Friday, June 24, 2016

Important Shmimportant or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Not Love Pet Sounds

I don't recall the year, but I wrote an ill-advised piece for The Huffington Post claiming that The Hollies' "Butterfly" was a better record than "Sgt. Pepper." I thought it was a mistake from the start, but I knew what I was feeling and went ahead with it. Sure enough, it went over like "Ringo's Rotogravure." If I had thought a bit longer and harder about it, I would have written what I am writing now.

"Pepper" might have better songs, but I still like more songs on "Butterfly," and to my ears, "Butterfly" plays better. If I had to rate The Beatles catalogue from my favorite to least favorite, "Sgt. Pepper" would come in at #8, with only "Please Please Me," "Magical Mystery Tour," "The White Album" and "Let It Be" dragging ass behind it. I play "Butterfly" more than I play "Pepper," even if "Pepper" is far more important to music history.

I like "Pet Sounds." I do. But I am pretty sure I have never listened to "Pet Sounds" without thinking that there are more than a few clunky speed bumps (just like "Sgt. Pepper") on what is widely considered one of the greatest, if not "the" greatest album of all know...after "Sgt. Pepper."  Is it sacrilege to think "the greatest album of all time" should not include the completely out of place "Sloop John B," or not one, but two interesting, yet admittedly throwaway instrumentals?  Knowing the record's history and the emotional struggles of Brian Wilson certainly changes the way I might listen to "That's Not Me," but ultimately, what I am hearing is always the same, a clumsy tune with very uncomfortable instrumentation.  I get a lot more pleasure listening to "Today" or "Summer Days." These records aren't as important as "Pet Sounds," but they play better to my ears.

This is not to say music shouldn't be demanding. I am not campaigning for straighforward over complex. Trust me. I am not here to bury "Pepper" and "Pet Sounds." I'm just questioning why "A Hard Day's Night," featuring 13 Beatles originals, with arguably no weak tracks in the bunch, isn't ever considered monumental the way "Pepper" is. Is it the strings or the horns on "Pepper?" It can't be "When I'm 64" and "Within You, Without You." Is "A Hard Day's Night" too straighforward? Maybe 13 out of 13 killer tracks isn't such a feat after all.  Just like actors playing handicapped or dying characters always seem to get the Oscar over the lovable shnooks and nice guys, maybe solid as a rock pop music is too much fun to be taken seriously. Or maybe, it's being at the right place at the right time. Both "Pepper" and "Pet Sounds" were brilliant anomalies in 1966 & 1967, with the artists feeding off each other, doing their best to best the other. I don't believe that means we cannot reassess 50 years later.

Sometimes I think we have been conditioned to feel a certain way about art. We get on that bus and remain, as if our stop never comes. It's not a bad bus. We are riding with exceptional works of art. But there is that other bus, that awful crosstown bus that always seems to come at the wrong time, the one carrying the people who always stay on long after their stop and make statements like "The Stones were never as good after Brian Jones died" and "The Beatles are overrated."  I don't believe these people truly feel that way and I don't believe that those gushing their hyperbole over "Pepper" and "Pet Sounds" feel that way, either.  Some might. I mean, who am I to question what turns people on? But I think we've all been around friends who sit through painfully long and boring art house crap, say a French documentary about the boiling point of tin, and then force a rave review through their clenched teeth, while refusing to admit they'd much rather be watching "Duck Soup." Somehow it makes more sense to me for people to simply really like "Pet Sounds" and "Sgt. Pepper" and not go into the default setting of "these are the greatest records ever." It seems more honest. I trust it more.

And then of course, there are Neil Young fans. But I digress.

There are many records in the last 50 years that have been groundbreaking and influential, but I don't believe that is the same as being a great record.  The Who's "Tommy" is an epic, the "rock opera." It is legendary.  It was a first of its kind and years later became a monster success on Broadway. I never feel like listening to it.

"Blonde On Blonde" is my 4th favorite Dylan record. I won't be as brazen as I was when I handed in my Huffington Post piece and state that "Desire" is a better record, but I sure as hell like it more.  But I do think "Blood On The Tracks, "Bringing It All Back Home" and "Highway 61 Revisited" are better than "Blonde," but "Blonde" will go down in history, like "Pet" and "Pepper" as the one.

