10 Albums

I’ve made various attempts over the last month to express my thoughts on our current shared predicament – “Life in a Time of Plague”, “A New Normal” or what about “Following the Science?”. But they all end up deteriorating into a diatribe against the state of the world and our society, and who wants to read that? You’ll be glad to know that I decided to spare you – and myself! Although… if, as “they” claim, they have at least temporarily solved the problem of rough sleeping, why did it take a world-wide pandemic to solve a problem that has been so patently crying out for a solution for years and years and years…. Just askin’.

Anyway, 10 albums. You’ve probably seen this Facebook challenge – something along the lines of Albums that greatly influenced my life/taste in music, one a day for 10 consecutive days, no explanation, no reviews, just album covers… I followed with mild interest as various Facebook friends took it up. Until one by one my children started doing it and I found myself connecting with many of the albums they were picking out – ones that were part of their growing up and therefore part of the fabric of my life at various junctures. Some few I might even have passed on to them!

So of course then you start considering what music you would choose and one thing leads to another… The best thing about the album challenge is that it gives you something else to think about than the daily Coronavirus press conference or the debate about whether Dominic Cummings should get the boot or not. (YES!!!) Music is a marvellous alternative and also a wonderful way to be reminded of a time when your life wasn’t constrained by having to wash your hands every five minutes and crossing the road in order to avoid getting too close to someone coming along in the other direction. The Facebook rules are that there should be no explanations for your choices, fair enough. But this isn’t Facebook…

all things must pass

#1 – All Things Must Pass. Someone gave me this album for my 21st birthday, so it’s been with me a long, long time. I think I’ve mentioned before that George was always my favourite Beatle. At first, like any teenager, its just the one you fancy the most, but gradually I suppose I found something in his words and music that chimed with me, and he seemed such a gentle philosophical soul.

Why are you still crying?
Your pain is now through
Please, forget those teardrops
Let me take them from you
The love you are blessed with
This world’s waiting for
So let out your heart, please, please
From behind that locked door

Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it’s all right

Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it’s all right

jc superstar

#2 – Jesus Christ Superstar. Before there was the musical, or the film, there was the ALBUM! I remember a group of us, must have been 1970 or 71, being invited round to friend Shuggie’s student flat and him producing this record with a flourish. “You have to listen to this!” And listen we did, to all two hours of it. We’d not really heard anything like it before, we were impressed! And it also felt quite subversive – there was a lot of controversy at the time about whether this portrayal of Jesus was blasphemous. Seems almost tame nowadays.

Carole_King_-_Tapestry

#3 – Carole King Tapestry. You’ve Got a Friend, Natural Woman, Beautiful… Perfection really.

Tonight you’re mine, completely
You give your love so sweetly
Tonight the light of love is in your eyes
But will you love me tomorrow?
Is this a lasting treasure
Or just a moment’s pleasure
Can I believe the magic of your sighs
Will you still love me tomorrow?
Tonight with words unspoken
You say that I’m the only one
But will my heart be broken
When the night meets the morning sun?
I’d like to know that your love
Is love I can be sure of
So tell me now and I won’t ask again
Will you still love me tomorrow?
Will you still love me tomorrow?

 

strings and things

#4 – Strings and Things by the Corries. My Mum used to be fond of the Corries. She’d refer to them as Ronnie and Roy as if they were personal friends. Maybe they were, all sorts of famous-ish people used to come in to the Fairy Dell, the cake shop in Byres Road where she worked when we were at school. It was quite near the BBC Studios so I suppose they would pop in for their fancy cakes and pastries.

I can’t remember where I picked up this album – we called them LP’s in those days by the way. It might have been a birthday present, but I have an idea that I might have bought it for myself with the money I earned as a Saturday Girl in the City Bakeries, also a cake shop in Byres Road but considerably downmarket from the posh Fairy Dell.

I think this was the first LP I ever owned and I always loved it. Ronnie and Roy – see, I’m doing it now! – had these new instruments called combolins, a kind of guitar/mandoline/harp hybrid invented by Roy. The result is a dreamy, tender collection of some of their favourite songs.

Bob_Dylan_-_Nashville_Skyline

#5 – Nashville Skyline by Bob Dylan. Lay Lady Lay. Need I say more?

