The Vinyl Countdown


The Vinyl Countdown: an overview

Last updated 13:47 01/06/2011

Okay, there’s something I need to tell you lot. I have another blog. Don’t worry – or, depending on how you look at it and why you come here, do worry because Blog on the Tracks isn’t going away. So if you check in each day waiting for that particular rapture all I can say is keep checking in…

Over at Off the Tracks (see what I’ve done there?) I am working my way through my own record collection. I call it The Vinyl Countdown; I’m counting down from 2000 (I don’t actually know how many LPs I have but I figured 2000 was a good number to start from). So we’re counting down from there.

This new blog has just started – in fact I’ve counted down from 2000 to 1982 so far.

The idea is to look, randomly, at my own record collection, why I have these LPs; what they mean to me in the scheme of things.

Now, I sometimes do that here too – I sometimes just write about an album I like a lot, or didn’t like at all. I sometimes use a new album as a reason to focus on an artist’s career. Well the posts that make up The Vinyl Countdown are much shorter. They’re there to read quickly, a quirky snapshot of my life. As the countdown continues I imagine I’ll be admitting all sorts of things from my past – and remembering weird and wonderful moments I haven’t thought about in some time.

It’s like that scene in High Fidelity where he sits with records around him and says he’s re-sorting his vinyl – this time “autobiographically”.

I’m just pulling out records to listen to (that’s the bit I referred to before as random). I get the feeling the posts will mean more, as a whole, when we get to some really oddball, embarrassing choices. And of course part of the point of the exercise is that you, the reader, might already think we’ve got to some of the really oddball, embarrassing choices.

These might just be précis-reviews. But I see them as something outside of the review format because I’m trying to contextualise what they mean in my collection and how they came to me (why I bought them, where I first heard them) rather than giving a contextualisation of the artist’s career. These are standalone pieces – snapshots of why an album means what it means to me. Guilty pleasures, favourites, albums I’ve thrashed, things I’m listening to for the first time, all genres, second-hand, brand spanking new – that’s how The Vinyl Countdown works.

I thought I could take you through the posts so far. You’re music fans – so you might like this idea. Then again, you might not. I’m keen for your feedback. And I am hoping you’ll engage with me here and tell me a few things about your record collection (we’ll use the term record collection to cover vinyl, CD, tapes, Mp3, whatever format you use, listen to, collect).

So I started The Vinyl Countdown at number 2000, obviously…

James Blood Ulmer’s Are You Glad To Be in America? It seemed right to start with a record I had never heard before – but I have listened to a fair bit of James “Blood” Ulmer. So it wasn’t a totally new experience.

From there it was to The Neville Brothers’ Fiyo on the Bayou which references Yellow Moon as my introduction to the Nevilles – from there it’s to The Meters, the solo career of Aaron and all points between. I probably wrote this post because of Aaron Neville’s cameo appearance at the Mavis Staples/Blind Boys of Alabama gig. He needn’t have bothered. And I was obviously in search of some decent Neville music as an antidote.

Then it’s to Lyle Lovett’s Pontiac – and we start to get into the random memories that I associate with the albums. I bought Pontiac because I used to go to Motel and drink whiskeys and smoke cigars and wait for my dole money to come through to pay for the drinks and smoking material. Lame. But I got to hear some cool albums while I was there working out whoever it was I thought I was. And one of them was this record. And I was very happy to have found it. He might have just remained that funny-looking guy that briefly married Julia Roberts otherwise.

Listening to Ry Cooder’s second album, Boomer’s Story brought with it the memory of Silvio’s – a second-hand record store where I purchased an instant record collection (their closing-down sale). And here I am mentioning that just as Real Groovy has gone from Wellington’s musical landscape.

Flying in a Blue Dream by Joe Satriani dragged over the memories of lawn-mowing with a Walkman. And my first (and no doubt last) reference to Beverly Hills 90210. I also explored the fact that in many ways this is an album I shouldn’t like – but I can’t help but get caught up in the nostalgia (which as we know is a big part of what music listening is – or at least a big part of what it becomes). I can’t be embarrassed listening to Flying in a Blue Dream now; it’s like when you tidy an old box of miscellaneous tapes or books or, well, anything from your past. You get caught up in the memory of who you were.

I didn’t think much of Bert Jansch’s Nicola beyond it being a whole load of hey nonny nonsense. But I have other Jansch recordings I love – so the trip back to this LP did at least remind me of the albums to focus on.

