When demonstrating audio gear, the song that you choose for a perspective buyer has the power to illicit an emotion to close the sale. It can also get rid of unwanted customers in a hurry. A few years back, I had a couple visit my audio shop with the sole purpose of converting me to the gospel and to give me a blessing. The first time they came in, and unknown to me at the time, they did it under the guise of wanting to purchase “a compact sound system for their new condo”. They asked if I would play an artist well familiar to them (that I had never heard of). I obliged, and within an instant my shop was turned into some kind of new age church with a Christian playlist with lots of “praise the lords” as they asked me many “did you know…” questions, mostly ending with “Jesus saves”. I got hoodwinked and lost control of the narrative.
About a month later, the couple came back and figured that since I had been a willing participant the last time, I would be up for another sermon. Again, they asked if I would play their choice of music. I suggested that we try another song that would allow the system to really show its capabilities. I didn’t wait for an answer knowing these two bible-thumpers were never going to buy a system, so I put on AC/DC’s “Hells Bells.” They never returned. Alas, I became just another lost soul.
A few months later I had another customer; this time a single woman who fancied herself as the best singer in the world. She visited the shop four days in a row. She had narrowed her choice to a handsome Arcam receiver with psb speakers (but she really would have picked any system ,so long as I would play it). She only wanted to sing, sing and sing some more. The first two days this hilarious exchange of her belting out Celine Dion, then KD Lang had me amused, but by day three, when I saw her walking across the town square toward the shop, I turned everything off – including the lights. After walking in, she pulled up a stool like she owned the place and cued me that she was ready for her demo. I told her there had been a power failure and that there would be no music playing today. Disappointed she left, but not to worry, she would be back tomorrow. Sure enough, she did return seeing I was the best Karaoke bar in town, but alas the lights and electricity were again switched off.
Her: “You don’t like me, do you?”
Me: I don’t know you.
Her: “Why are you doing this to me?”
Me: Doing what?
Her: Turning the lights and music off so I can’t sing.
Me: Oh that. Because I don’t like you.
While every retailer in every industry will have their collection of nuisance “customers” with no intention of ever buying while maximizing your (wasted) time, most customers are well intentioned and want to experience a potential new purchase in the best possible way. I have found that these few songs inspired the most response in my clientele that was mostly above 40 years old. Of course these songs became a starting point with many more to follow, but looking back at my days in the shop these songs were played the most.
Beck: Say Goodbye – A beautifully produced multi-layered song with a tight guitar bridge from Beck’s twelfth studio album “Morning Phase”. Beck at his best.
Little Walter: Sad Hours – A 1952 blues instrumental with some of the best harp playing from Walter Minor. Just a terrific twelve bar blues riff. Even better on vinyl.
Muddy Waters: The Same Thing – (Original Master recording 45 rpm). Perhaps one of the best analog recordings ever pressed with Muddy’s voice at its most powerful. This song is from Muddy Water’s fourth studio album “Folk Singer” released in 1964 and features Buddy Guy as the second guitarist and produced by Willie Dixon. The album is a collection of Blues royalty.
Johnnie Johnson: Mud Creek – A teaser piano solo warms up this song before the trio fires up taking solo turns showing off their chops all anchored by Johnson’s elegant piano playing, one of the greatest blues piano players of all time and inducted in the rock n’ roll hall of fame in 2001, yet relatively unknown for most of his career. Chuck Berry’s concert documentary “Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n Roll” released in 1987, put the spotlight on Johnnie Johnson, and opened the door to Johnson then playing with Eric Clapton, and Keith Richards who both perform on Johnson’s album “Johnnie B Bad”
Arcade Fire: Everything Now – This song slaps you in the face from the first bar and just keeps building and building. Bass, mids and highs all take the stage in arguably Arcade Fire’s best song. Long-time fans will disagree as this fifth studio album released in 2017was a departure from Arcade Fire’s familiar sound. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart and was the band’s third #1 album in the United States.
Justin Timberlake: Rock Your Body (Paul Oakenfold Mix) – This is a bass heavy show off song, highly produced that contrasts with Timberlake’s more tenor voice. Sometimes songs have a way of reminding a customer that they are not that old and their kids still think they are cool! Depending on the system such digitally produced tracks like this sound fantastic. This was the first song I would play on Devialet Phantom speakers.
Goldfrapp: Anymore – Goldfrapp is a British duo from London, England, who released this song as a single in 2017. Super catchy with a good bass note. Some nights I’d keep the store open late into the night, illegally serve wine and crank this song. The shop became a big dance party.
Mark Lanegan: Strange Religion – Lanegan’s dreamy bass voice and minimal raw production can stop you in your tracks. This song was released in 2004 on Lanegan’s studio album “Bubblegum”. Never discount the power of a sad song. Lanegan was a staple of the Seattle grunge movement in the early ‘90s with his band Streaming Trees and Queens of the Stone Age. Fans of Anthony Bourdain will know Lanegan as the singer for the “Parts Unknown” theme song.
Ray Brown Trio: Cry Me a River – This track is from the album “Soular Energy” featuring American pianist Gene Harris. On a side note, Ray Brown was married to Ella Fitzgerald in 1947. Really any track from this excellent jazz recording does the trickthat includes standards such as Take the ‘A’ Train and Sweet Gorgia Brown. Another track to discover is the Ray Brown Trio performing “Summertime” live at the Fujitsu-Concord jaz festival, Tokyo, Japan 1988.
Bryan Ferry: Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door – From Ferry’s 2007 album “Dylanesque”, an album of all Bob Dylan cover songs. Playing a well-familiar song in the shop but a version that a customer may never have heard was always a good ice breaker and often lead to a whole playlist of cover material such as Donny Hathaway’s version of Jealous Guy and Bassboosa’s version of Chris Isaak’s classic Wicked Game.
You will notice that I have not included any classical music in this playlist. I found that customer’s who have an entire focus to classical were a breed to themselves and very particular of what version, performance and recording they wished to hear. Having a high-res streaming account was helpful in these situations as I just let these customer’s make the request. My classical starting point without a request was Giovan Battista Pergolesi “Stabet Mater” (Flavio Emilio Scogna).
Leave your go-to song in the comments and we will create a big playlist for Wifi Hifi readers!