iTunes Diaries, entry #23: “A Tune for Jack” by Lemon Jelly

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. 

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Songs tell us stories. Sometimes they do it directly through actual words. But sometimes they do it no less directly through music (with occasional clues). In the case of “A Tune for Jack,” I don’t know jack about Jack is, but I do know a little about the group that created it – Lemon Jelly. I know that Lemon Jelly is a duo. They are from the United Kingdom. Their music falls within the realm of electronic with emphasis on downtempo and ambient. Is that enough? Because that was the gist of what I got from Pandora the first time I heard the song. (P. S. “A Tune from Jack” is off of Lemon Jelly’s debut album lemonjelly.ky [2000].)

From the get-go, I connected with the song’s lush rhythms and plucky piano. (I love the piano and maybe someday I’ll learn to play it again.) “A Tune for Jack” is a warm, cozy song that wrapps you in delightfulness like comfort food. It’s easy on the ears. It’s easy to get along with the swaying beat. It’s easy to admire its simple musicality.

That first time I heard it, I wondered about Jack – who he was and what this person had done to warrant a personal song of sorts. And then, about halfway through, I got my answer. You’ll just have to listen to get what I mean.

I’ll be honest, the vocalizations distracted me a little at first. But just as I started to turn my nose up at the thought of children generally, the song’s contented sigh drew me back in.  And I thought of Jack.

A young baby boy happily enters the world much to the happiness and relief of his parents. Despite their exhaustion, they are light and exuberant. Time passes and Jack grows into a ‘big fella” who may or may not acquires an early fascination of elephant seals, elephants, and/or seals.  Because the parents are who they are, one of whom is likely a member of Lemon Jelly, they record for posterity some of Jack’s seminal moments, including many of his attempts to speak. During one “recording session,” a musically-attuned parent picks up on a rhythm in Jack’s babblings.  This parent takes said recording and plops it into the appropriate music software and begins dabbling. Slowly but surely, as the sampling of the young boy’s vocals are chopped and spliced and put back together again, a cadence appears. The parent hears a tune behind it and begins experimenting once more. Jack’s being in the form of cheery piano notes takes shape. The baseline is airy so as to know bring down the whole operation. And the synthesizer does the rest. All the remains is inserting Jack’s voice in to the mix. And voila! “A Tune for Jack.”

Well, that’s my story of Jack’s story, anyway. Whatever story the song tells, it definitely relays it well enough. Whatever became of Jack, I hope he’s found happiness. It certainly makes me happy that “A Tune for Jack” found me.

Lemon Jelly -- lemonjelly.ky (2000)
Lemon Jelly — lemonjelly.ky (2000)

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