May I ask a personal question? Just between us. Your words will never leave this room, if you are motivated to confess.

Are they any records and artists you've been pretending to love because it's a lot harder to get off the bus at this point?

I'll begin.

Frank Zappa has hundreds of records. I think five of them are worth listening to, while much of the rest is a whole lotta smug and unfunny crap. If there is a hell, "Billy The Mountain" will be playing on repeat. I tried for years, sitting around with that frozen smile, while my friends all guffawed over "Joe's Garage." I won't do it anymore.

There. I feel better.


Bombshelter Slim said...

I guess when I was a teenager (lo, those many years ago) I would "try" to like music that was "supposed" to be good, peer pressure caused my allowance or paper route money to disappear quickly. But it wasn't very long before I realized that with the wealth of good music available from all over the world that I had little time or inclination to force myself to listen to something more than once if I wasn't feeling it. And the other great sin, of course, is to pretent to NOT like something because it isn't hip or cool! Guilty pleasures are in fact pleasures, so lose the guilt already!

Anonymous said...

The way you feel about Zappa? That's exactly how I feel about the Rolling Stones, The Velvet Underground, and The Boss.

Geoff Hoover said...

I love the Velvets and Lou Reed, but I am not much of a fan of Whilte Light/White heat (the album) which would put me on Lester Bangs shit list. Also Lou Reed made many records that I don't care about, so did Patti Smith and Prince and McCartney and Lennon... But the ones I love, I love them so much it doesn't matter how many clinkers there are. Also I like ROXY MUSIC much better starting with SIREN and on to MANIFESTO & FLESH+BLOOD & AVALON than the albums that came before and made their legend.

kevin m said...

Well since it's just between you and me Sal, I have to say: I really don't like the Pistols "Bollocks". But I pretend to like it so I can retain my street cred.

Also, Lou Reed's "Berlin". I know it's supposed to be his artistic peak but I can't listen to it for more than a few seconds. (And can we add the following to Lou records I don't like; Anything after New York).

OldRockr1 said...

Confessions... I love it.

For me it is Astral Weeks. I like a lot of Van Morrison's albums, and I "get" what he is doing, I just don't love it. Moondance is a much more enjoyable listen and I go back to it often. Astral Weeks not so much.

Dare I even mention Exile On Main Street?

Charlie Messing said...

Yes to Zappa and Pet Sounds. I have the CD with both mono and stereo PS, and haven't listened to it (got it free at the store). Meanwhile, my younger brother, the Stones fan who has 30 books about them and goes to their $500 shows, is listening to PS everyday, and seeing Wilson perform it at the local theater (only $50) next month. I never listen to Bruce, the Stones (since Jones I haven't been interested, but I studied all their albums so much I never listen to the early ones either), the Beatles (except for rare stuff), Prince, Neil Young (with a few exceptions), or Elvis P. I do listen to Elvis C. once in a while. I like Tom Waits, though some of his albums stink, I always get them. The Kinks and Who (though I don't want to hear Tommy again either - except for 1921). I like music that's weird - outsider stuff - SPK, the Fall, Nick Cave (though I've lost touch)...I go back to Gospel. The Stiff records from early 80s. 1970s folk rock, mostly British. Love Alex Chilton and Big Star, Roxy Music, and all the classic rock except what is generally Called classic rock. 1950s and 60s Jazz. Vocal groups. Eric Satie. Soul. Punk. Okay, that's too much. I'm with ya!

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Jeff in Denton TX said...

Although "Blonde On Blonde" is probably my favorite Dylan album (by a hair over "Hwy 61"), I'll agree on "Sgt. Pepper" and "Pet Sounds" not being those artists' best. Most "best of all time" lists correctly rank "Who's Next" over "Tommy." I'd take "Quadrophenia" over either of them. Since I acquired my Beach Boys catalog in the CD era, I tend to pair "Today" with "Summer Days (and Summer Nights!)" together in my mind. This, of course, makes it doubly great! The reconstructed "Smile" is actually the BB album I listen to the most, so I suppose it's now my favorite.
Artists as prolific and independent as Young and Zappa are/were bound to have a number of clunkers since their every whim is put on record. As odious and clueless as some record execs may be, musicians--especially solo artists--are not always the best judges of their own material. Also, these performers often have sycophantic fan bases who will buy and extol anything with their name on it. While I may be guilty of the buying part of that equation, I won't laud every release by my favorite artists just because they made it.

