Do You Have the Dot-Com Blues?

Having trouble online? Just wasting your time?

Maybe you’ve got the dot-com blues.

The blues aren’t just about broken hearts any more. They can be about crashed laptops, shattered modem links and faithless search engines. That’s the subject of the title track of Dot Com Blues, the latest CD by jazz great Jimmy Smith.

The 75-year-old master of the Hammond B3 organ “was just frustrated trying to get on the Internet or trying to find something ..., ” Jimmy in his wisdom said. “These are the dot-com blues,” said Jennifer Levy of his label, Verve Records.

An elder statesman of the blues, Smith uses his tune to evoke the sentiment of frustration most Internet users have felt at one time or another, through slow connections, busy signals or unavailable pages.

“Dot Com Blues” is a fluid, fast-paced song, showcasing Smith’s organ-playing talents and maybe reflecting the speed of the Internet age.

“Jimmy, probably being from the older segment of the population, reflects how many of the population feel about this tech overload,” said Eric Gruner, station manager at WGMC, an all-jazz radio station in Rochester, N.Y. “My grandfather was an optical engineer and I remember the first time CDs came out, showing it to him — he’s looking at a CD and says, ‘music comes from this?’ ... that, to me, is an example of the dot-com blues.”

Everybody's Got the Blues

Smith’s track doesn’t have lyrics. But Mark Elf, a jazz guitarist schooled at Boston’s famed Berklee School of music, also wrote a dot-com blues which got a lot of play on jazz radio two years ago.

“I went and got online and wasted time and burned up my dime,” singer Miles Griffith intones in Elf’s tune. “This is a thing I can’t get with, I must really be a stiff.”

Elf’s song came about when he got a business card with a URL on it at from a friend at a jazz convention. Elf’s card just had a phone number and a wrong address, and he had the dot-com blues.

“I’m thinking of all the people that are trying to get online, and the ISP, the server throws them off line — everybody’s got the dot-com blues,” he said.

But Elf’s past that blues; now he runs his own Web site.

“It was in the beginning a very trying experience but [it’s] turning out to be a very happy one, now especially since I’ve got a cable modem ... this thing is smokin’ and that’s no jokin.’”

No Artificial Intelligence

Although controversial rapper Eminem mentions MP3s in “The Real Slim Shady,” Todd Rundgren’s last single was called “I Hate My Friggin’ ISP” and many pop bands are as much about computer production as about talent, the jazz and blues worlds have largely sidestepped the tech revolution.

John Eglee, the director of operations for jazz station WMOT in Murfreesboro, Tenn., said although a few musicians such as Herbie Hancock have experimented with technology, jazz tech wizards are in the minority.

“I firmly believe that jazz and blues are not computerized,” Elf said. “You’ve got to have some blood in your veins, you’ve got to have a heart, those things don’t have a heart or brain.”

But the human beings being laid off by dot-com firms can find solace in the blues — either Smith’s or Elf’s. And another track on Smith’s disc offers a lesson to the tech world.

In it, New Orleans jazzman Dr. John berates a woman who says she’s in it for the love but might only have joined up with him for the stock options.

“You say you in love, you want to try it on for size? You live life like you play gin rummy, Ten’ll get you 20, you’re only in it for the money.”

What would your lyrics be for a dot-com blues? E-mail them to us and, if we get enough, we'll run the best ones on our site.

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