This is one of those “What would you do if you won the Lottery” type question…
However, If like me, you have only won £6.40 on the latest Lotto then the list is going to be extremely short.
Anyhow… picking these albums wasn’t easy, if only because I would wish to take with me far more than what I’m including in this post…
How do you even justify these as essentials anyway? Surely food/water and knickers should count as priority?
Underwear and bits and bobs aside, It was a real conflict of the heart to exclude many of the artists that are obviously missing and deserve their spot on this list (Led Zeppelin, Simon and Garfunkel, Peter Gabriel to name but a few).
However, I decided to go for a choice of albums that I thought would keep me glued together should I ever feel ashore.
I’m starting off with the first 5, in no particular order.
Fiona’s second album is the first, and I believe still is, the only one with a 90 word title:
When the Pawn Hits the Conflicts He Thinks
like a King What He Knows Throws the Blows When He Goes to the Fight and He’ll Win
the Whole Thing ‘fore He Enters the Ring
There’s No Body to Batter When Your Mind
Is Your Might so When You Go Solo,
You Hold Your Own Hand and
Remember That Depth Is the Greatest of Heights and If You Know Where You Stand, Then You Know Where to Land and If You Fall It Won’t Matter, Cuz You’ll Know That You’re Right.
This could be the longest quote ever written as well as a poem in its own right.
“When the Pawn” is an indispensable collection of songs to counteract those frustrating times when you’re coming to terms “with some home truths”; when you touch the bottom and only a snap reaction can beat desperation.
Despite the love-hurt theme, this album isn’t exclusively for broken-hearted people, It is adaptable to any situation. It saved me from a time when I honestly thought all was lost and I had nobody to turn to.
Fiona’s bold lyrics and tortured music, the key and tempo changes set the tone for the message she is trying to deliver. Not to mention the amazing work by Jon Brion as a producer; he is original and ingenious and he is the perfect person to translate Fiona’s vision.
Prick up your ears to: On the Bound, To your Love and Fast as You Can
Brian Wilson’s genius soaks through every single song of this album. His aim was to surpass The Beatles’ Revolver which he had recently come across. It’s no surprise that as he started to become more and more dependent on drugs, and in his quest for perfection, Brian’s life began spiralling out of control entering a long period of mental illness and depression.
This is a brave album and ahead of its time; Brian wrote and produced Pet Sound during a critical musical period when the band’s record label expected The Beach Boys to stay anchored to their surfing doo-wop songs to avoid disappointing fans as well as risking the loss of valuable sales.
Brian put all of himself in this album, which is mostly autobiographical. This is especially clear in the song “I just wasn’t made for these times”.
Within the lyrics, he weaves this hopeless realisation: “I’m either mad or I’m a genius”, like John Lennon often said.
Brian shut himself in the studio and produced every single song himself, instrument by instrument; he wrote all the lyrics and worked out every harmony for each band member while the rest of The Beach Boys were away on tour.
He did all this having never even learnt to read music and by explaining to his studio musicians what he wanted by voicing the sound of each instrument. This is an album that is cohesive and flowing and that gives a feeling of freshness and novelty. Every song is a small but tasty cake made of many unusual ingredients that you don’t realise how well they go together until you eat it.
Prick up you ears to: Wouldn’t it be Nice, You still Believe in Me, God only Knows, Don’t Talk (put your head on my shoulder), listen out for the bass line that mimics a heartbeat.
For all you curious cats interested in the studio side of things have a look at this Behind The Sound video that shows how Brian worked on “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”:
Many people usually cite Help and Sgt. Pepper as The Beatles’ pivotal album.
For me, it’s always been Revolver. And the reason is quite simple: it’s a clear point from which the band formed a new sound. They left their pop behind with Help. In contrast, Sgt. Pepper’s was the “extreme creativity” that shouted back at Brian Wilson’s Pet Sounds.
Revolver has a unique sound, with classical injections and rock undertones at a time when rock hadn’t even been invented yet.
