Skip to content

Busy Calendar Years

February 25, 2021

[Albums 864 – 869 / 1001]

If you want something done, give it to a busy person.

Not necessarily someone that’s so industrious that they’re becoming overwhelmed (and quality begins to drop) but also not so inactive that they’re unproductive.

With musicians, I’m starting to see that their finest hours often occur when they are at their most frantic release pace.

Their busiest calendar years are also frequently their best.

Dylan in ’65.

Bowie in ’77.

And based on their respective peak-productivity calendar years, it appears the same could be true for Iggy Pop / Pere Ubu / Emerson Lake & Palmer / Nico.

.

Nico – The Velvet Underground and Nico & Chelsea Girl (1967)

Surrounding yourself with talented people.

Need a good songwriter? Why not play a Dylan-penned tune, first released in 1965 (I’ll Keep it with Mine).

Need a good producer? Speaking of Dylan in ’65, why not Tom Wilson, who also produced Bringing it all Back Home.

How about some good backing musicians? How about Jackson Browne & the members of The Velvet Underground?

And when despite being surrounded by all of the above, your difficult-to-describe / harder-still-to-classify voice still stands out & ends up being the lasting memory in the minds of listeners?

That’s a good way to end up on the 1001 list.

.

Emerson, Lake and Palmer – Tarkus & Pictures at an Exhibition (1971)

“Your art was the prettiest art of all the art”
– Roy from The (US) Office

Ever gone to look at actual pictures at an exhibition?

Although Roy’s critique of Pam’s watercolour paintings was hilarious, I’m not sure if my skills at art criticism would be much more profound.

With galleries, as I’m not terribly well informed about art history/techniques/eras (essentially all of the art), I have fairly surface level reactions.

And the same is likely true for my appraisal of Emerson, Lake and Palmer (ELP)’s selections from the 1001 list, Tarkus & Pictures at an Exhibition.

But even if I’m relatively uninformed about their art, I can’t help but admire the audacity.

Not many bands release a 7-part / 20+ minute song suite on their 2nd album. Even Rush waited until album #4!

And fewer still decide to follow it up with a live album. Not a concert collection of their original hits, mind you, but instead, an arrangement of a Modest Mussorgsky composition from 1874.

Calling such decisions ‘bold moves’ might be an understatement; but they make it work.

I also find I’m continually impressed with groups that can achieve more with less: they only have 3 musicians, but the sound is never less than full.

And as far as Progressive Rock goes, ELP’s prog might even be the prettiest prog of all the prog!

.

.

Iggy Pop – The Idiot & Lust for Life (1977)

Apparently, I started writing the review for this album in June of 2018 (as shown below).

It was all set to be Album Review # 605 / 1001.

Based on the opening quote, I believe the plan was for the post to revolve around a clip of Peter Dinklage exclaiming, YES!

And coming up on 3 years after the original draft, that succinct assessment still sounds about right.

I’m still quite excited (even ‘psyched out of my mind’) about this album.

Combine Lust for Life with The Idiot & how do I feel about Iggy Pop’s 1977?

YES!

(at 1:31)

.

Pere Ubu – Modern Dance & Dub Housing (1978)

“Cleveland Rocks! Cleveland Rocks! Cleveland Rocks! Ohio!”
– Theme song from The Drew Carey Show

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is located in Cleveland, Ohio.

And while Cleveland may indeed ‘Rock’ – I find the artists from there are more interesting / influential / intriguing than rocking, per se.

Nine Inch Nails? Industrial would be the first genre term that jumps to mind.

Tracy Chapman? One of the better voices in the business, but I’d be more likely to use terms like ‘folk’ or ‘blues’ when attempting to categorize.

Pere Ubu? I gather they have used the term ‘avant-garage’ – which probably fits about as well as any other description!

The band often walks the line between irresistible & irritating, sometimes oscillating between the two within a single track.

As with other ‘experimental’ music, not all experiments will be immediately successful.

But I think I agree with Robert Christgau’s take on these albums.

With The Modern Dance, he stated, “the highs are worth it, and the failed stuff ain’t bad.”

After exploring Dub Housing, “…it sent me back to The Modern Dance, which I liked fine originally and like more now.”

