For reasons too dull to go into, I spent most of last weekend by myself. Not unhappily. I had chores to do, stuff to deal with, as you do. But I decided to make the most of a mostly empty house by setting myself a challenge: to find out how many albums I could listen to in one weekend.
The answer is: 31.
By the end of it, as the last album ended, I have to confess my ears felt a little relived. The silence really was quite golden.
In hindsight I wish I’d been more adventurous with my choices. As time went on, particularly on Sunday evening, I was plumping for old favourites out of laziness. That said, there was never a plan, or a decision to play one sort of thing over another. It was just: right, let’s play albums, all weekend, and see what happens.
I’m conscious that this selection shows my age. It’s not very eclectic, not very exciting, certainly not very up-to-date. There was no plan for this. Just start playing stuff, and keep playing stuff.
This is what I played.
Listen to the playlist on Spotify. (Two or three albums aren’t on the playlist, because they’re not on Spotify.)
Honey, by Robyn
A solid start, I thought. I’ve been listening to this a lot recently.
The Real People, by The Real People
A recent random re-discovery. I owned this on vinyl, back when it came out. It shits all over everything by Oasis and the Stone Roses, who enjoyed far greater commercial success at the time.
Oxnard, by Anderson .Paak
This was sitting waiting in my “Listening” playlist, which is where I put stuff I think I want to listen to. I’d not heard it before. Good, I remember thinking, but I can’t remember any of it now.
Steve McQueen, by Prefab Sprout
Another old, old favourite.
Record, by Tracey Thorn
One of the best albums of 2018. Tracey’s great. Pop for grown-ups, by grown-ups.
Stellular, by Rose Elinor Dougall
The opening track is one of my favourite songs of all time. I think I found Rose Elinor Dougall after hearing one of her songs played on Late Junction but I’m not certain. Anyway; a fine LP.
Duke, by Genesis
One of my stepsisters owned this on vinyl when I was a little boy, and I remember hearing it played repeatedly in my step-family’s house in Shrewsbury. It crept into my brain and stayed there. I enjoy singing to this one.
Chain, by Paul Haig
When I was a student, probably 1990 or 1991, I moved into a shared house on Hills Road in Cambridge. In the corner of one of the rooms was a cupboard, and stashed in the cupboard was a pile of records. Among them was this, which I became quite addicted to. Some gorgeous pop moments amid the stripped-back intensity.
Lady Soul, by Aretha Franklin
Again, an LP sitting in my Listening playlist, which I’d never heard before. What an LP. Blimey.
Parade, by Prince
The first Prince album that I was properly aware of and into when I was a teenager, largely because my older brother bought it and at the time, my record collection was his record collection.
Lovesexy, by Prince
A couple of years later and I was into Lovesexy. (Sign O The Times came out in between the two, and I’m fairly sure I didn’t buy it simply because, as a double album, I couldn’t afford it.) Alphabet Street is one of the best songs ever.
II, by Moderat
Excellent bleeps with singable singy bits. Smashing.
Manscape, by Wire
Not their best album by a long chalk, but when it came out in – 89? I think? – I had become a dedicated Wire fan, having discovered their earlier stuff during the previous year. I remember playing Manscape to friends as I drove them, in my mum’s car, for an outing to Canterbury. My friends all hated it.
Hejira, by Joni Mitchell
My second-favourite Joni album, after Court and Spark. I’m sitting here typing and feeling that writing any more about it would be a proper dancing about architecture moment. Just listen to it.
Suzanne Vega, by Suzanne Vega
Another album I loved because my brother bought it first, and the only records I could listen to were his records. I don’t know why he bought this – I remember him being mostly into David Bowie, of which more shortly – but it’s stayed with me.
Keep Going, by Stephen Duffy and the Lilac Time
I got in the Lilacs a few years too late, after seeing Stephen Duffy play a tiny pub gig in a Cambridge back street. Astronauts is my favourite album of theirs – it’s one of Kate’s favourites too, we both played it a lot when we started going out. Keep Going is from quite a few years later but I like it. Stephen Duffy is so overlooked.