RhodB said...

I love this article

My favourite Beatles album is HELP which gets a fair bit of airtime at my place. I agree with the Frank Zappa comments but do like the guitar solo on Hot Rats "Willie the Pimp"

8 Wives of Henry the Eighth by Rick Wakeman - just misses for me even though I do try and also Frampton come alive is another.

Great think subject.


Michael Giltz said...

First thoughts: I don't like "Tommy" that much and have never felt obliged to pretend I do. On the other hand, when albums have decades of people saying "no, no, this is good," I do tend to think, hey, maybe it's me. I'm always willing to give some important work another listen. Nothing wrong with that. Thats not the same as parroting the beliefs of others when in your heart you don't agree. Anyway....

Two points here. One you already made. Important is not the same as favorite or best. "Citizen Kane" is often mentioned as the most important film of all time, a la Sgt Pepper for music and "Oklahoma" for musicals or Elvis for hip-swinging. No one can ever topple them from that mountain of importance unless they built a time machine. No one can be the new Dylan because no one is back in the early 1960s shaking up the world. "Hill Street Blues" is the most important drama in US TV history. No one else can have that impact. But it's not the best drama of all time any more. (Prob still Top 10 in many ways.) So yeah, Blonde on Blonde and Sgt Pepper are hugely important. Hell, every Beatles album was a landmark, each one seeming to top the last until people thought their heads would explode. Until, Magical Mystery Tour (which is an excellent album!).

Two, I'd rather champion stuff I love and give another listen to stuff I don't than run down something I'm not passionate about. I guess I just don't love the voice of Ray Davies. I admire and respect and listen to his music and albums. Some are unquestionably great and even important. I'm not drawn to listening to them but for pete's sake they're not crap and people who love them are not unhinged. It's just not my thing. Ditto the Who and presumably many other perfectly good, respectable acts. Am I saying "Village Green Preservation Society" is not good? Far, far from it. It's absolutely good, great even. I get it. I just don't spin it that often. It doesn't hit me on a DNA level. But maybe ten years from now I'll be the right age or in the right frame of mind and it'll sucker punch me and I'll be glad I didn't badmouth or downplay them. God knows I'll never listen to it and think "meh."

Michael Giltz said...

Third (you weren't expecting three were you?), of COURSE Blonde on Blonde and Pet Sounds are not your picks for the best album of all time or even the best of those artists. How could you be passionate and fanatical and listen to these artists and eagerly consume vocal only bootlegs of certain songs just for the Rosetta Stone pleasure of it and have such a boring, traditional viewpoint? I mean, Blood On The Tracks and Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 are fucking great albums. AS IS BLONDE ON BLONDE. All five star albums if that's your rating system. The Beatles have a STRING of classics. This week my favorite is the White Album. Next week it's Revolver. When I was younger it was Abbey Road but I'm too cool to pick that one now. It was NEVER Sgt Pepper...until I listened to the mono mix in the reissue and was able to hear the album again in all its glory with fresh ears because new details kept popping out and for the first time in my life I thought, Holy shit! Maybe Sgt Pepper really is their masterpiece. "When I'm 64" and "Within You Without You" are awesome! That span are style, something for your grandmum and something for the super cool college student both nestled next to each other on an album that also has hippy trippy sounds and rock and pure pop and music hall stylings and mind-blowing Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds? That's precisely why it's such a great album. I'm going to weep when I listen to "When I'm 64" when I'm actually 64 and realize how long this music has been a part of my life and how bloody old I'm getting. I have NOT had enough of silly love songs. John was wrong and you can hear the melodies on Double Fantasy that prove he knew it. :)

And Pet Sounds is amazing. I love the instrumentals, I love every tune. It works so perfectly together, including "Sloop John B" which is just the jolt the album needed and like so many other songs sounds peppy but its actually miserable and sad, in a jokey way. I'm going to listen soon to Today again with open ears but Pet Sounds is just gorgeous. Sorry but this and Endless Summer says everything about them that I want. It's an amazing journey from Surfing safari to Good Vibrations and Pet Sounds is the peak.

