I realised the other day when having an exchange with Kcorsini from Bourbon and Vinyl blog (if you haven’t already check it out) that there’s an awful lot of classic musical albums that I haven’t actually listened to. I know they exist, I might even know the music off them but I haven’t actually listened to them.
For a couple of years I listened to every record in my possession avidly. I was young with lots of time and not much money, every note had to count. There was then a period of around 10 years when I could afford to buy whatever records I wanted and the quality control began to slip a bit. This overlapped with the advent of the cassette. This horrible piece of tape revolutionised how we listened to music. For a start it was portable and you could play it in the car. Secondly those 45 minutes were meant to be used and with the event of the mixtape we could make our own compilations, for all the cassette years the only full albums I bought on tape were ones that were sold at ridiculously cheap prices from Woolworths.
Already my commitment to the album had been weakened. With the advent of CD I was, again, buying proper recorded albums with miniaturised sleeve art, but, and it’s a big but, new albums were now longer to take full advantage of the new format. This meant a change of commitment, did I really want to spend 70 minutes listening to one person, especially if there were ‘bonus track’ involved? The answer, inevitably was no. Suddenly greatest hits packages were looking a better deal, something I could listen to while I was doing my ironing.
I still buy CD’s out of some misplaced nostalgia/loyalty thing but most of my listening is via Spotify now and with a whole world of music available, it’s tempting to move on from one track to another jumping across bands and genres as the mood takes me.
The consequence of this hyperactivity is that I have missed out on some classic albums. I only recently listened to the Beach Boys ‘Pet Sounds’ which seems almost inexcusable but, from my point of view understandable given my troubled relationship with the Wilson Brothers. For the record I thought it was OK by the way.
More recently I decided to take the plunge and buy Radiohead’s ‘OK Computer’ a decision based on the fact that it was for sale for £3 in my local supermarket. I’ve kind of listened to it through the walls as I move about the house but I don’t really feel sufficiently committed to sit down for a whole hour and actually listen to one of the great albums of the last 20 years.
So here are 5 classic LPs that I have never actually listened to
Nick Drake- Five Leaves Left
It’s a bit of a cult classic I know but surely any respectable music buff ought to be acquainted with Nick Drake’s first album. The reason I haven’t really exemplifies the whole problem I have with committing to albums. My introduction to Drake was when I taped an LP of Pink Moon, his last and darkest record. In many respects this final record ticks all my boxes. For starters it’s very brief which just as well as its pretty downbeat . Drake does not outstay his welcome, he’s not got a lot to say at this point, lyrically some of the songs are just fragments. Pink Moon is a kind of middle class whiteboy take on bluesman Robert Johnson, just one man, a guitar and some scary songs. My next purchase was a compilation CD taken from all his three proper LPs. So far so good, I liked what I heard but over 70 minutes there was a bit of an issue of quality control but with songs like ‘River Man’ and ‘Northern Sky’ there was a lot to like. A decade passed however without me feeling the need to extend my listening much until one day when I decided to listen to Bryter Later on Spotify. With some dismay I noted that the tracks that hadn’t made the compilation really just weren’t as good, there wasn’t another ‘Chime of the City Clock’ waiting for me. For that reason 5 Leaves Left has remained unexplored I reckoned that 70 minutes of Nick Drake was just enough, if I go to my grave without hearing anything else by Drake I won’t be too upset.
Pink Floyd- The Wall
This came out during the height of punk which probably wasn’t great timing. All the great prog bands just seemed wrong around this period, they were cutting their hair a bit shorter, ditching the kaftans and investing in some horrible sounding keyboards. In many respects their final record Endless River was the way I like the Floyd, lots of washy keyboards and a bit of noodly guitar all going nowhere fast. The moment that the band make an effort to be pop stars is when I left the stadium. Dark Side of the Moon was tarnished form me by ‘Money’ and The Wall was damaged for me by ‘Brick in the Wall’. It was a hit in Britain and I hated it. Not only did it feature some moronic lyrics from one of Britain’s most educated pop stars about not needing no educashun but it also featured some Dave Gilmour funk guitar playing (although even he lost faith in this and reverted back to his standard guitar solo halfway through). As a result of this and, for some strange reason I hate the cover, I really can’t face listening to the album. In theory I should like Roger Waters’s dystopian views but this for me was a case of wrong place wrong time
Neil Young- Harvest
Despite me likening him to Paul Weller last week, I really like Neil Young and as recently as Psychedelic Pill I prepared to spend good money for his product. After The Goldrush is a record that I’m rather fond of although I listened to it obsessively in 1978 which was well out of its allotted time frame. Harvest is, of course the even more successful sequel to that record but I bypassed it for the misery of On the Beach and Tonight’s the Night. I think I made a good choice and critical, if not popular opinion, has placed Harvest as a rather sugary record. Whatever it sounds like I have yet to commit to listening to it.
The Sex Pistols-Never Mind the Bollocks
Probably not the greatest punk record of all time but due to its heavy guitar sound, which was rather embarrassing by the end of the 70’s, it sounds pretty good today. It’s not that I don’t know how it sounds I would guess I have heard every track individually in the last 40 years. This seems probable as all 4 singles are on the record which is usually a reason for me not to commit. Looking at the track listing I suspect that I’ve not missed much by not listening to it in one sitting. The fact remains though that I have never listened to the whole of the record. With the arrival of punk the album became less of an art form and more of a collection of singles and a bit of filler rather like Tamla Motown or early rock and roll. Punk is best in short bursts.
The Beatles- Sgt Pepper
For most of the 70’s this was regarded as the greatest record of all time, the Beatles have been subject to revision by each generation, after a few years Revolver was regarded as their magnum opus and recently the White Album seems to be making a break for the top slot. I know all the tracks on Sgt Pepper obviously but I have never actually listened to the album as its creators intended. The Xmas before last Spotify were able to stream all the Beatles records and so instead of terrible television and talking to my family I was able to immerse myself in album after album. The Beatles have always maintained a high value, there’s never been a chance of picking up Abbey Road for £3 from a service station. For this reason I haven’t actually listened to a huge amount of their work. I had never, until that Xmas , listened to the White Album for example. Despite the riches online I have never listened to Sgt Pepper all the way through.
By way of a footnote, I have just noticed an offer on amazon to pre order a special edition audio CD of the album for a mere £109.99. I know it’s a 50 year anniversary and there probably a nicke booklet involved but WTF??? Move on people!!
This is just the tip of an iceberg, I have, for example, never listened to any album at all by Black Sabbath or The Eagles. Time is short and it’s unlikely I’m going to us it listening to anything by the Moody Blues or Jethro Tull to name just a couple or uninteresting bands.
If you have been effected by any of the issues in this post then do let me know. Is it possible you’ve lived all your life without hearing London Calling or Exile on Main Street? These are important issues comment below with your own confessions.