The following piece made its way up from the lp-jammed basement of E. Pluribus Gergely.
Once a month or so, I spend about 2 to 3 hours in my basement chopping up cardboard into mailers for my record bidness. Truth be told, that’s when I listen to music. When I’m in the car, it’s usually NPR. Sad but true. Anyway, before the chopping ensues, I head over to the stacks to pick something out to listen to while I chop. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve picked up something like Electric Ladyland and said, “Too much work to get to ‘All Along the Watchtower’,” ‘Crosstown Traffic,’ and a few others.” Really, you’ve gotta have a Hitler-like ego to think you can keep the interest of any listener for more than a single serving.
After racking my brain for a good half hour or so, I arrived at the following list of essential double LPs.
- Charlie Parker, The Very Best of Bird (all the Dial sides with just a few outtakes). And yeah, I know it’s like a greatest hits thing, but I’m letting this one slide because it’s the best way to hear all that Dial stuff in one shot.
- The Beatles, White Album. Yep, it’s all great. “Wild Honey Pie,” “Revolution #9,” “Why Don’t We Do it in the Road”…absolutely necessary. It’s all over the place, and it’s my favorite Beatles album, probably because it’s jam packed with a lot of unexpected weirdness that works extremely well together.
- The Rolling Stones, Exile On Main Street. Still on my list despite the fact that it dies after “All Down the Line,” the opening track on the fourth side. As I’ve stated before it’s the ultimate statement of “Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll.” The cover, the 3 decent sides, and the snapshots on the inner sleeves (especially those of Mick and Keef and Jack at the microphone and Keef finishing off a sandwich whilst having a smoke) make it the LP that mom and dad worry most about in your teenage record collection.
- The Clash, London Calling. The ultimate statement of life-changing rock. Again, that killer album cover, 4 sides of doozies with only a track or two of filler, and finally…2 inner sleeves jam packed with the lyrics to all the songs. The revelation that Strummer’s M16-like yammering is actually on a ’63–’66 Dylan lyric level is mindblowing. And continues to be so. On a recent trip to Hellerstown to buy a bunch of garage 45s, I revisited London Calling for 456th time and still heard things for the first time.
And that’s it. “What,” you ask, “no Blonde on Blonde?” Hell no. I can honestly say I never need to hear “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” ever again. It goes on and on forever, which is most probably what’s behind the meat of the thing. Dylan most probably wanted the world to know that he was the first to be skillful enough to fill a whole side with a single song. You know what? Nice try, but it doesn’t really work.
“No Freak Out?” Again, forget it. Jam “Trouble Every Day” somewhere on side 1 or 2, leave out the second wax slab of Edgar Varese/noise poop, and you’ve got a real winner. Again, too much ego and not enough good ideas.
“No Beatles Live in Hamburg ’62?” Just between you and me, I wanna add that thing to my list in the worst way, but I absolutely and positively cannot defend 4 sides of monotonous mach schau “Red Sails in the Sunset” sturm and drang. My weakness? Anything “Beatles” remains utterly fascinating. I would read a 600-page tome by George Martin’s tailor should he choose to tell all.
As far as greatest hits releases are concerned, real thought went into The Beatles: 1962–1966, The Beatles 1967–1970, Hot Rocks, More Hot Rocks, and The Kinks Chronicles. To put it bluntly, no filler. Come to think of it, add The Rolling Stones’ Through the Past Darkly (that “stop sign” looking thing) to that mix and you more or less have everything found in Townsman andyr‘s record collection. That’s not an insult. That’s a high five. That’s andyr in a nutshell. No time for bullshit.
Who knows. Maybe I’m wrong about all this. Maybe some of you see Refried Boogie, the 40-minute second LP of Canned Heat‘s Living the Blues, as an argument for the existence of God. Needless to say, your insights are always greatly appreciated.