The Beatles

Still catching up on classic albums. Here are my thoughts on The Beatles by The Beatles (that’s the album we all know better as The White Album).

Some Historical Context

I was six when this came out. I don’t remember it being released, but I have vague memories of singing Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da when I was young. I probably got it from the Marmalade version that was in the charts.

The first I can remember really being interested in The Beatles was when all of their singles were re-released in 1976. I remember deciding that I preferred The Stones to The Beatles. I still think that The Beatles are overrated. But this is definitely amongst my favourite Beatles albums.

The rest of this post will be written as I listen to the album. Oh, and for the first time in this series, it’s a double album.

The Songs

1. Back in the U.S.S.R.

One of the all-time great album openers. It’s all pretty basic stuff, but something about it makes this a great song. It’s short too – less than three minutes. Of course, the basic idea of the lyrics is ripped off from the Beach Boys.

2. Dear Prudence

Another great song. One of Lennon’s best, in my opinion.

3. Glass Onion

Another good one from Lennon. Pretty strange lyrics; talking about a number of older Beatles songs.

4. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da

As far as I’m concerned, this is the album’s first mis-step. We’ve established previously that I’m not a big fan of reggae and this childish white man’s reggae is even worse. I mentioned above that I remember singing this when I was a child. The “when I was a child” is key there.

5. Wild Honey Pie

This is really dreadful, isn’t it? I really don’t know what McCartney was thinking. Mercifully short though.

6. The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill

I should hate this too. It’s really childish. But something about it makes me smile. Not Lennon’s finest hour though – by some considerable distance.

7. While My Guitar Gently Weeps

The best thing that George Harrison ever wrote. This is fantastic.

8. Happiness Is a Warm Gun

This is ok. It’s not great, but I certainly wouldn’t skip it. End of side one.

9. Martha My Dear

Side two starts with McCartney trying to write a music hall style song. It really doesn’t work.

10. I’m So Tired

This is more like it. Lennon sings the blues. Brilliantly. I think my Lennon/McCartney bias is showing in this review.

11. Blackbird

The guitar on this is quite pretty. Still not a particularly interesting song though.

12. Piggies

When I was 14 I loved this. Now I think it’s embarrassing. Hard to believe it was written by the same person as While My Guitar Gently Weeps.

13. Rocky Raccoon


14. Don’t Pass Me By

Ah… Ringo. This is pretty simplistic stuff. but I really like it.

15. Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?

Another one that I enjoyed a lot when I was about 14. Hate it now.

16. I Will

And finally McCartney proves that he can write something simple and effective. It’s not outstanding, but it works.

17. Julia

This is one of my favourite Lennon songs. I don’t understand why it’s so obscure. Hardly anyone seems to know it. End of side two.

18. Birthday

A rock birthday song really shouldn’t work. And, yet, somehow it does.

19. Yer Blues

Love this too.

20. Mother Nature’s Son

Hate this one.

21. Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey

Ambivalent about this one. It’s ok. Nothing special. Ridiculous lyrics.

22. Sexy Sadie

Originally entitled “Maharisha”, this is about Lennon’s disenchantment with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. I quite like this, but it’s not one of his best.

23. Helter Skelter

Another of the album’s classic tracks. Surely everyone loves this. From the initial guitar thrash to Ringo’s “I’ve got blisters on my fingers” it’s brilliant. And, bizarrely, it’s a McCartney song.

24. Long, Long, Long

When I’m listening to these albums, there’s always at least one track I don’t remember. And this is it. I don’t remember it because it’s just average. It’s written by George Harrison and could be an obscure album track on any of his solo albums. End of side three.

25. Revolution 1

This is controversial. It’s the same song as the rockier version that was released as the b-side to Hey Jude – that’s the version that everyone knows. This is a mellower acoustic version that isn’t to everyone’s taste. I like both versions though. In my more “Che Guevara” periods I’ve spent hours discussing how, in this version, Lennon changes the line to “if you talk about destruction, don’t you know that you can count me out… in”.

26. Honey Pie

Another horrible McCartney effort.

27. Savoy Truffle

And this is another distinctly average song from Harrison. Whoever wrote a good song about a recipe? Oh, MacArthur Park, I suppose.

28. Cry Baby Cry

This is ok. Nothing special. Side four really isn’t very good.

