Thursday, July 21, 2022

My Life In ... Albums

The sixteenth in an occasional series of alternative Curriculum Vitae because no-one on their death bed says "I wish I'd spent more time in the office"

Facebook. June 2018.

Music has been important in my life. Like Marcel Proust's madeleine it can evoke memories. 

There was a meme on facebook: "Day N of the 10 day challenge. These are my most influential or go to albums even if only now and then. Post a cover each day, no need to explain and nominate a person each day to do the same. Today I nominate Y."

I accepted the challenge (thank you, Tim Harris) but refused to nominate anyone.  I am where memes come to die. I considered the "no need to explain" rule stupid. Context is important. Two people can chose the same album for wildly different reasons so I am recycling this meme this time with my reasons. The albums should be in date order but this is the sequence I posted them back then.

Day 1 of the 10 day challenge. "My People Were Fair and Had Sky In their Hair... But Now They're Content To Wear Stars on Their Brows" by Tyrannosaurus Rex (1968).

I was more of a Tyrannosaurus Rex fan than a T.Rex fan. Like many I listened to John Peel's late show under the bedclothes and was introduced to many a strange musik including Tyrannosaurus Rex back in 1967. I rushed out to order this album as soon as it was announced. I continued to buy every single and album until early 1972 (Telegram Sam and Electric Warrior were my last purchases). For more detailed memories read the post My People Were Fair... 50 Years On.  Then there were the concerts, the tribute bands, the movie launch, the visit to the tree where he died and there are people I've met online and later in real life who continue to feature in my life to this day [read all Bolan blog posts]. The cover by George Underwood was a thing of mythological strangeness.

Day 2 of the 10 day challenge. "Graceland" by Paul Simon (1986).

I was introduced to this album by a colleague, Colin Williams from BIS, and it has been a staple of my playlist ever since. Nowadays I usually wait until Mary is out of the house since she reckons that she has heard it too often. According to Wikipedia "Graceland became Simon's most successful studio album and his highest-charting album in over a decade; it is estimated to have sold more than 16 million copies worldwide." Love the music, love the lyrics. My favourite lines include:

"It's every generation throws a hero up the pop charts"

"Over the mountain, Down in the valley, Lives a former talk-show host, Everybody knows his name
He says there's no doubt about it, It was the myth of fingerprints, I've seen them all and man, They're all the same"

Day 3 of the 10 day challenge. "Transformer" by Lou Reed (1972).

Second year at college hanging out with Mike, Pete and Vince (aka The Walton Wastards). I have to say we were a bunch of misfits who never settled into university life but that is a longer post. The urban myth was that both images on the cover were Lou Reed himself in macho pose and dressed as a drag queen. This was indeed a myth [See Artwork]. Another album much listened to at the time and since. It painted an edgy, decadent, seedy portrait of NYC that my first visit there in the late '80s did little to dispel. 

"And the colored girls go 'Doo do doo do doo do do doo...'"

Day 4 of the 10 day challenge. "Taking Tiger Mountain (By Stratgey)" by Brian Eno (1974).

Another favourite from the college years. The Walton Wastards owned all the Roxy Music albums between us and it was natural that we would segue onto Eno's solo works. Like Roxy a feature was the clearly articulated but slightly surreal lyrics. 

"Maybe she will do a bit of spying with microcameras hidden in her hair"

"But her sense of taste is such that she'll distinguish with her tongue the subtleties a spectrograph would miss"

Day 5 of the 10 day challenge. "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)" by Eurythmics (1983).

It could have been any one of several Eurythmics albums but this won out. Annie Lennox is one of the great singers of our generation. I downsized my vinyl collection as space was a challenge when we moved from a house to a smaller apartment and many albums had not been played for years. As the dealer was carrying the crates to his van the bottom dropped out of one and spread the contents over the tarmac like a magician saying "pick a card". In a moment of "what would you save from a burning building?" I grabbed three Eurythmics albums (this, "Touch" and "Touch Dance").

