on the joys of listening to complete albums versus single tracks

Es­ti­mated reading time is 5 minutes.

LORD KNOWS WHAT I WAS LOOKING FOR on the in­ternet that I stum­bled over “You Should Listen to CDs” on the Wired web­site. The ar­ticle was sub­ti­tled, “If vinyl is for hip­sters and streaming is for everyone else, maybe the for­gotten format is for you.” This only makes sense to younger readers, not us old-timers.

By as­so­ci­ating vinyl (and com­plete al­bums) with hip­sters, I must as­sume that he means the young­sters who pay $29.99 for new vinyl LPs cur­rently avail­able. I as­sume that be­cause most col­lec­tors of vinyl records—whether 78 or 45 rpm sin­gles or 33⅓ rpm albums—are def­i­nitely not “hip­sters.”

Still, I was in­trigued even if I don’t usu­ally pay any at­ten­tion to Wired as it is geared to­wards people a few gen­er­a­tions younger than me—the gen­er­a­tions that spawned hip­sters. But I gave this one a read and agreed with the writer, Gilad Edelman, that you should listen to CDs if what you have been lis­tening to is dig­ital downloads.

“If vinyl is for hip­sters and streaming is for everyone else, maybe the for­gotten format is for you.”

Note that Edelman is listed as a “se­nior writer for Wired, cov­ering the in­ter­sec­tion of tech, pol­i­tics, and law. Be­fore that, he was ex­ec­u­tive ed­itor of the Wash­ington Monthly. He has a de­gree from Yale Law School.” I cer­tainly don’t agree that “vinyl is for hip­sters” but if I was Edel­man’s age, that might seem to be the ex­tent of the use of records.

After reading the piece, I com­posed a com­ment ad­dressing a few of Edel­man’s points. For rea­sons be­yond my aging brain’s skill-set, my com­ment was in­stan­ta­neously re­jected by the pub­li­ca­tion! I rewrote sev­eral words in my com­ment that I guessed might be the cause of the im­ped­i­ment to pub­li­ca­tion and re­sub­mitted the com­ment. Again, it was re­jected. I rewrote a few en­tire sen­tences, again to no avail.

So, of course, I gave up. But I saved my com­ment and am pub­lishing it here as an ar­ticle on The End­less Six­ties be­cause this blog needs some new con­tent as I have ig­nored it for far too long.

But be­fore reading my piece, please read Edel­man’s piece. To do that, click here.


Beatles dbl WhiteAlbum 800
As ex­am­ples of the art of crafting and se­quencing and its ef­fects on lis­tening to an LP record, I chose three two-record sets: Bob Dy­lan’s BLONDE ON BLONDE (1966), the Bea­tles’ self-titled album (1968), and Miles Davis’ BITCHES BREW (1969). For each, four opening tracks need to be chosen along with four closing tracks. Few al­bums do this better than “The White Album.”



Thanks for the ar­ticle which hope­fully in­tro­duces a few younger readers to the joys of lis­tening to com­plete al­bums versus single tracks. Glad to hear that you have dis­cov­ered the re­wards of re­peated lis­ten­ings and re­al­izing that tracks that one may ini­tially dis­miss be­cause they “simply sucked” may turn out to be gems that the lis­tener just didn’t get the first few times around.

Now I am looking for­ward to when you write an ar­ticle about when you dis­cover the re­wards of that un­wieldy music play­back format, the LP. Wait until you dis­cover that many LPs were se­quenced with in­tel­li­gence and that during the in­con­ve­nient time spent get­ting up from your fav­erave seat and turning the record over, things are still happening!

For in­stance, there is the joy in an­tic­i­pa­tion: What will the second side of the record lead off with? And there are two types of an­tic­i­pa­tion pop­ular with us LP-lovers: an­tic­i­pating the un­known and an­tic­i­pating the familiar.

We album-lovers love an­tic­i­pating both the un­known and the fa­miliar when we flip the record over.

For ex­ample, when you have fin­ished lis­tening to side 1 of YOUNGER THAN YES­TERDAY for the very first time and Everybody’s Been Burned is still re­ver­ber­ating in your con­scious­ness, during the time you spend flip­ping the record over you may be won­dering, “How do the Byrds ever follow that mas­ter­piece that just ended?”

Or there is the joy of an­tic­i­pating the fa­miliar: while you are flip­ping the record and Everybody’s Been Burned is still re­ver­ber­ating in your con­scious­ness, you are al­most sali­vating for the sound of those gor­geous gui­tars and the throb­bing bass punc­tu­ated by the sim­plest of drums pat­terns that opens the laid-back psy­che­delia of Thoughts And Words on side 2.

Or there is the chal­lenge of pro­gram­ming and se­quencing the tracks of a com­plete album is­sued as a two-record album. We can argue about the merits of var­ious tracks on BLONDE ON BLONDE and THE BEA­TLES and BITCHES BREW, but it’s al­most im­pos­sible not to ad­mire how Dylan and Bob John­ston, the Bea­tles and George Martin, and Miles and Teo Macero pieced the dis­parate parts of those al­bums to­gether side by side, and then how they made the “dead space” be­tween the four sides work for the album as a whole—made the whole thing “flow,” al­most organically.

And there is a huge dif­fer­ence be­tween holding a 12 x 12-inch card­board jacket and sliding the record out of its sleeve versus holding a 5.5 x 4.75-inch plastic jewel case and plucking the CD out of its tray, but that’s an­other story.

Thanks for writing about the joy of al­bums and keep on keepin’ on!


PS: Of course, if you re­ally need $45,000 monoblock am­pli­fiers to hear the dif­fer­ence be­tween a prop­erly recorded analog LP and its dig­ital CD coun­ter­part, then you might not give a hoot about any of the above . . .



FiresignTheater WaitingForTheElectrician 800
Few were as cre­ative in se­quencing the segue from the first side of an album to the second as Fire­sign The­ater. For their first album, Waiting For The Elec­tri­cian Or Someone Like Him (1968), the second side opens with this greeting: “This is side five. Follow in your book and re­peat after me as we learn three new words in Turkish: Towel. Bath. Border. May I see your pass­port, please?”

Complete albums

Had Wired ac­cepted my sub­mis­sion, my com­ment above would have been the first com­ment on the ar­ticle. Hope­fully, my perspective—that of someone who grew up with the LP as it evolved into “the album” in the second half of the ’60s—would have gen­er­ated in­terest in my state­ments and per­haps stim­u­lated com­ments and con­ver­sa­tions from others. In­stead, there are now dozens of com­ments on the page, all dealing with the topic from the per­spec­tive of younger readers.

And so it goes . . .


FEA­TURED IMAGE: In 1970, Miles Davis re­leased BITCHES BREW, which sold hun­dreds of thou­sands of copies to rock music fans, people who usu­ally shied away from all things jazz. Miles’ new music was a fu­sion of jazz with rock, in­cluding en­gi­neering and pro­duc­tion ef­fects as­so­ci­ated with psy­che­delic records at the time. The album fea­tured a wrap­around painting by the French sur­re­alist painter of German origin, Mati Klar­wein.

In an in­ter­view, Klar­wein stated that “While it’s easy to see how the cover might rep­re­sent di­chotomies, it is re­ally more about tandems and shared ex­pe­ri­ences, cou­pled with the ac­knowl­edg­ment that in­di­vidual per­spec­tives can create an oth­er­worldly experience.”



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