It's a given that, when we enter the Gap, American Apparel, Starbucks, or corner bar, the ambient music has been precisely selected to encourage our shopping and spending. Muzak was once based in Seattle, and its ethos lingers in every retail environment: Make the customer feel comfortable, hip, someone who belongs to the milieu. If the mood is right, the wallets and purses will open. Companies like XM, Sirius, and DMX are also important players in this musical-retail nexus. But grocery stores? I usually block out whatever cheesy '70s and '80s pop--usually by groups with low royalty rates--is being pumped in while I pick through the produce aisle.
Generally speaking, I can block out the cognitive dissonance: "Save It for Later," by the English Beat, in a Starbucks in Maple Valley? Okay, it's an oldie, and so am I. But when I recently heard the Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" at my LQA Safeway, I had to say (under my breath), WTF? Has everything once punk and rebellious now been co-opted? An instrumental version of the Beatles' "Blackbird" I can understand. But the artists behind Sandinista and London Calling, the original recording? Is nothing sacred? This from Mick Jones and Joe Strummer, who wrote "Lost in the Supermarket"? All of which makes me wonder--what's the most dissonant, thoroughly wrong recording you've heard in a retail environment?