Monday, January 07, 2013
50 GREAT ALBUMS IN MY 50th YEAR (Part 1)
I've previously mentioned how, back in 2008, in the run up to my 45th birthday, I embarked on a series entitled 45 45s at 45 which was a countdown of my favourite singles of all time. It was a series that I enjoyed writing and I know from the comments left behind that it was popular with readers. So much so that one of the first of the folk to regularly leave comments behind on thsi blog - Dirk aka Sexy Loser - is now embarking on a similar effort and his first salvo was a beauty.
On 18 June I will turn 50 years of age. Between now and then, I intend to have 50 posts featuring 50 of my favourite albums of all time. Unlike the singles, it won't be a countdown. Nor will it necessarily be my all-time 50 favourite albums - I'm again restricting myself to one album per band or singer and I'm discounting any compilation LPs such as Hatful of Hollow.
I wanted to start with the LP that made me passionate about a band for the first ever time.
3 November 1978 was the release date for All Mod Cons, the third LP by The Jam. I bought it within the first couple of days of release but the purchase was a bit of blind faith. I did own the previous two albums, and while a fan of debut In The City, the follow-up This Is The Modern World had been a real let-down, sounding rather pale and lightweight not just compared to the debut record but also to so many other great stuff being released in the early days of what we've now come to call new-wave.
Nor was I all that fond of the band's most recent hit single, which was a cover of song by The Kinks. However, just before the LP hit the shops, The Jam had released another single and something which I thought, at the age of 15, just happened to be one of best songs ever (an opinion I continue to hold nearly 35 years on). This single was on the new LP and was the main reason for its early purchase rather than waiting till Xmas.
All Mod Cons was a revelation. The short opening title track was decent enough, but it was the double-whammy of To Be Someone (Didn't We Have A Nice Time) and Mr Clean that really grabbed my attention. Great playing from all three members of the band topped off by angry lyrics punctuated with loads of swearing....exactly the recipe required for every teenager's bedroom. Even David Watts sounded better than it ever had on radio and made perfect sense coming right on the back of the afore-mentioned Mr Clean.
The 15-year in me didn't care much for the soppy English Rose and I thought In The Crowd was just too weird for words, and so for a long while it was an LP that the needle was removed early from the groove on Side A.
Flipping it over and discovering Billy Hunt. 'If it's not you moaning then it's someone else, jumping down my throat every chance you get' spat Weller. A lyric that spoke to the schoolboy generation....parents and teachers just didn't get it. It's Too Bad was another cracking tune....Fly another iffy slow one....but then it speeded up and that made it ok. After that, three stunning bits of music to round things off - The Place I Love, A-Bomb In Wardour Street and Down In The Tube Station at Midnight. And the fact it came with a sheet meant I could decipher the lyrics from the new single, close my eyes and have that short film of the story play over and over and over in my fevered imagination.
All Mod Cons made me a fan of The Jam, and the fandom became fanatical. I devoured every interview in every music paper....I read what Paul Weller was saying and his words became everything to me at a period in my life when I was able to take control of certain things for the first time in my life. I had just turned my back on my Catholic religion, was discovering that girls were OK to hang around with and that beer and lager were disgusting to drink. I was leaving my childhood behind and needed new heroes. The Jam fitted the bill.
They would later become the first band I ever went to see more than once on a tour thanks to me sleeping out on the pavement outside the Glasgow Apollo to make sure I got the best possible tickets. They would became the band whose every single and LP were bought the day of their release. They were the band whose photos and lyrics were cut out of magazines and put up in the places were footballers used to be. They were the band that got me seriously into my music.
I know I had a pang of regret that a few months later when The Eton Rifles became a massive hit and The Jam became the biggest and most succesful band in the UK....I wanted them to be a bit of my secret and not share them with anyone else. But then again, as the church of worshippers around me grew in size, it was a great feeling when the cool kids in school came round to my way of thinking that The Jam were the best bar none.
By now I was becoming a huge fan of loads of other acts with 1979 being the year that I went to my first gigs....and everyone I had tickets for I would buy and like the records in advance. Maybe it was the record-buying that which stopped me going the whole whole hog like many other fans for I never bought the parka or adopted the mod look. I couldn't afford it but I also had a nagging thought that you couldn't be a mod and like The Clash, Buzzcocks, The Police, The Stranglers, Blondie, the Boomtown Rats and dozens of others at the same time
All Mod Cons kicks off this series not just because it was my soundtrack of 78 and 79. If that's was all it was I wouldn't be regarding it as an all-time classic. What makes the LP so special is that I've actually grown to love it even more over the years. What of course I didn't appreciate in 1878 was that these were lyrics that went beyond teenage angst and that they spoke just as much to late-teens and folk in their 20s who were fed up with their life and their job. I was to discover all this in years to come and so for at least a decade afterwards, All Mod Cons was still a work of art which spoke volumes....it said plenty to me about my life. And then once I got over the lyrics I could concentrate on the tunes....and with my tastes maturing and developing those tracks I had previously bypassed.began to take on a new significance.... it was like discovering long-lost treasures in the vault.
There's an on-line review of All Mod Cons which I think captures it perfectly:-
"The Jam regrouped and refocused for All Mod Cons, an album that marked a great leap in songwriting maturity and sense of purpose. For the first time, Paul Weller built, rather than fell back, upon his influences, carving a distinct voice all his own; he employed a story-style narrative with invented characters and vivid British imagery à la Ray Davies to make incisive social commentary -- all in a musically irresistible package. The youthful perspective and impassioned delivery on All Mod Cons first earned Weller the "voice of a generation" tag, and it certainly captures a moment in time, but really, the feelings and sentiments expressed on the album just as easily speak to any future generation of young people. Terms like "classic" are often bandied about, but in the case of All Mod Cons, it is certainly deserved."
Not all the contributions to this series will be as in-depth as this one. As I said at the start, this isn't a countdown....this album may have grabbed the #1 spot but then again it may not have. But from a distance of almost 35 years, my love and passion for All Mod Cons remains in place while other releases of that time only get aired as a result of random play on shuffle.....
mp3 : The Jam - All Mod Cons
mp3 : The Jam - To Be Someone (Didn't We Have A Nice Time)
mp3 : The Jam - It's Too Bad
mp3 : The Jam - 'A' Bomb In Wardour Street