When people listened to albums

Over at EW.com, they’re discussing the lost art of closing albums.  Good reading.  Their discussion of how the iTunes culture and singles-centric music business is destroying the fine art of creating a great album stirred a more than a few thoughts in my noggin.

See, in July of 2007 I had to write one of those silly meme-things, this one dealing with my Top 5 Side 1, Track 1’s  Basically, my top 5 opening tracks, the opposite of the above list.  You can check out my selections here.

Now, you’ll notice I tagged five people on that list.  Only two responded: Randy and Lee.  Wanna know something sad, though?  Neither of them could do it.  Lee had to give me a top 5 opening tracks to his iTunes playlists.  Randy at least went with opening tracks of real albums, but he used his iTunes to mathematically calculate what songs he listens to the most.  I mean, I’ve heard Barry Manilow’s “Miracle” a million times, but it ain’t one of my favorite songs.

I know both of those guys can do better than that.  Lee’s one of the biggest music fans I know, and I saw Randy’s CD collection before he dumped everything to iTunes.  Damn thing was huge!  It amazes me that neither one of them could just think about their favorite records and come up with their own answers.

But I’m afraid we’re heading to that sort of thing.  I remember waking up and driving an hour into Cincinnati to grab a copy of The Afghan Whigs’ 1965 the day it came out.  I then raced home, set my CD played up in the bathroom where the acoustics were best, and sat on the edge of the bathrub for an hour while I gave the record its first listen.

Compare the above scenario to a few years ago, when I woke up five minutes early to buy The Twilight Singers’ Powder Burns and download to my iPod before I ran off to work.  Nowhere near the same experience.  I’m not even sure the second one qualifies as an experience!

Another example.  I’ve always loved the song “Purple Rain.”  It’s a masterpiece.  However, it wasn’t until the first time I sat through the entire Purple Rain soundtrack to catch that masterpiece at the end that it became something new and wonderful.  As the end of a fantastic record, it’s something epic, much more than just a great song.

I realize I’m getting close to being one of those “In my day” guys, and I don’t want that.  Hell, I’m pretty sure “In my day” is one of the cornerstones of the Republican Party, and I know I want nothing to do with that.  I do, however, want to be able to appreciate records as the sum of their parts again.  I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

Or is it?

1 thought on “When people listened to albums

  1. Thanks Nate, now I feel really old, because I actually understand what you mean. Somehow albums (a dated term) once were supposed to tell some sort of story. The songs flowed. I remember listening to Black Sabbath’s Paranoid when I was 10. All that is lost with single song downloads. The artist’s creativity is lost. The example I have in my home is my 14-year-old daughter’s new found love for My Chemical Romance (maybe it isn’t high art). She downloaded many songs. She has never listened to their Black Parade as a whole. We all have our favorite songs, but we continue to miss all the artists have to offer.
    Thank you for the Purple Rain reminder.


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