I’m sitting sipping chilli coffee – Guatemalan Santa Rosa brewed with a slice of Scotch Bonnet chilli in it – and contemplating an idea for a wee bit of semi-irregular fun. The concept is simple; it’s Friday, I’m about to be stranded on a desert island with five related items of my chosing and I’m going to cheerfully try to explain my five choices. It’s loosely in the tradition of the classic Desert Island Discs and with that in mind I’ve decided to base this first TFFF on music – five albums I would chose for being stranded on a desert island. Pull off your shoes, crack open a coconut and sit on the shore under palm trees for a while with me…
Iron Maiden – Number of the Beast
A long time ago I was fourteen years old and going through the second phase of my library fad. The first phase had involved reading just about anything I could get my hands on, while the second was about listening to new music. Loaning music from the library was a new experience for me and I loved the novelt of lending an album for two weeks. Back then of course it was albums; proper records – big, black chunks of vinyl with awesome covers. That was one of the things that drew me to Number of the Beast – the crazed monster Eddie the ‘Ead using the devil as a puppet.
I’d already heard Run to the Hills – a song about genocide and I was eager to hear the rest. I remember the day was sunny, it was late afternoon and I slipped the record out of its protetective inner sleeve and onto my stereo. From the opening of Invaders I was riveted and I sat there listening to the tracks until the thundering 22 Acacia Avenue had finished – the I had to turn the record over to be treated to the title track. I honestly don’t think there’s a bad track on there; Invaders and Gangland are probably the weakest, The Prisoner has the awesome Patrick McGoohan linking it to the TV show. The standout tracks for me are Number, 22 Acacia Avenue and my personal favourite Hallowed Be Thy Name. I listened to Hallowed again recently and it still has the same amazing sweep and scope that I loved initially. A classic rock album by any standard.
Greenday – American Idiot
Let’s start with the basic fact that I love Greeday to bits from their early punk roots to the stadium filling tours of today. As much as I like Dookie as an album I’m torn between 20th Century Breakdown and American Idiot – both tell a story with one song flowing to the next. While both are ostensibly concept albums, 20th Century has a more political disenfranchised tone to it while American Idiot feels like a smaller, more personal story. American Idiot is one of those albums that comes along once in a blue moon; every single track is brilliant on its own, but as a whole, played one after another tell a gripping and powerful story. From the opening of the title track to the final strains of Watsername you’re swept up and carried along. My favourite track has to be Jesus of Suberbia with its intricate arangement and changes, with When September Ends and Holiday following hot onits heels. Armstrong, Dirnt and Cool have created a monster album that opens hard and never quits until the last note.
Jeff Wayne’s musical version of War of the Worlds
At my middle school we were ushered into assembly to the strains of music playing. Most of the time it was classical music but now and then there was something different; War of the Worlds. This was another library lend for me and I loved the design and artwork of the double album. I knew the story because I’d read HG’s brilliant book years before but there was something majestic about hearing Richard Burton uttering that opening line “Noone would have believed…” That leads into the thundering opening which still gives me shivers to this day.
It’s a fantastic adaptation of Wells’ story and you can get swept up in it so very easily. Back in those days you had to flip over each album to hear the B side whic gave three breaks in the running time. I spent so many happy hours listening to that music. Standouts for me are The Eve of the War, Thunderchild, Forever Autumn and my personal favourite The Spirit of Man. I was a huge Thin Lizzy fan, so hearing Phil Lynott as Parson Nathaniel was an absolute treat. There’s something about the combination of prog-rock, narration/acting and orchestral composition that’s almost hypnotic. My only dislike is the little epilogue; which dovetails the story nicely but for me is an intrusion that doesn’t really detract from the overall awesomeness.
My Chemical Romance – Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys
I do love a bit of MCR and I enjoy seeing them evolve from one album to the next. Danger Days is another one of those brilliant pieces of music that I have to listen to in track order – start at the start and work my way through to the end. It crystalises the fact that Gerard Way is a damn good writer and it’s unadulterated fun from start to finish. Looking from one perspective Danger Days could almost be a concept album as it crafts a story of a post-apocalyptic dystopian future punctuated by the semi-narration of Dr Death Defying’s radio broadcasts. Bulletproof Heart is probably my favourite track with Sing, S/C/A/R/E/C/R/O/W and Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na) following hot on its heels. It’s a fun filled hour of music that begs you to crank the volume up to eleven and sing along.
Nirvana – MTV Unplugged
Now here’s an oddity with a bit of a twist – a live album. There are a lot of live albums I love – AC/DC, Greenday, Thin Lizzy, Tina Turner, the list goes on. I loved MTV back in its heyday when it was the cool kid on the block; and nothing said cool better than getting an established band to perform an acoustic set. Normall the band would play their hits, but when Nirvana took to the stage they did something a little bit different. I watched it the first time it aired in the UK and I was glued to the performance, loved the songs (some of which I’d never heard of) and was blown away by Kurt Cobain’s vocals and passion.
I snared the album when it was realeased after Kurt’s death and it’s fair to say that it’s probably my alltime favourite album and certainly one of the all-time great live performances by a band. Knowing the tensions that surrounded the recording of the session makes it even more special for me in many way. Standout tracks are About a Girl, Lake of Fire and Jesus Don’t Want me for a Sunbeam, but in all honesty they’re all pretty damn awesome.
and there you have it – the five albums I’d cheerfully be happy to be stranded on a desert island with.
Buggerered if I know how I’ll play them mind you…