Mind you, Citizen Kane IS the most important film of all time and I love it and it's entertaining as hell (not medicine). But it's not my PERSONAL pick for the best film of all time. Yet I'd never be upset about seeing it top the list. Totally deserving. I love Duck Soup and arty Jeanne Dielman, in which a woman wanders around her home and makes food for seven hours. (It's absolutely riveting.) Do I watch Jeane Dielman as often as Casablanca? Of course not. That's a different issue. And it takes time for other albums to supplant the long-running favorites. Nothing wrong with not topping over the gods willy nilly. I'd rather people be reluctant to toss down Blonde on Blonde than see this "consensus" surround "Born To Run" and then "Nevermind" and then "OK Computer" and so on and so forth. When Blonde on Blonde is toppled better that it be Blood On The Tracks.

Still, you never know. I've always just ASSUMED I hate prog rock, because of the art work and the song titles and the music I actually heard before I ran away, screaming. So lamely pretentious, I thought. But it's been around for ages and people say Yes and King Crimson et al deserve to be in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. And I'm ready to love it, ready to have my ears opened. So I eagerly, yes eagerly put on the album Fragile by Yes. And hate it. It's not my cup of tea? No, it's just plain bad by any reasonable standards: crap lyrics, lamely pretentious, faux classical in the worst sort of way. Who the heck could like this? It's DREADFUL!! So yeah, there are important albums I'm ready to take down. But to be honest, I never really pretended they were great to begin with.

Shriner said...

Big Star's Third/Sister Lovers. I adore the first two albums. Can't stand the third. But it seems like sacrilege to not like Third when discussing the band.

The Joshua Tree. And I like U2. I found this album pretentious (and "Rattle and Hum" the movie cemented my feelings about the band at that time -- since redeemed with Achtung Baby) and all my other U2-loving friends look at me like I'm crazy.

Raw Power. I pretend to like this because I'm from the Detroit area and I don't want to get beat up.

Miles Davis and Wilco. I tried. Many, many times. Now I just quietly nod when somebody enthuses about them and try to steer the conversation elsewhere...

I would counter-balance this thought with the observation that there are albums I (probably still) love that I rarely play any more because I over-played them as a teen when they came out ("The Wall" jumps out as does "Imagine" -- and I played the *shit* out of "Welcome Interstate Managers" so much that I almost can't put it on again) and I feel that not enough time has gone by to revisit them.

gms168 said...

I get to Rain Dogs..but after that i can't listen to tom waits for too long....i prefer the early days

stivseed said...

Sal, you hit the nail on the head concerning "A Hard Day`s Night". For that album, all original, and bulletproof, to come out when it did, is just mindboggling. Not a dog in the bunch.

ken49 said...

This is why I enjoy this blog so much. No where else in my life do I get to talk about this trivial stuff that still matters so much to me. Pet Sounds goes from I love this record to eh not so much. Sgt. Pepper is not my favorite but having lived through it one cannot minimize the cultural importance. It was on everyone's stereo. I really have a four way tie for best Dylan album, 61 just a nose ahead at finish line.

Anonymous said...