The reason this album deserve its spot on my list is clear in its structure: starting from Paul’s bass lines and carrying on with George’s guitar (Taxman is a perfect example) to end with contemporary and personal lyrics and great harmonies. The album is well-balanced in terms of style and highly innovative in his arrangements, with the use of string parts that never overpower the rest of the songs but form a ball of perfectly shaped sounds (see Eleanor Rigby and Got to get you into my life). Never like on Revolver, I find that George Martin’s place in Beatles history is more deserved. I’m not sure anybody else would have been able to interpret, translate and then produce what the lads wanted in the studio. Tapes playing backwards, classical strings, filtered voices etc. For one, how do you manage to make John Lennon’s voice sound as if he’s singing from the top of a mountain? Only George the Wizard could!
Ultimately, this album is a testament to the band’s endless creativity.
Despite making a mini u-turn from 60s music, the songs have a simple structure that anyone can relate to (and yes before you ask, I’m not a fan of Yellow Submarine, but at the very least it’s useful to entertain the kids).
I could go on and on about Revolver, having eaten The Beatles for breakfast, lunch and dinner for 30 years, but alas, there isn’t enough space in this post.
Prick up your ears to: Taxman, Eleanor Rigby, And your Bird can Sing, For No One, Tomorrow Never Knows.
You could never tell that while recording this album, the band barely held together due to the turmoil in their personal lives. Crosby, for one, had only just lost his girlfriend in a car accident. Stills had split with singer Judy Collins and Nash with Joni Mitchell. Nevertheless, 800 hours of recording produced this excellent album that sounds like a Woodstock- esque filled pot that sways from rock to folk, with undertones of the psychedelia only just gone.
It almost has the feel of a concept album if it wasn’t for the fact that each band member contributed to it with their own individual songs, “Woodstock” by Joni Mitchell being the exception.
Somehow it just works.
It’s amazing to notice how their diverse styles can blend so perfectly to make an epic album like this. The harmonies are out of this world and Déjà Vu is powerful in its delivery. It’s a tall and dense wave of sound content that builds a momentum of adrenaline and energy. It encapsulates the end of the 60s and the start of the 70s in terms of sound and style.
It has a vintage wine taste to it and the qualities of a perfectly laid out LP; one that has the ideal opening and the perfect ending.
I find It can give out the type of oomph needed on a cloudy day.
Prick up your ears to: Carry On, Almost Cut my Hair, Déjà Vu, Country Girl
I believe you couldn’t ask for a better soundtrack on a desert island. This is because Pink Floyd’s music is always been from another dimension.
Since the beginning, when Syd Barrett’s wrote and sang “See Emily Play”, they were never afraid of being different in the midst of post pop and full-on psychedelia era. At the time, Syd was the Mad Hatter who would take you down the Rabbit Hole with his nonsensical lyrics and almost avant-garde music. Later on, with such albums like Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd entered the “Prog” phase.
This is the album that shows how Pink Floyd were masters at creating a “sound cocoon” in which both music and lyrics would coexist perfectly. If Phil Spector hadn’t already invented “The Wall of Sound”, one could argue that the Floyds could be the ones responsible for such innovation.
I’m a big fan of Roger Waters as a lyricist. While Syd was a sorcerer of nonsense imagery, which taps into my inner visual part, Roger’s quality of words are from the realm of artistry. He has a poetic streak in him and a bluntness that goes straight to the point. All very matter of fact without being condescending. Money is the perfect example:
Money, it’s a crime
Share it fairly but don’t take a slice of my pie
Money, so they say
Is the root of all evil today
But if you ask for a rise
It’s no surprise that they’re giving none away
The thread of Dark Side of the Moon is a vision on the madness of everyday life;
leaving all that behind, as well as appreciating the majestic production of it , qualifies this album as a perfect addition to your “Desert Island” music selection.
Make sure you bring with you some really good quality headphones though, it would be a crime to subject this music to anything less than perfection.
Prick up your ears to: Breathe, Time, The Great Gig in the Sky, Money.
To Be Continued…