The topic for week 15 of the 52 Blogs project is album(s). We have to choose one or more albums that have (or have had) some sort of significance in our lives.
I can’t really choose one single album that’s had an overriding influence in my life: there’s no one album that defines me, or that has singularly defined my taste in music. There have been many, at different times. What I’ve done is chosen five albums that I’ve listened to repeatedly at different times of my life. Each one is an album I have, for want of a better term, been addicted to for a time, and each represents an aspect of my musical tastes and/or a particular period of my life.
As far as I can remember, Too-Rye-Aye by Dexy’s Midnight Runners was the first album I ever bought. Sure, I’d had plenty of albums bought for me, plenty of albums that I’d spent many, many hours listening to, but this was the first album I went to the shop for and paid for with my own money. I would have been 11 years old at the time and while I don’t remember the actual purchase I do clearly remember walking back, from Richmond to Twickenham (since Twickenham didn’t have a record shop) along the Thames with my shiny new vinyl LP inside the standard Our Price carrier bag.
I listened to it constantly and, now that I think about it, was enough of a Dexy’s fan that I turned up to one of their gigs with my jeans loyally rolled up at the ankles. Though it would almost certainly have been Come On Eileen that prompted the purchase that fast became the least interesting song on the album.
Through the magic of Spotify I recently revisited Too-Rye-Ay and loved it all over again. I’m holding out hope that it’ll make the eighties list on afyccim eventually ;)
Joshua Tree (1987)
I can barely stand to listen to U2 now but for a time I was a HUGE U2 fan. I was slightly into them just before The Joshua Tree came out, but it was this massively successful 1987 release that was my first purchase of theirs. I’ll always remember my first impressions of the sleeve: being unable to miss Bono’s strange mullett, and wondering why Adam Clayton looked so old compared to the previous album.
This album played a key role in me learning to play guitar: listening to the music made me want to learn guitar in the first place, while incessantly playing along to the album provided the vast bulk of my musical training. It was a time in my life when I transitioned from pop to rock and then sidelined into goth. You may rightly mock me, but given that these were my teenage years its probably the time when I gained the most pleasure from the music I listened to.
Obviously I’m less of a fan nowadays, and would much prefer to listen to The Unforgettable Fire anyway. One thing that will always strike me about The Joshua Tree, compared to modern albums, is how it’s distinctly an album of two halves; reflecting that our music used to be delivered in two halves (two sides of an LP or two sides of a cassette tape). I always found the second side, with its lack of singles, the most interesting even though it didn’t quite hold together as well as the first side.
Under The Pink (1994)
hile I’ve more consistently listened to Kate Bush throughout my life, it’s this Tori Amos album that was on constant rotation in my CD player for a time (in fact I got into Tori Amos from people saying: “You like Kate Bush? Oh, you’ll definitely like Tori Amos as well in that case...” Bloody knowitalls...).
I listened to Tori Amos’s first album, Little Earthquakes, pretty heavily and it took quite a while for the second album to grow on me. Once it did, however, I hardly went back to that first album. The same things that made Under The Pink initially hard to get into--the violence of The Waitress, the dissonance of God, the sheer length of Yes, Anastasia--made it into far more of a keeper than the understandably more commercial Little Earthquakes.
Around this time of my life I was living on my own in small bedsit in Richmond: it was a good time; I was working in Our Price (again) so had the opportunity to delve into lots of music. This album represents as well as anything the sort of thing I’d spent my evenings listening to.
My initial interest here would have come from it being a soundtrack to a Ridley Scott film as well as being composed by Vangelis (who wrote the score for Blade Runner; both a favourite score and a favourite film). Vangelis and Scott had a bit of a falling out over the treatment that Vangelis’ Blade Runner score received, so it was a surprise to see the two working together again. I gather the film wasn’t all that, but the score is superb.
This, again, was an album that was on constant repeat during my Richmond bedsit days. It’s the perfect thing to play for winding down at the very end of the day; deeply atmospheric, rousing in parts but hypnotic in others. My favourite remains the final one: the 13 minute long Pinta, Nina, Santa Maria (Into Eternity). It doesn’t do much, but if you want to lie, eyes closed, for 13 minutes and let your mind take you somewhere else you couldn’t choose a better soundtrack.
Lexicon Of Love (1982)
This is an album that I owned when it first came out but hardly ever listened to. I gave it a second chance a few years back and wondered why it had taken me so long to get stuck into it. It’s ten tracks of exquisitely crafted pop music; low on substance but towering with style. As such there’s not much to say about it but, once again, I hope the afyccim peeps are taking note!
This is here because it represents the fact that some of my favourite music today is music that was released during the eighties: but not necessarily the music I was actually listening to in the eighties.
Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds (1978)
I couldn’t, in good conscience, complete this list without including WOTW so consider this an honourable mention. The reason it doesn’t fully belong on this list while absolutely having to be included is that I feel like I’ve spent my whole life listening to this album.
When it first came out my Mum and all her friends were listening to it, which got me hooked (enough so that I got the 1984 ZX Spectrum game). Later on it was a semi-regular fixture in my Our Price days (I think it must have had a reissue at some point, possibly to tie in with the release of Spartacus). When the remastered edition was released in 2005 (in a glorious 5.1 channel SACD edition) my wife and I got hooked all over again and were lucky enough to catch the live show at the Royal Albert Hall.
Eventually, just as my mother got me into WOTW, so we managed to get our son into it. When his daycare had a disco, and each child was able to choose one song they wanted to play, our son chose Eve Of The War (and, no, not the despicable Ben Liebrand remix!).