Does anybody remember the Sony Car Discman?
It was basically a version of their regular Discman, but it had two key differences: first off, it had technology that (mostly) kept CDs from skipping because of the random stops, starts, bumps and swerves that were an inevitable result from driving, and secondly, it had technology that allowed you to play your CDs through your car’s speaker.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. That there was a 3.5MM adapter cable that you’d plug into the AUX input, just like you do with your iPods and iPhones. But you’d be wrong, dead wrong.
Instead, it had a cassette-like doohickey that you’d plug into your car’s cassette deck, and the other end would be into the Discman’s headphone jack, and through some kind of voodoo magic, you could play your CDs in your shitty Volkswagen Fox as you were driving back-and-forth from Fresno to Oakland in the mid-1990s with your soon-to-be wife.
On those trips, I was always trying to find common ground between my love of indie rock and Rox’s love of classic country, so there was a lot of Whiskeytown, Dwight Yoakam, Wilco, and of course Lyle Lovett’s The Road to Ensenada playing as we inched along the 580 through the Livermore valley on hot Friday nights.
And Road to Ensenada became my favorite Lyle Lovett album, and smack dab in the middle of it was “Private Conversation,” a straight-ahead song that would have fit perfectly on any of the aforementioned artists records — or anybody else in what they used to call “alt-country” and now call “Americana,” I guess.
Of course, it’s really just a great uptempo pop song with an utterly memorable sing-along chorus:
It was a private conversation
No one heard her say
That man that she was looking for
Was only twenty streets away
Singing boy pick up that fiddle
And play that steel guitar
And find yourself a lady
And dance right where you are
In the end, Lyle repeats that it was a private conversation over and over again, and regardless of whether or not “Private Conversation” is a break-up song or reunion song, it is absolutely a singalong song, and one of the more joyous-sounding things he ever did.
Oh, and a couple years later, when I was finally able to afford a new car, it had a CD player, and the Discman was consigned to the ashbin of history.
“Private Conversation” performed on the Late Show with David Letterman, 1996
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