Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Friday, 15 February 2013

When albums ruled the world

There seems to have been a surge of interest/affection in the vinyl long playing album - BBC4 here has been waxing lyrical on the great era of the long playing record, covering the rock album, the pop album, the r&b album - basically mid-60s to mid 80s, with lots of interviews with disk jockeys and musicians and highlighting all those albums we loved and grew up with, they became part of our life really in that golden era of the 70s, when stadium rock and the singer-songwriters held sway, before the arrival of punk and disco.  Here I am in my flared jeans in what must be 1978: my current albums at the ready: Joni Mitchell and Joan Armatrading !

How very '70s!
The Beatles of course revolutionised music, not only with their singles but also their early albums which we just had to have. Their 1963 PLEASE PLEASE ME album, which was recorded in 12 hours, is being re-created tonight on BBC by current groups.
The soundtracks to HELP! and A HARD DAYS NIGHT were essential with all their new songs, and of course RUBBER SOUL and REVOLVER. Prior to that best-sellers were soundtrack albums like THE SOUND OF MUSIC. Then of course in that magic year 1967 (when I was 21) came SGT PEPPER LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND followed by THE WHITE ALBUM and ABBEY ROAD ... Tom Rush's THE CIRCLE GAME, the early '70s saw those early Joni Mitchell albums like BLUE, Carole King's TAPESTRY, Carly Simon's NO SECRETS, James Taylor's SWEET BABY JAMES and MUD SLIDE SLIM, Neil Young's HARVEST and AFTER THE GOLD RUSH, Santana's CARAVANSERAI among others.
Then it was Pink Floyd and DARK SIDE OF THE MOON and WISH YOU WERE HERE - how we loved those sounds ...  The Eagles hit that country rock sound with DESPERADO and of course HOTEL CALIFORNIA, and Fleetwood Mac with RUMOURS in 1977 .... later albums we had to have were Joni's latest, those Joan Armatradings, and SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER, and of course Mike Oldfield's TUBULAR BELLS, and Supertramp's BREAKFAST IN AMERICA.
Plus of course those early Elton and Rod Stewart's, David Bowie and Roxy Music, Paul Simon. Aretha's Atlantic albums like LADY SOUL and that stunning live album at the Fillimore, Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Al Green all re-defined soul music in vinyl albums we practically played out, then of course show albums, those Streisand LPs.
Also by the end of the '70s those first 12" singles came along, with disco extended mixes: Grace Jones' "La Vie En Rose" with "I Need A Man", Blondie's "Atomic" etc. More vinyl piled up ... The pleasure of actually handling the vinyl and putting the needle on the groove is something one just does not get with CDs which soon piled up too all over the place as of course, by the mid-'80s, one bought them all again on the new magic format, as we did with the new albums by George Michael, Sting etc. Then in the '80s/'90s clubbing took over with house and garage music taking over from high-energy; ecstasy and club beats ruled ...

Packaged in gatefold sleeves that were works of art in themselves, with all those lyrics,  the '70s LP was a playground for musicians to think outside the grooves of 3 minute singles, and helped create the soundtrack of a generation, which produced Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, The Doors etc. I remember being 20 in 1966 and playing Dylan's early stuff like "Corrina Corrina" and "Oxford Town" and Simon's "I Am a Rock" over and over, and dashing for the latest Stones's single like "Satisfaction" or The Who's "The Magic Bus", those early Fleetwood Mac singles like "Need Your Love So Bad", Chicken Shack's "I'd Rather Go Blind", Canned Heat, Leon Russell, Little Feat, Blood Sweat & Tears, The Moody Blues - that "Nights in White Satin" album DAYS OF FUTURE PASSED ... The Soft Machine, the albums my hippie pals liked - The Band MUSIC FROM BIG PINK etc. as we headed off to see The Doors and Jefferson Airplane at The Roundhouse, along with Stevie Winwood and Traffic, Cream, Clapton, The Who etc. 

One of these BB4 programmes interviewed Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane - she is now a grey-haired old lady! Of course others who did not fare so well were Janis Joplin, Tim Buckley, Tim Hardin ... we liked their albums as well.

Fleetwood Mac's RUMOURS is now re-released in a de luxe edition and it brings it all back - its marvellous to hear it all again. Its very sound ("Go Your Own Way", "You Make Loving Fun", "Don't Stop") with those winsome melodies and West Coast harmonies defined the era, like the Lovin Spoonful and The Mamas and the Papas a decade before them. Californication indeed! It remains one of pop's great touchstones, and is the high-water mark of America's '70s rock culture, along with THE EAGLES GREATEST HITS, then there were all those other groups like Foreigner ... that whole L.A. coke-fuelled hedonism.  Fleetwood Mac have of course reformed for the reformation tour - thats where the money is these days, so many groups are re-grouping ...

Even David Bowie is coming back with that new album after the teasing taster single.

There's also that nice little box of Joni Mitchell's first 10 studio albums, as mentioned here before, with those miniture gatefold sleeves ....

Petula Clark too has a new album out at 80 with a stunning new slower version of "Downtown" - that anthem from when I was 18 and new in London: "Downtown - its all waiting for you" - and it was ...

I also now have a new discovery to go and listen to: Frank Ocean's Grammy winning "Channel Orange" ... so really, music is better than ever, even if stores like HMV go to the wall - but we now buy our music (and movies) differently than even 10 years ago ... when I was shopping in HMV every week.
High-tech late '70s: left: stereo, early vhs recorder, 3-channel tv, audio & vhs tapes, and albums, albums  ... and right, in the '80s: cds, cassette decks for making mix-tapes, and satellite tv, in Portsmouth! - 
and I loved my clunky yellow Sports Walkman, much sexier than the ordinary one!
Now, everything is on the iPod, and HD multi-channel bigger and flatter televisions were unimaginable even ten years ago ! 

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