Ay yi yi...I've never pretended to like something I didn't like; it'd never occur to me. The closest I can come to it is continuing to buy the next couple records by my first rock n roll love (Alice Cooper) after the original band split up, but after I listened to them once, I thought, "Maybe next time..." until I gave up after 'Lace And Whiskey'. But that was hopeful inertia, not pretending.
However, I can name numerous moments when I either had to admit -- after some logical thinking -- that something I slighted was better than that, or that I had an epiphany and opened up to an artist I'd previously not thought much about. An example of the former is Led Zeppelin, who I casually dismissed for years before I realized I had and liked those first 5 albums; I realized the pretense and posing, and Robert Plant's Edith Bunker voice, were not enough to dismiss the power and virtuosity of the music. And, in the latter case, I thought for years that Dylan wrote some good songs better covered by others, but was another pretentious gob who couldn't sing. Then, an epiphany when I was visiting my (absent) bro and looked over his copy of 'Biograph', which was new at the time. As with Zep, I realized while perusing the track list that, hey, there were more songs I liked by Dylan than I'd realized. I got a hair to play one of the tracks, and up came 'Masters Of War' -- and to say I was bowled over is putting it lightly. I kept listening to the rest of the set, and my next girlfriend was a Dylan fanatic, so I got to submerge myself in all the albums to build on my momentum. Now I can and do defend Dylan as one of the best and most important vocalists of the rock era (those nasal late 70s and 80s vocals excepted), and I loooove his studied obtuseness.
My quickest turnaround was hearing Nick Cave's 'Kicking Against The Pricks' album when it was new, and being so repulsed after a bit of two songs on it that I saved it (I'd borrowed it from a friend so I could give Cave a listen) to play for my best friend, so he could hear how awful it was. So, I put it on for him....and I cannot believe I had reacted so viscerally to it mere days before. It's still one of my two favorite Cave albums, and I continue to love the guy's stuff. Go figure.
C in California

Michael Giltz said...

Oh, and "Band On The Run." I get its significance as a massive commercial breakthrough for his solo career. But I remain puzzled that it's often listed as his best solo/Wings album. I would quickly list at least five others ahead of it and probably more if I did some serious listening.

Sal Nunziato said...

It seems the word "pretending" has irked a few people, both here and on Facebook, where I also posted this piece. I guess "pretending" was a poor choice of words, at least now, present day. There was definitely a lot of pretending when I was young and stupid, in a desperate attempt to impress whoever I was trying to impress. And this is what I mean by staying on the bus. I got high and listened to "Sheik Yerbouti" because my friends loved it. I don't think I really loved it back then, and I know I dont now. But it took many years to realize or admit, I only like a few Zappa records. I also don't think it is a completely conscious decision. Haven't you ever been caught up in a moment, or situation? I dated someone who loved Hanoi Rocks and so I never let on that I thought they were lousy. Suddenly, it was just a thing. "Yeah, I like Hanoi Rocks."

Another point brought up on Facebook is that I was confusing impact with quality. I don't believe I've done that. Remember, I think both Pepper and Pet Sounds are great albums. But they are flawed and that is what I find confusing and worth discussing 50 years later. It's one thing to recognize the influence, but another to dismiss how many other records are just as good or better.

And Michael Giltz, Sloop John B IS amazing. It also has some deep meaning for me as it was a song that literally "my grandfather and me" would sing all the time. But to me, it belongs on Pet Sounds the same way a romcom dressing room montage belongs in "Ordinary People." From a strictly programming POV, this is why I think the record is flawed. Same with Pepper. "Within You" is no one's fave song from the album and to cite "something for your grandmum and something for your cool college friend" as reasons why Pepper is amazing seems wrong to me. If this wasn't the Beatles and we were reading about some hotshot hipster producer sequencing an album to please two demographics, we'd laugh him right back to the kale farm. Again, a movie analogy--nothing like a cool martial arts fight scene right? Let's stick one in Jaws. I'm going to extremes here, but it's important to me that my piece doesn't come across like some lunatic shooting down some sacred cows as click bait. Never said these records were bad, just not quite as perfect as we've all been believing for 50 years.

buzzbabyjesus said...

There are so many famously important albums I don't like! That's what drove me to the likes of John Martyn, Little Feat, and The Mekons to name a few.

Tommy, Astral Weeks, Pet Sounds, Trout Mask Replica (I like other Beefheart albums), Zappa post original Mothers, Graceland, Station To Station, Stones albums after Exile, ANY Elton John, ELP, Cream and Clapton in particular, Quadrophenia, John Wesley Harding, Imagine, London Calling, and I could sit here all day.

Anonymous said...

