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Essential Albums You Need To Own: Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys

Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys

Many of the vinyl albums that top the list for albums a good collector should have in their collection have a major thing in common; their influence on the world of music when they were released and ever since. The way they broke ground and left the world of music fundamentally different than it was before they’re released. Of these albums, one may hold the crown for changing everything and beginning the musical revolution of the late 60’s, and it may surprise you. It’s the Beach Boy’s Pet Sounds.

It may sound surprising because when it comes to the Beach Boys most people think of the happy-go-lucky surfer music of the early ’60s. The Beach Boys owned this genre. For years they mastered catchy pop songs centered around the familiar themes of cars, girls, and of course, surfing. Songs like “Surfin’ Safari” and “Little Deuce Coupe” perfectly captured the care-free feelings of the early ’60s.

The Beach Boys capitalized are the leisure of the early ’60s and the hit parade of songs penned by Brian Wilson told the story of the American dream for young people better than any other band at the time could. Possibly only Chuck Berry ever did as good a job at this. But by 1966, the idea of the American dream began to alter. The care-free days that marked the early 60’s giving way to an escalating war in Vietnam, civil rights protests, and end of the days where hot rods and girls were all that was on young people’s minds.

Enter Pet Sounds. No album better fits the old phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover.” The album sleeve, featuring four Beach Boys feeding goats as a confused Mike Love looks on, does not look like contains ground-breaking music. Honestly. it doesn’t look like it contains anything other than five men tripping at a petting zoo. But you would be mistaken to have these thoughts.

With songwriter Brian Jones sidelined from touring after a nervous breakdown, he began pouring himself into song writing. He also began tapping in to the deeper emotional feelings he had during his time with the Beach Boys. Wilson began writing about these feelings and issues at the same time the experience of American youth began to come face-to-face with issues like war and uncertainty.

In no time at all, Wilson went from writing about girls and surf boards to themes like self-doubt, emotional turmoil, and love stories that are complicated and messy. The album begins with “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” which perfectly sets the tone for the album. It’s Wilson asking, “Wouldn’t it be nice if everything we sang about up this point were real?”

From there we move on to the next song, “You Still Believe in Me.” One thing the Beach Boys had mastered at this point in their career was the ability to create intricate harmonies. They show it off in spades all over this album, but it is on this track, with the choir inspired tones that may show it off best. From there the next track features Wilson and Love sharing lead on a song full of self-doubt in “That’s Not Me.”

Side one continues with “Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)” a beautiful orchestra-centered song with some of Wilson’s strongest lyrics to date, This followed by two more interesting songs. The first side ends with “Sloop John B.” This is the only cover on the entire album, and it closes side one of the album with a throw back to sound the Beach Boys made a few years previously. And with lines like “I feel so broke up, I want to go home” it says a lot about how Wilson felt in those prior years while touring with the Beach Boys.

The second side of the album opens with “God Only Knows” a fantastic piece about the fear of being alone, a subject many have written about, but pale in comparison to Wilson’s work here. Many of the themes of the first side of the album are expanded upon here, as the Beach Boys continue to dive into harmonies and orchestration no other pop band had ever imagined putting on vinyl. The album ends with “Caroline, No” a call of longing that perfectly sums up the album. “It’s sad to watch a sweet thing die” Wilson calls out in the heartbreaking ending this love story.

Pet Sounds is the kind of unassuming album that only those in know have. It’s the album that inspired Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, but it doesn’t carry all the fanfare. It’s the album a collector who appreciates the musical growth a band can under go must have in their collection. Plus, who doesn’t want an album with five guys tripping with goats on its cover?

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Essential Albums You Need To Own: Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon Album Cover

You’ve seen the poster hanging on the wall of nearly every dorm room you’ve ever walked into. The triangular prism set in front of a black background reflecting light and shooting out a rainbow through the other side. Maybe you thought it would be cool to own the album the artwork originates from. Maybe you think it would look good in an album collection, show it off to your friends.

If you have thought this, then you need to stop here, Dark Side is not meant for you. This is not an album you buy just to have, this “Dark Side of the Moon.” It’s an album that makes an album collection whole. This is the single-malt 30-year-old Scotch of your album collection. It’s mature, sophisticated, complex, and not to be wasted on someone who has not the taste to appreciate it.

“Dark Side of the Moon” is Pink Floyd’s 1973 masterpiece. It was the album that made Pink Floyd popular to their widest audience to date and sealed their fate as rock gods. But more than that, it showed how complex and groundbreaking Pink Floyd’s music could be.

For “Dark Side of the Moon,” Pick Floyd dove headfirst into themes that no other musicians were writing about at the time. The songs touched on subjects like the passage of time, human greed, helplessness, and how often life can seem without meaning or purpose. These are complex subjects that Pink Floyd tackles and artfully presents in a way that most artists can try their entire lives and never accomplish.

It was in the early 1970’s that Roger Waters came up with the idea to create a concept album focused on the things that make people angry. It would be focused on how arduous life can be, as well as mental illness, inspired by the often-difficult mental state of Pink Floyd member Syd Barrett.

