The New National Jukebox: The More Things Change…

by Scott Lydon

About a week ago, the Library of Congress announced the opening of a new fully searchable National Jukebox, accessible via the web. Naturally, most people didn't bat an eye, because who cares about classic old recordings from the dawn of music? Well, you should care, because today's society-destroying lyrics have NOTHING on the vice from back then. For an appetizer, check out this story of a young couple who just can't commit:


Billy Murray - If You Talk In Your Sleep, Don't Mention My Name


Now that you've listened, can you really say the plot is any different from the 80's hit Human, the 90's hit O.P.P. or even the god-awful 70's hit Escape (The Pina Colada Song)? The answer is no, you can't say that, not even a little bit. So come on inside, where we've sorted out six tracks to show off exactly why the new National Jukebox is kinda cool, and the music still very relevant.

Before we get started, be aware that some of these song might be NSFW. We tried hard to find only clean ones, but sometimes things slip through. If you're at work, put on headphones, or don't blame us if your co-workers wash your mouth out with soap. All ready?

Josie Sadler - Beerland



Listen, dear friends, to the Missy Elliot of 1909. The prohibition movement was gearing up and smashing barrels left and right, and some states were already turning dry. But Josie Sadler wasn't giving in to "The Man" so easily. Instead, she dreamed up this world, borrowed a cool loop from 1903's Toyland (which you can hear in an updated version here) then boom, she had a hit on her hands. And by hit, we mean we have no idea how it sold but we're assuming it did well. Really, look at how many rappers have made a career talking about nothing but weed. America's all about the vice, yo. We're sure Josie Sadler was swimming in nickels.

Billy Murray - She Sells Sea Shells



The idea of the recording artist getting shafted by his bosses, well, that doesn't exactly start and end with The Sex Pistols. Poor Billy here laments how he can be handed something he doesn't want to do, but still has to make the most of it… or else. Also good to remember is that in 1909, recording's weren't from some master edit, they were made live, and in small batches. There's a good chance Billy sang "She Sells Sea Shells" a twenty times in a row before he got paid. Try to sing the chorus for eight hours straight and see just how long you last. You may not like his song, but you gotta respect his skills.

Duncan Sisters - Crossword Puzzle Blues



1924: The New York Times calls crosswords are "a primitive form of mental exercise" and condemns the practice. And yet, for most of the nation, crosswords are the very latest thing. Sort of like how the 1970's gave us Pinball Wizard and the 1980's gave us Pac-Man Fever and the 1990's gave us Trent Reznor's Quake. Plus this ode to the crossword invites a question: where's the current generation's novelty song? Or have NSFW viral hits taken their place?

Collins And Harlan - The Mississippi Dippy Dip



Hear those lyrics? Update the production and add a steel guitar, you'll probably end up with something not much different than Josh Turner. Drop in a keyboard and a drum machine, you're edging close to Lady Gaga. Plus check out that fantastic Danny Elfman style bridge, and notice how smoothly they spell Mississippi? It's a great place for the crowd to sing along, which makes it good music for people who are drunk. Think maybe they opened for Josie Sadler?

Billy B. Van - Mickey The Pum Pum Man



Tiddley um pum um pum tiddleaddy um pum um pum tiddleddy ay. We can all name a song about a guy who makes his name in music, right? Maybe Piano Man or Jukebox Hero or maybe even stretched to include Kanye's rap on Jay-Z's Run This Town, there are a ton of songs where some poor slob goes from rags to riches thanks to the way he can sing, play or rap. But in 1916? After hearing this, we think there's a good chance Billy B. Van created that whole genre by himself. Of course, we're too lazy to research our theory, so if one of you guys could look into that and report back, we'd really appreciate it. Thanks in advance.

Bob Roberts - The Umpire Is A Most Unhappy Man



On the other hand, we're certain that Bob Roberts didn't invent the idea of being mad at authority. Heck, he didn't even invent being mad at the umpire (that probably happened in the very first game). What he did do is make what sounds like an early diss track, easily predating stuff like The Bridge and Hit 'Em Up by about eighty or ninety years. "The only job that's worse/is driver on a hearse" would have gotten some real street cred back in 1985 New York.

Hopefully now everyone can see why using the National Jukebox can make you a better person. Whether you're trying to prove that Emo isn't new or just looking for a potential prequel to a later hit, all that old history is now ready and waiting. So check out our new National Jukebox and find something you've never heard before. Besides, how can we lobby them to add more if nobody listens to what's already there?