Talking Heads’ Remain in Light is, for a lot of people, the band’s best album. Checking it out for the purposes of the Off the Tracks blog made me realise that Remain in Light is one of the very few time-capsule records that I should be preparing. It’s seminal; it’s fantastic. And it somehow manages to live up to everything David Byrne andBrian Eno did together and alone – and then goes on to be its own thing as well. Extraordinary.

The Steve Miller Band’s Greatest Hits 1974-78 probably came into my possession because I love the work of drummer Gary Mallaber. I’m glad it did. So many great songs.

Elvis Perkins in Dearland is the second album by Elvis Perkins. I really like his songs. We even play a cover ofthis one in one of the bands I’m in. It was great fun to learn – love that line “black is the colour of a strangled rainbow”.

Next was Joan Armatrading’s Me Myself I, which is definitely one of those “childhood albums” people speak of. I like the fact that all of her hit singles feel as though they should be songs by completely different artists. That’s pretty cool.

Aerosmith’s Toys in the Attic went back on the turntable because I have been reading an advance copy of Steven Tyler’s autobiography. More on that nearer the time of its NZ release. I don’t really like Aerosmith but it’s hard to deny their very best work. And this album has their two best rock songs as groove songs.

Medium Rare by Foo Fighters is the covers record the band released for Record Store Day. I made a point of listening to this after slagging them off here at Blog on the Tracks. I had bought the album (on Record Store Day) and hadn’t gotten around to listening to it. I really liked a lot of it – even though I was (apparently) mean to Dave Grohl and his cronies. So, there you go. For what it’s worth.

Lionel Richie’s Can’t Slow Down has also made the countdown already. But that won’t surprise any regular readers.

Paul McCartney’s McCartney II was looked at here track-by-track. I hailed it Paul’s solo masterpiece. So when I played it again and decided to include it as part of The Vinyl Countdown I had to look at the fact that calling yourself a McCartney fan these days is basically to become a McCartney apologist. John Lennon’s death may have been very sad but it really was a sound career move, right? Funny how in my track-by-track I never even went there but fans – from opposing sides – found that particular argument anyway. And people try to say The Beatles aren’t important anymore. Pah. Of course they are.

Mick Jagger’s solo album, Primitive Cool has been one of my favourite rediscoveries since starting The Vinyl Countdown. It’s a bit like the Satriani album perhaps – in that even if I wanted to not like it, for production reasons or whatever, I just can’t not like this album – I loved this record as an 11-year-old just introduced to The Rolling Stones. And I’ll tell you this for free – it’s also one of Jeff Beck’s best albums. Fact.

Pastor T.L. Barrett and the Youth For Christ SINGS!, Like a Ship… (Without a Sail) is my favourite new record. It’s not new as such – recorded and released in the early 1970s – but it’s new to me. Check the title track here. And go and buy a copy of this album if you don’t have it already. It’s so good. And one listen to that track will tell you whether you need it or not. But I’m going to say right now that you probably do need it.

Prince’s Batman soundtrack provided some funny memories for me. I also think it’s one of Prince’s underrated albums from that golden period. It probably gets written off as being the start of when the rot set in. But it’s one of my favourite albums of his – it’s not too long, it showcases most sides of what he was capable of (at the time). And it’s the album that now – forever – makes me think of bungy-jumping at its classiest in lovely Hawke’s Bay.

Sinead O’Connor’s I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got is an album that still blows me away whenever I play it. I don’t play it all that often these days – but I carry those songs with me; I’ve listened to them a lot. There are other albums of hers that I maybe prefer but this was the door-opener (for me).

Randy Newman’s Sail Away was the album I played when I sat down to think about how it’s really rather ridiculous that he’s written off these days as being the subject of a Family Guy parody sequence and the guy that writes the Toy Story songs. Sail Away is a good introduction to the real Randy Newman.

That’s where The Vinyl Countdown is at, for now. It’s just started. If you click on any of the album titles in this post it will take you to the original blog-posts at Off the Tracks. And there’s always the chance that by the time you check it out there’ll be another post (and another – and another) added. So tell me what you think. Click on the links, visit the site.


And now I’d like you to share one random story about an album that you have rediscovered recently in your own collection. The story does not at all need to be about the music – or the context of the artist. The story is better if it is about you and your life and linked to the music through thoughts and actions from the time you discovered that particular music.

So what is it? What’s the album? And what’s your story linked to it?

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