29. Revolution 9

Why did Lennon think it was a good idea to submit an eight minute sound collage for inclusion on the album? Why did the other members of the band approve it? Perhaps they were short of material. I didn’t listen to this all the way through.

30. Good Night

No. This doesn’t really do it for me at all. Not a great way to end the album.

In Summary

Not as good as I remember it. There’s actually a lot of filler there. But it does have half a dozen or songs that are as good as anything The Beatles recorded. Perhaps it would have been better as a single album.



Still several weeks behind on the classic album front. But I wanted to leave this one until I cam back from my holiday in South Africa – it’s Paul Simon’s Graceland.

Some Historical Context

I’m not sure I can remember a time when I didn’t know this album. When it was released I was frequenting the kinds of pubs and wine bars where it was being played constantly, so it soon injected itself into my consciousness. This is very much the music that I listened to a lot at the end of the 80s. Not just this album but (as for many other people) this is the album that opened my ears to the possibilities of World Music. I have this album to thank for a lot of the music that I still listen to today.

I loved the album, but for some reason I didn’t buy it. Well, not until earlier this year when I wanted to listen to it again just before I went to see Paul Simon celebrating the album’s 25th anniversary with a gig in Hyde Park.

The rest of this post will be written as I listen to the album.

The Songs

1. The Boy in the Bubble

There are so many strong songs on this album, but I think this is my favourite. I love the accordion on it. It’s just such a happy song that draws you into the album. The lyrics are infectious and positive too – “These are the days / Of miracles and wonders”. I can’t listen to this song without grinning.

2. Graceland

Anther great song. It’s probably the song that sounds most like Paul Simon’s previous work, but it has that great pedal steel guitar on it. Fabulous lyrics too.

3. I Know What I Know

When I listened to this album last summer, it was  probably the first time I had listened to it for about six or seven years. And I had completely forgotten about this song. Which is weird as I used to really love it. It’s a song that I used to play on the guitar. In some inexplicable way this seems to be a companion piece to Simon’s earlier “Late in the Evening”.

4. Gumboots

Every classic album must have a weakest track. And I think that this is Graceland’s. That’s not to say, at all, that it’s a weak track. It’s just that in amongst so many classics, this doesn’t quite cut it. On pretty much any other album, this would be a standout track. Never really understood that strange fade-out at the end though.

5. Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes

Is there any point in describing this? There can’t be anyone who doesn’t know exactly what this sounds like. And what a great song it is. Hearing it I always want to go out and buy Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s complete back catalogue.

6. You Can Call Me Al

This is the big hit single from the album. It must have been the lead single. Another one that everyone can sing along too. Do you remember Chevy Chase in the video?

7. Under African Skies

When I think of this album, this is the song that usually pops into my head first. I mentioned that I’ve recently been on holiday in South Africa. And this is the song that I found myself humming most often.

8. Homeless

Another song that I absolutely love. The performance they did of this in Hyde Park last summer was just electrifying.

9. Crazy Love, Vol. II

This is another song that seems slightly ill at ease on this album. It’s a good song, but isn’t quite in the same league as most of the others.

10. That Was Your Mother

And this is another song that I had forgotten, but as soon as I heard it I remembered just how much I loved it.

11. All Around the World or the Myth of Fingerprints

Not the strongest track to end the album. I think that’s becoming quite a theme with these posts. Artists seem to push the better songs to the front of the album. I suppose that makes sense.

In Summary

An absolutely astonishing album. And it still sounds as good as it did in 1986. They don’t get much better than this.


OK Computer

Attempting to get less behind on the classic albums… The next one is Radiohead’s OK Computer.

Some Historical Context

Like REM, I don’t really remember when I first heard Radiohead. I expect I was aware of things like “High and Dry” and “Creep” when they were released as I’m sure they both had lots of radio play. I know I had bought both of their first two albums before this one was released. And I’m pretty sure that I bought this soon after it was released.

I’ve carried on buying every Radiohead album since. But, to be honest, I haven’t enjoyed any of their newer stuff anywhere near as much as I enjoyed their first three albums. And I think that OK Computer is the best of the three. But I haven’t listened to it all the way through for a couple of years.

The rest of this blog post will be written as I listen to the album.

