Friday 15 May 2009

News, Views and Music Issue 31 (Intro)

May 15:

Good morrow fair maidens and valiant sirs. Forsooth, it is that time of the week again (can it be seven whole dayes since we saw thou last?) and Alan’s Album Archives celebrates another week by,err, talking weirdly. And covering the best music around, obviously. This week we will be looking at the latest release by the artists formerly known as the wonderful cat Stevens, looking at some George Harrison lyrics that have come to light and working out what the lllooonnngggeeesssttt AAA songs of all time are. No prizes for guessing that Pink Floyd and Neil Young are in the top five! That’s all for now – happy reading!

Beatles news: The only real snippet of interest we have for you this week is the news that lyrics for an unheard and unpublished George Harrison song have been found rattling around in the Abbey Road archives. The song, written in George’s own handwriting, appears to date from the early [part of 1967 and might have been a candidate for inclusion for Sgt Pepper’s at one point (before George came up with first ‘Only A Northern Song’ and then ‘Within You, Without You’). The find was made by Beatles friend and biographer Hunter Davies during preparations for yet another book about the fab four, due to come your way sometime soon. The lyrics, meanwhile, have been donated to the British Museum in London and go on display this week, so keep an eye out next time you’re there!

♫ Anniversaries (May 15th – 21st): Happy Birthday Hi-Fives this week go to: Pete Townshend (guitarist with The Who 1965-82 and several reunions along the way) who turns 64 on May 19th. Anniversaries of events this week include: the Beatles beginning their first ever tour as ‘headliners’ on May 18th 1963, with this milestone of rock and roll history taking place in…Slough!; the Dire Straits release their first single, ‘Sultans of Swing’, on May 19th 1978; three of the Beatles perform together for the first time since the break-up, during a party to celebrate the marriage of Eric Clapton and George’s ex-wife Pattie (only Lennon didn’t show up) on the same day in 1979; the BBC causes a lot of fuss by banning the soon-to-be-released ‘A Day In The Life’ by the Beatles on the grounds that it promotes drug taking on May 20th 1967 (and no it isn’t the lines ‘I’d love to turn you on’, strangely, like everyone assumes – it was actually banned because the ‘holes’ filling up the Albert Hall were equated with needlemarks; perhaps the BBC executives were on drugs instead to come up with that one?!); Stephen Stills’ new band ‘Manassas’ – featuring old friends like the Byrds’ Chris Hillman – release their first eponymous album. And it’s a good one – it’s no 51 on our list, no less! (May 20th 1972); The Who have a busy day on May 21st 1965, releasing their second single ‘Anyway Anyhow Anywhere’ and appearing on TV show ‘Ready Steady Go’ – their first widely-seen television appearance.

News, Views and Music Issue 31 (Top Five): Longest AAA Songs

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for: which of the AAA album tracks are the longest? Well, after trawling through our collection meticulously, you won’t be at all surprised to learn that we have a top five full of Pink Floyd and Neil Young recordings. So, as a result, we’ve cut down this list so that only an artist’s longest songs would be counted, we’ve discounted spin-off solo projects if we’ve already quoted an artists’ parent band (otherwise Pink Floyd would be second followed by Roger Waters in 3rd and David Gilmour slugging it out for 5th place), we’ve not counted live versions (The Who’s 14-minute ‘Live at Leeds’ version of ‘My Generation’ would be in the list somewhere if we did) and finally we’ve also discounted remixes or extended versions of songs (otherwise there’s a fair few Paul McCartney songs that would have found their way onto this list) Oh and we’ve also missed out AAA-associates but not artists proper from this list (or Jethro Tull would have walked away with the competition, being possessors of a 42-minute track called ‘Thick As A Brick’). So who came out top?