Addendum....I was a kid when 'Sgt Peppers' came out, so it didn't have the impact on me that it had for others. I came to the Beatles later (tho I knew their music growing up), when my oldest bro turned me on to the White Album. And I never liked 'Peppers' near as much as the other mid- and late-period Beatles albums, despite it containing my favorite song of all time ('Day In The Life') on it. I never got into the Beach Boys, despite knowing and liking their early hits OK, and believing 'Good Vibrations' to be an unsurpassed masterpiece of a song (What was it about 1965-66?: 'Good Vibrations', '8 Miles High', 'Summer In The City', 'Tomorrow Never Knows', 'Like A Rolling Stone'....), so I don't have a thought about 'Pet Sounds' beyond liking a few of the songs on it. The upshot of this is that I can speak honestly about 'Peppers' place in the pantheon, but have no dog in the Beach Boys discussion.
C in California

Anonymous said...

Hello, please remain seated,

Very fun topic. I, too, like, but don't love the following masterpieces: Tommy, Blonde, and Astral Weeks.

Outside the rock genre, I would list Coltrane's Love Supreme. I love when 'trane plays more mainstream stuff, but I don't understand his genius stuff.

(Lastly...regarding Sloop John B. Sal, if you're ever stumped for a topic, let's play "what great song seems totally tacked on to the album it's contained on").


Michael Giltz said...

I never laughed at Zappa's humor in "Joe's Garage" either. But I was scheduled to interview Zappa when he died, so I always feel bad about that. Did he know I wasn't hip enough?

Re: Sgt Pepper's range. Of course not EVERY album (or movie or book) should have every style thrown in willy nilly. But one of the world-beating aspects of Sgt Pepper was that there was indeed something for everyone and that EVERYONE was listening to it and of course enjoying the entire damn thing despite the range of styles on display being actually dizzying. They weren't trying to write songs to please particular demographics of course; they wrote a clutch of tunes that drew upon ALL of popular music and then looked to the future with "Day In The Life" and it all works. It's no Michael Jackson attempt to conquer the world; it just DID conquer the world and the sheer diversity on display is one notable facet of this particular album. (Which they doubled down on with White Album, which you could easily convince me is their greatest album when not putting your money down on Revolver or Hard Day's Night. Or Abbey Road.) That range is not better or worse than the focus of say John Martyn's "Solid Air" or Sinatra's "In The Wee Small Hours." it's just what this one particular album did and did so well.

And of COURSE you have a different more passionate choice than the one made by so many. They're not lazy or wrong (it's not like they're arguing for say Milli Vanilli or -- more controversially -- something great but prob not the greatest album of all time such as...Never Mind The Bollocks or Odyssey & Oracle, bot of which I love). I'm stunned that most fans DON'T name Nebraska as Springsteen's greatest but of course they pick Born To Run or Born In The USA or if they're cool Wild Innocent. Go figure.

Michael Giltz said...

If Sgt Pepper and Blonde on Blonde aren't your favorite albums by the Beatles and Bob Dylan, it's not because those albums aren't amazing, it's because those two artists are so astoundingly good!

Beethoven's Fifth? Beethoven's Ninth? Please! Over-rated! The chorale at the end of the 9th is just too much! Everyone knows that Beethoven's Third (Eroica) was the real ground-breaker that changed everything!

Sal Nunziato said...

Okay Michael Giltz. My bad.

Evil Rev said...

Never really cared for Zeppelin (frankly, IMO, they should not have won the suit filed against them over "Taurus"), Rush or Floyd. Springsteen is only important to people who hate America & themselves for being Caucasian. Same goes for Clash fans.

I prefer the "Mersey Fab Reeperbahn Rockers" to anything past 1965. Stones peaked with "Brown Sugar".

A walk in the woods said...

Oh, now you done thrown the gauntlet ... in a good way. You know, hell hath no fury like a "Pet Sounds" fan scorned...

I get so annoyed with those who use music choices as character references. I just love what sounds good, and moves me - not at all, necessarily, what is admittedly groundbreaking. Tonight I was at a bar and "Beast Of Burden" came on, and I told a music-loving friend it's one of my top 10 Stones songs. He looked at me like I said I didn't like "Pet Sounds." He seemed to be thinking, how can this clown put that in his Stones Top 10?