And that sums up Pere Ubu’s productive 1978 neatly: the albums aren’t necessarily beacons of consistency, but the peaks provide a good return on investment & the initial enjoyment grows with repeated visits.

…..

Verbalize the Positive

For many moons, I’ve argued that 1969 was the greatest individual calendar year for music.

However, I’m starting to think that 1971 could also be a contender – too many great calendar years is a nice problem to have!

From → 1960s, 1970s

26 Comments
  1. Two records in one year is usually a really good sign – means there’s great material pouring out. Mr Thomas from Pere Ubu has a very “acquired taste” voice, but I like them a lot still.

    • Acquired taste is a good way to put it – he’s in that group with Isaac Brock where it’s sometimes the main selling point and sometimes just a bit much!

  2. ELP is out there for sure but you have to hand it to them pulling off 20 minute songs on their second release as you mentioned is pretty ballsy but you have to give credit where credit is due. Have you ever watched there show from Montreal 77? Check it out on YouTube if you haven’t.

    • I haven’t seen it yet – but just saw it was at the Olympic Stadium, The Big O!
      Good for them, I saw ACDC there a few years ago (great set of course). It’s strange though, there’s absolutely nothing near it. Unlike the montreal forum, which is right downtown, the ‘O’ is just out there, not nearly close enough to 33 tours either!

      • Tbone had been there to see the Jays preseason game once and said it’s one big slab of cement. Bell Center is you say is smack dab in the downtown core. Our hotel was a 10 minute walks from there or should I say staggering distance.

      • It’s important to be stumbling distance from the venue!

      • That would be on the 1001 List of Partying at the age of 50!

      • I hit 40 later this year so I think that would be good advice for that edition as well!

      • Learn from this old wiseman young man!

  3. I find there are a ton of great years in music as I have been slowly coving them since I started the site. And 69 and 71 are two great ones. Never got in to ELP, but I have that Brain album or whatever it is called, but never have I heard it.

    • I’ve always been quite fond of the ’94-’97 window as well, I can’t pick an individual year of the bunch, but the era was marvellous!

  4. jprobichaud permalink

    Those two Iggy Pop albums are dynamite! Like the rabbit in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

    • And I imagine Monty Python’s best work in the 70s would have been from their busiest years too!

      • jprobichaud permalink

        Yes. Definitely their best years. So much hilarity in their acts.

  5. Consider 1980 for the greatest individual calendar year for music. An amazing year!

  6. How about Robert Pollard in, well, every year since about 1988? 🙂

    I often don’t consider one year as a pinnacle, but a period: 1968-1972. Oh man.

    • I think it was our friend J that once wittily observed, I don’t think even Pollard has heard all of his own recordings. So much quantity, fortunately the quality kept up too!

      • Haha I love that, good one, J.! The quality is subjective, especially if lofi isn’t your thing. But I think it’s (mostly) all awesome. He really has been prolific, though, my goodness!

      • LoFi isn’t always my thing – but when it is (as we’ve discussed with groups like Pavement), it really is!

      • Amen to that! And GBV gets it right every damn time. So good.

  7. Now this is a bountiful post, Geoff. A veritable swarm of ticks in the book!
    Although I know most of this material (I’m not really familiar with Pere Ubu), the ELP stuff is the most familiar ground. Many prog aficionados (the ones who listen to lots of prog) consider that the ‘Tarkus’ suite might well be EL&P’s high point. I’m amongst that group. Though recently I pulled out Picture for the first time in years and thoroughly enjoyed it. Did you know there’s a film of them performing it? VERY 70s. 🙂

    • Cheers, Bruce – I’m hoping to borrow some of their productive energy, perhaps my busiest posts may end up being my best!
      And yes, I saw that video earlier this week, the shiny outfit was something else!

  8. ‘Chelsea Girl’ and ‘Lust For Life’/’The Idiot’ are three of my all-time favourites, Stephen! ‘Chelsea Girl’ is such a beautifully dark and intriguing piece of masterfully-crafted art, and Iggy’s albums (and David’s work on them!) make such a wonderful counterpoint to Bowie’s own albums of 1977.

    • Excellent call on the Iggy / David counterpoint, Adela – there will never be another year like David had in ’77, just incredible!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: