Heard it In a Pop Song

I had two alternate post titles tonight:

Tom Jones makes everything sound dead sexy


Tom Jones is a lying liar

More on that reasoning later. For the nonce, let me me unveil yet another way in which I am hopelessly art-and-media obsessed.

I’ve talked many times about how important music is to me and my life, and I think I’ve mentioned now and again how I’m the kind of old school dinosaur who still buys a fair proportion of music on physical CDs. But have I ever mentioned exactly how prodigious my CD collection is?

I don’t have a precise count right now*, but my best guess is around 1,800 or so. Across lots of different artists and genres–classical, Broadway, jazz, hip-hop. And lots and lots of stuff in the pop/rock/r&b vein. Lots.

Now, I like to have music going in the house most of the time, and I try to be deliberate about listening through the entire cycle every few years or so**, by mixing up times when I choose what I’m in the mood for with times I just grab the next couple CDs off the (quirkily alphabetized) shelf. That combination means that most of my collection remains pretty solidly in my mind’s ear on any given day. I feel as if the inside of my head must be something like that SNL sketch where Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda stays well and truly stuck.

This potpourri of pop poesy in the cranium has created some fun moments along the way—particularly during musicology grad school, when I was the only cohort member who had such a richly misspent youth following popular music. Everyone else had grown up with classical music and a chosen “higher-brow” example or two from the more popular genres, whether that was jazz, the Beatles, or prog. I was definitely the only one who’d regularly followed Casey Kasem and MTV’s Top 20.


I remember one evening when this difference between our childhoods (and the music banks in our brains) was uncovered fairly early in my time in the program. A bunch of us were grabbing dinner at some chain restaurant ahead of seeing an opera***, and one of the group made reference to how he had zero familiarity with whatever song was on.**** After focusing my attention on the background, I could quickly ID the tune’s name and artist and said what it was. This happened again on the next song, and the next. After the first few rounds, it became a bit of a thing: as soon as a new song started, folks would look at me while I took 8 or 10 seconds to ID it for the table by title and artist. It was like my very own version of stupid human tricks.

There’s also the chalkboard I won once for bar trivia whilst being in the ladies’ room. But that’s a story for another day.

And what does any of this have to do with Tom Jones? Well, within my CD collection is a Greatest Hits collection for the Welsh baritone. Amongst the bigger hits there are some deeper cuts that I’ve only heard on this collection. One of them is called Chills and Fever.

That song has been very much on my mind these past days as I wrestled with a really not-fun stomach virus. It came on Saturday night, and I’m only just now beginning to feel back to myself today. As I shivered and sweated, I kept hearing Tom’s voice in my head, warbling

Ooh, chills and fever

and I thought to myself that the actual experience of those two phenomenon is just so much less fun and less sexy than Mr. Jones made it out to be.

So anyhow, that’s why I’ve missed 3 days’ blogging (and a similar length of time reading). If nothing else, I’ve gained a new private joke that will likely be amusing me for every illness I get henceforth.

I can live with that.


* Note to self: maybe get a formal count this year.

** Just started a new pass in mid-January.

*** As one does in musicology school.

**** #HumbleBragging before the term officially existed.


Image credit: Flickr user Ali Eminov, via a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic license.

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