Time for a Napster

We Napster users have been in an absolute tizzy lately, downloading songs as fast as we can before the Feds shut everything down. A few more hours, and I’ll have completed my Hall & Oates collection.

As with most of the world’s major tragedies, the dismantling of Napster can be traced directly to a heavy metal band. Has-been rock group Metallica has been the most vocal critic of Napster for months, claiming to have lost money because of Napster. I disagree. I think Metallica has lost money because Metallica sucks. They should be on their knees, giving thanks to the God of Washed-up Heavy Metal Bands that anyone wants to hear their music at all, for free or otherwise. If someone wants to hear Metallica, Metallica should drive to their house and play for them. (I estimate the band could perform for every Metallica fan in the country in less than a week, and that would include stopping twice at my brother’s house.)

Metallica’s complaint was that if people can download songs for free, they’re not going to buy the CDs. The counter-argument was that bands don’t make much money from CDs anyway; the big bucks are in concerts, which are helped by songs being more widely distributed. The counter-counter-argument was that who cares if bands are losing money from Napster; bring on the free stuff.

I was a proponent of the last point of view. I don’t have much sympathy for groups like Metallica who are already quite wealthy and haven’t produced anything worth listening to in nearly a decade anyway. (Metallica’s last album was so bad it set fire to every stereo it was put in.) I do have sympathy for me, though, having to pay money for CDs. Why should I suffer? HAVEN’T I BEEN THROUGH ENOUGH ALREADY?!?!?

Yes, I have. I watched a Freddie Prinze, Jr. movie AND a Keanu Reeves movie in the same two-week period. It was like watching paint dry and then having that paint shot into my eyes with a bazooka. The only thing that got me through it was Napster and its never-ending cavalcade of free music.

Metallica resides in an ignoble period of music history known as “the early 1990s,” a dank realm also inhabited by the likes of Vanilla Ice and Wilson Phillips. But not all older music is forgettable. When I was a kid, we had a record called “Mickey Mouse Disco.” It had disco versions of “It’s a Small World” and “Zippety Doo-Dah,” as well as new songs called “Disco Mickey Mouse” and “Macho Duck,” plus, if I recall correctly, one called “Walt Disney Spins in His Grave.” We listened to this record constantly. We often forsook bathing in order to hear it one more time. It’s one of my more pleasant childhood memories, as it reminds me of a simpler time, a time when I was young and carefree, a time when I was allowed in the house.

Today, of course, the record is as scratched and battered as Bill Clinton’s underpants. Even if record players still existed in North America, I wouldn’t be able to listen to it. So I was delighted to find, in a moment of idle Napster-wandering, all of the tracks from “Mickey Mouse Disco” available for downloading. Here was my childhood, downloading at 100 kilobytes per second! Can you put a price on that? The courts have said you can. I say you can’t. If Napster bites the dust, something else will take its place. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to find a few more Wham! songs before time runs out.

Did you like how I disrespected Metallica, Vanilla Ice and Wilson Phillips, yet professed to like Wham! and Hall & Oates? Yeah, it was fun.

New word alert: "forsook."

The Freddie and Keanu movies in question were "Head over Heels" (which was awful) and "Sweet November" (which was merely dreadful).

The newspaper version of this column said that Metallica "bites" instead of "sucks." This is because my boss didn't care for the word "sucks" when used in a pejorative manner.