Well, I do it because the song makes me smile every time. It swings, and it makes me feel looser after hearing it.

I'm not one to listen to music - or worse, claim to listen to music I don't listen to - to be cool. And so - getting back to the topic of "Pet Sounds": I just have never cared for that album. It does NOT swing. I find some of the melodies and lyrics stilted, awkward.

This is why I can't pay to go see Brian Wilson on his "Pet Sounds" tour - even though he's literally the only mega big rocker still living (other than Clapton and just a few others) I've never seen live - because I actually do not want to sit through "Pet Sounds" live.

Heretically - if he were touring to play "Beach Boys Love You" start to finish - or even the one with "Feel Flows," which really moves me - I'd be there!!!

In answer to your question: I don't listen to anything I'm "supposed to," to be hip. I'll admit to listening to Phil Collins and Hall & Oates before I'll do that. Gladly.

vanwoert said...

@EvilRev "Springsteen is only important to people who hate America & themselves for being Caucasian. Same goes for Clash fans." Holy shit.

Dr Wu said...

Rachel claims this is her favorite movie... Dangerous Liaisons

Her actual favorite movie is... Weekend At Bernie's

rick said...

I think it's very fair to distinguish what's 'important' from what's more interesting or more compelling or simply more enjoyable. 'Sophie's Choice' was one of the most amazing books I've ever read, but I hope never to read that brutal, heartbreaking, fucking novel ever again. I've watched Citizen Kane once or twice, but have watched When Harry Met Sally at least a dozen times, I'm sure. For me, Pet Sounds suffers from all the pretentious talk about it. Still love Tommy,though...

Anonymous said...

I have a comment that goes toward this thread as well as a previous one in one of the Stones threads, where Sal mentioned listening to cuts he doesn't like on albums because he likes the totality of the album, and that sometimes songs sound better in context than they do apart...

I had kept my distance for decades from Songs in the Key of Life, which most people seem to cite as the "greatest" Stevie Wonder album, because I really can't stand "Isn't She Lovely?" and "Sir Duke," in part because I was overexposed to them when they were hits, in part because they're so bouncy and bubbly and too eager to please, a flaw that for me mars a lot of Stevie's later work. But about 5 years ago I bought Songs and finally really listened to it, and I don't know if I'd cite it as his greatest, but yeah, duh, it's great/awesome/amazing. And also, those two songs I hate do sound MUCH better in the context of the album, especially "Isn't She Lovely," which I think has a great extended coda on the LP. A "problem" with albums like Sgt. Peppers is that they can become monolithic, like received wisdom. Lucky for me, maybe, that I came to Songs in the Key of Life late.

PS: Was just listening this afternoon to Stevie's most recent album, A Time to Love, now over a decade old. It's terrific. If you don't know it, and you love Stevie, do yourself a favor and check it out.

PPS: I'm definitely a member of the Sgt. Pepper's mono cult. And one track that's definitely improved in mono, IMO, is "Within You, Without You." It would still be the first song I'd throw to the wolves, but I get it a bit more in mono. It sounds more jagged to my ears in the mono mix, a bit more edgy and compelling. Sal, you agree at all?

Bruce H

Squints said...

I absolutely understand how "Within You Without You" gums up the flow of Sgt Pepper. I also agree that there are a half-dozen better Fabs records.

Danged if WIWY hasn't grown on me over time, though. There's a song there. I even roll with the wannabe Indian arangement. I enjoy the string part in the middle. It'll never be in a Top 50 Beatles playlist for me. But it's in my master Fabs playlist, along with all their other stuff except R9.

I've never been much of a pretender-to-like. In my younger days I was much more of a disdainer of my little brother's favorite bands. I echo the commenter above with respect to Led Zeppelin. Even once I conceded that they were pretty good, their sheer ubiquity on what evolved into classic rock radio made them not much more than ambient sound to me. Then I waved in the remasters in 2001 or so, and found myself looking periodically over at my speakers, slackjawed. Like Squints said after Benny hit Smalls in the mitt with the ball, "Ahhhhhhh, HE'S alright." 8^)

M_Sharp said...

