Sometimes, when I’m singing along with my favorite songs on the radio in front of friends—good friends, mind you, the sort who don’t mind that I miss one note out of every three or two—I will further embarrass myself by not only missing the interval, or octave, but by missing a line or a lyric. Sometimes, a bridge or solo is shortened and the renewed vocalization catches me by surprise. After the song is over, I try to justify that portion of my pathological performance by saying that I am “singing the skip.”
Back in my formative middle 1980s, the cassette single was a novelty even as the era of the 45 record was fading. My mother owned a large number from her youth some twenty years previously, so my brother and I had plenty of oldies to load onto the console stereo in the living room. We cut our teeth on those, and when I went onto college, my endearment with the cheapening media form grew.
I found a music store in Milwaukee that offered juke box packs of records, a ten platter grab bag, for $1.99. I bought as many as I could, uncovering a large number of singles of dubious merit, but some I recognized. I also bought singles of contemporary or past hits for $2.49 each, and a number of used LPs to play on my shelf turntable.
There shall come a time when we’ll have to explain the oddities of records to children and young folk. You see, it was a disc like a compact disc, but it had these long grooves on each side. A needle rode in these grooves and the minute variation in the groove depth provided the sound. However, sometimes the records became scratched or damaged, and the needle would jump the edge of the groove. This skipping would advance the song a couple seconds, sort of like touching fast forward for a nanosecond.
Some of the inexpensive or used records I bought were imperfect, and even with the penny taped to the record needle, the songs sometimes skipped. Due to the nature of the imperfections, the songs skipped consistently; that is, the same line morphed into the second following line every time I played a particular song. So as I sang along in the darkness of my apartment, I began to skip, too.
The years of conditioning has paid off; I could sing to those songs and correctly account for the errata. Unfortunately, that special talent only works when I listen and sing along to the records I owned as a teenager and twentyager. When I’m confronted with the songs on the radio, on cassette, on CD, or in any of the current digital flavors of the month, I find myself a couple measures ahead at least once in the song.
So that’s my excuse, gentle reader and tolerant listener, for those odd moments where I run ahead of whatever I’m listening to and interpreting through my own rendition. It’s not a sign of my senility, but it is a sign of how we did things back in the old days when we flipped the discs or stacked them to play single-sides of albums in succession. We had to walk 2 mi—record store in the—we liked it!