Just before Christmas I got a bonus at work in the shape of an iPad. As in, it was an iPad. Not money arranged in the shape of one. This was no Art Attack (though the one where Neil made the queen’s head out of fivers was brilliant).
The best thing about the iPad, so far, is that, when I logged into iTunes, every song I had ever bought was on there. Please write in if you know why this isn’t the case with all the other devices of my acquaintance.
Putting the iPad on shuffle is like going back in time. I’m no Rob Fleming in High Fidelity (although our flat contains a record player and a lot of vinyl, thanks to Oxfam), but I vehemently agree with him that you can write your autobiography without picking up a pen by arranging your music in the order in which you bought it.
There are the Regina Spektor songs I downloaded on the way to a festival in 2007. The 1970 Elton John record I had to buy because it reminds me of my dad (check out The Greatest Discovery – it’s got a cello in it!) There are also the ones I raced home to find after hearing them in films, the ones I had to dig out for an 80s-themed hen do, and the others that accompanied epic road trips to Essex and Lincolnshire.
Then there is a whole other genre designated by iTunes as “Christian & Gospel”. I have to say, it’s been a few years since I listened to any of them.
But there was a time when I listened to them a lot. I went running by the river with them on my headphones. And put them on loud while walking back to the flat late at night. I stopped listening to them not only because of Apple’s vagaries, but because I got a little cynical about them. They’re pretty high octane and emotional. They’re also full of the sort of effusive lyrics that make me want to cut in “yeah, but what about…” Oh, and there’s only so many times I can repeat a chorus without going mad.
But discovering them again reminds me that, back when I downloaded them, they gave me a lot of comfort. In one sense, I feel a bit nostalgic for a time when I was a bit less cynical. But in another, it reminds me that God got me through the things to which these songs were the soundtrack.
“Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back everything is different,” wrote CS Lewis.
For me, it’s often only months or years later that I realise that prayers have been answered. That the things I was so worried about didn’t happen, or did happen, but were survivable. That God was in it all, after all.
“Then I recall all you have done, O Lord,” says the troubled author of Psalm 77. “I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago.”
Six years might not be that long ago, but it’s still time in which a lot can happen. For all my reservations today about the C&G tracks, when I listen to them now, and their drum-banging for God’s goodness, I think perhaps the chorus-repeaters were onto something.