Monday 27 January 2014


When you first start buying your own music, developing your tastes, and trying to gain as much knowledge in a short space of time, a compilation album is the best way to achieve the most information for the lowest outlay.
For the cost of a single (or more often double album) you receive a couple of tracks (or more) that you are familiar/comfortable with, and then a glut of new stuff.

As time marches on, that original compilation will be rendered obsolete by the accumulation of the actual albums (and/or singles) of the artists contained therein.  But the initial joy of discovery is not dampened, and those compilations remain important tenets of the collection.

The most memorable, record buying habit changing compilations that have echoed in my ears in the past are:

Classic Rock: Rock Legends
Opens with "Layla" (what else could it open with?), and closes with "Smoke On The Water".  Also includes Lynyrd Skynyrd (go on, guess which track?), Cream, The Who and Black Sabbath.
The cover had a picture of a Gibson SG, which inspires the question "how much more Rock can you get?), and apart from the inclusion of a couple of tracks which don't feel right (Peter Frampton: "Show Me The Way", Steve Harley And Cockney Rebel: "Make Me Smile", Dire Straits: "Lady Writer" and Meatloaf: "Dead Ringer For Love"), this a thoroughly competent collection and gives a real insight/understanding of what Classic Rock is all about.
The only down-side to the album is that includes the Far Corporation version of "Stairway To Heaven".

Punk (1): Burning Ambitions
Covering the lesser known bands of punk from its early incarnations (eg The 101ers) through a selection of the Oi and Hardcore bands of the later punk years (eg Cockney Rejects and The Exploited).
Buzzcocks, The Damned and The Stranglers make an appearance, but the obvious omissions are Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Ramones (although The Heartbreakers version of "Chinese Rock" is included).
These ommissions are probably due to licensing issues and/or costs - this compilation is produced by small(ish) independent label Cherry Red.
Tracks from The Fall, Wire, The Vibrators, The Saints, The Ruts, UK Subs show the breadth of bands under the punk umbrella, and the diversity of sounds/influences created.

Punk (2): Vinyl Solution
Similar to the above, but only a single disc.  The quality control is slightly higher, containing a clutch of more widely known tracks.  Buzzcocks and The Stranglers have two tracks each, and The Damned have a single track in the form of their cover of"Jet Boy, Jet Girl".
This album has a place in personal folklore as the first time I heard a Stiff Little Fingers track ("Straw Dogs") - my world was never the same again.
see 'Thats When Your Blood Bumps' for the full story ...

New Wave: That Summer - including tracks from Elvis Costello, Ian Dury & The Blockheads, Nick Lowe, The Boomtown Rats, Wreckless Eric and The Only Ones peerless "Another Girl Another Planet", this album really is a masterclass in New Wave.
The Soundtrack album is findable, often at Record Fairs and on ebay, but the film is rarely seen.  I don't think it ever got an official DVD release, and any DVD versions that are knocking about are likely to be transfers from the video version.  Although, it wasn't a great film (as I remember, I've only seen it once), but it did have a superb soundtrack.

Mod Revival: On Target - 20 Direct Hits From The Mod Revival
The Mod Revival is often attributed the rise of The Jam, coupled with the release of the film Quadrophenia.  For whatever reason, 1979 saw a group of bands kited out in Levis, Fred Perry shirts and Parkas playing high octane, adrenaline fueled (and possibly other substances?) R&B.  From the recognised "big bands" of the movement (The Jam, The Chords, Secret Affair, Purple Hearts) to the less well known, but no less exciting tracks from bands such as The Killermeters, Teenage Filmstars and The Jolt

NWOBHM: New Wave Of British Heavy Metal '79 Revisited
Also from 1979, and taking elements of the past and updating them with the energy and exhilaration provided by Punk, the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal sprang forth.  The term was first used in Sounds in Spring 1979, and was used to describe a plethora of bands who were updating their beloved blues rock, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and/or Prog Rock into a tougher more direct sound.
This set ranges from the "soon to be massive" (Iron Maiden and Def Leppard) to the smaller, but no less important, bands who released a couple of singles and maybe an album (usually on an independent label (many being on Neat Records) and then no more"one or two singles and then not much else" (Trespass, Sledgehammer, White Spirtit).  Also includes offerings from the "big, but never massive" (Saxon and Girlschool) and the "influence on a future generation of Heavy Metal" (Diamond Head and Venom).

The one compilation from the past that is probably responsible for the most investment in albums (apart from the punk/new wave ones) is this one:

Effectively purchased as an introduction to Prog.  In truth, the compilation is not really Prog in its truest, commonly understood form.  It is, as the sub-title states "Progressive Underground" - which is sort of the same thing, but not quite.

