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John Eby: Nothing says Ringo’s birthday like 34 Stones songs

Published 12:14pm Thursday, July 14, 2011

If anyone recalls my Feb. 2 column, I mentioned the iPod Shuffle I received for Christmas.

My thumbnail-sized jukebox spawned a sort of late-night exercise game, Shufflocity.

“Shufflocities are few and far between, even when you stack your deck with favorite music,” I wrote. “I feel I only truly heard one in January — “Paint It Black” by the Stones back to back with “Happiness is a Warm Gun” by the Beatles.

On Valentine’s Day, “In My Life,” our wedding song 25 years ago, followed “Paperback Writer.”

“Does it play favorites?” I wondered in February.

Thursday, July 7, happened to be Ringo Starr’s birthday.

It also happened to be the day I noticed crop circles from a possible alien visit on the Daily News lawn and was visited by an “angel,” Eldean McDonough, whom I have rarely seen since we worked together in the Eighties.

When the Shuffle served up five straight Rolling Stones songs, it sounded like Shufflocity, since they included “Ruby Tuesday,” “Mother’s Little Helper,” “Get Off My Cloud,” “Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown” and “It’s All Over Now,” which struck me as a suitable stopping point.

But then, over and over, and I don’t mean the Dave Clark Five, the Stones kept pouring out against all odds to where it got eerie.

I pondered how Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, the Glimmer Twins, had possessed my Shuffle, which would also serve up “Sympathy for the Devil” this night and again the following night.

Somehow, Beatle fans imagine when the roll is called up yonder, the summons will arrive on a Flaming Pie — not at a seance with Brian Jones.

To receive a 34-song salvo from the notoriously less wholesome anti-Fab Four, whose Dec. 8, 1967, eighth American release answering Sgt. Pepper had been “Their Satanic Majesties Request.”

Whether you’re inclined to it favorably or not, it’s either pretentious psychedelic posturing — Lennon especially disparaged “She’s a Rainbow” — or the farthest they ever wandered from their comfort zone into studio experimentation before beating it back to the basics as far as they could get from mellotrons and theremins.

How exactly does one exorcise a British blues band?

Such an occurrence certainly stirs paranoia.

Was there some way Dittohead Dave, still sore about me writing about Keith Richards’ book instead of the midterm election, could have Rushed the Shuffle to the Republican National Committee for reprogramming?

No, rationality countered, you ran into him the following day and he’s fine.

I don’t know many mathematicians, but I consulted the one I do, Southwestern Michigan College President Dr. David Mathews.

“Basically,” he said, the ‘odds’ are so astronomical against this happening, that the most plausible answer is that the shuffle is not truly random.

“All artificial ‘randomness’ generators are somewhat less than random.

“In this case, it probably allows periodic runs through the playlist in order, or every other song, or something like that.”

I still hadn’t decided what to make of the crop circle, where the grass was flattened on this side of the sidewalk in a shape approximately the size of a napping elephant.

At some point before July 7 melted into July 8, I realized this had started on Ringo’s birthday.

Arriving back home, I kept closer count and looked for clues.

15.) Start Me Up.

16.) Brown Sugar.

17.) Miss You.

18.) Beast of Burden.

19.) Don’t Stop.

20.) Happy. (I’ve never been so glad to hear Keef’s singing voice.)

21.) Angie.

22.) You Got Me.

23.) Shattered.

24.) Fool to Cry.

25.) Love is Strong.

26.) Mixed Emotions.

27.) Keys to Your Love.

28.) Anybody Seen My Baby.

29.) Stealing My Heart.

30.) Tumbling Dice.

31.) Undercover of the Night.

32.) Emotional Rescue.

33.) It’s Only Rock and Roll.

34.) Losing My Touch.

Just before I lost my touch and it inexplicably shuffled forth a White Stripes song, it occurred to me that there had been no repeats.

Also, I couldn’t get any “Satisfaction.”

Perhaps it jammed and played the whole Stones catalogue, I thought, or the sequence setting had been bumped from random.

Nope, still set to random, and there are potentially 56 Rolling Stones songs from “40 Licks” and “A Bigger Bang” among 419 from seven remastered Beatles albums, Lennon’s greatest hits, Ramones, The Killers, Roger McGuinn and the Byrds, Kelly Clarkson, Beach Boys, AC/DC, Clash and U2.

It’s only rock and roll, but I like it.

But when the dice tumble like this under cover of the night, well, I need emotional rescue and maybe “Birthday” by the Beatles, which did turn up July 10, along with “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “Streets of Love” by the Stones and Lennon’s “Gimme Some Truth.”

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