1) Amsterdam (25: 10) (John Lennon and Yoko Ono, from the LP ‘Wedding Album’ 1969). Well, technically, this piece of audio verite doesn’t count as a song, but as there’s nothing else like it in the world I couldn’t exactly leave it out of the list either. Most people forget about it too, with even the biggest Beatlemaniacs afraid to stomach it after hearing the 22 minute opus ‘John: Yoko’ on the other side (all together now: ‘John…Yoko…John!... Yoko!...John?...Yoko?...John!!%&E$&*%(^()!!!...Yoko!!££&^%*(&)*(!!!...’ yes, that really is it folks, for 22 whole minutes!) ‘Amsterdam’ was taped at the couple’s honeymoon bedside after the couple flew to the Netherlands following their marriage in Gibraltar. And what a weird honeymoon it was: three whole days of lying in bed, growing your hair and talking about peace to amused reporters. This side-long track captures the feel of the period quite well, with John and Yoko’s frequently hilarious rebuttals to reporters one of the pair’s more listenable avent garde efforts (alas, though, much of this track is poorly recorded and is tantalisingly out of earshot). Like the photograph of the wedding cake, included with original vinyl pressings of the record, the trick is to make the listener feel part of the action whilst giving them something to laugh at too. This was the third and last audio verite record from the Ono Lennons – personally I prefer the darker and edgy ‘Life With The Lyons’, but it’s a huge improvement on the nmess that is ‘Two Virgins’.

2) Echoes (23:31) (Pink Floyd, from the album ‘Meddle’ 1971). Well, that wasn’t really surprising was it? Pink Floyd are masters of the long tonal symphony, making the most of their spaces and moments of silence and stringing whole pieces together out of bits of nothing. We’ve already dealt with ‘Echoes’ elsewhere on this site (its parent album is number 50 on the list) – so let’s just underline again briefly how unusual this track was for the 1970s. The Floyd were, I think, the first group ever to stick one traditional sounding ‘song’ on one whole side of a record, albeit they did it with the inferior ‘Atom Heart Mother’ in 1970 before striking gold here. The way this track builds up through ‘ripples’ - several obviously related but not at all similar pieces of music - is very very unusual, even now, and the closing 10 minutes when the track keeps chipping away at the song’s central riff until it finally explodes and gets back to base is one of the best moments in the Floyd’s canon. A masterpiece, from it’s first sonar ‘pings’ to it’s closing reflective lyrics about the connections between people.

3) Change Your Mind (14:39) (Neil Young, from the album ‘Sleeps With Angels’ 1993). A late-period addition to this list (all the other examples come from the 1970s), this is the longest of several long songs Neil has recorded over the years. Although to be fair Neil’s tried just about everything in his career, he does seem to have a special affinity with songs like this one that are based on a simple hook and chorus but leave lots of space for guitar improvisation. This song has hardly any lyrics (or at least it has no more than the four and five minute songs throughout the rest of the album), but what lyrics it does have suit it well, with the theme of stubbornness and refusing to change your stance on something because of habits learnt over time. Like the rest of ‘Sleeps With Angels’, this song is dark and unsettling, even though the listener can never quite put their finger on why – the lyrics are nothing like as menacing as challenging as this spooky song makes them sound. Like the best Crazy horse epics, there’s very little going on in this song and yet it oversteps the mark or seem to go too long.

4) Weather Report Suite (12:42) (Grateful Dead, ‘Wake Of the Flood’ 1973). This song too has already been discussed (see review no 59) – let’s just add that there had to be a Grateful Dead song here given how long their average track is (an average that I’m betting would be higher than even the average Neil Young or Pink Floyd song even). This epic gets away with its length via three important factors. The first and most helpful is that it is very very beautiful – so much so that you’dn willingly let this song run another 10 minutes if you could. The second is that it’s divided into slow and fast sections – the first a lovely lilting folk-like ballad, the second a strident paranoiac horn-drenched rocker titled ‘Let It Grow’. The third is that, tying this disparate sections together are some lovely ruminations about mother nature and how long our planet has been around, with some excellent lyrics that make full use of their length, showing us the planet’s past and possible future. Bob Weir’s finest moment with the Dead and one of the best long songs around.

