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Listen closely.

Same as it Never Was

What is and what should never be.

I was always a Stones fan.

I mean, Mick had the swagger and the “Lets Spend the Night Together” vibe going on. The Beatles were all about holding hands. Just not my thing growing up, you know?

But anyway, I bought “Sgt. Pepper” and the “White Album” just like everybody else. And I remember when John was killed in New York. But like I said, I dig the Stones.

In fact, it was the idea of putting every Stones song in a package the size of a deck of cards that prompted my wife to hunt down a used iPod in the first place. I’d been systematically turning my Stones collection into mp3s to play on my laptop using iTunes ever since the radio station I work for went all digital. Of course, I got interested in getting an iPod since they were the cool thing and my kids all were talking about ’em for Christmas and such.

So, Jeanie found a really nice black video iPod at this garage sale. She said the guy only wanted $50 for it. I mean, it was worth at least $300, but she talked him down to two twenties. After getting it home, she found some headphones and listened to the songs already loaded on it.

Now, I told her it was stupid of her to buy the thing without ever listening to it. I mean, it could have been broken or the battery wouldn’t charge or all kinds of things wrong with it, but anyway it didn’t matter because the thing worked perfectly.

Anyway, she was making supper jamming to the iPod when I came home from selling thirty-second ad spots to car dealers and restaurants. She surprised me with a kiss and then put the headphones around my ears and held out the shiny black iPod.

I took the iPod from her hand and listened to the first song. It was unfamiliar to me, but we danced around the kitchen a bit even though I was the only one who could hear the music. She gave me a quick peck on the cheek and went back to the stove and I took a long look at my new toy my loving wife found for me.

The bright, color screen said the title of the catchy little ditty was “Love My Way” by the Beatles from an album titled “Same As It Never Was.” Remember now, I’m a Stones fan and I certainly don’t know all the Beatles tunes, except, you know, the ones everybody knows. I’d never heard of “Same As It Never Was” or “Love My Way,” but there are all these re-issues and anthologies, ya know?

So, I did what everyone does when they don’t know something. I Googled it. Guess what I found? That’s right. Zip. Nada. Anyway, I looked up every one of the twelve song titles and not a one came back as being recorded by the Beatles or even as a solo song. The closest was “Say What You Will” which had some lyrics similar to that old song by Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson, when he was still normal, called “Say, Say, Say.” It was weird, ya know?

Better yet, the iPod had one of those album cover graphics with the playlist and it featured a picture of the band that looked like it was from the late 70s, but nobody had a beard. Ringo might have had a mustache and I think John’s hair was short.

Now you gotta remember this was one of those video iPods and after messing around a bit I found it had several videos. The first one was John Lennon on stage in front of a curtain. He says something about getting a little help from his friends and the curtain parts and the rest of the Beatles appeared on stage with him. They went into “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.” It was cool and all, but I didn’t recognize where they were at until I saw Joe Piscopo and Eddie Murphy off to one side of the stage. It looked like Saturday Night Live from the 80s, ya know, but I’m sure I would have remembered a performance like that.

The next video was a concert at night with this huge crowd. The stage was empty and then went dark. A spotlight hit someone at a piano and I realize that it’s Paul McCartney singing “Let It Be.” The rest of the lights come up and I see John Lennon playing guitar next to George Harrison with Ringo on drums. I didn’t realize this was the end of Live Aid from Wembley Stadium until Bob Geldoff came out.

The whole thing ended with “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” just like last time, but that bit with the Beatles certainly didn’t happen. I mean John was dead right?

I scroll through the playlists and videos and I find an instrumental called “Superstición” by Carlos Santana and Jimi Hendrix.

There’s an album of Elvis Presley duets with country stars like Garth Brooks and Shania Twain.

The unmistakable voice of Jim Morrison and the Doors have three whole albums of material that I’ve never heard of before.

There’s a Nirvana video for a song called “Towering Inferno” that mentions 9/11 in the lyrics.

I see a clip of Led Zeppelin playing Live Aid, but the bald guy from Genesis isn’t on drums and it looks like their original drummer back there.

There’s an AC/DC album called “Back in Black,” but I think all the songs are sung by their original lead singer with that nasal voice.

Finally, I catch a performance of the Stones on The Tonight Show and the blonde hair of Brian Jones sticks out unmistakably as they play “Start Me Up.”

I sit mesmerized by what I’m seeing and hearing. I’m watching performances that never happened. I’m hearing songs that were never recorded. These people died, ya know?

I sit in my chair and listen to the music over and over again. I close my eyes and I see visions of John Lennon, Freddie Mercury and Kurt Kobain. I see Brian Jones smiling and laughing it up with Keith Richards as they sit on the couch with Johnny Carson. Ed McMahon’s hefty laugh turns into purple and green musical notes flying through a bright red orange sky. Pink clouds scatter as a warm wind is blown by a giant head of Buddy Holly, his glasses as large as a jumbo jet. The clouds turn into guitars and drums and microphone stands.

I wake up with a blanket pulled over me. Glancing at the microwave in the kitchen I see that it’s 11:47 and the only light is a soft glow coming from my office down the hall. I peek in and realize my sons, Keith and Michael, have taken my iPod and were downloading songs to it. The computer monitor cast odd shadows on their smiling faces.

They express shock and then annoyance as I come in. I hear my oldest say, “We wanted to surprise you.” I pick up the iPod and scroll through the menu.

It was all gone.

My sons deleted everything and added my entire collection of Rolling Stones. Every album. Every song. It was all there just like I wanted. What great kids I got, you know?

But the rest was gone.

I mumbled a thank you to them and I think it fooled them enough to deduce my tears as ones of joy.

But it was all gone.

Same as it never was.