And how's this for a track list:
1. All Right Now / Free
2. All Along The Watchtower / Jimi Hendrix
3. Living In The Past / Jethro Tull
4. Hocus Pocus / Focus
5. Eight Miles High / The Byrds
6. Rainbow Chaser / Nirvana
7. America & 2nd Amendment / Nice
8. Northern Sky / Nick Drake
9. On The Road Again / Canned Heat
10. Paranoid / Black Sabbath
11. White Rabbit / Jefferson Airplane
12. Mona / Quicksilver Messenger Service
13. My White Bicycle / Tomorrow
14. Love Really Changed Me / Spooky Tooth
15. Race With The Devil / Gun
16. 10.30 Returns To The Bedroom / Soft Machine

Disc 2
1. Strange Brew / Cream
2. Silver Machine / Hawkwind
3. Meet On The Ledge / Fairport Convention
4. Fire / The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown
5. Woodstock / Matthews Southern Comfort
6. Paper Sun / Traffic
7. Do It / Pink Fairies
8. Tom Tiddler's Ground / Roy Harper
9. Black Night / Deep Purple
10. Out Demons Out / Edgar Broughton Band
11. Loves Like A Man / Ten Years After
12. Venus In Furs / Velvet Underground
13. Fresh Garbage / Spirit
14. One And One Is One / Medicine Head
15. Change Song / Blodwyn Pig
16. Something In The Air / Thunderclap Newman

Admittedly, upon first purchase I was probably familiar with no more than about 25% of the artists.  However, by the end of the next year my record shelves were heaving with slabs of vinyl from virtually all of them (Matthes Southern Comfort, Edgar Broughton Band and Spirit remain unrepresented in my collection)
There was later a single CD version available.  Like a lot of early release CDs, traks were ommitted to allow transfer to a single CD format (other prime examples: Jam - Snap (later re-released in full form, and the Dr Feelgood compilation 'The UA Years').  The CD version also changed the running order (for some reason?).

Having spent many hours listening to this compilation, I have become so used to the running order that my brain still can't accept it if anything other than the introduction to "Hocus Pocus" follows the final notes of "Living In The Past".  Or like night follows day, "Change Song" will ALWAYS be followed by "Something In The Air".
The CD version would break this rule, and probably cause my head to explode!
To avoid this unwelcome departure, I have "acquired" all the tracks from various sources and burned to CD, just so I can listen to those tracks in that order.

And this album also gave rise to a fantastic piece of musical snobbery/being obtuse.
In late 1991/early 1992, Grunge broke in the UK, and Nirvana were doing big business with 'Nevermind'.
At parties, or other social gatherings, there was always the argument about what music should be played.  At this time someone would always ask: "Can you play some Nirvana?", and so what did I do?
I played this track:

Nirvana - Rainbow Chaser

Sunday 19 January 2014

Overload (or the "only listened to it once scenario")

How do you consume music?
It should be a simple process: Buy, Listen, File, Listen Again

There was once a time when buying a new album was an event.  They weren't cheap, and with only paper boys wages I was limited to one (maybe two, at a push) albums a month.
But that one album was a cherished event - I would listen to the album intently, read and remember the sleeve notes, running order, producer, rogue names in the "Thanks to .." section (Iron Maiden often gave thanks to Ruddles Bitter).
Extra paper rounds, and the discovery of a local second hand record shop meant more albums could be added to the collection.  But the ritual remained - listening intently and poring over every detail of the cover and band history.
These albums would be committed to tape, and the headphones clamped to my ears whilst paper-rounding.  The few (increasing in number) albums I owned would eventually become hard wired.
Starting work meant increased income, and therefore more music flowing into my lug-holes.  The Walkman was eventually superseded by the car stereo, but the committing vinyl to tape regime remained the same.  The time spent driving to work meant that a whole album could be consumed in each trip.

Life continues, income rises and more music is purchased.
And then comes the tipping point - the quantity and regularity of purchase means that I now have a collection where some of the albums have only been listened to once.
Sometimes, I can justify this to myself in the case of the following criteria:
  • Albums bought on the strength of one track
  • Albums bought because they were being flogged off cheap on the counter at FOPP or HMV (or wherever)
  • Albums bought because I think I "might" like it
Most of the time, I just feel a slightly uneasy pang of guilt when I stumble across a single played CD.  The internal monologue goes something like: "Well, you bought it so you must've wanted it.  Therefore you should listen to it"

Problem is on-line buying offers such choice.  Its just a case of sit in my chair, stare at the screen and click.  More stuff will be arriving through my letterbox.  More stuff competing for listening time with the pile of stuff I've yet to put away, or indeed even listen to yet.
And Box Sets?  Well, theres another difficulty.  The sheer investment of time required to get through all the box set, means nothing else will be listened to for a time.  And what are the chances of listening to the content of that Box Set again?  Slim, would be my general assumption (although, this is not always the case).

So, maybe this is the future - I will continue to buy stuff, but find less and less time to listen more than once.
Problem is that being slightly fickle, if an album doesn't grab me, or pique some sort of interest on first listen, it could be many weeks, months or even years before I go back to it.
And then when I do return to it, I will spend an inordinate amount of time cursing myself for missing out on it first time round.
Here's a case in point - I recently listened to this for the first time in many years, and was shocked that I've let it gather dust for 20 (!) years, and only giving it a single play.

Rocket From The Crypt - Born In 69 (from the album 'Scream, Dracula, Scream!'):