5) Feel The Benefit (11:28) (10cc, ‘Desperate Bends’ 1976). What do you do when half of your successful quartet up and leave just four albums into a career so full of invention that it seemed to be able to run forever? You record an 11-minute magnum opus of course, loosely based on the structure for ‘A Day In the Life’ (the fabs’ third longest song, incidentally, after ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’ and ‘Revolution Number Nine’). Eric Stewart’s warm and passionate tones tell us to go out with our coat on otherwise we won’t ‘feel the benefit’, using his parents’ advice to his younger self as a metaphor for how we have to learn from our experiences throughout our lives otherwise we won’t feel the benefit’ and instead we’ll just get wet and look silly. Graham Gouldmann chimes in with a middle eight about drinking a lot of coffee in Brazil (‘but the bill’s a gonna make a you ill!’) that shouldn’t fit but somehow does – perhaps by showing up the frivolities that distract us in everyday life (it’s no accident that this song fades down to nothing to let the rest of the song – the longer bit that runs throughout our lives – be heard once more). Fan reaction to this song has always been mixed but I’ve always been quite impressed by it – the dreamy orchestral accompaniment and the ever-perfect 10cc band performance more than compensate for anything lacking in the song. Not quite 10 out of 10 for 10cc but near enough.

So there you have it. For the completists among you (let’s face it, what is there better to be than a completist? No, don’t answer that!) just bubbling under the top five were The Beach Boys’ disco version of ‘Here Comes The Night’ (10:58, from the ‘LA Light Album’ 1979) and Paul McCartney’s ode to his ‘Secret Friend’ (10:30, B-side to the ‘Temporary Secretary’ single, 1980). That’s all for this week, see you next time for some more album archiving!        

A NOW COMPLETE List Of Top Five/Top Ten/TOP TWENTY  Entries 2008-2019
1) Chronic Fatigue songs

2) Songs For The Face Of Bo

3) Credit Crunch Songs

4) Songs For The Autumn

5) National Wombat Week

6) AAA Box Sets

7) Virus Songs

8) Worst AAA-Related DVDs

9) Self-Punctuating Superstar Classics

10) Ways To Know You Have Turned Into A Collector

11) Political Songs

12) Totally Bonkers Concept Albums

13) Celebrating 40 Years Of The Beatles' White Album

14) Still Celebrating 40 Years Of The Beatles' White Album

15) AAA Existential Questions

16) Releases Of The Year 2008

17) Top AAA Xmas Songs

18) Notable AAA Gigs

19) All things '20' related for our 20th issue

20) Romantic odes for Valentine's Day

21) Hollies B sides

22) 'Other' BBC Session Albums

23) Beach Boys Rarities Still Not Available On CD

24) Songs John, Paul and George wrote for Ringo's solo albums

25) 5 of the Best Rock 'n' Roll Tracks From The Pre-Beatles Era

26) AAA Autobiographies

27) Rolling Stones B-sides

28) Beatles B-Sides

29) The lllloooonnngggeesssttt AAA songs of all time

30) Kinks B-Sides

31) Abandoned CSNY projects 'wasted on the way'

32) Best AAA Rarities and Outtakes Sets

33) News We've Missed While We've Been Away

34) Birthday Songs for our 1st Anniversary

35) Brightest Album Covers

36) Biggest Recorded Arguments

37) Songs About Superheroes

38) AAA TV Networks That Should Exist

39) AAA Woodtsock Moments

40) Top Moments Of The Past Year As Voted For By Readers

41) Music Segues

42) AAA Foreign Language Songs

43) 'Other' Groups In Need Of Re-Mastering

44) The Kinks Preservation Rock Opera - Was It Really About The Forthcoming UK General Election?

