Oddly enough, though I only recently began choosing the albums on my #iPodAlbumPlaylists at random (rather than assembling a selection first, and then shuffling everything on the list) January became my most themed month yet. After sampling three albums from the 90s and then five albums I had never heard before, I launched into a 35-album splurge in which I only listened to LPs released between 1964 and 1970 (plus one from 1971). Maybe it was because I was gearing up to watch a series of 60s movies, or perhaps I was just feeling nostalgic myself - not so much for the 60s (which I was 14 years too late to experience) but for exactly ten years ago. Around January 2004, after burning out a bit on movies I began to deeply explore rock music - particularly album rock - for the first time ever (for some reason in high school, I'd been only a casual listener, the sort who owned only a handful of CDs, mostly movie soundtracks and a few ubiquities like Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band).
The journey began the previous autumn when a movie obsession was still at its height; I viewed A Hard Day's Night for the first time and realized, to my surprise, that I was unfamiliar with most of the songs on the soundtrack - even though I had thought of the Beatles as my favorite band. The coming year, already a time of transformation for me, would be illuminated and amplified by a growing obsession with music (particularly rock - first classic and then punk/post-punk - which I'd mostly overlooked in favor of hip-hop in high school). For a while I hardly watched any films at all and spent most of my time glued to headphones, exploring a sonic universe I hardly knew existed.
It began tentatively with the Beatles CDs at home - an odd bunch of singles collections, Anthology outtakes, and the then-new "Naked" edition of Let It Be (I fell in love with the stripped-down version of "Across the Universe", and consider that my gateway drug into the next several years of audiophilia). As '04 began, I ventured to the record store and bought a few proper albums, Abbey Road and Help! as I recall. Within a few months a roaring Beatles obsession had spilled over, with purchases of Pet Sounds and 12 X 5 opening the floodgates, into a deluge of sixties sounds - with the Dylan and Stones catalogues get particularly heavy rotation. This obsession arrived at the perfect time, when CDs - and therefore proper long-player albums - were still just barely the prime currency of musical exploration, and yet the emergence of the iPod and iTunes (in a college dormitory shared between multiple floors, yielding thousands upon thousands of possiblities) made this exploration so much easier. Within a year of hearing Abbey Road for the first time, I considered myself something of a connoisseur of sixties albums and had delved deeply into later periods as well.
Within about two or three years, perhaps because I had no musical inclinations or talents myself and therefore no hope of participating directly in my passion, this musical obsession ended. However, it left behind a collection of CDs and vinyl records (my own enthusiasm had spread to a roommate who also hadn't any previous rock affinity), a treasure trove of new idols, inside references, and favorite sounds, and a deep impact on my film sensibility became more rhythmic and spontaneous under the sway of my sonic shamans. Although these albums had been cultural icons/cliches for decades, I had somehow escaped their creeping familiarity as a teenager, so in the mid-zeroes I was hearing them all at once with fresh ears and a perfectly receptive mind. I still recall the thrill of experiencing records like Sticky Fingers, Pet Sounds, We're Only In It For the Money, and even the White Album for the first time. No less exciting were the albums that gradually grew on me: I remember hearing Blonde on Blonde and Exile on Main Street a few times, wondering what exactly people were raving about, before they suddenly "clicked" for me and revealed the multitudes they contained.
My stint as an avowed music obsessive eventually journeyed far beyond the sixties (albeit no other single period was explored as rapidly or deeply by me) but those years still remained at the core even as I burnt out on that canon and welcomed the punk and post-punk rebels to refresh my ears. Regardless, ten years ago I fell in love with music for the first time and if the intensity of that love affair ended eventually, its residue remains - perhaps to be reanimated at some point in the future. Anyway, I had fun revisiting experiences which were definitely personal highlights of an often frustrating time in my life. My early twenties was confusing, disappointing, and frustrating for me but when discovering the enormous emotional potential of rock music I felt young, alive, and free in a way I rarely did when the headphones, stereo, or record player were shut off.
Below are the album covers, info, and favorite tracks (linked to online videos) from everything I listened to January - my biggest one-month binge yet with 43 titles, total (the sixties contingent, forming 5/6 of the total, was all squeezed into the month's second half). You can visit previous #iPodAlbumPlaylist round-ups, and also follow this hashtag on Twitter.
Oh and why not ask - what do you think of these albums, what is your favorite era/genre, and did you too have a breakthrough moment when you went from loving a few songs here and there to embracing and exploring as much of the musical universe as you could grasp?
Favorite track: "Brain Dead"
Favorite track: "Dream Maker" (no video)
Favorite track: "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away"
Favorite track: "Parachute Woman" (no video)
Favorite track: "Desolation Row"
Favorite track: "Waterloo Sunset"
Favorite track: "I Can See For Miles"
Favorite track: "Green Circles"
Favorite track: "A Rose For Emily"
Favorite track: "Dear Prudence" (no video)
Favorite track: "Sparks" (no video)
Favorite track: "Sparks"
Favorite track: "Baba O'Riley"
Favorite track: "Layla"
Favorite track: "Strange Brew"
Favorite track: "Are You Experienced?"
Favorite track: "The End"
Favorite track: "Hungry Freaks, Daddy!"
Favorite track: "Little Wing"
Favorite track: "Young Girl Sunday Blues"
Favorite track: "Bookends Theme"
Favorite track: "Goin' Back"
Favorite track: "Woodstock"
Favorite track: "Hey Fredrick"
Favorite track: "Tobacco Road"
Favorite track: "As I Went Out One Morning" (no video)
Favorite track: "Scarborough Fair/Canticle"
Favorite track: "The Sound of Silence" (original)
Favorite track: "I'll Follow the Sun" (no video)
Favorite track: "Over, Under, Sideways, Down"
Favorite track: "Where Have All the Good Times Gone"
Favorite track: "Shangri-la"
Favorite track: "What Is and Should Never Be"
Favorite track: "I've Got a Feeling" (no video)
Favorite track: "Across the Universe"
Favorite track: "Because" (a cappella version) (no video)
Favorite track: "Baby, You're a Rich Man" (no video)