The great iPod swap

Dylan Jones is so attached to his music, he's written a book about it. So how did he cope when he switched iPods with Charlotte Church? Here, they describe their week in music...
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The Independent Culture

I don't want to be too melodramatic about this, but in the last 18 months my iPod has become much more than a portable music carrier. It has not only become my constant companion, but it's something of an emotional crutch, too. I have squeezed a lifetime of music into my little white plastic music box, uploading some 5,000 songs, from Abba, The Beatles and The Clash right through to XTC, Yello and Frank Zappa. My 40GB iPod has become my personal musical library, a vast, almost exponential jukebox that has the capacity to sooth me when I'm uptight, excite me when I'm feeling exhausted, and lift me up (where I belong) when I'm down.

The iPod, my iPod, is my own personal, portable therapist, a musical medicine chest in miniature. It's there as I walk to work (the tell-tale white earbuds swinging as I go), it's there in my car (I have a specially fitted Blaupunkt dock), it's there in my living room when I come home at night (playing through my Altec Lansing travel speakers). It's with me everywhere I go. Since I fell in love with it, and spent the best part of a year writing a book about our illicit affair, the iPod and I have become one. I am my iPod and my iPod is me.

So what would I do if I had to spend a week without it? What would I do if I swapped my iPod with someone else's? What would I do if I had to listen to someone else's musical tastes for seven days? And what if that person was Charlotte Church? How would I feel if I couldn't listen to the first seven songs on the new Coldplay album, if I couldn't listen to Glen Campbell's "Wichita Lineman" whenever I wanted to, how irritated would I be if I couldn't listen to the Super Furry Animals' "Rings Around The World" before I shot off to work every morning? More importantly, how would I feel having to listen to Charlotte's iPod for a week? Would it be full of Will Young, Blue or the Crazy Frog? Would it inflict on meEast 17, Take That and all the other dreadful songs from her youth? How was I going to cope?

Also, what on earth would Britain's favourite diva think of my playlists? How would she respond to the acres of Captain Beefheart, the forests of Burt Bacharach, the hundreds of tracks by Steely Dan, Van Morrison and Bruce Springsteen? Could she cope with the likes of Alan Hull, Thomas Leer and Dennis Wilson, would she enjoy the strange creations and barbed missives of Todd Rundgren, Jonathan Richman and Ray Davies & Button-Down Brass? Poor girl. I actually felt sorry for her. What would she do if she wanted to be soothed by the silky sounds of Jean Michel Jarre and instead found a bunch of tracks by Stiff Little Fingers?

Now, don't get me wrong: I like Charlotte Church. A lot. It's just that... well, I was just a bit worried that living with her iPod for a week would be a little bit like living for a week with Radio 1, but without the chat. The chat I can cope with, some of it I even like, but most of the drivel that passes for chart pop these days leaves me cold.

However, when I received Charlotte's iPod - sent over by her record company on Day One of our experiment - I was not only pleasantly surprised, but slightly embarrassed for thinking I might not be. I loved the stuff on her playlists. Loved Brownstone, Nappy Roots, Bobby Valentino, Rihanna, John Legend, even Fat Joe's "Get It Poppin' ". Most of the stuff she had that I hadn't heard before was modern R&B, which, I admit, is not exactly my forte these days. When I used to go to nightclubs - roughly between 1979 and 1988 - I knew every hip dance record there was, but when you disembark from clubland, you tend to lose touch. These days the only time I dance is at weddings, and then I'm usually cutting a rug to " Don't Stop Till You Get Enough", "Lost In Music" or some other disco classic from the late Seventies or early Eighties. Listening to Charlotte's iPod actually made me want to go to nightclubs again, although in reality I think I'd only really like to go if Charlotte was going, too.

We doubled up on quite a lot; my iPod also contains stuff by Damien Rice, Eminem, Lauryn Hill, Destiny's Child, Alexander O'Neal, the Fugees, Kanye West, The Roots, The Stereophonics, Luther Vandross and Alanis Morissette. And how can you feel anything but benevolent devotion towards someone who has Chaka Khan's "Ain't Nobody" on their iPod? But there were some unforgivable inclusions. The fact that she has Mariah Carey's "We Belong Together" and Patrick Swayze's "She's Like The Wind" on her machine causes me to think that she has forfeited her right to be a pop star, a feeling compounded by the fact she has also uploaded Daniel Bedingfield's "Wrap My Arms Around You" and Gloria Estefan's " Anything For You". Charlotte, how could you? And as for Basement Jaxx... well, in the GQ office liking the Jaxx is a sackable offence.

