The Stack: Ziggy and Janis and Rod and the Zep

Another – very very late and kind of short – installment in my ongoing series.

I had a shitty stereo with a turntable in my room. At some point my Mom walked into my room with an armload of records. I don’t recall what she said exactly, whether I should listen to them or that I might like these or what. I’m sure at least some of the impetus behind the gesture was that she was sick as shit of hearing “Pyromania” and “Metal Health” over and over again. When she left I put the stack in my lap and took a look. A couple of Cream records, Janis Joplin’s “Pearl,” at least a couple of Led Zeppelin’s first 3 or 4 records, “Ziggy Stardust,” the Faces “A Nod’s As Good As A Wink…” and Rod’s “Every Picture Tells a Story.”

Even with a turntable, even with all these capital-A Albums, my memory still chops them up into 7” single-sized chunks. “Me and Bobby McGee” and the Faces’ “Stay With Me” were two big takeaways from the stack. The only albums of the bunch I remember listening to all the way through a lot were Ziggy and Led Zeppelin IV.[1] I don’t recall ever listening to the Cream albums even though their covers were so striking and I don’t recall any particular reason NOT to listen to them aside from, you know, the tweedly-deedly. I also recall a moment in the title track to “Every Picture Tells a Story” where someone in the band or in the studio while they were recording yells out “HEY!” in a completely random and non-musical way. Whoever that person was sounded EXACTLY like my stepfather and literally every time I listened to that song (which was a lot) I jumped when that “HEY!” happened because I thought it was him telling me to turn it down or go clean the pine needles out of the gutters.

Was it growing up with most of my musical intake coming from commercial radio and MTV that made me tend to think of music in terms of songs instead of albums, singles instead of bands? Dunno but that’s how it was and still is with me. Not that there aren’t albums that I love from front to back but I don’t expect to do so. Why should I be surprised when a group of even superlative musicians can’t come up with 40+ minutes of amazing music every year, or every other year, or even once? It’s arbitrary and more than that it’s really, really fucking hard to do. It’s hard enough to produce – and by that I mean everything that goes into it: writing, arranging, performing, engineering, mixing, mastering, artwork – one single song that people will want to hear more than once. But that’s do-able. Thus I never held it against a band or a singer if I only liked one or two of their songs. Sure there were times when I’d get pissed that I’d dropped ten bucks on a cassette only to discover that literally every song other than the one on the radio was absolute dogshit.[2] But you learn your lesson and you start to get a feel for when something’s a one-hitter or a going concern.

[1] Shut up. It’s their fourth album and I don’t wanna hear about the fucking symbols or whatever.

[2] I’m looking at you, Cutting Crew.

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