0038: Rock 'n' Roll High School
In the past month, I have had several people, either through email or personal encounters, ask me about starting a rock collection or about investigating rock music for the first time. This new series is particularly for them. I've given them this address, and they will be visiting weekly. I invite anybody else interested to join in as well.
Every week (maybe every other week, depending on the feedback I receive from everyone), I will recommend an album for listening. If you have the money, I strongly recommend purchasing the album from either a regular or used store. Some public libaries also have excellent collections you can check out some albums from. I will write commentary with each album to explain why I chose it and how it fits into the greater rock world. I encourage discussion as people listen to the album; hopefully, people will feel free to share their reactions and thoughts about the album below. I'd love to see some excellent debate and / or discoveries below.
I'm also adding a film article (Film School 101) to serve the same purpose for movies.
Does this idea appeal to anybody other than the people who initially requested it? If so, how often should I recommend a new album? One a week? One every other week? One a month? Let me know.
Album 1: The Beatles - The Beatles One
No big surprise. Whether you are a fan or not, you have to admit that The Beatles certainly belong first on this list. They are an important meter in rock music; they both absorbed and reflected most of what came before them, and they hinted at much of what was to follow. If you want to discover rock music, you do best to first discover The Beatles. To many, the two are nearly the same.
Unfortunately, no perfect introduction to The Beatles exists. Their rapid evolution leaves any particular album inadequate to the task, and yet they were indeed album artists, rendering most compilations woefully misguided. The recently released The Beatles One is as close to a perfect introduction as exists, yet even it is flawed by two major omissions. Both Please Please Me and Strawberry Fields Forever are missing. This is a major oversight, especially when one considers that these two songs in many ways perfectly illustrate by themselves what was wonderful about both the early and later Beatles. A double-sided single with both songs could almost sit in place of this album itself.
What the album does contain, however, are the 27 songs The Beatles released which managed to capture the top spot on the charts in either the states or Britain. Spanning the entire career of the band, the album does paint an accurate and invigorating portrait of the band. In some ways, it is almost too much. With classic following upon classic, it is easy to let the music flow shapelessly and to never realize just how terrific each single was. Luckily, the compilers of this disc left the songs in chronological order, making the band's innovative and important progressions crystal clear over the album's running time and telling something of a story rather than just producing the required hits haphazardly. From the beginning, when the band managed to mix up a magical brew of blues, skiffle, girl band, and pop music into a sound familiar yet utterly new, to the middle days, when the band stretched the pop music form as far as possible with unconventional songwriting, studio wizardry, and a novel approach to the album as a complete art form, to the end, when the band decided to take the lessons learned through their earlier experiments and effortlessly work them into catchy pop songs somewhat like the ones they began with, this album nearly is the story of The Beatles, and that makes it as close as any single album has ever been to being the story of rock itself.
The Beatles were not the perfect band. That band has yet to arrive on the music scene. They are, however, the natural place from which to start exploring rock music, and this compilation, affording an expansive view of the rock world as we know it, is a perfectly pleasant port to set sail from.