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Big Star – Third (1978) & Soft Machine – Third (1970)

October 3, 2020

[Album 806 & 807 / 1001]

For me / for narrative convenience, the 1001 list can likely be divided into thirds.

The first 1/3?

Albums that I knew, or at least knew of, before the project began.

Even if I’d done everything in my power to avoid them, inevitably, I would still at least be aware of the existence of scores of these albums/artists, ranging from Abba to Zappa.

.

The next 1/3?

New-to-me albums where the initial appeal was easy to see & learning about the context only enhanced the appreciation.

Records like Big Star’s Third.

Before #1 Record, I hadn’t realized that they were the group behind the theme song to That ’70s Show.

And much like That ’70s Show, Big Star can easily be enjoyed on the surface level.

But also like That ’70s Show, if you know about what was happening at the time, it can be appreciated on a different level.

On the TV show, viewers would pick up on more of the jokes about the era.

With Third, learning that a combination of issues brought the recording sessions to a halt in 1974 (4 years before the album would eventually be released), listeners start to see the album through a new lens.

.

The final 1/3?

The new-to-me albums that require some time.

Albums like Soft Machine’s Third.

Whereas Big Star’s brand of power pop lends itself nicely to car sing-a-longs, it’s difficult to imagine any of the four 18+ minute (!) tracks here working quite as well as a TV theme song!

But as with Robert Wyatt’s other contributions to the 1001 list (Rock Bottom & Shleep), listeners are rewarded for repeated spins.

I’m likely still months, if not years, away from fully processing this one.

However, as is often the case with albums in this category, the return on time investment tends to be pretty favourable.

…..

Verbalize the Positive

At school, I keep witnessing students verbalizing the positive to each other (“I like your haircut” “great shirt” etc.), always excellent to see!

From → 1970s

24 Comments
  1. I always meant to get Soft Machine 3rd. High on my prog to do list. Dont know why it never happened.

  2. Awesome to see kids verbalizing the positive with each other! Pretty soon I’m sure you can add ‘Hey, I like your Mask!” to that list!

  3. BIG STAR’S ‘THRID’ IS ONE OF MY ALL-TIME FAVOURITE ALBUMS!!! (I got very excited seeing it here!) It is so exquisitely haunting and beautiful, and the way its perfect power-pop kind of decays as the album progresses sends chills down my spine. It’s the perfect listening choice for our fiery hot summers!

    • I like that description, the decay of power-pop!
      There is something fascinating about listening to the sound of a band unraveling – it’s cooled off a bit here now, but I will make a note of playing it in peak mid-July heat next year!

      • Ah, it must be so nice to have some cooler weather! The weather here is pretty perfect right now — early 20s (Celsius) and lovely and sunny — but soon it will be burning hot and 40 degrees!!

      • 20 and sunny sounds about close to perfection – 40 degrees, somewhat less ideal!

  4. Having spent a third of my life wrestling with SM’s Third, I can attest that it does indeed help your aural fitness in the long term. Good luck.

    Now, where did it end up in the 70 FROM ’70 series? Let me check…
    #8.

    • I had memories of Miles when listening to this one, Bruce – I like it (and looked forward to the repeated listens), though it seems like one where it’s about the journey rather than an eventual ‘aha moment’ destination!

  5. I hated fractions in school. Why not just use decimal points!

  6. Radio City is my favourite Big Star, but I like Third as well. I’ve had the Soft Machine Third on CD for years, but still don’t think I’ve quite got my head around it.

    • I haven’t gotten to Radio City yet, I imagine I’d approve.
      And I’m not sure if anyone’s quite figured out Third!

      • It’s always been my favourite one – it makes sense as a mid-point between the pristine #1 Record and the world-weary Third.

  7. Here is my positivity verbalized… I always like your posts!

  8. Soft Machine Third is a challenging, challenging listen. I remember playing my dad’s copy and getting halfway through a side. I’ve yet to recommence docking with it.

    • Though the music may not be instantly accessible, I do find the idea of 4 side-length tracks instantly appealing!

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