"Dark Side Of The Moon". I never cared for it, and got tired a long time ago of people calling it a masterpiece. I always thought that anyone who liked it was stoned whenever they listened to it, so it was just their favorite album to get stoned to.

I don't remember pretending to like much, if I didn't like an album or band, that was it. I wasn't about to fake liking the Eagles! Usually it was my friends who didn't like the music I did, and I had to wonder what was wrong with them. They were probably thinking the same thing about me.

Michael Giltz said...

Re: "Within You, Without You." I'll bet it was Ravi Shankar's favorite track on "Sgt. Pepper"!!

Love all these stories of people keeping their ears open and being ready to reappraise or listen fully for the first time. I never disliked Led Zep but never thought much about them either (radio ubiquity strikes again) till I listened to the albums in full during some reissues and realized how diverse their work and sound really was.

It's a habit I've always tried to maintain -- some acts just ain't good but when people you respect really love someone, it doesn't hurt to go back and listen again. That's something I find Burnwood Tnite in particular is great for: prodding me to listen or listen again to acts I think I already know. Maybe that's why I've got the Beach Boys "Today" cued up on my iPhone (again).

Sal Nunziato said...

Bruce H.

I do love MONO Pepper and to further confuse matters, I like "Within You, Without You" and never skip through it, though I will have to A/B the stereo and mono to hear what you're hearing.

There were two comments left on my Facebook post that I found interesting. One person couldn't believe that I ranked The White Album as low as I did, calling it a masterpiece and another pointed out what a "mish-mash of solo tracks" it really is, but how he still loved it. To quote Macca, "It's the fucking White Album." Yeah, and they're the fucking Beatles. But my mission wasn't to take down the almighty or compare notes on who likes what better. Four aces still beats four kings, whether you were dealt four kings or pulled the last king on the last card. Mo matter how pretty and colorful those four picture cards are, they still aren't four aces and you lose.

Impact, importance, timeliness, influence--yes! Pepper, Pet Sounds, Blonde have it all. But even Geoff Emerick didn't want "Within You" on the record and that to me is what makes Pepper imperfect. Same with Pet Sounds and the songs I mention in the post. All I wanted to do was take another look and see if anyone thought like I did.

Anonymous said...

Hello, please remain seated,

Couple of followups...

* - I also like, but don't love the White Album.
* - I love (LOVE!) Beethoven's Fifth. The 5th's "fate motif" makes me proud of my species. But I acknowledge the genius that is Eroica.
* - Always good to see some love thrown Stevie Wonder's way. He is one of the candidates for the title "successor to Gershwin".


Sal Nunziato said...

And "Lovely Rita" is kinda lame, too.

Noam Sane said...

Interestingly, George Martin came around to "Within You Without You" and considered it a good choice for that point on the record. I like it very much, always have.

If I don't like something, not only will I accept and admit it, I will overstate its badness sometimes just for fun. So, I got nothin, really.

Tommy was a fairly mediocre warm-up for the glorious Quadrophenia.

I hate Yesterday, particularly the sappy string arrangement. But I like Spector's strings on "Long and Winding."

I used to pretend Blondie was enjoyable, but now I look down and spit on the ground every time that name gets mentioned. Fuckin' 'orrible, from the early faux-wave crap to the later, horrid "Tide is High" garbage.

Anonymous said...

Love "Forever Changes" lp would always be raved about but when
I bought a copy I was so disappointed,I just could not see
the masterpiece everybody was raving about --I just didn't get

Anonymous said...

I like to say that Sgt. Pepper is not only not the best record ever made, it's not even the best record the Beatles made in 1967. But then I listen to Magical Mystery Tour and realize, OK, I'm overstating things a bit. But there are plenty of better records that came out by other artists in '67.

I've always hated Dylan's singing on Blonde On Blonde. I find that In The Wee Small Hours and Songs For Swingin' Lovers, which are supposedly Sinatra's two best records, pale in comparison to Only The Lonely and A Swingin' Affair. I think Songs In The Key Of Life is overly long and rather goofy. I love Led Zep but never liked "Stairway To Heaven." I love Bowie but am only now coming around to liking Ziggy Stardust. And I never got the appeal of Neutral Milk Hotel.