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ABF Friday:  Now Hear This edition!

In the course of 28 hours in the family car (12 hours to St. Louis each way, plus stops), one thinks all kinds of thoughts, mostly about music.  For the most part, we alternate between the music of the parents and the music of the children, though (as you may have gathered by now) these categories overlap considerably, because Janet wants to hear Blur and I want to hear Franz Ferdinand and Jamie’s listening to the Beatles and Nick is playing Joy Division’s Closer for me in the Indiana darkness because he insists that it’s at once “really good” and “unlistenable for more than fifteen minutes at a stretch.” He pointed out that Stephen Morris’s drumming on the record really isn’t bad, which is true, though I still don’t forgive Morris for mucking up a perfectly fine song like “Transmission” with all manner of truculent nonsense, from his busy-busy sixteenth notes to his inexplicable refusal to accent “dance, dance, dance” with triplets on the snare.  And that led to a discussion of how the DIY-“anybody can play” aesthetic of the era obscured the fact that most of the drummers of the day were pretty damn fine musicians.  John Maher of the Buzzcocks and Clem Burke of Blondie were notorious overplayers, sure, but when they keep themselves in check and play tastefully and inventively (Maher on “Ever Fallen in Love,” say, or Burke for all but the last few seconds of “11:59"), they are wondrous to hear.  Paul Cook of the Sex Pistols, D. J. Bonebrake of X, and of course Pete Thomas of the Attractions . . . these guys could play, people.  The outliers, of course, are Chris Franz of the Talking Heads and Topper Headon of the Clash.  The Bérubé jury was hung over whether Stewart Copeland, by far the Class of 79’s most attentive and accomplished student of reggae, really counted as part of this group, and our verdict on the Pretenders’ Martin Chambers was “competent but uninteresting.” Except for “Precious,” “Tattooed Love Boys,” and “The Wait,” where he plays fast and pretty clean.

But that’s not what we’re here to talk about today!  We’re here to talk about Opening and Closing Statements.

The first song on This Year’s Model is “No Action.” (This by way of explanation for you iPod kids out there.) From the first verse, it is clear that Mr. Costello has taken the work of his debut album to the Next Level, and the agent of clarity is Pete Thomas Himself, whose startling drumming announces that we are in for something brittle and nervy and frantic and unpredictable.  The album closes, of course, with one of the most stunning one-two punches in all of rocnrol, “Lipstick Vogue” and “Radio Radio.” Let me tell you kids, back in ‘78 we would listen to that record again and again, and it would leave us drained and gasping every single time.  And yes, the songwriting is first-rate, but the drumming is something well beyond that, something of a higher order of being altogether.

OK, now switch gears for a moment, and put on Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On.” Different sound, different feel, different everything . . . but that opening song is also, quite clearly, an Opening Statement, issued not so much by that party chatter or that sweet horn as by the brilliant and eccentric backing vocals with which Mr. Gaye provides himself throughout the song.  Those vocals, from the subtle layers of oohs/ aahs to the doubling of the lyrics by that second voice in the second verse, constitute the chorus that make it clear not only that Marvin Gaye is no longer too busy thinkin’ ‘bout his baby and ain’t got time for nothin’ else, but also that the social conscience on display is, somehow, not Gaye’s alone.  (Meanwhile, the wonderful, almost floating bass line assures us, particularly in that cascading run at the end of the first verse, that we will stay in the groove in the midst of all our troubles.) The Closing Statement consists of “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler),” which somehow combines a cry against Vietnam and trigger-happy policin’ with a complaint about the singer’s unfortunate tax situation.  Not as electric as “Radio Radio,” perhaps, but as a “message” song it’s held up quite well, more for its ominous feel than for its specific lyrical content.

So here’s today’s Arbitrary But Fun exercise: what are some of the most effective opening and closing statements in the popular music canon? 

Three qualifications to this question.  One, no Beatles allowed.  The Beatles were, among other things, exceptionally conscious of the opening/ closing dynamic, and before anyone cites that Pepper record at me, I hasten to point out that their very first album, opening with “I Saw Her Standing There” and closing with “Twist and Shout,” is just as invested in the opening/ closing effect as is their more “mature” work, right through McCartney’s savvy decision not to end their recording career with “The End.” Two, while avoiding the Beatles, one might also consider opening statements that are too self-conscious as opening statements, like Mr. McManus’s “I just don’t know where to begin” on Armed Forces and his followup self-conscious commentary on his alter-ego-consciousness in King of America’s “Brilliant Mistake.” And three, you could take note of the opposite strategy, the one preferred in the 1990s by, among others, Archers of Loaf (opening Vee Vee not with “Harnessed in Slums” but with the throwaway “Step into the Light”) and Liz Phair (opening Whip-Smart not with “Supernova” but with the droning “Chopsticks”): making an opening statement by not making an opening statement

And now, if someone would be so kind as to take me to the bridge.

Posted by on 08/18 at 09:38 AM
  1. May we add a sub-category as to how albums open and close outside of pure “songs”?

    Gentle Giant, “In a Glass House” (1974).  Opening and closing with glass breaking in rhythm.

    Jethro Tull, “Thick as a Brick” (1972).  Opens and closes with a gentle (sorry for the semi-pun from previous entry) guitar and a voice of weariness at the imbecility throughout society, which was the theme of the album.

    For songs, I have to say the Doors’ first album (circa March 1967), which begins with “Break on Through” and ends with “The End” is pretty powerful. 

    Yes, these are moldy oldies, but not much older at this point than Elvis Costello and Marvin Gaye…

    Posted by Mitchell J. Freedman  on  08/18  at  10:57 AM
  2. Cardinal Sir,

    My first response might be so obvious as to be kind of cheating, but I’ll give it nonetheless: The Velvet Underground & Nico, from “Sunday Morning” to “European Son.”

    Second answer: Björk’s Vespertine, “Hidden Place” & “Unison.” Both lovely songs on a lovely album, and I do think that, despite operating on fairly similar emotional/acoustic registers, they work well as the opener and closer.

    Third answer: The Magnetic Fields, 69 Love Songs.  “Absolutely Cuckoo” to “Zebra.” Not that I particularly like either song (actually, I can’t stand the latter), but at least they, uhh, remembered the alphabet.

    Posted by e. fiction  on  08/18  at  11:10 AM
  3. I’m so tempted to cook up an argument for Duran Duran’s opening statement, the energetic “Rio,” and the more subdued and serious “The Chauffeur” at the end of what’s only Their Best Album Ever. (It was released when I was 16. So sue me.)

    Captcha: less. Uh, yeah.

    Posted by Orange  on  08/18  at  11:11 AM
  4. You will be hearing from my attorneys, Orange.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  11:12 AM
  5. I’ve always been fond of the Beastie Boys’ album “Check your Head”, which opens with a sample proclaiming “this next one’s the FIRST song on our NEW album”.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  11:16 AM
  6. Mitchell, I am shaking my head in wonderment at your citation to “Thick as a Brick.” I loved that album 30+ years ago—even going so far as to snap up an import version, with the multi-page newspaper insert from a sidewalk vendor in Cambridge, MA in 1979—but haven’t listened to it in at least 25 years.  But I can still recite the opening lines.  So maybe you’re right.

    Lots of albums open with a bang and end with a whimper.  I’ve always loved the 3-chord bang at the beginning of Beds are Burning on Diesel & Dust.  I don’t know really know drumming but Rob Hirst’s work for Midnight Oil is good enough for me.  But the all-time best album opening is still the opening snare for Like a Rolling Stone.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  11:25 AM
  7. I agree that the Doors’ first is powerful, but then they repeated it with their second album Strange Days (ending with When the Music’s Over.” Is this an example of being too self-consciouis, too obvious, or perhaps an example of the second time being farce?

    In honor of Sleater Kinney (who just broke up), I’d argue that “Dig Me Out” is the best opening statement of all time, though I can’t say anything about that album’s closing statement.