Lay, lady, lay, lay across my big brass bed
Lay, lady, lay, lay across my big brass bed
Whatever colors you have in your mind
I’ll show them to you and you’ll see them shine
Lay, lady, lay, lay across my big brass bed
Stay, lady, stay, stay with your man awhile
Until the break of day, let me see you make him smile
His clothes are dirty but his hands are clean
And you’re the best thing that he’s ever seenStay, lady, stay, stay with your man awhile
Why wait any longer for the world to begin
You can have your cake and eat it too
Why wait any longer for the one you love
When he’s standing in front of you

Lay, lady, lay, lay across my big brass bed
Stay, lady, stay, stay while the night is still ahead
I long to see you in the morning light
I long to reach for you in the night
Stay, lady, stay, stay while the night is still ahead

concert in central park

#6 – The Concert in Central Park. Of course I cheated when I chose this one. It was really just a way of including most of my favourite Simon and Garfunkel songs that were scattered through various albums from the sixties. But there is something special about this live concert when the two reunited in 1982 for a special free performance which attracted half a million people. The atmosphere really is electric and I always like the little imperfections and irregularities which happen in live performance.

Peter, my ex, played the guitar and sang. As a student, he was always the one surrounded by a group of girls hanging on to every note. Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, the Beatles all featured in his repertoire, as did the Scottish folk songs that were the mainstay of many a heartfelt singalong – Wild Mountain Thyme, Marie’s Wedding, Skye Boat Song… He wrote songs too. I’m not going to analyse this any further – you can draw your own conclusions.

Beatles "Revolver" Album Cover

#7 – The Beatles Revolver. Of course as with Simon and Garfunkel the problem is just WHICH Beatles album to choose. I do love Here, There and Everywhere though, so I suppose that’s what’s tipped the scales in favour of Revolver. And yes, it has occurred to me that my choices would seem to indicate that I’m a hopeless romantic, a bit hippy dippy, even despite the (possibly delusional) carapace of worldly cynicism that I believe I present to the world. Turns out that’s what this challenge is all about, thinking back to when you were first aware of a particular artist or song, and why it has always stayed with you. Who you were then and are now is a big part of that. It’s like the way certain smells can instantly transport you back to a particular time or place, and the feelings associated with it. Johnson’s baby powder, freshly mown grass, dried seaweed on a beach.

Here, making each day of the year
Changing my life with a wave of her hand
Nobody can deny that there’s something there
There, running my hands through her hair
Both of us thinking how good it can be
Someone is speaking
But she doesn’t know he’s there…

I can’t really remember a time when I wasn’t aware of the Beatles. I would have been 8 when their first single came out, Love Me Do in 1962, and no, I don’t remember that specifically, I looked it up! I recall that even at primary school people would argue about whether John or Paul was the best. Of course I could smugly stand apart from that as I liked George. I don’t remember anyone ever preferring Ringo, sorry Ringo!

And then there’s the Beatles/Rolling Stones dichotomy! In my circle you liked one or the other, seldom both. The Stones were more alarming, their music more rock and roll, probably more adventurous. It’s not that I don’t like to listen to them today, I do, but they don’t make my top 10. It occurs to me that preferring the boys next door to the bad boys of rock might seem rather safe, perhaps even bland. But I can’t help that. I suppose it’s  part of your personality as to which music excites you, stays with you, even defines you. But you need to do this challenge without judging yourself or imagining how others will judge you. You can’t pop in some Bowie or Queen or Iron Maiden just to make yourself seem more edgy!

angels and electricity

#8 – Angels and Electricity.  I wish I could remember how this album came to me. All I can say is I’m glad it did because it ticks all my boxes – melodic, thoughtful, accoustic, rather haunting. And I do like a good tune!

Graceland_cover_-_Paul_Simon

#9 Graceland, Paul Simon. I chose this as much for the African beats and the Ladysmith Black Mambazo band. It just gets to a place deep inside.

Eva_Cassidy_-_Songbird

#10 – Songbird. Like most of her many fans, I only became aware of Eva Cassidy after her tragic death at the age of 33 in 1996. If I could only keep one of these 10 albums, I’d give up all the others for this one. It’s the one that will always get to me, console me, grab me and make me listen. There’s just something about this girl, how she takes each song right into her heart and pours it out in her own unique jazzy bluesy way. Of course the fact that she’s no longer with us makes it all the more poignant. But what a wonderful legacy to leave behind you.

As the lockdown continues, we are all to a greater or lesser degree thrown back on our own resources, especially if we’re not on the front line. Recently when I sent the link to my sisters for our weekly Zoom meet up, one of them replied “Already? Weeks are blinks, days are blurred, hours are moments.” It gets you like that, doesn’t it? Sometimes when I’m struggling to find a structure for the day I even find myself facing an existential crisis – who are you anyway? Getting up and doing the dishes normally dispels such unhelpful thought processes.

When I look back to my past, I realise that I have come through many times in my life when I have been constrained by an unlooked for external force – marriage breakdown, lack of money, bereavement, illness. A Covid-19 pandemic is only the latest manifestation. Everyone keeps on saying things will have to change, it will be different now. So it has always been and will always be. What we have to do is roll up our sleeves and get on with it.

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