, and I’m bound to keep on riding... the road goes on forever... I’ve gone by the point of caring... but I’m not gonna let them catch me, no, not gonna let ‘em catch the ‘Midnight Rider’”. Far too many die on roads, so cyclists ride warily. Camera assistant Sarah Jones working on the Allman Brothers biopic sharing that song’s name (never released) was killed while shooting alongside a railroad. Labann dumped a motorcycle, as do many who foolishly replace pedal bikes for speedy scooters, and played guitar in bands, so naturally appreciates Skydog’s celebrations of life and ethereal licks from nearly a half century ago as reminders of how timeless gifts from the universe will always be.

Do care how songs influence bicyclists and listeners worldwide, so recently united those listed in book with those mentioned in blog followups. This new directory of over 1,850 titles constitutes the most comprehensive yet of recorded bicycling related songs and includes countless corrections and updates; applied plethora of details that since became available over internet. Readers should still consult blog and book for caveats, explanations, links, quotes, and references. This amalgamates and salutes all the work done by scores of researchers worldwide, for example, The Wheelmen Organization, who traced sheet music back to 1868's Velocipede Galop, possibly the first bike song ever, because that's when Michaux's pedal contraption instigated original craze. Although sound recording began in France 150 years ago (1860's), Edison wouldn't invent a repeatable method until 1877. Dacre’s "Daisy Bell" was the very first bicycle song to be recorded, reputedly sung by Dan W. Quinn in 1893. On a video clip, an 1894 cover by Edward M. Favor leads notable tracks through present. Didn’t overlook the fact that Dacre’s ditty forever objectifies women. Did include a few early covers and many newly found (if not so new, French have long adored Le Tour) originals. But, ever wary of those who pad lists and what they lump, removed any that didn’t align or pass examination upon hearing and studying further, some existing only as on-line videos.

Bicycle related songs released by year, 1990 - 2015

Hundreds of indie songsmiths were empowered by a worldwide web, which became popular as a whole new egalitarian medium around 1990. Of songs indexed where origin could be determined, 81% were released after 1990, 68% after 2000. Annual numbers steadily grew (click on graph above to enlarge) from 1990 to 2006, when it reached a peak of 129 titles, then declined. A trend makes one wonder why. Was the bicycle-built-for-two-or-you honeymoon over? Have gasoline prices again become bearable? The years from 2001 to 2009 do enclose double zeroes, which resemble a pair of bracketed wheels and won't happen again this millennium. Awareness of sustainable practices grew while state economies around globe collapsed, so many chose cheaper/cleaner transportation alternatives. Coincidences realized, 2009 was aptly called the Year of the Bicycle. But did all this signal a real movement or retro fad?

Intended to neither deceive readers nor downplay/exclude artists or groups, though they are legion. Like a bottleneck, an author can only present a snapshot of facts collected and crosschecked within a timeframe. Was also handcuffed by attempting to be accurate and informative, though that classifies anyone as a know-it-all to be feared and hated. Filling out, formatting, and proofreading table was an exhausting task for midnight riding through cyberspace in winter downtime, yet worthy of cycling champions - Anquetil, Armstrong, Bartali, Contador, Coppi, Gimondi, Indurain, Hinault, Merckx, Pantani, Poulidor, Taylor - who've been celebrated in media.

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