    What about J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations or Miles Davis’s Nefertiti? Are we confined only to rock’n’roll concept albums?

    Posted by Steve  on  08/18  at  11:25 AM
  8. Thunder Road / Jungleland from ‘Born To Run’.

    But back when you had to get up and turn the album over, the sequence of songs within one side was important too.
    Side One - Thunder Road / Backstreets
    Side Two - Born to Run / Jungleland

    Mirror images in dynamics, structure and emotion.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  11:33 AM
  9. Two things:

    First, damn you Michael for including in your ABFF (and thus removing from play) the album I consider to be perhaps the most continuingly relevant pop album ever made (and also one of the most beautiful), namely Mavin’s “What’s Going On.”

    Second, e.fiction should also be damned (I’m kidding here) for selecting VU’s first album over its eponymously titled “The Velvet Underground” which, aside from being vastly underappreciated, opens with the stunning “Candy Says” (a song which, as Lou delivers it, drips with a sense of exhaustion) and closes with Maureen Tucker’s brilliant faux-naif vocal on “After Hours.” The brilliance of this move is that the desperate desire of the latter’s wish that the night might “last forever” and its sad sense of being barred from the daylight world of happiness returns us to the former’s sense of being alienated from one’s own body and its desires ("Candy says, I’ve come to hate my body / And all that it requires in this world").

    A great album and, as I said, sadly underrated.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  11:39 AM
  10. How often does the performer decide the song sequence on a major label recording?  I remember reading years ago that on major labels producers generally picked the songs and order, in which case the Opening and Closing Statements would be theirs, not the performers’.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  11:45 AM
  11. Oops, one last thing.  While I agree that many of the references on “Inner City Blues” dates it, I have to demur slightly from your claim that its continuing relevance lies more in its “ominous feel than..its specific lyrical content.” That’s true to a point, but Marvin’s repeated and despairing cry “this ain’t living, this ain’t living” has to stand as some kind of exception.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  11:46 AM
  12. "Let it Bleed”, from the Stones.

    It is heavy on the “opening” side.  The very beginning of “Gimmie Shelter” just sounds like the beginning of something great and terrible.  Ending with “You can’t always get what you want” is a very good ending, but just seems asymmetric.

    Whenever I listen to “Gimmie Shelter” in the car, I get a vision of a jet landing at the beginning of some movie.  I swear I must have seen that sometime, but for the life of me, I can’t remember it.  Does anybody remember this?  Am I just deranged?

    Captcha word:world - as in get your tickets for Rolling Stones world tour 2036!

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  11:49 AM
  13. Opening and closing statements on a motherfuckin’ album! Now this is ABF!

    1) Joe Jackson’s Look Sharp. A great album from start to finish, in my book.  But it’s framed by a particularly great opening and closing:  “One More Time” and “Got the Time.” The intro of the former features terrific tense and jangly guitar chords. The latter is a bit more of a throwaway as a song (tho’ it’s a great throway). But it, too has a great opening riff (on bass, I think). And then it finishes with with a ticking clock (which was particularly effective somehow at the end of an actual album, the last noise of which was inevitably the rhythmic ticking of the needle on the middle of the record).  The importance of time in both songs creates a sort of frame, too. Of course, this entire album would have been impossible without Declan et al.

    2) The Mountain Goats, The Sunset Tree.  Openings and closings might be particularly important in concept albums such as this. And John Darnielle both opens and closes this meditation on his abusive stepfather brilliantly.  “You or Your Memory” effectively introduces the album’s themes...and it’s a great song.  And “Pale Green Things” closes the album on an interesting note of ambivalence: a pleasant memory of the monster to whom the album is dedicated.  Interestingly, this closing statement works better because it’s musically less interesting than the song that immediately precedes it (the brilliant “Love Love Love"). The listener is really drawn to the lyrics of “Pale Green Things,” which is as it should be on this album.

    3) It’s really all statement, from start to finish, but Never Mind the Bollocks...Here’s the Sex Pistols has one of the great opening moments of any album: the marching boots introducing “Holidays in the Sun,” perfectly capturing (or perhaps prefiguring) punk’s (mostly) ironic flirtation with the symbols of fascism.

    4) This blog has already spent a lot of space on Bowie’s Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust, which has one of the great closing statements ("Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide"). And its opening, “Five Years,” is surely good enough to have it make the list. (Again, this record is helped by the whole concept album thing...though it’s of course worth noting that there’s nothing so embarrassing as a bad concept album).

    5) Violent Femmes, “Violent Femmes.” If Ziggy deserves mention mainly for its closing, this one deserves it for the opening.  “Blister in the Sun” is simply the perfect way to start this album: a catchy piece of folk punk that draws you in, introduces you to the (then) unique sound of the Femmes, and captures the adolescent whining (and I mean that in the best possible way) that forms the album’s theme.  In contrast, the mellow “Good Feeling” (with which the original release ended) is a perfect warm down to an album full of disappointment, despair, and anger.  And even this relatively sunny tune, ostensibly about a good feeling, is about a good feeling that goes away too soon.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  11:50 AM
  14. But back when you had to get up and turn the album over, the sequence of songs within one side was important too.

    How true, how true.  Side two of Armed Forces more than makes up for the self-consciousness of side one.

    What about J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations or Miles Davis’s Nefertiti? Are we confined only to rock’n’roll concept albums?

    Hey, nobody said “concept albums.” Any album will do.  But The Goldberg Variations are way too self-conscious.  Numbers 23 and 25 are way ahead of their time, though.

    Eric, I have to confess I skip “Save the Children.” But everything else is right on and solid.

    Posted by Michael  on  08/18  at  11:50 AM
  15. Speaking of Liz Phair and Joy Division, there’s a subset of this phenomenon, when the first song you ever hear by an artist is the song that sucks you in forever.  Friends said “You have to hear this,” and the opening tracks “6’1"” on Exile in Guyville and the (re-recorded) “Ceremony” from Substance 1987 were different from all the other rock I’d heard up to then.  I was completely sold.  Most musicians you’re first exposed to by a middle-album single that isn’t even the best track on the CD.  Closing songs are harder - 95% of all albums trail off like a National League lineup.  I can’t think of anything.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  11:50 AM
  16. A great unexpected opening is the start of “Girlfriend” by Matthew Sweet, with its lengthy guitar solo that most people wouldn’t have dared put in until after two verses.

    The opening bit for “Ballroom Blitz” by Sweet (the band, not the dude) is great, too. An effeminate dialogue over drums that utterly fails to prepare you for the powerful bubblegum/powerpop assault that follows.

    Finally, an unusual opening and closing is on “Mama Tried” by Merle Haggard. The ringing, tinkling guitar arpeggios sound more like a slightly trippy folk-rock ditty about butterflies and love than the opening and closing of a song sung by a guy who “turned 21 in prison facing life without parole.”

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  11:55 AM
  17. for “opens with a bang and closes with a whimper”, it’s hard to beat nirvana’s “nevermind” (smells like teen spirt and something in the way, respectively).

    the latter has a cacophonous bit tacked on minutes after the album seems over, but, you can just pretend it didn’t happen.

    i actually find the whimper kind of boring in this case, but, thought i’d throw onto the pile.

    joshb

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  12:00 PM
  18. Oh wait--you mean openings and closings of specific albums, not songs. My brain is toast. Up all night… doing math…

    I’ve become so used to my Ipod I hardly think in terms of albums anymore (although it’s how I grew up listening to music).

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  12:07 PM
  19. Two recent perfect albums opened and closed with grace and artifice (almost certainly too fey for this crowd, but then, hey) :

    Louis Philippe, “The Wonder of It All” (2004) whose “I Knew It All Along” opens with an acoustic guitat/bass pedal under a laconic yet happy descending electric piano cascade, and whose content and major key “Life’s Unhurried Prose” ends with a quiet shift in the very last chord from major to a minor of the opening song’s opening chord, which suggests that one begin again.