Dog Heart City, by Roger Robinson
Discovered while listening to 6Music I think. Wonderful charismatic London rhythms. Proper political passion that you don’t hear in music so much these days. Not when you’re my age, anyway.
Separations, by Pulp
Pulp were so bloody good. This is one of their pre-fame LPs, but it’s absolutely amazing. Strongly influenced by house music, yet sounding like no other house music you’ve ever heard. I don’t play this nearly as often as I should.
The Optimist, by New Young Pony Club
I don’t know what happened to this lot. When I first heard them I was blown away by the melodies, the infectious beats and the 80s vibes. I thought they would be huge. Anyway this is a top album, very singable, very danceable. Good to play in the car.
In no sense? Nonsense! by Art of Noise
I have one strong memory associated with this album. My dad driving the two of us somewhere, and me playing this in his car. He hated almost every second of it, especially the farting noises. But he loved the (very brief) choral interludes. Listening to it again after some years I can see my dad’s point about the farting noises, but I still like the album. It’s adventurous and unexpected and, in my opinion, better than the other Art of Noise albums.
Extricate, by The Fall
The first person who mentioned The Fall to me was a friend called Chris, while we were at school. He was years ahead of the rest of the class. He had discovered John Peel – and therefore The Fall – while the rest of us were still thinking that Depeche Mode were pushing boundaries. (Don’t get me wrong: I love the Mode. Anyway.) I was a Fall fan from about Bend Sinister to about Shift Work. I thought Extricate was amazing, and even bought the 12 inch single of Telephone Thing which had some fantastic B-sides on it: White Lightning and Blood Outta Stone, both of which you can hear on disk 2 of the Spotify version of Shift Work. I hope you’re taking notes because there’ll be a test on this later.
The Electric Lady, by Janelle Monáe
I don’t know much about this album, or about Janelle Monáe, but I know that I like it and that she’s amazing.
The Jazz Singer, by Neil Diamond
I think this ended up in my Listening list because I noticed an hours-long Neil Diamond 50th anniversary release on Spotify the other week. Brings back childhood memories of my mum playing it.
Glass Eights, by John Roberts
Nost, by Ellen Allien
More good bleeps.
Journeys by DJ, by Coldcut
I probably bought this back in the 90s because NME told me to. I used to do that a lot. But this is a great album. It’s probably one of the oldest CDs I own; it came out around the time that I think I bought myself my first CD player. For a long time I only had about a dozen CDs to play, and buying a new one was a significant cost and therefore a weighty decision.
Low, by David Bowie
If I made me pick just one of these albums to keep while the rest all burned, it would probably be this one. Or maaaaybe The Kick Inside.
Breakfast, by Teleman
During our Cambridge days I went to a lot of gigs with my friend Charlotte, because our musical tastes were very similar. Years and years later Charl is a dedicated 6Music listener and every time I see her, she has a new recommendation. “You’ve got to listen to this!” One of those recommendations, a couple of years ago, was Teleman. Right again, Charl.
Seamonsters, by The Wedding Present
Furious, angry Gedge. He follows me on Twitter, you know.
The Kick Inside, by Kate Bush
Her best album. My favourite album. Except maaaaaaybe Low. Can’t decide. I love it all, especially the chorus harmonies on Them Heavy People which I shall still be singing when they put me in my grave.
Laughing Stock, by Talk Talk
I might have said this before, but: Talk Talk were my Beatles. I got into them when they were still smiley poptastic chart-toppers, and grew up as they did, and as their music matured and changed into something very different and much, much more interesting. Colour of Spring probably remains my favourite of their albums from a singing-along point of view, but Laughing Stock wins from a just-sitting-in-a-chair-and-letting-it-happen-to-your-ears point of view.
There you go then. One weekend, 31 albums. Night night.