In recent days, two memes have circulated throughout Facebook– one where respondents list ten albums that have had an impact upon their lives, and another that does the same thing with movies. What the heck: I thought I’d do them here. So, for the next 20 days, turn and turn about, I’ll be listing ten albums, and ten movies, that I’ll take with me to my death. And on the 21st day, just to keep things simple, I’ll die.
Much of my early musical education came via the medium of Best Of albums, but I’ve decided to leave them out– as compilations of a musician’s high points, and distillations of everything I was hearing on the radio at the time, they strike me as a little unfair. So, despite them being ventricles of my musical heart, there is no Best of Queen Vol 1, no ChangesBowie, no Complete Madness. Likewise, no live albums for the same reason (I may do a couple of 5 for Fridays in the future on the topic), so no Angels: Liveline or Thorogood Live. Here, album tracks and mis-steps and bizarre musical experiments they probably wished they hadn’t bothered with, are those studio albums that have hit my heart, and stuck. Let’s start with the first of them, shall we?
PINK FLOYD: THE WALL
I am a life-long Pink Floyd fan. And, while The Wall is not my favourite Floyd album– you can toss a coin between Wish You Were Here and Animals for that distinction– it was the first Floyd album to really capture me, and it’s the one I return to over and over again, when I need to immerse myself in a musical narrative. I bought the double cassette with my carefully scrimped pocket-money when I was 12, on the back of local FM radio’s continuing love affair with Another Brick in the Wall part 2, Comfortably Numb, and Run Like Hell, and was immediately hooked by the complexity of the lyrics, the unremitting grimness of the story line, and– triggering a lifelong love of concept albums– the fact that the whole thing fit together to tell a story. It’s not their most musically complex or ambitious album, but, for me, Pink Floyd are never as complete as they are here: driven by a rising narrative line; matching rhythms and crescendoes to the rules of storytelling; and finding space both within and between individual songs to lay down musical themes and pick them up again, riven with additions and reinterpretations.
I’ve owned the album in three different media, and the accompanying movie in two. I can still sing pretty much the entire album verbatim, and some of the individual songs will be on my playlist until the day I die– Goodbye, Cruel World stands a very strong chance of being played at my funeral.
Thematically, in its presentation, and artistically, The Wall might just be the most important album in my creative life. It certainly helped chart the course of my personal journey, right at the beginning point of my intertwining of art and life.
I treasure it.
First album down. Tomorrow, I’ll look at a movie that has had a lasting impact upon me, and we’ll go back and forth for another eighteen days after that.