    The High Llamas, “Beet, Maize & Corn” (2003) where “Barny Mix” begins with seessawing violins and cello over a double time seesawing viola and then a gorgeous brass and piano interlude before the first sung melody appears, and closes with “The Walworth River” which fades away over a descending 3 note piano/vibraphone motif, repeated over a long fade in three different octaves.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  12:11 PM
  20. Are Chris Franz and Topper Headon outliers above the line or below it?  (My daughter and I were dancing to Wild Wild Life just this morning.  She’s not quite two but has impeccable taste.)

    Back on topic, I’ll second the vote for Look Sharp, and toss one in for Son Volt’s Trace, starting out with Windfall and ending with Mystifies Me.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  12:14 PM
  21. umm--London Calling.  OPens with the insistent hammer of the opening title song, closes with Train in Vain (a pop ditty? from the Clash?  and it’s not even listed? That’s so cool!)

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  12:19 PM
  22. I’m rather partial to albums that begin with in-studio chat. Immediate intimacy. To wit:

    Ryan Adams’s Heartbreaker, where the first track is “Argument with David Rawlings concerning Morrissey.” How many millions of times have I sat around while men say stuff like this to each other: “I don’t think it’s on Viva Hate, man. We’ll have to look when I get home.” “Betcha five bucks.”

    Steve Earle’s Mountain, where Steve Earle says, “You gotta put your hat on, boy. You wanna be in the band, you have to put your hat on.”

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  12:20 PM
  23. As far as good albums go, Tom Waits has produced legion, however; the record with the strongest intro/extro has to be Frank’s Wild Years. Speculation that Frank was Frank Zappa aside, Frank’s Wild Years is a mythical slap-stick ride through the mind of the American nihilist – as vigorously disposable as he is frustrated by misfortune.

    “Hang on St. Christopher”, the album’s opener, announces a journey with the weight of the world on its shoulders. This St. Christopher isn’t the bearer of Christ but a 750 Norton (an English motorcycle), and Waits himself, the devil on its shoulders. A sax flippantly growls, a spasmodic guitar fights for space, and a pounded sheet of metal opens our mouths for a bite of adventure as bitter as it is disturbing.

    The album itself flops between moments of outrageously mocking optimism (“I’ll take New York” is a particularly silly example), our inevitable resting place in the “cold cold ground”, and the portrait of an adventurer that always seems to be moving on. “Train Song” sounds like its going to end the album with a tragic ballad of loss that dooms our adventurer to a life without home or comfort, but it’s just a warm-up to his final parting words.

    The album leaves us with “Innocent When You Dream”, a song half-mad with discord and mocking sentimentality all trussed up in a struggling progression that accomplishes the very impressive task of getting an entire band to play off-tempo but on-time – a sort of epileptic synchronized swimming. It’s a vivid picture of Wait’s worldview, and as much a warning to watch where your madness leads you, as it is an ode to the weirdness that springs from the human heart.

    Posted by Central Content Publisher  on  08/18  at  12:23 PM
  24. Pet Sounds. Starts with “Wouldn’t It Be Nice?”, ends with “Caroline No.” Hope to heartbreak.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  12:26 PM
  25. Are Chris Franz and Topper Headon outliers above the line or below it?

    Well below.  But they knew their limitations, and managed to turn in the occasional gem, like Franz’s work on “Warning Sign” and Headon’s on “The Magnificent Seven.”

    Posted by Michael  on  08/18  at  12:35 PM
  26. Njorl: I’m pretty sure that the movie you’re flashing back to re “Gimme Shelter” is “Goodfellas”, but I’d have to go watch it again to be sure.

    Posted by Doctor Memory  on  08/18  at  12:43 PM
  27. Dinosaur Jr. You’re Living All Over Me. Starts with wall of noise on Little Fury Things, ends with Lou Barlow alone in a room telling the world that Jay Mascis doesn’t really respect him on Poledo.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  12:46 PM
  28. Has to be Roxy Music’s Siren, which not only kicks off and closes perfectly, but is also the only sensible soundtrack for an evening of carousing and failing, which, of course, was what was on Bryan Ferry’s mind given the Texas siren on the LP’s cover had left him for Mick Jagger. (Note Ferry has had the good sense never to do a reality TV show.) Side one opens with footsteps, bass, and a car taking off into their best single “Love Is the Drug.” One of the cleverest couplets in pop is still the charming, bragging, winking economy of, “I say, ‘Go,” she says, ‘Yes,’/ dim the lights, you can guess the rest.”

    The rest of the side is hopeful and eager, culminating in a “Whirlwind.” You listen to it before going to the disco--it’s 1975 forever on this vinyl, c’mon--then when you fail miserably you come home alone, sublimate with some food, and with your headphones on lament love is “Just Another High” while Phil Manzanera grinds his bagpipe guitar and Paul Thompson thuds about with plenty of cymbals to drown out your and Bryan Ferry’s tears.

    Posted by George  on  08/18  at  12:46 PM
  29. To me the canonical example would be Neil Young, who did not just one but TWO albums where he opened with a pretty acoustic version of a song, and closed with a squonkin’ RAWK version. (Rust Never Sleeps with “My My, Hey Hey” / “Hey Hey, My My”, and Freedom with “Rockin’ in the Free World”.)

    Two other albums I’d nominate:
    1) The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds. “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” is such a pretty, optimistic opener, while “Caroline, No” closes the album on an equally pretty, but far more somber note. Bonus points for the actual “pet sounds”, and lonesome train whistle, on the fade-out.
    2) The Clash – London Calling. The militant march cadence of the opening title track sets the appropriate mood, while “Train in Vain” makes a great closing track since, at least according to Wikipedia it was almost an afterthought, and certainly somewhat of an anomaly compared to the rest of their material up to that point.

    On the flip side ... I can think of at least one artist, Steely Dan, where it never seemed to me that the sequencing of the songs was significant on any of their albums.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  12:50 PM
  30. That’ll teach me to refresh the comments before submitting—when I started, Shannon (#21) and Richard Lindsay (#24) hadn’t submitted their entries yet!
    Ah, well ...

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  12:53 PM
  31. Wow! This is almost too vast a question to even entertain. I love that you pick out D.J. He is one of the most amazing percussionists I’ve ever seen (and a hell of a nice guy too). Even when Exene and John can’t find the harmonies and Billy’s too bored to do more than show up, he’s always on the beat. Check out Bonebrake Syncopators or Orchestra Superstring for more DJ goodness. He also rocks hard in the Knitters, who I was lucky enough to see last time around. At least as good as Victor DeLorenzo on the Violent Femmes first album at keeping the beat. Speaking of which, I would put the Femmes “Add It Up” up as answer to your question. Also Yeah Yeah Yeahs “Maps,” Clap Your Hands Say Yeah “In This Home On Ice,” the whole of X’s “More Fun In the New World,” Radiohead “OK Computer,” anything by Mission of Burma or GBV “Mag Earwhig,” which experience has taught me is a great album for unrolling the miles in the midwest. For that matter, anything by Uncle Tupelo and the first two albums from Son Volt. I’ll stop now.

    As for E.C., who is a special passion of mine, I can’t believe you don’t mention the fantastic and perverse, “Hurry Down Doomsday (The Bugs Are Taking Over) off of “Mighty LIke A Rose,” surely the most savage album from a man who has made seemingly nothing but savage albums. I saw that performed live at Madison Square Garden (with the Replacements opening no less) and it was mindboggling, even from the blue seats. Also, in these dark days, it pays to remember his Anti-Thatcher anthem “Tramp the Dirt Down” off of “Spike.” Like any early Billy Bragg (or especially the later “Upfield” off of “William Bloke"), it never fails to raise my spirits for another fight when the relentless grinding of the gang thugs in the White House has started to wear on me.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  12:56 PM
  32. Hex Enduction Hour by the Fall probably has my favorite opening and closing statements. The album opens with “The Classical”, which signals right off the bat that this the band is starting off in a fairly new direction. The hopped-up art punk from their earlier albums is being replaced with a more rhythmic, droning approach. This song is a bit more accessible than what is to come on the rest of the album, but its focus on the rhythm section, and use of two drummers, signal the change in direction this album will take.

