My husband and I had a conversation about being trapped on a desert island. What would we take? If we could only take a limited number of albums, which ones would they be? We’re both audiophiles, so the debate was hot and heavy and we had to come up with a list of ten albums we’d take with us to our hypothetical desert island. I’m sharing part one in this post, because sitting in traffic is like being stuck on a desert island, except with air conditioning.
Abbey Road — The Beatles
Abbey Road is the 11th Beatles album and one I listen to multiple times per week. I lean to the heavier side of rock music and this album, released three years before my birth, was the proper goodbye from this iconic band. (Note: It wasn’t the last album they released, but it was the final one they recorded.) While I enjoy early Beatles works, I feel they truly started coming into their own as musicians with their later albums.
I’m going to skip the well-known tracks on the album, “Come Together,” Here Comes The Sun,” and “Something.” While they are iconic Beatles songs, they’re not my favorites on this album.
“Octopus Garden” is a light-hearted, lovely piece by Ringo Starr. It’s one I used to sing to my son when he was a toddler and we still use it as a sing-along. It’s a much-needed light, airy bit before “She’s So Heavy.”
“She’s So Heavy” is music to be played with your head thrown back against the sofa, favorite libation in hand, while the music throbs and makes you feel as if you’re lost in a 60’s timewarp. Listening to it makes me feel trippy. If Timothy Leary’s followers were listening to this, I can understand how they heard colors.
There’s nothing like driving down the highway, with the windows down and an open sunroof, while Paul sings “one sweet dream, pick up the bags and get in the limousine” in “You Never Give Me Your Money.” The song ends with John, George and Ringo singing “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, all good children go heaven” layered multiple times for a richer sound.
“Sun King” is lush and beautiful. There is the faux mixing of Romance languages – throw it into a translator and you’ll soon find out — for the last three lines. When I was reading the lyrics, I saw the phrase “chicka ferdy” which was taught to me by an old friend from Liverpool. (Oh the things my friends from the UK have taught me regarding language.) After reading that, I visited my friend Google and sure enough, there’s an interview with John Lennon discussing inserting the phrase into their nonsensical romance language mash-up.
Of course, Abbey Road’s B-side is meant to be played as one piece. That being said, there are two sections of three songs I prefer to break into two separate sequences.
“Mean Mr. Mustard,” “Polythene Pam,” and “She Came in Through The Bathroom Window” starts it out. “Mean Mr. Mustard” goes back to their days in India studying transcendental meditation when their creativity was fueled and they all created an amazing amount of work. John Lennon was able to create the story of a character you didn’t particularly care for, yet mesmerize you with this storyline. “Polythene Pam” is sung in a very Liverpudlian “Scouse” accent and was tied into Mustard after his sister’s name changed from Shirley while Lennon ad-libbed. The final of this first set is “She Came in Through The Bathroom Window” about an overzealous female fan breaking into Paul McCartney’s home. Joe Cocker also recorded this song, which has caused great debate in my house as that’s the version my husband prefers.
The next set is “Golden Slumbers,” “Carry That Weight,” and “The End.” There are many, many stories floating around, not including the interpretations — most of it does lead to the last days of the Beatles and their break-up. While it’s pretty obvious, I try not to read as much into it, as true musicologists have already done that. I’ll take it for what it is — the end of an era.
“Her Majesty” is a great hidden track that wasn’t supposed to be included on this album. If you let it play, you’ll hear it at the end after a short wait. “Her Majesty’s a pretty nice girl…”
Get Up With It — Miles Davis
I love pretty much anything from Miles Davis and have listened to all eras of music he produced, ranging from be-bop to modal. He channeled contemporary music and sounds — changing from one period of his life to the next.
This album is pure psychedelic soul and improvisation. In fact, what I write here will be brief and about one song only, as I don’t have the words, nor music education, to break it down properly. I didn’t discover this album until two years ago and that’s just not enough time to absorb the meaning of everything recorded and write about it properly.
“Get Up With It” starts with the 32-minute modal monody “He Loved Him Madly” — an elegy — to the late Duke Ellington. His mournful trumpet keens for his lost friend and mentor. I listen to this piece several times per week while working, knowing there will be goose bumps on my arms and waves of emotion will course through me. Duke Ellington told his audiences he “loved them madly” at the end of every show.
Appetite for Destruction — Guns N’ Roses
I don’t care where I am, or what I’m doing, I’ll always remember the first time I heard Guns N’ Roses album, “Appetite for Destruction.” It was April 1988 and I was on my way to a grand European adventure and sitting in a Nissan somewhere in Raleigh, NC, as my crew headed to the mall for last minute essentials. I had forgotten my Walkman, so I had to use to mom’s “in case of emergency” credit card and buy one. (That explanation didn’t go over well.)
Not long after my GNR obsession started, they released “Sweet Child o’ Mine” for airplay. To this day, I can only listen to this song if I am listening to the album. Don’t mistake this for me not loving the song. Radio stations cutting the guitar solo short has pushed it down my list to least favorite track on the album. I feel the same way about Paradise City — love the song, but radio edits has ruined it for me.
What are my favorite songs on the album? “Nighttrain,” “Mr. Brownstone” and “Rocket Queen.”
This album is what rock n’ roll is meant to be. It’s hard, fast, and dirty — an aural trip through the debauchery and sleaze that was the Sunset Strip in the 80’s.
Three albums in and seven more to go. I’ll be sharing the next albums over the coming weeks.
What’s on your desert island playlist?