Friday, January 6, 2012

Pogoing In Aisle Nine

Boy, I guess 40-somethings who were into off-beat new wave bands when they were young must typically run to the grocery store after work on Friday evening, because the store I went to today was catering to just that demographic. They were playing  80's music that didn't get played on the radio, even back in the 80's. I had owned some of the music on LPs, while I was in college.

This particular Hyvee played "Pulling Mussels from a shell," by Squeeze.  "History never repeats," by Split Enz. Split Enz! The New Zealand band that almost nobody heard of. I pushed my cart with more than the usual enthusiasm. I wanted to say out loud to the passing shoppers --"Do you hear that?! Can you believe that's on the store soundtrack?" I looked around to see if any other middle-aged shoppers were looking up in amazement, checking to see if the celestial tones of forgotten new wave bands were really coming from the store's sound system, or whether they were just having an 80's flashback. Unexpected residual effects of the clove cigarettes we used to smoke.

When I lived in Miami in the late 80's and early 90's, I shopped at a grocery chain called Publix that claimed it was "Where shopping is a pleasure." But they played Michael Bolton and George Michael over the PA while I checked the shelf for store brand beans and tuna, so I would describe the experience as more of a mind-numbing tour of banality.

But this! ---This 80's dance party was making shopping fun again. I don't know if I've had this much fun in a grocery store since my college days, when some friends and I went "Krogering" at 3:00 in the morning in Lawrence, just because we could. I could get excited about grocery shopping at odd hours in those days, before it became such an regular chore in my daily life. But they weren't playing 80's technopop in that Kroger. Oh no. It was muzak all the way. The classic schlocky stuff that you could only tolerate at 3:00 in the morning, when it became kind of phantasmagorical and surreal.

Now I was listening to Psychedelic Furs as I picked out avocados. It made me happy and it entertained me, which made me pick out even more avocados. I couldn't hold back a little wiggle when a new song came on and I heard Freddie Mercury belting out, "I want to break free!" Come on, Hyvee, I thought, "Clear a space in the meat department already and put in a dance floor!"

Did the music make me spend more money than I should have? Well, I didn't buy anything that we won't use or don't need. But I went in to buy toilet paper and some stuff for making enchiladas, and I ended up spending $87.00. That's inflation for you.


  1. Pretty darn cool. I've often wondered how the decision re: background music(zak) was made for grocery stores, elevators, malls, etc.
    I'm not a shopper...I'm a buyer, so I seldom have the occasion to visit a mall, but on those rare instances I am intrigued by the various genre leaking out of the entrance of each store as you roam the mall. Kind of a Pandora on Quickmix. Musical ambush! You never know what is coming next...although, fun to look ahead and try to anticipate what you'll hear when you get to the next shop up the road based on the "venue".

    By the way...that "enchilada/toilet paper" combo has an unsettling sense to it. (Just sayin')

  2. H.B. --Oh lord, the enchilada ingredients and toilet paper---I never made the connection. Too funny!!

    Yes, I've often been intrigued by how these store soundtracks are chosen. Some of them are predictable. It seems that whenever I go to a clothing store with my teen daughter, there is all this pulsing and thumping of drum machines and very young voices.

    I love your point about being a "buyer" not a shopper.

  3. i think the grocery store's plan went in for t.p and enchilada fixings and came out with extra things you didn't know you wanted. my publix plays mostly oldies.....and the same damn thing happens to me! it's all a part of their master plan i guess. i must confess that i am not familiar with any of the songs you mentioned. guess i was listening to country in the 80's.