The album’s songs themselves are what make such an ambitious concept work. True to concept album form, many of the songs run together seamlessly. Side one starts with “Speak to Me” a sound collage that sets the tone of the album and builds up to the intro of “Breath (In the Air.)” A lyrically beautiful song set over wonderfully cosmic guitars chords. This song then leads into “On the Run” a fast-paced instrumental that sound like the soundtrack for running from the end of the world.

After these three songs comes “Time” perhaps the highlight of side one. It begins with the overlapping sounds of clocks and alarms, and then turns to a fascinating song about time in general. It also features some of David Gilmour’s best guitar work to date, and ends with a throwback reprise to earlier in the album. Side one ends with “The Great Gig in the Sky” which is perfectly sung by Clare Torry.

Side two opens with the sound of coins and ringing cash machines as “Money” begins. The song explores the greedy side of show business like no other before it, or sense. After this, David Gilmour delivers one of his strongest vocal performances with “Us and Them,” which is probably the best song (so far) on the already excellent second side of the album.

This is followed by “Any Colour You Like” the synth heavy song clearly shows the inspiration Pink Floyd had on any band that dared touch a synth in the 70’s and 80’s, and features some more terrific guitar work. Next comes “Brain Damage” and “Eclipse” the two songs form one grand finale to the album. It is now, with these two songs, after the all the breathing, running, time, and greed we finally land on the dark side of the moon. Driven off the Earth by “lunatics on the run” it is here we find that we are just as crazy and alone on the far side of the moon as we were before we left. With cosmic guitars and overlapping melodies the destination is reached and madness reigns.

“Dark Side of the Moon” is more than an album, it is an experience. It’s more than just the songs it’s the noises, ambiance, and voices that weave through the album, creating an experience like no other. Placing the needle to this cosmic vinyl begins a journey to outer reaches of music. Where art is as black as the dark side of the Moon.

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Essential Albums You Need To Own: Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band

A good record collection is serious business. It must span decades and genres, constantly evolving as you and your tastes do. Like round vinyl snowflakes, no two collections are the same, nor should they ever be. But there are some records that anyone daring to call themselves “a collector” should not be caught dead not having on their shelves or in their milk crates. And there is a number one record that any serious collection should include, the one that stands out above all others as mandatory. The record that separates the “collectors” from the “people who have records.” It is, of course, the Beatles‘ 1967 masterpiece Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the psychedelic, semi-concept album that cemented the Beatles as the most important and influential band in the world.

From first glance Sgt. Pepper stands out as special. It’s colorful, cast-of-characters sleeve naturally draws people to it. The cover features the four Beatles, sporting mustaches for the first time, dressed like the neon-generals of a psychedelic army, surrounded by cardboard cut-outs of celebrities like Bob Dylan, Marlon Brando, and Marilyn Monroe. It’s the kind of album cover that demands people hear what’s inside. And what is inside is what really matters. 

Recorded between the winter of 1966 and spring of 1967, Sgt. Pepper’s immediately stood out as different from anything done before. Taking the new psychedelic genre and pop music in general to places it had never been before. With the Beatles officially retiring from touring in 1966, they decided to put all their efforts into their studio work. Along with the help of their long-time producer George Martin, the Beatles started their most ambitious and expensive album to date. At the time of the album’s recording, the Fab Four were in the midst of their experimenting with psychedelic drugs such as LSD. From this mind-altering state, Paul McCartney developed the idea of creating a concept album revolving around the fictional Sgt. Pepper’s Band made up of the Beatles’ alter-egos. Although this concept album was eventually scrapped as none of John Lennon’s songs fit this concept, the idea can still be heard in the unique album-opening that sounds like a house band warming up and starting a show which turns into the power-chord driven “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” This then blends into one of drummer Ringo’s best vocal performances ever in “With A Little Help From My Friends.” 

From there it is John Lennon’s turn to take the wheel as he delivers one of his most imaginative and trippy lyrical performances to date with “Lucy In The Sky with Diamonds.” Supposedly inspired from a drawing his son made, Lennon brings to life “tangerine trees and marmalade skies” showing how much he evolved as a writer since “I Want to Hold Your Hand” a few years before. 

Throughout the album, songs like “Fixing a Hole” and “She’s Leaving Home” show how the Beatles transformed the studio into its own instrument. Utilizing orchestras and George Martin’s classical expertise to deliver high quality and interesting work. Lennon closes out side-one with the eerie end-of-the-world circus show “Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite.”

Side two of the album starts with a complete 180 from everything that precedes it. From the guitars, organs, and orchestras of side one comes something totally different. George Harrison, who was heavily inspired by Hindu culture, starts the album with his sitar and an arrangement of classical Hindi instruments in “Within You Without You.” After this the album again turns you on your head, delivering McCartney’s ragtime styled “When I’m Sixty-Four.” “Lovely Rita” and “Good Morning” the latter inspired from a cereal jingle Lennon heard and turned into song, are enjoyable solid tracks. 