45) Mono and Stereo Mixes - Biggest Differences

46) Weirdest Things To Do When A Band Member Leaves

47) Video Clips Exclusive To Youtube (#1)

48) Top AAA Releases Of 2009

49) Songs About Trains

50) Songs about Winter

51) Songs about astrology plus horoscopes for selected AAA members

52) The Worst Five Groups Ever!

53) The Most Over-Rated AAA Albums

54) Top AAA Rarities Exclusive To EPs

55) Random Recent Purchases (#1)

56) AAA Party Political Slogans

57) Songs To Celebrate 'Rock Sunday'

58) Strange But True (?) AAA Ghost Stories

59) AAA Artists In Song

60) Songs About Dogs

61) Sunshiney Songs

62) The AAA Staff Play Their Own Version Of Monoploy/Mornington Crescent!

63) What 'Other' British Invasion DVDs We'd Like To See

64) What We Want To Place In Our AAA Time Capsule

65) AAA Conspiracy Theroies

66) Weirdest Things To Do Before - And After - Becoming A Star

67) Songs To Tweet To

68) Greatest Ever AAA Solos

69) John Lennon Musical Tributes

70) Songs For Halloween

71) Earliest Examples Of Psychedelia

72) Purely Instrumental Albums

73) AAA Utopias

74) AAA Imaginary Bands

75) Unexpected AAA Cover Versions

76) Top Releases of 2010

77) Songs About Snow

78) Predictions For 2011

79) AAA Fugitives

80) AAA Home Towns

81) The Biggest Non-Musical Influences On The 1960s

82) AAA Groups Covering Other AAA Groups

83) Strange Censorship Decisions

84) AAA Albums Still Unreleased on CD

85) Random Recent Purchases (#2)

86) Top AAA Music Videos

87) 30 Day Facebook Music Challenge

88) AAA Documentaries

89) Unfinished and 'Lost' AAA Albums

90) Strangest AAA Album Covers

91) AAA Performers Live From Mars (!)

92) Songs Including The Number '100' for our 100th Issue

93) Most Songs Recorded In A Single Day

94) Most Revealing AAA Interviews

95) Top 10 Pre-Fame Recordings

96) The Shortest And Longest AAA Albums

97) The AAA Allstars Ultimate Band Line-Up

98) Top Songs About Sports

99) AAA Conversations With God

100) AAA Managers: The Good, The Bad and the Financially Ugly

101) Unexpected AAA Cameos

102) AAA Words You can Type Into A Caluclator

103) AAA Court Cases

104) Postmodern Songs About Songwriting

105) Biggest Stylistic Leaps Between Albums

106) 20 Reasons Why Cameron Should Go!

107) The AAA Pun-Filled Cookbook

108) Classic Debut Releases

109) Five Uses Of Bird Sound Effects

110) AAA Classic Youtube Clips Part #1

111) Part #2

112) Part #3

113) AAA Facts You Might Not Know

114) The 20 Rarest AAA Records

115) AAA Instrumental Songs

116) Musical Tarot

117) Christmas Carols

118) Top AAA Releases Of 2011

119) AAA Bands In The Beano/The Dandy

120) Top 20 Guitarists #1

121) #2

122) 'Shorty' Nomination Award Questionairre

123) Top Best-Selling AAA Albums

124) AAA Songs Featuring Bagpipes

125) A (Hopefully) Complete List Of AAA Musicians On Twitter

126) Beatles Albums That Might Have Been 1970-74 and 1980

127) DVD/Computer Games We've Just Invented

128) The AAA Albums With The Most Weeks At #1 in the UK

129) The AAA Singles With The Most Weeks At #1 in the UK

130) Lyric Competition (Questions)

131) Top Crooning Classics

132) Funeral Songs

133) AAA Songs For When Your Phone Is On Hold

134) Random Recent Purchases (#3)

135) Lyric Competition (Answers)

136) Bee Gees Songs/AAA Goes Disco!