The Songs

1. Airbag

Like many of these albums, I find that when I look closely at the track listing, there are many titles that I recognise, but that I can’t associate with a song. This is a good example. I knew the title, but I had no idea how it was going to sound. That’s true of about half of the tracks on this album. But, of course, I recognise it. And I like it. It’s an early indication that we have moved on substantially from the band’s first two albums.

2. Paranoid Android

This is hard to describe. It’s a 90s version of Bohemian Rhapsody. I don’t mean that in a bad way (overplayed and impossible to take seriously after Wayne’s World). I just mean that it’s a complex song that frequently changes its sound. When I first heard it fifteen years ago, it completely blew my away. Of course it’s now very familiar. And I have to say that the familiarity means that it has lost some of its power.

3. Subterranean Homesick Alien

Another “oh, it’s that one” moment. One of the tracks I really like on the album. I should really take the trouble to learn what it’s called.

4. Exit Music (For a Film)

Another good one that I always forget about.

5. Let Down

Like this one too. Not one of my favourites, but it’s enjoyable enough.

6. Karma Police

Best song on the album. Best thing that Radiohead have ever recorded.

7. Fitter Happier

I knew what this one was going to be. It’s the Stephen Hawking one. Probably my least favourite track on the album.

8. Electioneering

This isn’t that good either. Oh, it’s better than the Stephen Hawking thing, but it doesn’t really go anywhere.

9. Climbing Up the Walls

This one pretty much washed over me. It stopped played thirty seconds ago and I can’t really remember it.

10. No Surprises

That stuff I said about “Karma Police” being the best Radiohead song ever. I might have been wrong.

11. Lucky

This is nice. Very laid back. I recognise it, but I had no idea what it was called.

12. The Tourist

A lot of the albums I’ve been listening to recently end rather weakly. And this is no exception. There’s nothing wrong with this, it’s not not a particularly strong end to the album. The album just kind of bumbles to an end.

In Summary

I still really like this album. It wasn’t anywhere near as disappointing as some of the other old favourites that I’ve been relistening to recently. But it’s still not quite as good as I remember.

Perhaps I should give some of those more recent Radiohead albums another go.



It seems that somehow I’ve got four weeks behind on the classic album write-ups. I’ll try to get through at least a couple today. The first one is REM’s Green.

Some Historical Context

I don’t remember when I first heard REM. I remember being aware of Document but I’m not sure how soon after its release I first heard it. I suspect that Green was the first of their albums that I was aware of as it was released.

I do remember that being into REM was a big test of someone’s cool back at the end of the 80s. And a knowledge of the albums before this one was a measure of exactly how cool you were.

In about 1997 a friend of mine met Michael Stipe in our local pub. True story.

The rest of this blog post will be written as I listen to the album.

The Songs

1. Pop Song 89

Pretty typical bouncy REM pop to start the album. This was a single and therefore got lots of radio play (I suspect I was listening to, the sadly missed, GLR at the time). Still sounds good to me.

2. Get Up

Another single from the album. Not as instantly recognisable though. Short and sweet.

3. You Are The Everything

There are a number of tracks on this album whose titles I don’t recognise. I’m sure I’ll know them all when we get to them. This is the first. And, yes, I know it. It’s the one that sounds like it should really be on Automatic For The People – lots of jangly mandolin.

4. Stand

Probably the best known song on the album. Probably one of REM’s best known songs. I still like this a lot.

5. World Leader Pretend

Everyone knows this one too. It wasn’t a single, but got a lot of radio play back then. Still sounds great.

6. The Wrong Child

Here’s one I really don’t remember. It’s ok. Nothing special.

7. Orange Crush

A jolly pop song about Agent Orange. Lovely. The album is called “Green” and its cover is orange. When “Orange Crush” was released as a single, the cover was green.

8. Turn You Inside-Out

Another title that I don’t recognise. But I know (and really like) the song.

9. Hairshirt

Yeah. I quite like this. But it’s nothing special compared to some of the other tracks.

10. I Remember California

Same as with Hairshirt, really. The album doesn’t end on a strong note.

11. Untitled

An untitled song that really doesn’t go anywhere.

In Summary

This wasn’t as good as I remember. Sure, there are some great tracks. But a lot of it is just ok. In retrospect it’s just marking time between Document (the album that first brought them to most people’s attention) and Out of Time (the album that made them really famous). I’d far rather listen to either of those.