After which the concept album reemerges with a show ending reprise of the first track “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” And right when you think the album is done, already left speechless, the Beatles pull out what many would say is one of their best songs ever written, “A Day In The Life.” The song is a mash-up of four terrific Lennon choruses and a middle part by McCartney. It ends in an orchestra crescendo that seems to take all the characters from the sleeve and songs and brings them to a whirling fantastical end. All said, it is one of the best albums ever made. It became the soundtrack of the summer of love, and still inspires musicians to this day. Much like a good record collection, it transcends genres and always leaves you satisfied. 

It is the foundation stone that a serious record collection should be built around. And luckily, because it is one of the highest-selling albums of all time, you can have in your collection very easily, so don’t waste another moment.

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Paul is Dead – Did Paul McCartney Die in 1966?

Paul McCartney died in a car crash in 1966 and was secretly replaced in the Beatles by lookalike Billy Shears (apparently). Throughout the second half of the 1960’s there were many clues discovered leading to intense speculation. Beatles fans the world over meticulously scoured The Beatles album covers and songs to discover the truth surrounding the death of Paul McCartney. Let’s look at some of the evidence…

Magical Mystery Tour

The Beatles - Magical Mystery Tour

At the end of Strawberry Fields Forever, John Lennon can be heard in the runout saying ‘I buried Paul’. Some people counter this saying he’s actually saying ‘Cranberry Sauce’. If you listen carefully to the version on Anthology 2 it also sounds like ‘I’m very tall’. Have a listen yourself and make your own mind up. Strawberry Fields Forever was originally released as a single but was later available on Magical Mystery Tour.

There are a number of visual aspects to the cover and booklet within the Magical Mystery Tour EP that led to speculation. Some of them may be pretty tenuous but here goes…

The word ‘Beatles’ is spelled out using stars on the cover. If you look at this backward and think of it as numbers, you get ‘2317438’, which was said to be the number of a London mortuary. Some people claimed to have dialed the number and received a message saying “you’re getting closer”.

On the cover, there are four walrusses. Obviously, the top three are John, George, and Ringo. Paul is the black walrus as Paul is dead. This is further backed up inside the cover, in the picture where the Beatles are wearing white suits, Paul is wearing a black carnation, the rest of the band are wearing red carnations.

At the end of the song ‘I Am The Walrus’ you can hear the words “O, untimely death!”, taken from Shakespeare’s King Lear. The lyrics also confirm that ‘The Walrus Was Paul’, so there you have it!

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

According to ‘A Day In The Life’, he blew his mind out in a car, he didn’t notice that the lights had changed. A crowd of people stood and stared, they’d seen his face before. In ‘Lovely Rita’, he took her home, he nearly made it. In ‘Godd Morning, Good Morning’ there was nothing to do to save his life. Sgt. Pepper also introduced the world to Billy Shears.

The cover of Sgt. Pepper shows The Beatles, along with their heroes and other cultural icons stood over a grave.

On the inner gatefold of the Sgt Pepper album Paul has his back to the camera to hide his identity. This has been discussed widely as being symbolic of death.

The White Album

If you listen to Revolution No. 9 from the White Album backward you can hear ‘Turn me on, dead man… Turn me on, dead man’. The track is also decidedly creepy, with crash sounds, screaming, crying, very disturbing, especially to an audience in 1968.

Abbey Road

The cover of Abbey Road can be interpreted as depicting a funeral procession, with each Beatle having their own role to play. John Lennon leads the pack, dressed in a white suit, as the priest. Ringo follows behind as the undertaker, dressed in black. The left-handed Paul McCartney follows behind, holding a cigarette in his right-hand, indicating that this was an imposter playing the role of Paul. Paul also doesn’t wear shoes, he doesn’t need them because he’s dead. Paul is also walking out of step with the rest of the group, right foot first. George Harrison, in his workman’s denim, completes the procession as the gravedigger.

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[Song of the Day] – Hot Chocolate | Mindless Boogie

Amazing track from Hot Chocolate referencing atomic bombs and the Jonestown massacre, with a funky laid back groove and some classic synth sounds. This performance is taken from Top of the Pops in 1979. Remarkably, this track only reached number 46. I guess people weren’t totally into there dystopian disco back then!

 

 

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[Song of the Day] – Frank Sinatra | The Lady Is A Tramp

How can you not love a bit of Frank! Originally from 1937 and written by Rodgers and Hart for a show, this later featured in the movie My Pal Joey. It’s since been recorded countless times, but you can’t been the classic orchestration and Frank Sinatra’s laid back vocal here!

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Here’s an innovative marketing idea!

I found this curiosity amongst a box of very old records. It’s a drinks coaster advertising Idris Lemon Squash that doubles as a vinyl record. Unfortunately I don’t have a gramophone so have no way of listening to it. It name-checks ‘His Majesty’ so pre-dates Queen Elizabeth (1953). If anyone knows more about this please let me know!