Classic Albums

It was fifty years ago today … from Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads

It seems strange to relate, 50 years later, that what is still the Bowie album I play more than any other was, at the time, what is known as a slow-burner.  Maybe it was the more acoustic feel of the tracks compared to Man Who Sold the World, maybe it was the lack of promotion from his new label, but somehow this absolute classic stayed out of the album charts for over nine months after release.  Once it got there, however, it stayed for three years – peaking at number 3, two places higher than its successor, Ziggy Stardust!

Album: Hunky Dory
Artist: David Bowie
Released:  17th December 1971
Weeks in UK Album Chart: 150
Highest Chart Position: 3

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It was forty years ago today … out in clubland having fun

There is little doubt that the early success of this debut album was down to the quite superb cover of an old Gloria Jones B-side from the early sixties that never charted.  The original version became a Northern Soul classic in the ‘seventies, before their cover shot Soft Cell to the top of the singles charts in the late summer of 1981.   But, as most of those who bought it recognise, that was just one of a number of well-crafted tracks on an album that, unfortunately, they never quite emulated afterwards.

Album: Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret
Artist: Soft Cell
Released:  27th November 1981
Weeks in UK Album Chart: 46
Highest Chart Position: 5

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It was fifty years ago today … in and around the lake

around the lake

Strangely, most music ‘historians’ tend to mark the main importance of this, their fourth, studio album as the first one to feature Roger Dean’s cover artwork – a style that continued on the majority of their subsequent albums.  For me it was a transition album from their early, more rock-based music into being an out-and-out prog band.  Whether, long-term, that was a good thing or not is for fans to judge, but it is that transitionary sound that captures both styles is what makes this a classic album for me.

Album: Fragile
Artist: Yes
Released:  26th November 1971
Weeks in UK Album Chart: 16
Highest Chart Position: 7

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It was fifty years ago today … buying a stairway to heaven

buying a stairway to heaven

Although this album has since acquired the pseudo-title of ‘Four Symbols’ due to various theories and interviews over the intervening half-century, it was untitled when released and everybody who bought it at the time just called it Led Zeppelin IV, following the convention of the first three albums, which is how I know it.   In reality, none of that matters a jot because, at the time, it was one of those albums that just seemed to be on the record player everywhere you went – particularly side one.   Probably the main reason it only topped the chart for two weeks was mostly due to the lack of radio-play for rock album tracks at the time, but it may also have had something to do with the contemporary competition – ‘Every Picture Tells a Story’, ‘Meddle’, ‘Imagine’, ‘Tapestry’, ‘Fragile’, ‘Electric Warrior’, ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’, to name but a few.  Time, however, has rightly awarded it high rankings in many leading all-time lists, including a couple of top places.

Album: IV
Artist: Led Zeppelin
Released:  8th November 1971
Weeks in UK Album Chart: 90
Number of Weeks at No.1: 2

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It was forty years ago today … working as a waitress in a cocktail bar

working as a waitress in a cocktail bar

Human League were one of those ‘overnight successes’ that crashed into the limelight with a couple of singles off this album, only for you to find that the rest of the album was pretty-damned good as well – followed by the further discovery that this was not their debut, although the line-up had significantly changed along the way.   It was not a huge surprise that both the album, and the single ‘Don’t You Want Me’, were massive hits here in the UK, with the rise in electronic music at the time, but getting a synth-pop album like this to number three in the US album charts was probably their most outstanding achievement.

Album: Dare
Artist: Human League
Released:  24th October 1981
Weeks in UK Album Chart: 74
Number of Weeks at No.1: 4

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