The Joshua Tree

Last week’s classic album (I’m still a week behind) was U2’s Joshua Tree.

Some Historical Context

I don’t remember listening really early U2. I remember liking New Years Day when it came out. But then Under a Blood Red Sky was released and everyone played it all the bloody time. I grew to hate it so much that I didn’t give The Unforgettable Fire much of a chance at all. I still can’t listen to Pride (In The Name Of Love) without flinching – although I rather like the rest of that album.

It was The Joshua Tree that changed my mind and convinced me that U2 were worth taking seriously. I loved this album when it came out. I became a huge U2 fan and started buying all of their albums. It’s only relatively recently that I realised they’ve become really rather dull over the last fifteen years or so.

But I’m looking forward to listening to this again. I haven’t heard it for a while.

The rest of this blog post will be written as I listen to the album.

The Songs

1. Where The Streets Have No Name

One of my favourite ever openings to an album (but I’m beginning to suspect that I write something like that rather a lot). Although I’m starting to realise that I know find it hard to listen to without subconsciously mixing it into Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You. Thank you Neil Tennant!

2. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

Another classic. Perhaps I slightly prefer the version on Rattle and Hum with the gospel choir.

3. With Or Without You

Three songs in and it just gets better and better. A repeated four chord sequence never sounded better than this.

4. Bullet The Blue Sky

This is where the band unlock the stadium rock group they’ve been hiding away. This is a great song, but you need to hear the live version on Rattle and Hum to appreciate its true power.

5. Running To Stand Still

After the bombast of Bullet The Blue Sky, this is the perfect follow-up. It’s a lovely, gently swirling song with great hooks.

6. Red Hill Mining Town

Side two (remember vinyl?) doesn’t start anywhere near as strongly as side one did. That’s not to say that this isn’t a good song (it really is), just that it’s hard to compete with Where The Streets Have No Name.

7. In God’s Country

It wouldn’t be hard to believe that this came out of the same songwriting session as Where The Streets Have No Name. It has a very similar feel. And it’s similarly enjoyable.

8. Trip Through Your Wires

Possibly one of the weaker songs on the album. Not sure how much I like that harmonica.

9. One Tree Hill

One of the dangers of front-loading side one with all of your best songs is that the middle of side two can start to flag a bit. While I’ve been listening to these classic albums, I’m surprised how common a phenomenon this is. And this album is no exception.

10. Exit

I always think I can’t remember this one. And then it gets going about two minutes in and I think, “oh yes, I really like this one”.

11. Mothers Of The Disappeared

Another one that takes a while to get going. Not the strongest end to the album, but a good song nonetheless.

In Summary

I think this is U2’s best album. I know it’s unfashionable to like them these days. And I know that their recent output can be a bit ropey. But that doesn’t really matter when we still have older stuff like this to listen to.


Songs of Faith and Devotion

I’m running a couple of weeks behind on classic albums again. Today I’m catching up by listening to Depeche Mode’s 1993 album Songs of Faith and Devotion.

Some Historical Context

Depeche Mode are very much my era. Their first singles came out in 1980 – when I was eighteen. But while I’ve always really liked them, I’ve only ever considered them a singles band – albeit a great singles band. The only albums I’ve ever owned by them have been compilations.

In the mid-80s I had some friends who were big fans and who played their newest albums incessantly. So Black Celebration and Music for the Masses are probably the only of their albums that I know well.

A little-known Depeche Mode fact for you. There’s a bar dedicated to them in Tallinn where they play their music constantly. If you’re ever in the city, I recommend a visit.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard this album all the way through. But I certainly recognise some of the titles from my compilations.

The rest of this blog post will be written as I listen to the album.

The Songs

1. I Feel You

We start with one that I know well. This must have been a single. It’s pretty standard Depeche Mode fare. But that means it’s really rather good.

2. Walking in My Shoes

Another one that I know well. I like this even more than the last one. This is definitely a band who are at the peak of their game.

3. Condemnation

I think they must be front-loading all the singles on this album as I recognise this too. This is one of their slower numbers. I don’t like it quite as much as the previous two.

4. Mercy in You

This is the first song that is new to me. It’s ok, but I can understand why the previous three would be chosen as singles above this one. Or perhaps it’s just my familiarity with the singles that makes me think they are better.