Living with someone else's musical taste for a week is a fascinating exercise. After doing due diligence on her playlists, I started to hunker down and concentrate on the stuff I thought could become part of my life. And soon I discovered that was going to be Jill Scott. She's awesome. I'd seen her in concert, but had never spent a long time with the records. Until last week, that is. So if the exercise has achieved anything, it's made me a fan of Jill Scott. A big, big fan.

But after a while, perhaps predictably, I got bored. It wasn't the fact that I didn't like Charlotte's taste in music. It was just that since owning an iPod I have begun to expect an entire Virgin Megastore to be available to me at the touch of a button. I liked a lot of Charlotte's music, there just wasn't enough of it. She has only a couple of hundred on her iPod - but then, she's an internationally successful recording artist, and probably doesn't have time to sit around wondering how much of the new Supergrass album to upload. Me, I can waste hours filleting new releases; Charlotte has a career to sustain.

Living with Charlotte's iPod was a bit like being on holiday, and like all holidays I knew it had to end. On the last day of being subjected to the Dirty Dancing soundtrack for the umpteenth time, I began to lust after my own songs, began to hanker for the bizarre delights of Sufjan Stevens, The Sleepy Jackson and Ben Folds, the tranquil doodlings of Nick Drake and Dory Previn, the gut-bucket funk of The Jimmy Caster Bunch and Johnny Guitar Watson, and the luscious idiosyncracies of Racing Cars, Gilberto Gil, Jack Bruce, The Ozark Mountain Daredevils and The Go! Team.

And you know what? I bet Charlotte couldn't wait to see the back of my iPod either. I mean, seriously, how could she bear to live without Go West's greatest hits? Trust me, I'm going to find it tough.

Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'. His book, 'iPod, Therefore I Am: A Personal Journey Through Music' is out on 14 July (Wiedenfeld & Nicolson, £12.99). To order your copy for £11.99 including p& p, call Independent Books Direct on 08700 798 897


I was given an iPod for my 18th birthday from Sony, so I've had it for more than a year. I listen to music at every single possible moment of the day. I put it on when I wake up, before I go on stage, in the car, when I'm on the road (which is a lot of the time), and before I go to bed.

I love loads of different kinds of music. I've got lots of funky house music, but I absolutely can't stand songs when there's just a beat and no singing. I need to have a sing-along chorus, such as Michael Gray's "I Can't Wait for the Weekend to Begin". I love soul, modern stuff like Damien Rice and my Eighties tunes, especially power ballads such as "We Close Our Eyes" by Go West. Oh, and Gloria Estefan. I've loved Gloria Estefan ever since I was little: "Anything for You" was the first song I ever sang.

I liked the idea of swapping iPods, but felt anxious about not having my own music. And I was worried that there would be something awful on mine that Dylan would think was dodgy.

Dylan's iPod's got millions of songs - mine doesn't have nearly as many. At first, I hardly recognised any artists: he has loads of German ones, really obscure people whom I didn't even bother listening to. I was surprised to see he's got quite a lot that is similar to what's on my iPod: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Eminem and he also has Haddaway's "What Is Love", which is great. I was impressed that he has Chaka Khan, although he didn't have "Ain't Nobody", which I was upset about. At least I was able to spend one journey home from London singing along to "I'm Every Woman". He also has loads of Jeff Buckley - and I love a bit of Buckley, so I was very impressed by that. And he has a Luther Vandross song, "Never Too Much" - what a tune! And I enjoyed The Beatles - he had loads of them - and Frank Sinatra.

Although his choices are obscure, it was a cool mix - much more cool than my dad. It's obvious that he doesn't like one particular music style: he's not a rock DJ. He has a playlist for his little girls, Edie and Georgia, to listen to. One of their songs is "Lose Yourself" by Eminem, which I think is quite disturbing as they're only five and seven years old. But at least they'll grow up with good music taste.

If I had to choose five essential albums from my iPod, one of them would have to be Daniel Bedingfield's Second First Impression. Dylan didn't have any Bedingfield for me to listen to, so I missed that. My other top albums are The Police's Greatest Hits, Prince's Greatest Hits, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and India Arie's Voyage to India - most of which he had, but I really missed my song of the moment, "Get Here" by Oleta Adams, which, sadly, has been my favourite since my boyfriend's been away in New Zealand.

I also love my Nineties house tracks, such as "Pump Up The Jam" and "No Limit": there wasn't too much of that on Dylan's iPod. There were a few surprising tunes, mainly on Dylan's Guilty Pleasures playlist. He's got The Scorpions, "Wind of Change", which I would never, ever have thought to put on my iPod. It's a class tune! Overall, there was nothing that made me think, "Oh, my God. Dodgy!" He had some very cheesey tunes, but you've got to have a bit of cheese sometimes, haven't you?

Charlotte Church was speaking to Rebecca Armstrong