    The closer, “And This Day” is pretty jarring if you can make it all the way through the album. It’s much slower and not nearly as noisy as their earlier work, and very, very repetitive. It may lull you into a false sense of security. But then they hit you with “And This Day”, with a blaring organ to wake you up. It’s essentially free-form noise, and it goes on for more than ten minutes. I can’t really imagine a better way to cap this excellent album.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  12:57 PM
  33. no need to hang your head, Foobarski--I was so anxious that someone would get “London Calling” before me that I clearly didn’t read my entry before submitting it.  captcha: “small"--as in, it’s a small man who wants to be first at the expense of quality (or even legibility)…

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  01:03 PM
  34. since you mention drums—The greatest, simplest opening shot of all time in pop music—that opening snare shot on LIKE A ROLLING STONE—

    but if we could widen the field just a bit—the opening of Coltrane’s A LOVE SUPREME is one of the most inviting things ever done in a major key—

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  01:13 PM
  35. I hope it’s okay to post throughout the day, as I am cleaning my house and have music playing that might qualify for inclusion in this list.

    I’m with Foobarski in #30 in feeling beaten to the punch on Pet Sounds. Glad to see it included here for all the reasons already given.

    How the hell I could have omitted The Band’s eponymous second album is beyond me. Certainly in ‘69 “Across the Great Divide” made a very significant opening statement indeed, but repeated listening in a very different historical moment, I think, continues to bear out its importance. And though it doesn’t feel in the least bit self-conscious, the opening song with its brief reference to “Harvest moon shinin’ down from the sky / A weary sign for all” prepares us very nicely for what one Rolling Stone reviewer called the “autumnal beauty” of “King Harvest (Has Surely Come).” Well, and that’s to say nothing at all yet of the incredible versatility of Garth Hudson’s organ playing on both pieces. Listen to them both, and especially to the moment on “King Harvest” just after Levon Helm sings “The smell of the leaves / From the magnolia trees in the meadow” when it is just Levon lightly hitting the cymbals and Garth coming in underneath on the organ. Simply amazing.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  01:25 PM
  36. I’m gonna go with The Magnetic Fields’ 69 Love Songs and treat the triple album as one. It opens with “Absolutely Cuckoo,” in which Stephin Merritt overdubs himself singing a jaunty little 6/8 number, and closes with the enigmatic “Zebra.” You’re drawn in, and you can’t help it.

    WF

    Posted by Wes F. in North Adams  on  08/18  at  01:33 PM
  37. Tom (#31): We could have been at the same concert!  I also saw the Replacements and Elvis Costello at the Garden on that tour!  Mindboggling is right (though EC was even better when I saw him a few years earlier at the Royal Albert Hall). 

    Tom’s mention of Billy Bragg reminded me of an album of his that definitely qualifies for this discussion: Worker’s Playtime. This record marked a transition to a lusher sound and a slightly greater emphasis on the love songs relative to the political numbers (though both were there of course).  “She’s Got a New Spell” is a perfect opening.  A delightful pop song that thematizes the newness of this album’s sound but retains the kind of social observation that Billy Bragg is so good at.  And despite borrowing its metaphor from one of the more unfortunate episodes in the history of the twentieth century left, the album’s final number, “Waiting for the Great Leap Forward,” is a terrific political song, though in keeping with much of the rest of the album, it’s sunnier than a lot of Bragg’s earlier stuff (while maintaining a certain realism about political challenges).  Also a great tune, plain and simple.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  01:35 PM
  38. I hope it’s okay to post throughout the day

    Not only okay, but mandatory!  Especially if you’re listening to music right now.

    but if we could widen the field just a bit—the opening of Coltrane’s A LOVE SUPREME is one of the most inviting things ever done in a major key—

    Hi Aldon!  Love—the Dickinsonian dashes-- .  Sure, throw some Coltrane on the heap.  It’ll keep Miles Davis company up there in Steve’s comment 7.  And I’ll even put in a word for Mingus Ah Um opening with “Better Git it in Your Soul,” which serves notice pretty effectively.

    Posted by Michael  on  08/18  at  01:46 PM
  39. Orange, don’t worry – you are not alone.  There are countless of us who were right at the 13-16 age range back in the early 80’s, and for better or worse, nostalgia has no taste.  I second your choice, lawyers be damned!

    Although they do little else than point out the obvious, one has to include Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, and Led Zeppelin’s IV.  Might as well get those out of the way…

    Otherwise, I admit I am at a severe disadvantage here, as I am perhaps just young enough to have been an early adopter of mp3s, and thus when my last CD player broke, I never bothered to replace it.  I now have a tower of CDs in my living room, which haven’t seen the light of day for years.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  01:46 PM
  40. Two of mine:

    Dr. John’s Gumbo.  He starts out with “Iko Iko,” letting everyone know that this is going to be a solid ‘Nawlins album, without any of that psychedelic wandering off, and closes with the irresistably rocking “Little Liza Jane.” And (switching genres), last year, Jason Robert Brown’s Someone Else’s Clothes.  The opening song is “Someone Else’s Clothes,” all about I’m-making-a-new-start-because-of-you (but with a good beat and you can dance to it).  And at the end, sounding something like Tony Bennett—what else?—“Grow Old With Me” (not Lennon’s).

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  01:47 PM
  41. Here I go again, though without elaborate explanation for why it merits inclusion. Just listen to it and you’ll know.

    From the class of ‘77, we present Television’s “Marquee Moon” which opens with “See No Evil"--"What I want / I want now"--and ends with the amazing “Torn Curtain.”

    Now if it isn’t already part of your collection you owe it to yourself to run out and buy it.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  01:49 PM
  42. I’m going to put a couple of INXS efforts on the list. X, begins with the sublime “Suicide Blonde” and closes with “Hear that Sound” (opening lyric: “So your time has come"), that finishes with a false ending and a faint refrain.

    Welcome to Wherever You Are, starts with “Questions” and a middle-eastern riff, and closes with “Men and Women” (opening lyric: “I don’t see how I can turn ‘round what has been done.")

    I’ll also mention “Duck Rock” by Malcolm McLaren, the bad boy producer of punk (Sex Pistols, Adam Ant, The Bow Wows). The album is a merging of what’s now called “World music” and hip-hop, and opens with Obatala, a World track. Part of the conceit of the album is a fictional radio show, featuring the “World’s Famous Supreme Team.” The first closing of the record is “World’s Famous,” a rap extro, followed by the novelty song finish “Duck Rock” which is fake country and fake square dance.

    A little research tells me that McClaren is backed on this record by Trevor Horn, Anne Dudley and JJ Jeczalik, later to become The Art of Noise.

    Posted by James Killus  on  08/18  at  01:58 PM
  43. Gosh, ya live on the Left Coast and by the time you get to ABF, many of the good choices are gone!

    I’ll add to the opening statements of note:

    Pixies, “Debaser” (on Doolittle).  The thrum of the bass, the insistence of the guitars, and you know it’s time to get down to business.

    P J Harvey, “Rid of Me” (on Rid of Me).  Starting so very softly, tricking you into cranking up the volume to even here the lyrics, then smashing your face into the crescendo.  Ouch!  Bring on the rest of the album.

