Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: I recently purchased a new computer with a CD burner, and now have a question.

Years ago, when Napster provided free downloads, I exploited this opportunity and got some rare and obscure songs — especially gems from the late '40s to the '70s.

With free downloading no longer available, I would be happy to pay for a similar source for music such as Napster had. Any suggestions?
—Dan Casey, Ruston, Wash.

DEAR DAN: There are more downloading options for the peer-to-peer community than you realize.

The Napster you knew shut down about two years ago, but returned last fall as “a legal music service with on-demand access to over 700,000 tracks … for $9.95 a month.”

Other dot-com services, such as Itunes with its one million tracks, operate on a pay-as-you-go basis. Expect to spend about a buck a tune if this is your preference.

Also of interest might be the August 19th landmark ruling by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in San Francisco (MGM, et al. vs. Grokster, et al.):

In summary, the court ruled that two of the leading programs used for sharing files online, Grokster and StreamCast Networks, are not legally responsible for peer-to-peer exchanges of proprietary works.

While Grokster, Kaaza, Morpheus, and WinMx are well-known among file-swappers, the name StreamCast may not ring a bell, but it is their software that fuels the Morpheus engines.

According to Circuit Court Judge Sidney R. Thomas:

“The [peer-to-peer software] technology has numerous other uses, significantly reducing the distribution costs of public domain and permissively shared art and speech, as well as reducing the centralized control of that distribution.

“History has shown that time and market forces often provide equilibrium in balancing interests, whether the new technology be a player piano, a copier, a tape recorder, a video recorder, a personal computer, a karaoke machine, or an MP3 player … thus it is prudent for courts to exercise caution before restructuring liability theories.”

Opportunities seemingly abound!

DEAR JERRY: I've read about some silly songs and silly lyrics in your column, but one I don't recall you mentioning is the Captain and Tennille's oddly-titled hit, “Muskrat Love.”

Why would someone would put those improbable words to such a pretty melody?

Can you provide any background on this tune and its absurd lyrics?
—Barbara Hill, Lakeland, Fla.

DEAR BARBARA: I am not aware of any special story behind the musical adventures of Muskrat Susie and Muskrat Sam; however, I can provide some background.

Originally written as “Muskrat Candlelight,” by Willis Alan Ramsey, the tune first appeared on his self-titled album (Shelter SW-8914), in May of 1972.

About six weeks later, a single of “Muskrat Candlelight” and “Ballad of Spider John” came out (Shelter 7324). Both are tracks from Ramsey's debut album.

These frisky, whirling, twirling, tango-dancing rodents quickly caught the attention of the group America.

Their excellent version came out on the “Hat Trick” LP (Warner Bros. 2728), in late '73. For this release, the title “Muskrat Love” is used.

In the summer of 1976, the Captain & Tennille's rendition (A&M 1870) came out, eventually landing in the nation's Top 5.

IZ ZAT SO? Determination, along with a little help from a major label, eventually made “The Way I Want to Touch You” a huge hit for the Captain & Tennille.

The tune first came out in late 1973 on their own Hollywood-based label, Butterscotch Castle (BC-001). The duo made just 500 copies, which means they are now quite scarce ($50 to $100).

A few months later, another Los Angeles area label (Joyce 101) picked up the tune and gave it a little bit better distribution, along with getting it played on some local radio stations.

In the summer of '75, A&M (1725) put out the single that wound up in the Top 5.

Return to "Mr. Music" Home Page