I was once a little…um, okay, terribly obsessed with iTunes. I got my first iPod in 2004 and became immediately entranced by Apple’s seeming infinite lists of music for sale. Over the years, I spent way too much time on iTunes and spent way too much money on music, some of which was great, and some of which was not. In 2011, for the sake of my sanity and my bank account, I went cold turkey. I suspended my iTunes activities and completely stopped visiting site. With the iTunes Diaries, I take a look back, highlighting the good, the bad, and the ugly in music that I just had to have in the moment.
When started using iTunes early, early on, I really couldn’t get over its catalog. It was nowhere near as big as it is today, but there was more than enough for me to browse. And what really hooked me was the power I had over finding songs that I had totally forgotten about. Songs from my middle and high school days that I had adored, memorized, and thought I’d never forget.
“Hourglass” was one of those songs.
It’s super easy for me to latch onto catchy, syncopated rhythms and vocals. Songs that have some sort of earwormy hook, any sort, even if it isn’t a great one, can become suck in my head for days. (Seriously. I made the “mistake” of listening to the Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack about a week and a half ago, and I’m still humming song snippets.) When I first heard “Hourglass” – during my Sunday morning ritual of listening to the Top 40 with Casey Kasem – my love for it bloomed immediately. It was jazzy, upbeat, and oh, that chorus, that fast-moving chorus – how it stuck with me. Each week, I learned a little more about this band called Squeeze, how they seemed to be a little more popular in the UK than in the US, and their big hit from 1981 “Tempted.” Each week, I looked forward to hearing this little diddy about an hourglass and the problems of time. As I recall, it stayed in the Top 40 for several weeks, and that was awesome. (Even better was when I caught a peek at its video on the illicit MTV. Seeing that cutie pie of a lead singer was a special something for young, little me.)
When I started buying albums (on cassette), Squeeze’s album with this track, Babylon and On, was a quick purchase. It was a most excellent purchase, and also not a good purchase. “Hourglass” was the first track on aide A, and I nearly wore out the damn thing just in that one spot because I’d play the song and rewind to the beginning, and then I’d play the song again and rewind it. Play, rewind, play, rewind, ad infinitum exporium in quanta (not real Latin some of that). Oh, I played the whole cassette, both sides, on rare occasions, but “Hourglass” was the only song I needed. To this day, hearing the full Babylon and On album doesn’t conjure any thoughts concerning the other songs because I really don’t remember them. (Though, after hearing it again, it is a truly fine album.) But despite how endeared I became of “Hourglass” over the course of a few months in 1988, it eventually faded into the mists of the past.
Until iTunes happened.
One of my earliest playlists is titled “rainy day.” I created it with the simple and overt mindset of “what songs would make me happy on a cold, dreary rainy day?” I had a few core songs already in mind that I knew would be on iTunes (this was in and around 2005) and a $20 gift card that was burning a hole in my pocket. Those songs only used up about half the card. After that, it was time to explore. I started drawing on memories of songs that I had once loved. I couldn’t for the life of me remember “Hourglass” or even Squeeze for that matter, but eventually a lyric popped into mind: “Take it to the bridge.” I kept repeating it silently over and over hoping that it would trigger something. Anything. Oddly enough, I came round to finding “Hourglass” by way of Flock of Seagulls. Their unforgettable (in ways good and bad) “I Ran” was one of the songs I originally had in mind for the list. After finding it, a number of other 80s bands showed up in the “listeners also bought” section, including Squeeze. And including Babylon and On. Though “Hourglass” itself had fallen by the wayside, that album cover was hard to unsee. Bringing up the track list, there it was, the first track, just as brilliant and catchy as I remembered it all those years ago.
Now, whenever it both rains and I have my iPod handy, I throw on my “rainy day” playlist. I wait for “Hourglass” to cycle round knowing that hearing it will make the smile on my face even bigger.