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October 01, 2007


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The abuse I have taken for preferring Magical Mystery Tour to Sgt. Pepper's.... I think it's the fact that it came second, yes, but also the dreadful film was inextricably associated with the album at the time.

"The Long Honeymoon" is one of my half dozen favorite Elvis Costello sons, and when I began singing in piano bars, it was the first song I learned. I think it's out of time; if it had been written in the 1930s, it would be a standard.

I've never seen the MMT film, so maybe it's a good thing that I experienced the album without any visual associations, other than the awful album cover.

"Long Honeymoon" and "Almost Blue" are not necessarily bad songs (though I think "Town Crier" is), but they... muck things up for me. They take me out of the album. I don't like the story-song aspect of "Long Honeymoon." Of course, if I heard it in a piano bar I might feel differently!

Well, the three you've removed are definitely the least hooky songs on the album.

I, too, prefer Magical Mystery Tour to Sgt. Pepper.

I have yet to find my way into Elvis Costello. In truth, I never really tried. In fact, I off-loaded my copy of Imperial Bedroom last year, which I'd gotten for free, had for more than a decade, and never bothered to listen to. Dunno why.

I've never listened to Ziggy Stardust all the way through, either. But I don't really like the song "Ziggy Stardust", or "Starman", though I do like "Sufragette City" (that's on that, isn't it?). Anyway, I haven't felt drawn by that era of Bowie. I love, however, the stuff he did with Eno. Heroes, Low, and Lodger, along with Station to Station, are my favorites (and "Golden Years" and "Heroes" may be my favorite Bowie songs).

Yeah, "Suffragette City" is on Ziggy... actually it's one of my favorite songs on the album.

I've yet to hear any of the Eno-era stuff, save for whatever's on the greatest hits album I have. Which of those four albums you mentioned do you recommend I begin with?

Station to Station is great, and I think of the three Eno records, Lodger is probably my overall favorite.

I meant to say, about the Byrds.... I got Sweetheart of the Rodeo because I was interested in the country aspect--I actually didn't really like the Byrd singles I'd heard and never understood what the big deal was about them. I liked the album at first, but have grown weary of Gram Parsons (including his solo albums). Now, I'm more curious about the Byrds than I was before, but am wary of the stuff I thought I didn't like (which I admittedly haven't heard in years). I'm thinking principally of their versions of "Mr. Tambourine Man", "Turn Turn Turn"...

re the Byrds - I like Sweetheart but it's a tragedy for anyone to judge the Byrds based on Gram Parsons' contribution.

Have you heard the song "Eight Miles High"? The guitar playing on that song is mind-blowing; the main riff in the song, too, was inspired by Coltrane - so they were definitely coming to that song from a more sophisticated perspective than the earlier, Dylan-inspired stuff. It comes from the album "Fifth Dimension," which actually is the only remaining "good" Byrds album I still need. I do have four of five songs from it and they're all great.

Notorious Byrd Brothers might be the place for you to start, if you like the songs I've posted. It does have a couple corny moments but generally speaking they put the twelve-string away so it doesn't really sound like "Turn Turn Turn" at all.

I want to keep going. Don't get me started on the Byrds. I think I need to save myself for future posts. Once I get 5D I'm going to start doing album-by-album breakdowns here.

No really, I can't stop: if you're willing to give the folkier stuff a try with fresh ears, my favorite album is "Younger than Yesterday." Definitely stay away from the "Turn Turn Turn" album.

Wow, I agree with everything Richard said about Bowie, except I am familiar with Ziggy and still dislike it. I especially agree with "Station to Station is great, and I think of the three Eno records, Lodger is probably my overall favorite." I'd add that Scary Monsters, the album after Lodger, is damned good.

Yeah, it's funny. I was not judging the Byrds based on Gram Parsons' contributions, but I was judging them, if unconsciously, based on my distaste for "Turn Turn Turn"--even though I "knew" that people I respected thought highly of them, even "knew" that I'd probably think differently if I listened to some of the actual albums. And I have, of course, heard "Eight Miles High", but not for nearly 20 years probably, and at the time it didn't make much of an impression, and I never made a point of checking it out, even after I learned of the Coltrane inspiration.

You know what it is, also, though? I was perfectly happy not bothering with the Byrds. You can't listen to everything, so you have to make decisions, even unfair ones. The Byrds got dropped from serious consideration years ago. But now, dammit, I'm curious. I never thought I'd buy a Stephen Stills solo album, either (I don't especially like CSN, but love Neil Young), but I did the other day (Manassas; more on that later, at my own blog), and this is in the context of my getting rid of huge amounts of music... It never ends.

I'm still trying to listen to everything.

I know what you mean, though. I was in the same place, Byrds-wise, a few years ago. My strongest association was "Turn! Turn! Turn!" But then my wife bought Younger than Yesterday and I heard "So You Want to Be a Rock and Roll Star" for the first time since I was a teenager. Hearing it not only as an adult but also as a musician, I realized how well-done the song was. Ditto for "Eight Miles High."

Wow, I urge you to reselect "Almost Blue" at least among those rejected ballads. I think all 3 of them are key to the album, but "Almost Blue" is a monster song, practically of the status of a jazz standard now (seek out Chet Baker's version) - maybe it's a matter of having had the kind of love experiences it addresses, but it does it so definitively: "There's a girl here and she's almost you - almost. All the things that your eyes once promised, I see in hers too... There's a part of me that's always true." And the conclusion: "Not all good things come to an end. No, it is only a chosen few: I have seen such an unhappy couple: Almost me, almost you. Almost blue." And that beautiful descending, bluesy chord structure perfectly symmetrical to the lyrics - it's a gem.

I agree with you about the late-70s albums, though - song by song, great, but as collections, it's a helluva lot of momentum and sarcasm to take in one go. (My Aim Is True benefits by first-album explosiveness but the couple after that wear on me.) Imperial Bedroom was definitely recognized as having a full-album breadth that was new to E.C. when it was first released.

As a place to go next, can I recommend "King of America"? Very different stylings, but in many ways combining the incredible energy of the 70s stuff with the album-sustaining variety of Imperial Bedroom.

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