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I'm the co-host of THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO with Dana & Carl (Sunday nights, 9 to Midnight Eastern, www.westcottradio.org).  As a freelance writer, I contributed to Goldmine magazine from 1986-2006, wrote liner notes for Rhino Records' compilation CD Poptopia!  Power Pop Classics Of The '90s, and for releases by The Flashcubes, The Finkers, Screen Test, 1.4.5., and Jack "Penetrator" Lipton.  I contributed to the books Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth, Shake Some Action, Lost In The Grooves, and MusicHound Rock, and to DISCoveries, Amazing Heroes, The Comics Buyer's Guide, Yeah Yeah Yeah, Comics Collector, The Buffalo News, and The Syracuse New Times.  I also wrote the liner notes for the four THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO compilation CDs, because, well, who could stop me?  My standing offer to write liner notes for a Bay City Rollers compilation has remained criminally ignored.  Still intend to write and sell a Batman story someday.

Friday, March 17, 2017

LOVE AT FIRST SPIN





As fans of pop music, we have certain albums that just make us swoon. Whether it's an acknowledged classic album like Pet SoundsRevolver, or Ziggy Stardust, a cult fave like Shake Some Action or The Jam's Setting Sons, or an idiosyncratic choice like Drop Out With The Barracudas, we live inside the grooves of our all-time favorite long-players. That's why we're fans.

This even applies to a single-song guy like me. I have always been more immediately enthralled with individual tracks--singles, B-sides, LP cuts, whatever--than with entire albums. But I nonetheless have dozens of fave-rave albums, some of which I might even listen to all the way through, start to finish, in one sitting. It's true! It doesn't happen very often, sure, but it is indeed true.

I tell ya, the iPod was surely invented to make real my feverish dream, to flood my AM radio-bred short attention span with a blissful, buzzing barrage of hits and should-be-hits by various artists. That's my favorite way to listen to music, not in terms of technology or format, but in terms of presentation: I wanna hear a bunch of great songs by a bunch of great performers, sending my needle into the red zone the way Top 40 did when Top 40 meant Badfinger and Gladys Knight & the Pips. That's why I wanted to co-host a radio show, so I could recreate that perfect sound I imagine, and play The Ramones and Little Richard and The Kinks and...and....

You know.

So maybe it seems disingenuous of me to start a new series about albums--whole albums--that knocked me out, from start to finish, on first spin. The idea for this series was suggested by Steve Stoeckel, veteran of The Spongetones, Jamie & Steve, and the current Pop Co-Op, and obviously a man who knows a thing or two about pop music. Steve excluded Beatles albums from consideration (because...duh), but listed Simon & Garfunkel's Bookends and the eponymous debut by Crosby, Stills & Nash as examples of LPs where he loved every song as soon as he heard it.



Complicating the discussion for me is the fact that, even apart from my long-standing allegiance to single songs, some of my favorite albums didn't annex my heart on first spin. Pet Sounds?  I love the album now, but when I first heard it, as a teenager in the '70s? I thought it was...y'know, fine. Perfectly okay. I bought it for "Sloop John B," and didn't hate the rest of it. "God Only Knows," which is The Greatest Record Ever Made, didn't even register with me at all as an 18-year-old college freshman. I didn't learn to appreciate the album until more than a decade later, when its CD reissue prompted me to give it a fresh listen. But on first spin? I wasn't ready for it yet.


Another all-time fave rave for me is Shake Some Action by The Flamin' Groovies. God, I adore this album, every song, from majestic beginning to sublime conclusion. Whatta record! But when I first bought it, and first listened to in its entirety...well, I sure loved the opening title track, and was mostly indifferent to what followed. I didn't even care about the album's terrific final song, "I Can't Hide," nor the unbelievably great "You Tore Me Down." What the hell was wrong with me? The album grew on me quickly, and I later cited it in Goldmine as one of my favorite albums of the 1970s. Love at first spin? No, apparently it took me a while to fall fully in love with this one.





And then there are albums I loved immediately, but with some slight reservations. The Monkees' Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, Ltd. absolutely captivated me, but I'd have liked it a lot better if "Salesman" and "Hard To Believe" were replaced by stronger material; I'm fine with "She Hangs Out" nowadays, but that track had to grow on me, too. I loved all of the songs on The Monkees' Head soundtrack, but the album also includes snippets of dialogue and other movie hi-jinks, so I'm not sure it could really qualify. Beauty And The Beat by The Go-Go's and All Over The Place by The Bangles were both amazing instant faves, but each contained one track ("Automatic" and "More Than Meets The Eye," respectively) that I felt compelled to skip on each and every subsequent play. And call me a heretic--guilty!--but while I loved the first nine songs on The Velvet Underground & Nico, I actively loathed the two noisy tracks at the end.

Given all of these caveats, why am I writing a series about Love At First Spin? Because it's a great idea, and I thank Steve for suggesting it. Because there are a few albums that did this for me, LPs that made me fall, unreservedly and completely, from needle drop on Side One right on through the inner groove at the end of Side Two. Because it's gonna be fun to write about these albums, and this gives me an excuse. Love At First Spin. This could be the start of a beautiful friendship.

Thanks again to Steve Stoeckel for suggesting this concept. Hey, wanna fall in love with an album at first spin? Four State Solution, the debut from Pop Co-Op, is available on CD from  Kool Kat Musik and CD Baby. Digital albums are likewise available from your favorite legal downloadin' resources. Go ahead! Fall in love! You know you want to!



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