137) The Best AAA Sleevenotes (And Worst)

138) A Short Precise Of The Years 1962-70

139) More Wacky AAA-Related Films And Their Soundtracks

140) AAA Appearances On Desert Island Discs

141) Songs Exclusive To Live Albums

142) More AAA Songs About Armageddon

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159) A (Not That) Short Guide To The 15 Best Non-AAA Bands
160) The Greatest AAA Drum Solos (Or Near Solos!)
161) AAA Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame Acceptance Speeches
162) AAA Re-Recordings Of Past Songs
163) A Coalition Christmas (A Fairy Tale)
164) AAA Songs About Islands
165) The AAA Review Of The Year 2012

166) The Best AAA Concerts I Attended
167) Tributes To The 10 AAA Stars Who Died The Youngest

168) The First 10 AAA Songs Listed Alphabetically

171) The 10 Best Songs From The Psychedelia Box-Sets ‘Nuggets’ and ‘Nuggets Two’

172) The 20 Most Common Girl’s Names In AAA Song Titles (With Definitions) 

180) First Recordings By Future AAA Stars

185) A Tribute To Storm Thorgerson Via The Five AAA Bands He Worked With

188) Surprise! Celebrating 300 Album Reviews With The Biggest 'Surprises' Of The Past Five Years Of Alan's Album Archives!

190) Comparatively Obscure First Compositions By AAA Stars

193) Evolution Of A Band: Comparing First Lyric With Last Lyric:

200) The Monkees In Relation To Postmodernism (University Dissertation)

202) Carly Simon's 'You're So Vain': Was It About One Of The AAA Crew?

217) AAA 'Christmas Presents' we'd most like to have next year

221) Dr Who and the AAA (Five Musical Links)

222) Five Random Recent Purchases

223) AAA Grammy Nominees

224) Ten AAA songs that are better heard unedited and in full

225) The shortest gaps between AAA albums

226) The longest gaps between AAA albums

227) Top ten AAA drummers

228) Top Ten AAA Singles (In Terms of 'A' and 'B' Sides)

229) The Stories Behind Six AAA Logos

230) AAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!! The Best Ten AAA Screams

231) An AAA Pack Of Horses

232) AAA Granamas - Sorry, Anagrams!

233) AAA Surnames and Their Meanings

234) 20 Erroneous AAA Album Titles

235) The Best AAA Orchestral Arrangements

236) Top 30 Hilariously Misheard Album Titles/Lyrics

237) Ten controversial AAA sackings - and whether they were right

238) A Critique On Critiquing - In Response To Brian Wilson

239) The Ten MusicianS Who've Played On The Most AAA Albums

240) Thoughts on #CameronMustGo

241) Random Recent Purchases (Kinks/Grateful Dead/Nils Lofgren/Rolling Stones/Hollies) 

242) AAA Christmas Number Ones 

243) AAA Review Of The Year 2014 (Top Releases/Re-issues/Documentaries/DVDs/Books/Songs/ Articles  plus worst releases of the year)

244) Me/CFS Awareness Week 2015

245) Why The Tory 2015 Victory Seems A Little...Suspicious

246) A Plea For Peace and Tolerance After The Attacks on Paris - and Syria

247) AAA Review Of The Year 2015

248) The Fifty Most Read AAA Articles (as of December 31st 2015)

249) The Revised AAA Crossword!

251) Half-A-Dozen Berries Plus One (An AAA Tribute To Chuck Berry)

252) Guest Post: ‘The Skids – Joy’ (1981) by Kenny Brown

254) Guest Post: ‘Supertramp – Some Things Never Change’ by Kenny Brown

255) AAA Review Of The Year 2018

256) AAA Review Of The Year 2019 plus Review Of The Decade 2010-2019

257) Tiermaker

258) #Coronastock

259) #Coronadocstock