    Posted by Dr. Free-Ride  on  08/18  at  02:03 PM
  44. Maybe we can include a honorable mention for the fake opening/closing statement. I nominate Peter Gabriel’s “So” which opens with nuclear holocaust paranoia (Red rain) and close (at least on my vinyl copy released in Sweden) with “You’re do what you told (Milgram 37)” which is basically a general thrashing of humankind. The rest of the songs are love songs.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  02:07 PM
  45. I’m going to go with the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Californication.  The whole album paints a picture of the California experience from start to finish.  It opens with a killer bass lick on “Around the World” letting you know that they’re about to rock out, and continues with a somewhat hyper repeated sixteenth note bass background on “Parallel Universe” that really drives the song and album forward.  These songs capture the feeling of excitement that newcomers to California are promised.  The album ends with a folky, relaxed “Road Trippin’” that for me conjures the mental picture of driving off into the sunset after a long California day.  You’re spent and ready to simply bask in the last remnants of the California sun.

    Also, The Downward Spiral by Nine Inch Nails is a complete picture of mental illness from start to finish.

    And how appropriate a closing statement is F.O.D. from Green Day’s Dookie?

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  02:07 PM
  46. I gotta vote for Black Flag’s My War, which opens with the rampaging title track and concludes with the seven-minute, slower-than-Sabbath “Scream.” The opening served notice: Flag hadn’t released a studio album since 1981’s Damaged, which kinda laid the groundwork for hardcore punk and was a classic all on its own, but in the intervening three years they’d built up their skills with relentless touring and learned/remembered what was great about metal and hard rock and incorporated it into their sound (thus making even more room for Greg Ginn’s horribly misshapen guitar solos). So when “My War” kicked in and sounded almost nothing like Damaged, instead sounding like the meanest, angriest metal band this side of Motörhead, notice was served: the goalposts have been moved, skinboys. Get with the new program. The whole first side was head-down, full-speed guitar assault, with a side-trip into some bizarre off-time stuff on “Swinging Man” to close it all out. But on Side Two of the album, they really drove people nuts, offering only three songs in 19 minutes—something absolutely inconcievable in Punkland. Heresy, it was. Again, Flag were saying to their audience, “This is what we do now. Follow or fuck off; your call.”

    Posted by pdf  on  08/18  at  02:08 PM
  47. I could have sworn that “Stop Your Sobbing” closed out The Pretenders, but checking I see that it closes Side 1 (at least) - a nice out for the great opening of “Precious”. And “Mystery Achievement” not too bad as the final close as well. ... As for Chambers’ drumming, having just seen them live in the past week or so (after a gap of 25 years), I found him “better than I recall” or given my limited expertise in the area at least “more noticeable than I recall” ... which may in fact be more of a comment on the rest of the band.

    But my favorite artist for this is Leonard Cohen, master of both the ridiculously sublime and the sublimely ridiculous. In his debut Songs he went from the former to the latter with “Suzanne” at the front and the mocking off-key wordless chorus that concludes “One of Us Cannot Be Wrong” - his sardonic ode to jealousy and hopeless love - at the back. ("his body is gone, but out here on the lawn, his spirit continues to drool.")[OT: The latter brings to mind his novel, Beautiful Losers - worth sampling even if you cannot find it in you to read it straight through.] But my favorite Cohen open/close goes in the other direction on I’m Your Man, from “First We Take Manhattan” to the magnificent “Tower of Song”, whose fade-out is an appropriate coda for an entire career.

    And it may have been my age, but no lead in had the effect on me personally that “21st Century Schizoid Man” did - (and fairly ably ushered out with “In the Court Of the Crimson King")

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  02:08 PM
  48. Oh, and since someone mentioned Floyd, I’ll put in a word for Animals and Wish You Were Here, which both use a variant of the same trick (which, incidentally, is also used in Brahms’ Requiem) of using the same theme as both beginning and ending, but with significantly different connotations after having listened to the whole album.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  02:12 PM
  49. Tommy Keene’s original 1985 album Songs From the Film.  The entire album has an arc, almost a storyline.  From the optimism and nostalgia of “Places That Are Gone” through anger (Lou Reed’s “Kill Your Sons") to confusion and resignation in “Underworld”, then a quick breath and lift of the shoulders in “Astronomy” (only 1:28!) and the real wave good-bye in “The Story Ends”.  I admit that last one is forcing it a bit, lyrically, but where else could he have put it?

    I see the 1998 reissue includes another song, “ Take Back Your Letters” before “Astronomy”. And an EP plus three more unreleased cuts. Now I have to see if I can get a copy.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  02:14 PM
  50. An addition to #41. Although the game here is all about openings and closings, something ought to be said about the importance of middles. And while on one level it is simply illogical to talk about the middle of an album with 8 tracks, the title track to “Marquee Moon” surely stands as something like its spiritual middle if only for its length (~10:36) in comparison with the other tracks.

    But it is more than the song’s sheer length that marks it as the album’s spiritual middle.  Anyone who has heard Tom Verlaine’s brilliant solo after the song’s third chorus will recognize that “Marquee Moon” attains that very rare thing in pop music, an honestly achieved and hard won transcendence. Without exaggeration, this song is one of the most remarkable moments in all of rock--you’ve never heard anything quite like it until you’ve heard it, and once you have you feel changed in some way.

    That “Marquee Moon” is conscious of the transcendence achieved by track 4 seems confirmed by the song that follows, “Elevation”, with its chorus “Elevation...don’t go to my head.”

    In short, the whole album is a marvel.

    Now back to beginnings and endings.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  02:25 PM
  51. Led Zep 4:  Black Dog, nervy wild & metrically weird excitement, to the apocalyptic When the Levee Breaks.

    Tons of Beach Boys examples.  Their “Party!” album, starting with Hully Gully and closing with Barbara Ann, for example.  Pet Sounds too, natch.  All of their albums through 20/20 have bang-up openers and most of them poignant or exciting closers.  “And your dream comes true,” closing “Summer Days and Summer Nights”—one of Brian’s many flowerpot marriage songs.

    “Maggot Brain”—Funkadelic—what an opener!

    Mingus, “Oh Yeah,” opening with the raucus party jam of “Hog Calling Blues” and closing with the strange theatrical musique concrete of “Passions of a Man,” which gave me nightmares once in college when I fell asleep listening to it—amazing. 

    Rahsaan Roland Kirk and Kronos Quartet have shared the Beatles’ mastery of album flow.  “Volunteered Slavery,” for example, by Kirk, starting slowly with the tuneful & gradually building-in-excitement gospelly title song and closing with a post-bop rave-up (Three for the Festival); or “Early Music” by Kronos, starting with a piece of French Renaissance music and closing with a modernist piece by Alfred Shnitke (with a postlude of bells ringing)—gorgeous.

    Public Enemy, “Fear of a Black Planet,” starting with an instrumental and closing with “Fight the Power”—most rocking.

    “Homebrew” by Neneh Cherry, from the self-descriptive “Sassy” to the reflective “Red Paint” (dedicated to her mother)—great stuff.

    For those interested in Costello, Franklin Bruno’s book on “Armed Forces” is an excellent read (with significant allusions to Roland Barthes) that includes an insightful discussion of the EC’s early mastery of album openings and closings, and how they relate to typical rock album strategies.

    Posted by john  on  08/18  at  02:25 PM
  52. Ben Alpers (#37) Wow! You’re the first person I’ve encountered (aside from my friend that I went with) who was at that show. No one believes me when I say that E.C. played the Garden (or grasps the reality of the fat Elvis. It blew my mind when he came out all bloated and bearded. Then again, I was rather far away so...). They’re even more agog at the idea of the Replacements playing the Garden. We got there early just to catch them. There were only about a thousand people there for them. I remember that the house lights never went down during their set, as sloppy and drunken as legend has their shows. Between their being wasted, in such a cavernous space, and the friggin’ chinese fire drills on the instruments, I had a hard time figuring out what they were playing. We drank our schnapps and danced in the aisles nevertheless.

    Anyway, as far as I can tell, that was the only time he headlined at the Garden. A check through the gigography at elviscostello.info reveals the date as June 22, 1991, part of the “Come Back in a Million Years” tour with the Rude 5. Good times. Good times.

    Lemme second pdf’s inclusion of Black Flag, though I would pick “Damaged” over “My War.” That’s another show I’ll not forget…

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  02:27 PM
  53. Deltron 3030, concept album from Del tha funkee homosapien, Dan “the automator” Nakamura, Damon Albaran, Sean Lennon and Kid Koala.

