For those of you following along at home, I’m in the process of educating myself in the realm of rad rad music by listening to the Top 100 Albums of all time by mid-September.
Already, this is more music than I’ve listened to in probably the last 5 years put together. I’ve realized that I really don’t ever just sit down and listen to a whole album. Or very rarely. So this has been really fun. Some days I just have to walk away because I feel like my brain/ears/heart will explode.
Secretly I’m curious to see if doing this project will change my own songwriting process. Part of the reason I think I don’t sound like anyone in particular is that I never listened to anyone before. I really just write what I hear in my head. We’ll see if this changes that.
After the first post I was all caught up, so now I’m actually writing these while I’m listening to them, which is way more entertaining. For me, at least.
Johnny Cash: At Folsom Prison
First time listen. I totally enjoyed every second of this. Johnny Cash is a riot. What a flippin’ fun concert this was. Rad. Rad rad rad. I love that the guards have to interrupt with announcements. I love that I’m not the only person who totally busts up laughing on stage in the middle of a song. Everyone should hear this. Why is he stopping? PLAY MORE! Love.
The Velvet Underground and Nico: The Velvet Underground
Banana. Banana banana. First time listen. This album had me at glockenspiel. (Which, by the way, I spelled correctly the first time) I love the grungy out-of-tune guitars. I love the 3:30am totally wasted vibe. I love the avant-grunge-madness-breakdown at the end. Yeah. This one will be listened to more that 5 times. The link I used for this one was off the original vinyl so you can hear all the crackles and such as well. Awesome sauce.
The Who: Tommy
I was wrong. Seven albums – I actually own this one too. That means I had heard 7 of the 100 albums I’m working on. Ha! Take that, List. I love this record. I hadn’t listened to it in probably 5 years which is why I forgot all about it. The nerd in me just freaking loves all the timing changes and how it’s hands down a musical (“rock opera” – whatev) and that it sounds like a musical being played by a rock band, rather than a bunch of rock songs trying to sound like a musical. Does that make sense? I guess what I’m trying to say is “long live pit orchestra”. I’ve played in plenty, and that’s what I hear when I listen to this. (That’s a compliment) Also, once upon a time I tried that suggestion from Almost Famous: “if you listen to Tommy with a candle burning, you will see your entire future.” That’s totally true, btw. Do it tonight. You’ll see.
David Bowie: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
I’ve always loved Bowie, but this was a first time listen. Here is a perfect example of an album that I can’t say too much about because I totally need (want) to listen to it 25 (probably 82) more times in a row. I’m kind of pissed that I’m going to have to table putting this album on repeat for now so I can finish all the other albums on the list. WHAT? What, David Bowie? Did you just Awesome all over the place? I’m sorry, WHAT? What. Just. Happened? I’ll get the paper towels.
John Lennon: Imagine
First time listen. I have always always loved Lennon’s songwriting. He’s my Beatle. So this was nice. Of course I’d heard Imagine, How, and Jealous Guy before. I don’t really like Jealous Guy. But speaking of jealousy, can I say how jealous I am that there are TWO songs on this album that are under three minutes long? How does he do that? When I first started writing my songs were twelve minutes long. I finally got them down to four or five. (I blame an upbringing on symphonic works. Hello, Wagner.) I do like that he directly wrote a song about Yoko that is super literal. I don’t tend to write very literally, so attempting that might be a good exercise for me. For instance, maybe I should write a song about Mike called “This Song is About Mike”. That might be extra challenging since Mike is not a very musical sounding name. (No offense) While I liked listening, I feel like I sort of got it with one go. I don’t feel an urge to study it or put it on repeat or anything.
Paul Simon: Graceland
Seriously? Twist my arm. Again, I’d call this a Sort-of-First-Listen. I know most of the songs already, but never just sat down and listened to the whole record. So I did. As you probably know, no one, in my opinion, can beat Mr. Simon’s lyrics. Just not even close. I mean, seriously, the album OPENS with this nonsense:
“And the dead sand falling on the children, The mothers and the fathers and the automatic earth”
“The way we look to a distant constellation that’s dying in the corner of the sky. These are the days of miracle and wonder, so don’t cry baby, don’t cry.”
STOP ASSAULTING ME WITH YOUR BEAUTIFUL WORDS, PAUL SIMON!
And it just keeps getting better from there. Don’t get me started on his lyrics. They’re so good they both amaze me and make me angry at the same time. But it’s a good angry. Like, “GODDAMMIT THAT IS SO MOTHER FUCKING BEAUTIFUL! AAAAAHHHHHH” kind of angry.
I can absolutely see why this album is on the list. The combination of traditional western songwriting, storytelling-style lyrics and a gorgeous and initially unexpected dose of Africa (remember when that caught us all off guard?) have made this just an absolute work of art. Well done, sir. Well done. Sigh.
Sex Pistols: Nevermind the Bollocks Here’s the Sex Pistols
First time listen. Also first time really listening to the Sex Pistols at all. This is 38 non-stop minutes of Fuck Off. To which I have to say, AMEN. Seriously. Bodies is my favorite. Super twisted material – my favorite. With this pure gem in the middle:
“Fuck this and fuck that fuck it all and fuck a fucking brat” Yup. Nailed it.
I. Love. Them. I’ll be listening to everything else they ever recorded. Ever. But after I finish The List. Oh, The List. You are long. Awesome, but long.
The Doors: The Doors
First time listen. I think I only knew 3, maybe 4 songs on the record. Meh. Not a huge The Doors fan. I like the organ tone. The lyric in The End – “Father? Yes, Son? I want to kill you.” ALWAYS makes me laugh. Out loud. Every time. Like guffaw-laugh. Also, I learned that if I listen to several The Doors songs back to back I feel kinda floaty. Good to know next time I’m having a panic attack. I don’t really like the music, but it does make me feel stoned. Duly noted.
The Zombies: Odessey and Oracle
First off – great album name, right? I really really liked this record. The stacked vocal harmonies actually sound more choral than rock. The way they move is very recognizable as traditional movement in classical choral pieces. Which of course I instantly loved. There are some really beautiful changes in the songs. I guess that’s what caught me off guard – this album is just – Beautiful. There are parts that are really quite math-y. But they’re disguised because everything flows so perfectly. The song you’d know off this album is Time of the Season, which actually doesn’t blend in to the rest of the record very well. Which may explain why it’s the last track. Seriously, listen to this. It’s pretty remarkable.
Elvis Costello: This Year’s Model
I want to like Elvis Costello. I feel like I should like Elvis Costello. But I just don’t. I actually found this album in my library, but I don’t ever remember listening to it. I don’t recognize the cover either. I can’t quite put my finger on what I don’t like, either, which is irritating. I find it very easy to ignore. A few songs went by and I realized I hadn’t listened to one word. For some reason nothing about this album grabs my ears or makes my brain want to pay attention. I can say his tendency to repeat the same line over and over with the same hook underneath it over and over and over and over irritates the shit out of me. That’s the only time my ears actually want to tune in. Just to say “Oh-my-God-please-stop”. Dammit. I really wanted to like him.
Okay- that’s long enough for now… 22 down, 78 to go…