The Album Experience

“Back when I was a kid”, we had albums that we put on the turntable, and then sat back, perusing the album liner notes while we experienced the album tracks, in order. We only needed to get up once to flip the album over. Side note: tip of the hat to Tom Petty for capturing this experience for future generations in the middle of his Full Moon Fever CD.

This was a wonderful way to experience the music. It was a mode of listening where the album got priority. We weren’t listening to it while the TV was on, or while we were studying. We just listened. And furthermore, we sat there and listened to the entire thing (the closest concept to “pause” was the nicer turntables that had a lever you could use to raise or lower the needle, so that you could lift it and re-lower it in exactly the same place).

This weekend my college crew and I were sharing memories, and trying to pick our favorite album experience. Days of Future Past (Moody Blues). Dark Side of the Moon (Pink Floyd). The Joshua Tree (U2). Red / Blue (The Beatles).

For me, I was torn between a few. So I cued up Brothers in Arms (Dire Straits) and All That You Can’t Leave Behind (U2) for my ride today. First of all, it was awesome to listen to albums completely again. No shuffle. No playlist mix. Just two albums, each in track order. I will definitely be doing more of that.

Brothers in Arms was the first album I bought. That’s not to say it took me a while to get into music. As the youngest of seven, I just got to use all the records, cassettes, and 8tracks my siblings were buying. And I instead spent my money on a stereo cassette player/recorder, allowing me to pull songs off the radio and make my own mix tapes.

But Brothers in Arms was the first time I bought an album. And I’m pretty sure I bought Run DMC’s Raising Hell at the same time. A great way to start my music collection. And I continued to go back to Brothers in Arms every time I was in the market for a new stereo. “Your Latest Trick” is a terrific song for testing speakers.

All That You Can’t Leave Behind is the album that accompanied me on my first retreat. I played that in order repeatedly during my daily long drives. So many great lyrics across all of those tracks, my top probably being, “I see an expression so clear and so true that it changes the atmosphere when you walk into the room.” Runner-up, “I’m not afraid to die. I’m not afraid to live. And when I’m flat on my back, I hope to feel like I did.”

It was close, but U2 won.