    Starts out and ends with Damon Albaran’s spooky invocation of distopia but the first and last proper songs on the album, 3030 and Memory loss, provide the perfect bookends. 3030 provides a vision of a future of racism, poverty and global war, and Memory loss brings it all back home, resituating the critique in late 20th century America. Plus the Dan the Automator’s beats and lusch orchestration are peerless in modern hiphop.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  02:29 PM
  54. Let me echo Jim 7’s comment about the importance of opening and closing sides, not just albums. If you were to consider that, the Beatles would be even further out in front of the field.

    Since several favorites have already been mentioned, I’ll add one that hasn’t: John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers album with Eric Clapton. Opens with nifty guitar work (go figure) on the slow “All Your Love” and ends with the upbeat (despite the lyrics) “It Ain’t Right.” Might have been stronger to start with “Steppin’ Out,” but maybe that’s too much of a cliche.

    Posted by DrDrang  on  08/18  at  02:29 PM
  55. Much agreement here, particularly w/ the Black Flag and Television, but the snark in me says: rather too easy to construct a narrative, isn’t it? You have a first song, you have a last song, and thereby you set up some relationship between the two, whether it’s conversational, repetition w/ a difference, or teleologic. In other words, like any good litcritter, I’m suspicious of the whole enterprise.

    That said, because I’m listening to Pell Mell’s fantastic and marvellously derivative Interstate, I’m thinking, just out of continued sheer cussedness, that I want to promote Neu’s Neu 2 as my entry for quality beginning/ending album. Side A promises more of the delicious from the first album, but then they ran out of money getting to Side B, and, well, I’ll just let the reviewer take it over:

    But side two is where things get strange. Having exhausted their budge they turned to re-releasing material in manipulated fashion. Needles dropping on records, playback roughs, backwards tape manipulation sped up or slowed down interminably, all with the unmistakable Neu! sound as a base. “Super” and “Neueschnee” are played back at various speeds. There is another track that concludes with a cassette tape being eaten by a player.

    If we accept all of Side B as an outro, and I do, I want it to fill the empty spot reserved for the Beatles.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  02:33 PM
  56. Njorl, #12: Whenever I listen to “Gimmie Shelter” in the car, I get a vision of a jet landing at the beginning of some movie.

    For me the jet is taking off, a little mind movie perhaps attributable to better chemistry. It taxis into position as the song comes up, jets firing when the bass comes in, increasing momentum down the runway, wheels up with Jagger’s entry.

    Speaking of the Stones, I nominate Beggar’s Banquet opening with “Sympathy for the Devil”, a pretty effective attention grabber. The closing anthem “Salt of the Earth” itself ends with a gospel rush, Nicky Hopkins’ percussive piano over Charles Watts’ percussive drum kit.

    Posted by black dog barking  on  08/18  at  02:56 PM
  57. The Weakerthans’ Reconstruction Site has a very self-conscious opening, intermission and closing statement: three songs with the same melody and chord structure at different tempos and speeds entitled “(Manifest)”, “(Hospital Vespers)”, and “(Past Due)”. They are all very sad, except for the first one, which is happy, and the last one, which is sad and happy.

    Posted by Josh  on  08/18  at  03:04 PM
  58. You know, this task would have been a lot easier when I still had crates of LPs to flip through. Now I’ve got a CD holder, so I don’t even have the CD cases handy. And my memory just ain’t that good. So I looked up a couple of my favorite albums throughout the years, and much to my surprise, the openings and closings are nothing spectacular.  Several others that I might have gotten to eventually have already been cited (The Band, Dr. John, The Clash, Tom Waits…). So I’m reduced to what I’ve been listening to in my car lately, which luckily is worth citing: Neko Case & Her Boyfriends, “Furnace Room Lullaby,” which opens with “Set Out Running” and closes with “Furnace Room Lullaby.” The opener lets you know this album is Neko’s attempt at bad-relationship catharsis, and the closer lets you know the catharsis didn’t quite work.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  03:04 PM
  59. The Kinks’ “Lola Vs. Powerman and the Money-Go-Round” bookends the album with first an acoustic and last a harder-rocking version of the same song, “Gotta Be Free.” I thought that worked pretty well. Very music-hall / musical theatre.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  03:09 PM
  60. "Los Cochinos”, starting out strong with “Sgt. Stadanko”, and cruising to a mello finish with “Basketball Jones”.  I don’t know if it should count though, because they do have a Beatle (George Harrison) join them for the final track.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  03:35 PM
  61. I would nominate Talking Heads’ (NOT the Talking Heads, Michael) More Songs About Buildings and Food: opens with “Thank you for Sending Me an Angel” and closes with the one-two punch of “Take Me to the River” and “The Big Country.”

    I would also second Eric J-D re the guitar solo from “Marquee Moon.” best. guitar. solo. ever.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  03:38 PM
  62. “Marquee Moon” is wondrous, not least for the fact that it is a very very strange thing—a ten-minute epic by a New York underground club band with virtuoso dueling guitarists.  Richard Hell meets the Allman Brothers.  But I have to say that I never liked “Torn Curtain.” Too melodramatic.  “Prove It,” by contrast, is light and whimsical and has great guitars too.

    And how did I leave Billy Ficca off my list of massively talented overplaying drummers? 

    Posted by Michael  on  08/18  at  03:47 PM
  63. Thanks to both m.ho and Michael for their comments on “Marquee Moon” (both the album and the song). And Michael, I wondered about Ficca’s omision myself.  Glad to see his retrospective admission to the list.

    At the risk of drawing out (and perhaps exaggerating) “Marquee Moon“‘s claims to greatness, I would add that the structure of the song is like Jack Stillinger’s old diagram of the structure of Keats’s “Ode to a Nightingale” (or is the chart on “Ode one a Grecian Urn”? I can’t recall).  You all know the one--the triangular trajectory that raises the speaker from the mutable world to temporary union with the aesthetic object and then returns him to earth (albeit altered by his momentary epiphanic moment).  Sure its dated and Stillinger has moved on to other things, but that structure captures the movement of “Marquee Moon” perfectly.

    And yes, it is the best guitar solo ever if only because it is, unlike many guitar solos, necesary rather than gratuitous. (though I likes me some gratuitous guitar solos too--kind of the rock equivalent of Steven’s bit about the essential gaudiness of poetry)

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  04:03 PM
  64. I was all antsy to get my hands on “This Years Model” and bought the import before the US version was released. The UK version ends with “Night Rally”, not Radio Radio. Boy howdy, does that change the whole opening and closing statement thing.
    Na, Na, Na, Na, Night Rally
    Na, Na, Na, Na, Night Rally
    Over and over as the song devolves into nothing.

    Posted by michaelw  on  08/18  at  04:12 PM
  65. My vote goes to Dylan’s Time Out of Mind, which opens with “I’m walking through streets that are dead” and closes with:

    Well my heart’s in the highlands
    At the break of day
    Over the hills and
    Far away
    Theres a way to get there
    And I’ll figure it out somehow
    But I’m already there in my mind
    And that’s good enough for now.

    In between, his baby keeps leaving him and he fixes to die.  Great album.

    Posted by matthew  on  08/18  at  04:33 PM
  66. If you’re in the right kind of pissed off mood, The Cure’s “The Kiss” from Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me works well.  There is that long, long intro of strangled, wailing guitar followed by: “Get it out/ Get it out/ Get your fucking voice/ Out of my head.” Then the album ends with “Fight Fight Fight.” It will make you want to go hit something.

    captcha:  hell, appropriately enough

    Posted by BikeProf  on  08/18  at  04:34 PM
  67. "Why is the world in love again? Why are we marching hand in hand? Why are the ocean levels rising up? It’s a brand new record for 1990: They Might Be Giants’ brand new album ‘Flood!’”

