25 September, 2010

All Roads Lead To Rome - Eventually

As most of you know, I work in the city. And I don't mind the daily train trip in and out, going from Newmarket inbound on the Craigieburn Line, to Flagstaff Station on the Underground Loop in the morning, and then out the same way in the afternoon.
I leave work at around 5pm, which puts me on time for the 5:14 to Craigieburn. And if the 5:14 is too jam-packed to get on, which happens around once a week, the 5:22 is usually okay. But not always. Sometimes the 5:22 is just as crowded and then I'm stuffed. Because the next two Craigieburn trains run express between Kensington and Moonee Ponds, which means Newmarket is by-passed so those trains are effectively no good to me.

And it shits me. There must be a solution... wait! I think I've got it!

Craigieburn trains are interspersed with Sydenham and Upfield Line trains, all of which stop at North Melbourne. So if I get on a Sydenham or Upfield train arriving at Flagstaff before the next Crigieburn train, I can get out at North Melbourne and walk up and then down the ramps to the Craigieburn Line platform. Even if that train is jam-packed, there are stacks of people who disembark at North Melbourne to hook up with Williamstown and Werribee Line Trains. So no matter how chocka that Craigieburn line train was to begin with, I can always get on at North Melbourne.

I never have to miss a train home again! Ever!

Period of daily train travel taken to arrive at this stunningly simple course of action? 2.25 years.

Draw your own conclusions. But I'm on the verge of working out where babies come from too.

21 September, 2010

Classic Albums Augmented I: Rubber Soul

Over at The Rising Storm, Len Liechti compared the varied track listing of the two versions (UK & US) of the Rolling Stones' 1966 Aftermath album and concluded that "it’s always fun, if ultimately pointless, trying retrospectively to construct the perfect album by arguing what should have been added or left off".
Pointless fun? Sounds like a great idea. Let's do it.

But pardon me if what I'm about to say appears sacrilegious. This series of posts is just a matter of having a look at a few notable albums and how they might have differed via the addition of contemporaneous singles. Some would have been enhanced, others would have been left with their status unchanged. And in one case, a less-than-ideal album just might have gone from self-indulgent failure to near-classic.

The Beatles:
Rubber Soul - Day Tripper; We Can Work It Out;

Rubber Soul has long been regarded as a fine album. It is often cited as the first album that was more than just a collection of songs. And Rolling Stone put it at Number 5, if you don't mind, on its list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. So I'm not saying it's deficient in any way, just that it could have been even better.

The opening track, Paul McCartney's Drive My Car, has a contemporary feel even today with its sinewy guitar lines and urgent vocals. Three of the most poignant ballads you'll ever hear in Norwegian Wood; Michelle; and Girl are interspersed throughout the track listing. It's a litany of great Beatles' songs and you could imagine the four songs already mentioned plus probably I'm Looking Through You; In My Life; and Wait all being hit singles instead of album tracks.

There was a lot of experimentation on Rubber Soul by contemporary standards. Backwards guitar solos, the sitar on Norwegian Wood, pianos sped up to sound like harpsichords, and clear influences from India to the US West Coast. The overwhelming majority of it sounded good, which is not always the case with experimentation. There would be a lot more of this on the next two albums from the fab four, Revolver and Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band but Rubber Soul laid the bedrock for it.

And if you were listening to this on its first release, you might have pondered for a moment why the almost simultaneous December 1965 double-A side single release Day Tripper and We Can Work It Out didn't make it onto the album. But back in 1965, it's likely you would have bought the single anyway.

Day Tripper opens with one of the most recognizable guitar riffs in rock music and is a beautifully structured song. It's mainly a John Lennon-composed song, but one where Paul McCartney contributed the verses and sings lead vocal during the verse. Essentially a 12-bar, the Beatles had to do something to make their contribution to that form stand out. They do it by transferring the riff to the much-higher sub-dominant for a BIG key-change. This is held in a jam-like middle-8 while the vocals and guitars ascend to a crescendo that leads very deftly back to the riff.

McCartney's singing is a pure throat-shredding scream (lots of luck nailing that one, cover bands) and as with their very best songs, all vocalists can be heard distinctly through the harmonizing. This was one of those great times when a huge hit was also a seminal moment in rock history.

We Can Work It Out shifts in and out of 4/4 and 3/4 time, and sounds quaint with John Lennon's harmonium being a distinctive feature of the song. Like Day Tripper, this is another rare collaboration, with verses by McCartney and a chorus and middle-8 by John Lennon. The vocals are earnest and convincing, and switch back and forth between optimisim and pessimism. The Beatles had argued over which of the two songs on the single should be the A-side and so this record became the first-ever double A-side. However, it was We Can Work It Out which proved the more popular in airplay.

So Which Tracks Would Miss Out?
On an album with 14 tracks? None, not even the Ringo song, What Goes On. And the length of the album would stay under the LP limit of 45 min, with two great additions to the track listing.