5. Judas

We’re now a couple of songs away from the comfort of stuff that I know well and I’m starting to get the first niggle that it might all be a bit similar. Not that it’s bad. Or even that it’s dull. I’m just not sure that it will hold my interest for the whole album. Oh, the instrumental bit that runs for the last 90 or so seconds is very nice.

6. In Your Room

And we’re back with the singles. Another one that I know and love. This was a very single-heavy album.

7. Get Right with Me

Another one that I’m hearing for the first time. Nothing that really grabs me here.

8. Rush

This is good. A little more going on than some of the other songs on the album.

9. One Caress

Ooh, strings. We like a bit of strings. Very nice. Yes, that was really good.

10. Higher Love

I like this one too. Pretty typical stuff, but it has a couple of nice little hooks.

In Summary

I said at the start that I always considered Depeche Mode to be a singles band. Listening to a whole album hasn’t really changed that opinion. It’s all good stuff, but the singles are head and shoulders above the other tracks. I can’t see myself rushing out to buy a load of Depeche Mode albums, but I’d definitely consider listening to this one a few more times.


Let It Bleed

This week’s (ok, it’s actually from a couple of weeks ago – I’m catching up) is the Rolling Stones’ Let it Bleed.

Some Historical Context

My earliest memories of popular music are from the late 1960s. It was a time when the Beatles dominated. But the Stones were the only band who came close to equalling them. That, at least, was the popular belief of that time. Looking back on it now I’m pretty sure that the Beatles’ influence has been overstated. I’m not one of those people who argue that the Stones were the better band. But there’s no question that their career has lasted longer.

I don’t remember the Stones in the 60s. I do remember them in the 70s. I remember seeing the “Only Rock ‘N’ Roll” video on top of the pops. I had a copy of Rolled Gold and that pretty much saw to all of my Stones needs.

In the 80s I had a flatmate who was a huge Stones fan, so I got to know their work far better than I had before. And Let it Bleed was one of his favourites. I got to know it well. But it’s twenty-five years since I heard it. I’m looking forward to hearing it again.

The rest of this blog post will be written as I listen to the album.

The Songs

1. Gimme Shelter

I’ve loved this song since I first heard it. I still love it. I have nothing to add.

2. Love in Vain

This is pretty standard slow blues. It’s a good song and performed well. But anything would struggle to be noticed when following “Gimme Shelter”.

3. County Honk

This was a songs that really surprised me when my flatmate introduced me to the album. It’s a country version of “Honky Tonk Women”. I loved the original (a single that wasn’t on any album) but this version is also really good.

4. Live with Me

Until now, the album hasn’t really sounded like the Stones. The first three tracks have seen them experimenting with different styles. This sounds more like a typical Stones song. And, I’m afraid, it rather suffers for it. One of my least favourite tracks on the album.

5. Let It Bleed

Another one that I remember well from the 80s. I particularly remember that it was really easy to play on the guitar. My flatmate and I used to play it together. The recordings have, thankfully, gone missing. I’d forgotten that some of the lyrics were rather risqué.

6. Midnight Rambler

One the original vinyl, this song opened side two. And it’s a cracking start. It has to be one of the Stones’ best songs.

7. You Got the Silver

Another one that, to be frank, is just a bit of filler. Don’t remember having heard it before.

8. Monkey Man

Not sure about this one either, to be honest. It’s a bit derivative.

9. You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Another absolute classic. One of my all-time favourite songs.

In Summary

Bit of a mixed bag, to be honest. In “Gimme Shelter”, “Midnight Gambler” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” this album has three of the Stones’ finest songs. But there are also two or three songs that are purely filler.


System of a Down

Last week’s classic album is System of a Down’s eponymous début album.

Some Historical Context

System of a Down completely passed me by. I had never heard of them until at some point in the last few years I read an article on the Guardian web site called “100 essential albums from the last ten years” or something like that. I used that article as the impetus to buy half a dozen or so albums that I’d never heard of. One of those album’s was System of a Down’s second album, Toxicity. I listened to it, decided that it really wasn’t for me and put it to one side.

Then, a few weeks ago, I got involved in a discussion about choosing a single iconic album to represent each of the last twenty-five years. Some of the people involved in the discussion were appalled that I hadn’t considered SOAD’s first two albums for 1998 or 2001. In case I was missing out on something good, I listened to the first album and decided that it really wasn’t any better than the second one. SOAD were really not a band who I enjoyed.