    Posted by Tyler Curtain  on  08/18  at  04:36 PM
  68. I would say that “Miss Teen Wordpower” is a great finish from the New Pornographer’s second album, Electric Version,
    while “Ghost Rider” on Suicide’s first both hints but doesn’t reveal where this odd and stark album will go (Frankie Teardrop?).

    In terms of artists burying stunners like MArquee Moon in the middle or heart of the album- Luna puts “23 Minutes in Brussels” (an homage to Suicide??) smack in the middle of Penthouse (Verlaine plays on it, so maybe it is a wink to Television as well).

    Posted by Pinko Punko  on  08/18  at  04:48 PM
  69. Verlaine always said that he learned by trying to play Coltrane on the guitar....

    A couple nominations, and a snarky remark:

    Clash, “Safe European Home.” Best.  Opener.  Ever., as the kids say on the internets....closer not great, though.

    My man Neil:  greatest album, first song, last song?  Here’s a clue:  all are called “Tonight’s the Night"…

    Snark:  what, 69 comments and nobody’s mentioned how fundamentally “rockist” this is?  The album-as-densely-organized-formal-unit thing is, like, so unkewl. 

    Seriously, though, until Stevie and Marvin broke out in the late 60s, black music wasn’t about the album, and rock is still the only format where this (nontheless excellent) exercise really makes sense....

    (I’ve been trying to add Prince here:  “1999,” “Let’s Go Crazy,” “Sign O The Times”:  pretty damn impressive, but none of the closing tracks really stand out....)

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  05:18 PM
  70. Since the openings of Coltrane’s A Love Supreme and Mingus’s Ah Um have been cited and have broken the field open to jazz, let’s pause to remember two truly stunning opening numbers from 1959 and 1964 respectively. I’m talking about Ornette’s “Lonely Woman” which effectively made good on the album title’s bold claim (The Shape of Jazz to Come indeed!) and that saint of a man Eric Dolphy’s homage to Monk, “Hat and Beard”, from Out to Lunch, which sadly announced that a great jazz visionary was soon to leave this earth.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  05:20 PM
  71. This discussion makes me feel sorry for “these kids today” who don’t have the same experience as us old farts who remember things like turning albums over.  Or the double albums designed to be stacked on the turntable so the first disk had sides 1 & 4 and the second disk had side 2 & 3.  Good times, good times…

    I second or third or whatever “Born to Run” and “Siren.” My nominations are:

    The Who: “Who’s Next.” Baba O’Riley and Won’t Get Fooled Again.  Still the best two songs recorded with a synthesizer.

    Van Morrison: “Astral Weeks”:  Astral Weeks and Slim Slow Slider.  And pure transcendence in between.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  05:34 PM
  72. What’s rockism?

    Only kidding!  We rockismed out on the Neil Young thread in March.

    Posted by Michael  on  08/18  at  05:34 PM
  73. Re #70:  I guess I’ve always seen jazz LP orderings as either almost random or highly narrative/quasi-classical in their development of motifs [_Love Supreme_, _Black Saint_]--but I’ll defer to those who know jazz better…

    Thanks for the link, Michael....OK, how about a meta-question, then?  “The Rise and Fall of the Album; or, The Formal Method in Music Scholarship”:

    If as the CW would have it _Sgt. Pepper_ “opens” the era of Album as Significant Artistic Statement, what LP “closes” that era?

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  06:02 PM
  74. I’ve got to speak out for all the proggers out there and toss out a couple of my faves. Both feature great drummers.
    Genesis ‘Trick of the Tail.’ ‘Dance on a Volcano’ opens and ‘Los Endos’ finishes.
    Big Country ‘The Seer.’ ‘Look Away’ opens, and Stuarts ode to his dad, ‘The Sailor’ finishes.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  06:10 PM
  75. If as the CW would have it _Sgt. Pepper_ “opens” the era of Album as Significant Artistic Statement, what LP “closes” that era?

    Uh . . . probably The White Album.

    No, seriously, it persists right through the 1980s and 1990s, in corporate rock and alternative—think Zen Arcade, Tim, Fables of the Reconstruction, right up to Nevermind . . . hell, right up to the Arcade Fire’s Funeral.  Now, that’s a depressing thought.  So I’d have to say that this is an excessively superstructural question, and that historical eras should be marked instead by significant changes in the means of production, although I’ll proceed to argue against this very claim in the next Theory Tuesday (Raymond Williams edition).  When, in other words, does the Age of Mechanical Reproduction in pop music finally give way to the Age of Electronic Transmission?  With the CD, and its vastly expanded range (remember, by contrast, how Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe had to reassure us that it was OK to squeeze 20 songs onto one piece of vinyl on the liner notes to Get Happy?) With the mp3?  the iPod?  the blog?

    Posted by Michael  on  08/18  at  06:33 PM
  76. All sorts of pre-Beatles albums foregrounded their album-icity:

    “Dust Bowl Ballads,” Woody Guthrie.
    Pete Seeger, “American Industrial Ballads.”
    Ella Fitzgerald’s “Songbook” series.
    Charles Mingus:  “Tijuana Moods,” “Blues and Roots,” “Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus.”
    Sinatra’s “lamp post and cigarette” albums.
    Miles Davis, “Kind of Blue.”
    Sonny Rollins, “Way Out West.”
    Ellington, “Masterpieces,” and, I would argue, his series of Summit Meeting albums with Coltrane, Mingus, Coleman Hawkins, Armstrong, Basie, and Fitzgerald (which was also in Fitgerald’s “Songbook” series).

    Posted by john  on  08/18  at  06:37 PM
  77. I’m going to dodge the bullet posed by Nick and say simply that it is difficult to speak in general terms about the ordering of jazz LPs.  So much depends on the particulars of the individual recording session as well as the degree of control given to the musicians by the label.  A good example of what I mean by the former can be seen on Grant Green’s Idle Moments. The first take of the title track was actually recorded last during the session.  Given the technology of the time, this meant the tune was supposed to last no more than 7 minutes or so. However, when the musicians recorded it the take lasted 14:58 due to some confusion among the players about what was being considered the length of the chorus (32 bars as it turned out rather than 16).

    The producer, Alfred Lion, told them the take was great but that they would have to do it again and keep it to 7 minutes. So they tried several more times, but none of the takes approached the first.

    When it came time to produce the LP, this meant that much of one side would be taken up by “Idle Moments.” Given the quality of the playing on that track, it was made the opening and title track for the LP, requiring that a much shorter piece follow it. This turned out to be one of the shorter takes (although in my opinion the best of them) of “Jean de Fleur.” That filled side one and made clear something of the order side two would have.

    So, yes, there is something slightly random behind the ordering of this particular album since no one initially thought that “Idle Moments” would run nearly 15 minutes when they came to the session. However, the ultimate ordering of the album had a thoughtfulness to its overall design nonetheless.

    For the latter (how much control musicians had over the arrangement of the final LP)...well this is ultimately why a label like ESP was born.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  06:37 PM
  78. No, seriously, it persists right through the 1980s and 1990s

    So depends on how you think the album. Are you talking vinyl AOR or full-length releases meant to hold together and be heard all the way through, regardless of the format. I suggest #2, if only because it confounds received wisdom that the MP3 has returned us, with a difference, to the era of the single.

    Because some musicians do things otherwise, the album era perhaps persists even almost into the now. Godspeed You Black Emperor!’s Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antenna to the Heavens (2000) must be heard in its massive entirety from start to finish. Sufjan Stevens’ Illinoise (2005) absolutely intends itself to be a whole album, but given the unevenness of the songs (and the featuring the best number in the trailer for Little Miss Sunshine, which I think I’ll see tonight), it strikes me as ultimately oriented towards singles. But then there’s something like The Mountain Goats’s Tallahassee (2002), which tells a story far more ably and far more interesting than, say, Willie Nelson’s Yesterday’s Wine (1971), does suggest that the album is with us yet.