Day 6 of the 10 day challenge. "Blonde On Blonde" by Bob Dylan (1966).

I acquired this from my brother back in the day. He never bought many albums, didn't seem to care much for music, only had half a dozen albums, this being one of them. Not sure when it changed hands, probably college era as he did not own any kind of music system. His loss is my gain as this is one of the great albums from a 20th century poet. I also acquired Elton John's "Don't Shoot Me I'm Only The Piano Player" in the same transaction.

"But me, I expected it to happen, I knew he'd lost control
When he built a fire on Main Street, And shot it full of holes"

"She takes just like a woman, yes she does, She makes love just like a woman, yes she does
And she aches just like a woman, But she breaks just like a little girl."

Day 7 of the 10 day challenge. "Hunky Dory" by David Bowie (1971).

To quote from my Desert Island Discs post: If I were to nominate my favourite album it would not be a T.Rex album which might surprise some, it would have to be Hunky Dory. Some timeless lyrics and a gentle playfulness not found in the subsequent classic albums (Ziggy, Aladdin Sane, Diamond Dogs).

"So I turned myself to face me
But I've never caught a glimpse
Of how the others must see the faker
I'm much too fast to take that test"

"I was stone and he was wax, So he could scream and still relax. Unbelievable"

Day 8 of the 10 day challenge. "Visible World" by Jan Garbarek (1995).

The back story to this is that we had never heard of Jan until a few years ago but Mary’s copy of the Rough Guide to Jazz kept falling open at a page with a picture of this slightly strange looking man so she figured she had to go buy an album. The first one we bought was the haunting and evocative Visible World. Since then we have acquired several more albums and have seen him play live several times.

Day 9 of the 10 day challenge. "Fantastic" by Wham! (1983).

Pure, unadulterated pop at its finest. I like pop music, I like ’80 pop music, I like Stock, Aitken and Waterman, and Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go is, for me, the archetypical example of what a pop song should be. That and Like a Virgin by Madonna were two song that rekindled my penchant for pop music. I have all their albums but this first album is the best.

Day 10 of the 10 day challenge. "Bumpers" by Island Records (1970).

Back in the late '60s and early '70s sampler albums were a way for record labels to promote their artists through cut price compilations. I was in the middle of the sixth form halfway between O-levels and A-levels. It was an idyllic summer. This double album I bought with money from a summer job working on an archaeological dig at The Lunt Roman Fort. That was also the summer I spent two weeks digging at Portchester Castle under Prof. Barry Cunliffe. The only purchase I made as a result was the self titled Renaissance

Since it's my game, my rules here are two extras.

Day 11 of the 10 day challenge. "Tommy" by The Who (1969).

This is one of the albums I regret getting rid of in the downsize. As well as the music, the packing was amazing: limited edition no. 24867, gatefold sleeve, booklet with artwork and lyrics. You don't get that with a CD and definitely not with a download. I bought it from the only record shop in Kenilworth - a dark and gloomy cave presided over by a dark and gloomy woman. In those days most of the shop was given over to "proper" music i.e. classical, with a small browser box for those albums that stated "File under POP for Popular". My copy had the original price label 85/- that is to say 85 shillings or £4.25 in decimal currency. Further resonance is given to this album in that I saw The Who perform the whole album live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970.

Day 12 of the 10 day challenge. "No Secrets" by Carly Simons (1972).

Another purchase from my college years (a period of intensive vinyl buying). My college friends joshed me that I only bought it because I could see her nipples on the cover. In fact I have a penchant for female vocalists, so much so that my vinyl collection was sorted into four main sections: classical, collections, pop, and attractive female singers (or bands with female lead singers). The latter section obviously features Carly plus Madonna, Linda Lewis, Minnie Ripperton, Cher, Kate Bush, Maria Muldaur, Kylie and many more... Some great songs on this album.

"Well you're where you should be all the time
And when you're not you're with some underworld spy
Or the wife of a close friend, wife of a close friend, and..."

That's enough.

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