So imagine my excitement when the band’s first album was pulled out of the hat and became last week’s classic album of the week. This will be the second time I’ve heard this album. Yes, I have preconceptions, but I’ll try to be fair.

The rest of this blog post will be written as I listen to the album.

The Songs

1. Suite-Pee

It’s difficult to review this without sounding like a cliché – “this isn’t music”, “I can’t make out the words”, “he’s just shouting”. If I want to listen to stuff like this then I know where to find Napalm Death.

2. Know

Oh. At least this one has a bit of tune. Not a very good one, but a tune nonetheless. Are we sure it’s not the chap from Napalm Death on lead vocals?

3. Sugar

I’m hating this. But we persevere. There’s a false ending just before the two minute mark, but the songs all sound so similar that it could just be the break between two shorter songs.

4. Suggestions

This started ok. Nice little bit of guitar. But within seconds it turned into the usual dirge. Oh, and a bit where they put on comedy voices like Monty Python’s pepperpot women.

5. Spiders

They’re trying to lull me into a false sense of security here. This starts off sounding almost musical. I bet it won’t last. [time passes] Ok, I was wrong. It stayed vaguely musical for the whole three and half minutes. Not good, just vaguely musical.

6. DDevil

Back to their usual sound. It’s terrible. Mercifully short though.

7. Soil

More of the same. I’m losing the will to live.

8. War?

How much more of this is there? There’s nothing constructive to say about this at all. It’s just horrible.

9. Mind

Ok. Here’s another one that sounds different. And not entirely horrible. Then at 1:45 it goes silent and comes back sounding rubbish again. And at about 3:00 we’re back in their usual style. Then it spends three minutes wandering around various styles – none of them very good.

10. Peephole

Between the usual dross there’s an interesting little guitar riff trying to get out here. Soon gets buried though.

11. CUBErt

Another one that sounds like it might be interesting – for about ten seconds before the usual nonsense sweeps in. Almost over now. I need a drink.

12. Darts

I have nothing more to add.

13. P.L.U.C.K.

Last song. I’m going to get though this. Lucky the album is only 40 minutes long.

In Summary

I hope I never have to listen another note by this band. It is horrible. I know this is just my opinion and a lot of people don’t share it. There’s a lot of evidence that many people see something in this noise that I just can’t.

I guess this is how Daily Mail readers felt when they heard the Sex Pistols for the first time.


Machine Head

This week’s (actually two weeks ago’s – I’m a bit behind here) classic album is Deep Purple’s Machine Head.

Some Historical Context

I’ve never heard this album before. Oh, I know Deep Purple, of course. When I was a teenager, we all had, at least, a copy of 24 Carat Purple. Later on I also bought In Concert and Come Taste the Band (neither of which are particularly good).

But I’ve never listened to Machine Head all the way through. So there will be songs I know well and songs that I’ve never heard before. Also, it’s been about thirty years since I played a Deep Purple album, so this will be interesting.

The rest of this blog post will be written as I listen to the album.

The Songs

1. Highway Star

We start with one that I know, but not particularly well. That’s probably because it was on Made In Japan – a live album that many of friends had. It would be a pretty standard fast blues if it wasn’t for Jon Lord’s organ solo. I’ve never been that impressed by fast guitar solos, but I like a drop of Hammond organ.

2. Maybe I’m a Leo

A much slower song, and one that I don’t know at all. Seems to be relying a bit too much on Ritchie Blackmore’s guitar skills. Which makes it all a bit dull.

3. Pictures of Home

Another one I don’t remember ever hearing before. And I’m starting to remember why I stopped listening to Deep Purple thirty years ago. I’m sure it’s all very technically accomplished. But it’s just boring. Even the Hammond solo can’t save it.Oh, and a false ending. How interesting.

4. Never Before

And here’s one I know well. Perhaps it’s just the familiarity, but I like this a lot more than the last couple. It sounds like they’ve actually thought about constructing a song rather than just running a few solos together.

5. Smoke on the Water

Side two starts with the band’s best known song. But this isn’t the version that I know best. 24 Carat Purple included a live version from Made In Japan. And that version has a lot more power than this one does. This sounds positively weedy in comparison. Still a great song though. And still one of the first riffs that any guitarist learns.

