Jul 312014


So, a couple of days ago, an impromptu RTH West Coast gathering occurred over Burmese food and over-priced but delicious Philz Coffee, and surprisingly, after Mr. Mod, E Pluribus Gergley, Slim Jade, and I had exhausted discussions about the weather, possible driving routes south, and the pros and cons of life at a California institute of higher learning, the conversation turned to music. Mr. Moderator shared a recent experience: he had visited the home of Townsman Sethro who apparently is quite the audiophile and who had wanted to demonstrate his amazing new configuration of speakers and audio technology. To do so, he played Blonde on Blonde. Mr. Moderator, who appeared to have become a bit jaded about the benefits of speaker placement, then described the epiphany of the experience by saying that it sounded like Dylan was sitting right there in front of him in the room.

Which got me thinking to the first nice stereo I owned: it was in the early ’90s, I was still in grad-school but I finally had a decent paying job and was able to buy a small system that had pretty good sound. Rather than breaking a bottle of champagne over it’s bow, I wanted to chose a meaningful song to listen to, and I chose this:

I chose the song because one of my best friends was in the band, I loved the song, and I figured the variation in sounds (coyotes, the rising swell of distorted guitars) would be a good way to test out the new stereo. I was not disappointed.

So…what would be the first song you would choose to play on a really great sound system? Or what have you chosen in the past?


  14 Responses to “Who’s On First?”

  1. diskojoe

    I think I would choose “Victoria” by the Kinks for my 1st song to test my stereo system since Arthur is the best sounding Kinks album.

    As for going to college in California, I’m happy that I stayed back East for college. I think the winter does wonders in concentrating on studying. I can’t imaging trying to study in CA w/the sunny weather & all.

  2. 2000 Man

    I would play Yes’ Close to the Edge. Because every time I’ve bought an entire stereo, that’s been the first album I’ve played. So that’s been exactly twice that that’s happened. I do it all piecemeal these days, so I just put on whatever I’m in the mood for.

    When I want to hear just how good my stereo can sound, I usually put on Steely Dan’s Aja, Keith Richards’ Talk is Cheap (really – if you’ve never heard that on vinyl, you’re missing out on one of the best made records ever), or an old Rod Stewart album. Those just all sound good because the drum sound is always great and there’s a lot of acoustic guitar fattening things up. I know people without a stereo (actually most people I know don’t have one anymore), and I don’t think I could live that way.

  3. cherguevara

    It’s difficult to answer this one! There are several recordings I use as a reference, and I’d likely use one of those to get a system setup and sounding correct to my ears. Beyond that, I suppose it might be a song or album “of the moment” or perhaps something among my personal favorites that I think sounds particularly good. And if there were company, well, I’d be playing to an audience and choosing on the basis of that.

    Let’s say I’m picking a long-standing personal favorite that I think sounds good. That might be Talk Talk’s “Colour of Spring” album, which sounds particularly good. Or maybe Innervisions… So hard to say!

  4. I use XTC’s English Settlement.It’s got great bass, acoustic guitars, a wide spectrum, and songs with shifting dynamics.

  5. cherguevara

    Follow up:

    My first record player was a little portable, but I was such a music-head that my grandfather gave me his old stereo when he bought a new one, I was probably 8 years old. It was pretty bangin’, a nice Fisher amp, can’t remember the speakers but they were big! He didn’t give me a turntable, though, so for a while it was the headphone out of the record player into this stereo. When I was nine, I managed to save up money and buy the least expensive Technics turntable – a manual, belt drive. I took the last of my money over to “Sound of Germantown,” where I bought a copy of the latest Wings album, “Back to the Egg” and I have since christened a few turntables and systems with that album.

  6. I have sort of a tradition, whenever I get a new music playing device, be it stereo, iPod, car stereo, etc. of putting “Just Like Honey” on.

    Talk Talk is an even better idea though, so hats off to you, sir (though I’d go for Spirit of Eden).

  7. ladymisskirroyale

    Great story.

  8. ladymisskirroyale

    The only way I got my dissertation written was by living in Rhode Island.

  9. cherguevara

    I love Spirit of Eden – “Desire” is almost incomprehensibly amazing to me. But with a new stereo, maybe you want to have a little fun, and “Colour…” fits the bill a little better, I think.

  10. Back to the Egg is a good one and my favorite Wings album,

  11. English Settlement would be a good one. I used to use Roxy Music’s Avalon and the live version of Won’t Get Fooled Again off of Kids Are Alright.

  12. trigmogigmo

    Drywall’s “Mr. Smith” has a lot of range and clear, pretty instrumentation that should sound great.

    PiL’s “Disappointed” with the Steven Hague production is 100% shimmering with crispness that is a good test to crank up.

  13. I can’t attest to having new (or quality) home stereo equipment because I always acquired discounted hand-me-downs from older cousins when I was young. Yet…shopping for stereo tape decks for my car was a different story. I can still remember walking into Fry’s, Circuit City, or whatever local car stereo dealer there was, with my beloved masterpiece: 2112 by Rush. Even if I didn’t purchase anything, I loved listening to the opening riffs quite loudly through a Kenwood stereo tape deck with a subwoofer and a couple of 6×9 speakers.

  14. hrrundivbakshi

    My go-to album for testing music playing/listening gear is “Spilt Milk” by Jellyfish. The band’s perfectionist obsession with creating the “perfectly engineered” album was deep and crazy enough that it basically destroyed them (Much to Mod’s delight, I’m sure). Anyhow, it’s since become a must-play for true audio nerds who want to test their shit out.

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