Apparently the people who choose music for fitness classes are doing a lot of “mashing.” This seems to involve scrunching a bunch of well-known songs together into one, continuous track. But it also — if I’m hearing correctly, as I sweat along in my spinning class — seems to involve (at least sometimes) replacing the original recordings with other ones, ones that perhaps can better release endorphins in the exercisers, or preserve a strictly robotic beat, or both. This is tremendously depressing — which is a strange feeling to have alongside the chemically induced elation that I’m getting from my exertions — and not just when it happens to songs I deeply care about.
At a recent group spin, I heard “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’” — not the Nancy Sinatra recording, which swings, but a kind of mechanical version sung by a featureless female voice over a featureless synth instrumental track. It sounded a bit like the original, in the way a McNugget tastes a bit like chicken, but the spark was gone: it wasn’t fun anymore, it was rote, a cog in a machine. Now, “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’” is not a song that has dominated my life, or is even particularly meaningful to me — but damn it, the original recording was fun! And it also reminds me of the goofy/cool video that Nancy Sinatra did of it (I think I saw it playing in some bar once), in which she is wearing what I — in my total ignorance of couture — will call go-go boots and doing a little watch-me-work-it dance step in front of a greenscreen (actually, its primordial forebear, the purplescreen). Whereas this synthetic, denatured, mashed-up version brought to mind … oh, I don’t know, maybe a really relentless toaster.
But then, just when I’d pretty much given up on actually enjoying the music at this spinning class — rather than just sweating to it — a Prince song came on (“Alphabet Street,” I think). When I heard the opening riff, I thought: Oh, please dear God, don’t “mash” this song! And that’s when the instructor — who had been calling out instructions about pedaling and resistance and posture and such — said something wonderful: “I couldn’t mash this. I thought about it, but then I realized: you don’t mash Prince.” And indeed, the song, as originally performed and recorded by Prince, played from beginning to end. And okay, maybe it was the endorphins speaking at that late point in the class, but I felt a sudden spiritual lightness. Perhaps the Earth would not soon become the “Earth,” carbon-melted and ruled by untaxable corporate persons. Perhaps humanity was about to slow down for a moment and take a purifying dip in the waters of Lake Minnetonka. Perhaps there would still be time to breathe.
Because she was right: Prince is unmashable. So why not the rest of us?
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Last weekend’s training ride out of Vacaville on Saturday was canceled, for fear of rain — which didn’t materialize, as it turned out. I joined an optional, ad hoc ride on Sunday, out of Orinda — at which it did rain, heavily, covering my glasses with heavy raindrops and the road with soggy branches. It was fun, actually! But due to the weather, we cut our ride short — meaning that we “only” went for 24 miles (though they were hilly miles). Tomorrow we get a re-do of Vacaville, whose name always makes me think of a great Penelope Houston song called “Out Past Vacaville” — which can’t and won’t be mashed, not ever.
Thanks to a whole bunch of wonderfully generous people, I have met the original $2,500 fundraising goal for my upcoming ride in the “Solvang Century” on March 10. But you can still make a donation to Team In Training — run by the venerable Leukemia & Lymphoma Society — on my TNT fundraising page. Let’s go for $5,000!
Below is a map of last Sunday’s rain-shortened make-up ride; you can click on it for details.