The quality of music these days is amazing: ga-zillion track studios record each instrument with crystal clarity before mashing it all together into a format compatible with a device of your choice. Every genre and taste is catered for – digitally reproduced and delivered earwards to be experienced exactly as the artist intended.
There’s one remaining outpost of music though which has remained unchanged for decades.
When I was a kid, I remember the excitement generated by Mr Whippy’s ice cream van as it chugged apologetically into our street, the arrival of which was announced by a tinkly-tonkly Bontempi cacophony of Beethoven’s Für Elise (which no doubt would have caused Ludwig to turn in his grave with such rapidity, it ironically could have been used as an ice cream churn). The clanging ting-a-linging was often set to a frequency so piercing, our ears would bleed, drizzling down T-shirts like the strawberry sauce atop the ice creams we’d cheerfully ram into our faces.
Thirty years later, ice cream vans sound exactly the same. What’s that all about? True, the vans themselves haven’t really changed much either, though I can’t believe that they’re all the same ones I got so excited about when I was in short trousers. There must be a factory tucked away somewhere where an army of workers, probably dressed in seventies clothes, manufacture not only the vehicles, but the recordings to be bolted onto the top of them. How do they choose the music? Why hasn’t it changed?
Personally, I like the sound of ice cream vans – purely based on nostalgia and the imminent possibility of a ‘99’. It’s true that they’re about as tuneful as a tanked-up Quasimodo in a bell shop, but I’m not sure I like the thought of Mr Whippy merely plugging in his i-Pod, and delivering a symphony of lighthearted classical tunes with sharp digital precision to alert kids as to his whereabouts. It wouldn’t be right.
As an aside, there used to be three vans working our ‘hood, the most popular of which was the aforementioned Mr Whippy. In my naïve, pre-brand-awareness days, I remember thinking how appropriate it was that his name was Mr Whippy and he sold ice cream (how could he sell anything but?) I probably thought he spent his evenings with Mr Kipling and Dr Pepper chewing the fat and munching confectionery. Happy days.