6. Lazy

I think I know this one, but the beginning sounds unfamiliar. Nope. Halfway through and I still don’t recognise it. It’s all a bit “Jazz Odyssey” for my tastes. Oh, wait. After four and a half minutes the vocals come in and I recognise it. It can’t be this version I’ve heard before. Maybe not even by Deep Purple. Unimpressed.

7. Space Truckin’

And finally, another song that I know vaguely from hearing live albums at friends’ houses. Lyrically, at least, they seem to trying to channel Hawkwind. But even on their worst day Hawkwind are head and shoulders above this.

In Summary

I remember Deep Purple being far more interesting than this. Perhaps my musical tastes were less developed. Or perhaps they have other albums that are better. As I said, I stopped listening to Deep Purple about thirty years ago and I now know that I was right to do so. I’m unlikely to try them again in the near future.



This week’s classic album is Nirvana’s Nevermind.

Some Historical Context

I know I heard this soon after it first came out. A colleague at work lent me a cassette (remember cassettes?) of it. I remember listening to it for the first time on my Walkman (not really a Sony Walkman – some other brand) and being really impressed by it.

I didn’t buy it at the time. In fact I’m not sure I ever bought it. I think the CD I have may well have been left behind when my stepdaughter moved out of the house.

While I was impressed by Nirvana, I was never a huge fan. The only album I ever bought was the MTV Unplugged one. I never saw them play. I do, however, remember exactly what I was doing when I heard the Kurt Cobain was dead.

The rest of this blog post will be written as I listen to the album.

The Songs

1. Smells Like Teen Spirit

I’ve loved this song since I first heard it. It’s one of the all-time great ways to start an album. I don’t think there’s anything particularly revolutionary here – slow verse followed by a “let it rip” chorus – but it all hangs together really well.

2. In Bloom

This is pretty similar, to be honest. The verse isn’t quite as quiet as on Teen Spirit, but the pattern is the same. And it’s still really good. Why change a successful formula?

3. Come as You Are

This was another single from the album (Teen Spirit was the first). It’s been a while since I’ve listened to this album all the way through and I’d forgotten just how strongly it opens.

4. Breed

Ok, I admit that a lot of the songs on the album sound a bit similar. And this means that in some cases I’m not entirely able to match the song with the title. Until it started I had no idea what this songs was going to sound like. But now I recognise it. And like it a lot.

5. Lithium

Another on built one the same formula as most of the album. It’s funny how some albums can sound samey and you start getting bored by the end of side one, whereas others (like this one) can be just as samey but each song still sounds fresh. I suppose it comes down to whether or not you enjoy the formula.

6. Polly

And here, finally, is a song that goes beyond the standard Nirvana formula. It’s a sweet-sounding acoustic. It’s only when you listen to the lyrics that you realise it’s about a rape.

7. Territorial Pissings

This also goes against the slow verse/fast chorus template of most of the album. But it moves in the opposite direction to Polly. Everything is fast in this song. I think it’s probably one of the least memorable songs on the album.

8. Drain You

We’re a couple of songs into side two of the album here. And, to tell the truth, the saminess is starting to show a bit.

9. Lounge Act

More of the same. Nothing wrong with it, but we’ve heard it all before.

10. Stay Away

This one stands out a bit. The slow verse bit isn’t as slow as some of them.

11. On a Plain

Getting toward the end of the album, so it’s time to start bringing out some big tunes. I don’t often listen to albums all the way through any more and listening to these classic albums has reminded me just how carefully songs are ordered on an album. I was convinced this was called “On a Plane”. I was wrong.

12. Something in the Way

The last track on the album (the next one is a hidden track and doesn’t appear on all pressings) is something a bit different – it’s all slow, like an extended verse from the rest of the album. This and Polly show that the band were far more versatile than their critics give them credit for.

13. Endless Nameless

After a couple of minutes silence we get this. It’s pretty much just noise. I don’t think I can remember a hidden track that actually improves the album it’s on. This is no exception. And it goes on for far too long.

In Summary

This is still a really good album (well, with the exception of the hidden track) but more than anything it’s a reminder of just how much potential Nirvana had.

It’s not the best classic album we’ve had so far and, to be honest, it gets a bit too samey in the middle of side two, But I don’t listen to this album enough and I’m glad I was pushed into it.