David Gately

Archive for June, 2011|Monthly archive page

iPhone, Therefore I Am

In Apple, AT&T, CNN/Money, David Gately, iPhone, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 5, Seth Weintraub, Tethering on June 23, 2011 at 1:04 pm
The iPhone
Game-changer

Feels like I’ve arrived. I just bought an iPhone and it’s a game-changer. Now I too can seemingly ignore friends and colleagues – fellow iPhone users that is – as we dine, watch a movie, or simply stand still, while I tap, tap, tap (head down, intensely focused) on the über-iconic smartphone display screen that has remarkably changed the way we socialize in just three short years.

Seems everywhere you look since 2008, when Apple released the first generation of its Internet- and multimedia-enabled smartphone, people have been furiously drumming their iPhones: answering emails, reading news, getting directions, ordering pizza – even scouting for friends-with-benefits. Ignoring me is what they’ve also been doing. This nuevo social convention quickly became annoying, simultaneously pissing me off and sucking me in.

Globally, Apples claims to have sold 100 million iPhones since. Though smartphones represent only a small portion of the worldwide number of mobile phones owners – about 5 billion of the world’s 7 billion people in 2010, according to the U.N. telecommunications agency – and the iPhone represents only 16.8 percent of the global smartphone market (Google’s Android commands 36 percent; Nokia’s Symbian, 27.4 percent) – the iPhone and its imitators are here to stay.

“The future certainly looks to be mobile with the majority of the world’s population going to the web from their smartphone rather than the PC,” said Seth Weintraub of CNN/Money in February. The same report showed that smartphones surpassed global sales of PCs during the first quarter of 2011, “for the first time in history.”

From the get-go, I’ve painstakingly coveted the iPhone. It seemed to be designed and marketed for everyone. Except, that was, for me. I couldn’t indulge. The price was out of my budget. Besides, I had a good, less-expensive mobile phone, a perfectly decent smartphone from Samsung. But, remarkably, that phone faithfully never failed to be…mmm…oh so boring. It never enticed me, like an intoxicating serpentine forbidder, the way the iPhone evidently did for those I knew. Everywhere I went, people seemed to be suffering from the same new-fangled communal addiction: iPhone tethering.

I always knew the iPhone was damn good technology. I bought my first Apple laptop in 2004, the Powerbook G4, and became an instant Apple convert. But I sat back and  jealously watched from the sidelines as the world became inflicted with iPhone dependency. Until this week, serendipitously, when reviewing my AT&T phone plan and discovering it allowed an iPhone upgrade at a price I couldn’t resist: just $49.

Ok, so my iPhone happens to be the previous generation, the 3GS, and not the iPhone 4 or the much-ballyhooed iPhone 5 (maybe iPhone 4GS, as some are calling it), expected to drop in September. But it’s a fantastic phone nonetheless.

I could have chosen not to upgrade or selected any number of similarly price, technologically great devices on the highly competitive smartphone market today. But like a nipple to a baby, I craved the original seducer. Now I’m one with my iPhone. Gleefully tethered, the anesthetized dripping has begun. Apathy and compulsion are taking over. And its payback time.

Sorry, my friend, did you say something?

Tap, tap, tap.

What’s Going On: 40 years on

In David Gately, Marvin Gaye, Motown, Uncategorized, What's Going On on June 3, 2011 at 12:01 pm
The album cover

Forty years ago, in early June 1971, Marvin Gaye released the title track from his seminal masterpiece album, What’s Going On. Next Tuesday, June 7, Motown will release a special 2 CD and vinyl box set containing a remastered version of the album plus 28 bonus tracks, 16 of them never released. It’s on Amazon for $47.23.

The story behind the making of the album and song is transformative, both for Marvin and contemporary music. It catapulted the artist into an iconic stratosphere and sealed his legendary footprint in modern music. Together with the Rolling Stones and Beatles’ music at the time, Marvin’s brilliantly visionary concept album continues to influence everything about music today: how we listen, make, consume, sell and interpret it.  

Marvin had been with Motown since the early 1960s. After a few solo hits – How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You), Ain’t That Peculiar, and I Heard It Through the Grapevine – he was restless and in a funk in early 1970 over the death of his singing partner and fellow Motown artist (and maybe lover) Tammi Terrel. He wanted to create a more gospel, soulful sound, unlike anything being played on contemporary AM/FM radio. He wanted to write about real social ills, like poverty, crime and the Vietnam War. But Motown founder Berry Gordy (who also happened to be his brother-in-law at the time) kept muffling Marvin’s inspirations.

So, mopping around the Hitsville U.S.A. headquarters in Detroit, aimless and disheartened, Marvin stumbled on songwriters Al Cleveland and Renaldo “Obie” Benson (of the Four Tops), who were writing a socially and politically conscious song called, What’s Going On. After Marvin contributed lyrics, Cleveland and Benson persuaded Marvin to record the song. He did. And when Gordy resisted again, feeling the song too radical and unmarketable because it lacked that popish Motown Sound formula, Marvin stood his ground and…the rest is history.

About the creation of What’s Going On, Marvin once told Rolling Stone, “In 1969 or 1970, I began to re-evaluate my whole concept of what I wanted my music to say. I was very much affected by letters my brother was sending me fromVietnam, as well as the social situation here at home. I realized that I had to put my own fantasies behind me if I wanted to write songs that would reach the souls of people. I wanted them to take a look at what was happening in the world.”

Contrary to Gordy’s fears, critics and fans immediately embraced the album. It remained on Billboards charts for more than a year and sold more than 2 million copies by the end of 1972. Rolling Stone ranks What’s Going On #6 on its list of 500 greatest albums of all time, and ranks the title track #4 on its list of greatest songs of all time.

The first time I heard What’s Going OnI fell in love. The groundbreaking lyrics, bathed in a rarely heard-before soulful, smooth-groove orchestration, exploded from my 1971 Realistic AM/FM transistor radio, grabbed hold of the bootstraps on my Sears Toughskins jeans and shouted: Boy! You ain’t never heard nothin’ like this before. And, with a few exceptions, I ain’t never have.

For a suburban Boston white boy, barely 10 hears old, with zilch personal testimony in urban strife or war, Marvin Gaye and What’s Going On deeply affected me. It was the start of a lifelong yearning for “the different,” a longing to relate to what’s on the other side as a way of understanding, maybe finding myself. The journey never ends.

What’s going on? Please tell me.

Picket lines (brother), and picket signs (brother)
Don’t punish me (brother), with brutality (brother)
Talk to me (brother)
So you can see (brother)
What’s going on?
Yah, what’s going on?
Tell me, what’s going on?
Ah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah….