The Historian: The Forefathers Of The Modern Rock Album

Image-1(2)By Spencer. Bear with me here. When you see that headline, you’re probably not expecting to see black-and-white pictures of a few guys your grandparents used to listen to. But as in all things musical, the origins of what you know and love today started way before the sounds you recognize. To borrow a metaphor popular with great minds ranging from Isaac Newton to Oasis, greatness is achieved by standing on the shoulders of giants. And while The Beatles may mark the point in time where rock truly entered the album era—and by that, I mean the era in which music was no longer consumed predominantly as popular singles but was now thought of as a collection of songs intended to represent a coherent artistic statement greater than the sum of its parts—we often forget that The Beatles had the benefit of the creative and technical innovations of a few artists who were slowly walking us in the direction of the album concept at least a generation earlier. This is a look at the decidedly non-rock artists who forged the modern rock album. Continue reading

The Historian: Masters Of The B-Side

PicCollageBy Spencer. In today’s day of single-song iTunes downloads, the B-side is something of an archaic institution. Strictly speaking, “B-side” once referred to the extra tracks that would be packaged onto a single, and distinguished such songs from the “A-sides” that comprised the single itself. Today, we don’t really package singles that way, so the closest analog is an EP track—but we’re going to start running out of letters if this keeps up. So when I refer to B-sides, I’m going to depart with the conventional nomenclature a bit and loosely include any of an artist’s songs that did not appear on a proper album—so pure singles, along with tracks appearing on EPs, soundtracks, and compilations, and even unreleased or bootleg rarities that make their way onto the internet. These are the songs that, for whatever reason, the artist holds back from the album; maybe they just aren’t as good, maybe they were recorded at a standalone studio session, or maybe they just didn’t fit in with the rest of the album’s aesthetic. There’s an automatic tendency to assume that these songs are inferior to the rest of an artist’s output. And that’s what I’m here to dispel. Because there have always been a few artists who take the B-side a little more seriously, and a deeper look at their B-sides will reveal some of their most rewarding or unique work. Continue reading