    Captcha: ‘asked,’ as in, ‘If I’d asked for your opinion, you would have heard me.’

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  06:59 PM
  79. "Rockism.” Mmmphgrmb liberals rglfratz. . . . always ordering others to reach out in some sort of outreach.

    How’s this for, how-you-say, expending the perambulators? Firesign Theater’s Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers. Opens with what sounds like somone staggering around a darkened recording studio—“ . . . this chromium switch here—ka-lick” and a cold-starting soapy organ—a keyboard that nonetheless has E.D.

    End withs—and you need rilly rilly good headphones—George Tirebiter calling after an ice cream truck as it fades down the street, his voice rewinding from a elderly man’s to child’s. 

    I second Joe Jackson’s Look Sharp. Also his Blaze of Glory. A retro-spacey and hopeful “Tomorrow’s World,” a plaintive “The Human Touch.”

    Likewise Thick as a Brick not only for its earnest bookends but sustained excellence. And balls.

    Pink Floyd should disqualify under the Beatles Exclusionary Rule.

    Posted by David J Swift  on  08/18  at  07:01 PM
  80. Jackd:  I love you for reminding me of Tommy Keene.  I haven’t heard that album since I left for college and my parents threw it out.  I never re-bought.  Sigh.

    Posted by myrnatheminx  on  08/18  at  07:02 PM
  81. John:  I agree, absolutely; but folk and jazz were acceptable music for grownups; my point was about the moment when serious critical discourse and pop music came together and birthed the Major Rock Album....

    Eric:  nice example--thanks!  I guess I see the LP form as often just a way to break up long blowing sessions, but obviously that’s just one part of what happened…

    Michael:  I’m with you--I was thinking of Wilco and Radiohead, two bands regarded by different factions as “Rock’s Last Great Hopes” or “Boring Overproduced Middlebrows Jamming in the Dustbin of History”....as for production, I’d also point to the playlist, which replaces the CD as the dominant mode of sequencing:  it’s like the end of _The German Ideology_:  every listener their own producer!

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  07:03 PM
  82. Waiting For Columbus:

    Spotcheck Billy got down on his hands and knees.
    He said “Hey momma, hey let me check your oil all right?”

    (Fat Man In The Bathtub)
    ------>
    Roll right through the night.
    (Feats Don’t Fail Me Now)

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  07:07 PM
  83. Since someone mentioned They Might Be Giants, I’m going to also add “Lincoln” to the list. The slashing guitar that opens up “Ana Ng” makes it clear that this is a take-no-prisoners album, and closing with “Kiss Me, Son of God” tells you where the bodies will be buried.

    For an album side with punch, however, try H. P. Lovecraft II, a bolt from the psychedelic era, that begins with “The Mountains of Madness” and ends with “Keeper of the Keys.” Okay, maybe having it end on the lyrics “It’s all over, now” repeated several times is too cute, but in fact, one didn’t notice that until the fourth or fifth playing.

    Posted by James Killus  on  08/18  at  07:12 PM
  84. Well, if we are going to go all “means of production” to determine the End of the Album and the Beginning of Electronic Transmission, let me point out the wonderful Cylinder Preservation Project at the University of California Santa Barbara:

    http://cylinders.library.ucsb.edu/

    The first mass-produced music intended for the home was limited to playtimes of 2-4 minutes, so this is definitely pre-album music.  And having all the music downloadable onto my mp3 player means that I can hear the Great Hits of 1906 chockablock with the Great Hits of 2006.  Way cool.  We have come full circle.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  07:14 PM
  85. And a ‘90s addition: Yo La Tengo’s Electr-o-Pura. The whole album is mostly about the feedback noises in Ira’s head, and how he and Georgia can then sing very muted harmonies to them. The opener “Decora” is a quiet, steady drone, the perfect ease into the rest of the disc, which does have its clarifying moments along the way, especially the best single that never was a hit “Tom Courtenay.” The closer is all 11 minutes of “Blue Line Swinger,” which walks, trots, gallops along, a bundle of momentum that can’t be denied. And one of those songs that when you hear it, you think, “This will be the last song at their gigs for years.” Sure enough it was.

    Posted by George  on  08/18  at  07:15 PM
  86. Seconds on the playlist, nick (#81).  It’s like an album, but with all different artists.  String them all together, and it’s like the multi disk player, but with a different purpose.  Shuffle is fun, but nothing beats a well put together playlist.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  07:51 PM
  87. 1. Pavement’s Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain begins with a meandering guitar solo thing before coalescing into the weirdo pop of “Silence Kit” and ends with Malkmus babbling about drugs and rock stars and shit while the band collapses in a cloud of dust on “Fillmore Jive.”

    2. I was going to include the Stooges’ Funhouse, which you’ll remember starts off with “Down on the Street” and ends with “LA Blues,” but then I realized that Funhouse has the greatest track listing ever, period. I mean, shit, “Loose,” “T.V. Eye,” “Dirt,” “1970”—and, oh then when the sax solo from the end of “1970” reappears at the beginning of “Funhouse,” it’s the greatest thing ever.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  07:57 PM
  88. Re Tom Waits: While Frank’s Wild Years is a great choice, I’d have to opt for Raindogs; from the opening instruction of “We sail tonight for Singapore” to the closing declaration, “Anywhere I lay my head, boys, I’m gonna call my home,” we never stop moving.  Muscially, the rigid, almost-oompah-pah of the opening song contrasts perfectly to the free-form, drunk-dixieland of the finale.  And the whole thing’s about freedom and constraint, about extravagance in the full meaning of the word.  I don’t think he’s ever topped it.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  08:02 PM
  89. squeeze 20 songs onto one piece of vinyl on the liner notes to Get Happy

    Similarly, The Pretenders debut has

    This album has longer running time than most average LP’s there fore to acheive maximum effect
    PLAY THIS ALBUM LOUD.

    .. followed by a smiley.

    Or the James Gang’s Yer Album which repeated “Turn me over” (Side A) or “Play me again” (Side B) as the needle bumped up against the middle - no stinking autoreturn allowed of course.

    The album concept has weakened considerably but is still well entrenched - I would add American Idiot to the list of recent examples. One element of the weakening is the frequent additions of “Bonus Tracks” to re-released albums on CD - killing many original “closings”.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  08:09 PM
  90. Coupla more that I’ve been thinking about, mostly inspired by other commenters’ selections ...
    — I’d also give a nod to XTC’s drums and wires, with the old-timey-radio opening of “Respectable Street”, and the Andy-Partridge-dub-experiment closer, “Travels in Nihilon”.
    — For something “proggy”, (h/t Grambo) I’d have to go with King Crimson’s Starless and Bible Black, which opens bang-on with the insistent riff of “The Great Deceiver”, and finishes with the ever-powerful “Fracture”.
    — My choice of Led Zeppelin (h/t Brian) would be Houses of the Holy, with the powerful opening instrumental of “The Song Remains the Same”, and the almost doo-wop ending to “The Ocean”.
    — Finally, the mention of TMBG reminded meof Ween, specifically their Chocolate and Cheese. The opener, “Take Me Away”, is nothing spectacular, but any disc that ends with a song called “Don’t Shit Where You Eat” deserves mention, IMHO.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  08:31 PM
  91. Oh, and to everyone who’s said wonderful things about “Marquee Moon” (both the song and the album) ... add me to that list.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  08:33 PM
  92. Nick (#81),

    When the Beatles Got Serious, they did manage to combine fabulous stardom a la Sinatra with verbal seriousness a la Guthrie (though nothing like either’s style), and while that’s very cool and very interesting, it neither made albums “better,” nor “more conceptual” (Beach Boys’ “Party!” is as pure a concept album as any ever made), nor introduced “good, serious lyrics” to rock. 

    Chuch Berry wrote about the pain of divorce ("Memphis"), inter-racial strife and intra-racial resistance and solidarity ("Promised Land"), and Black Pride ("Brown-Eyed Handsome Man") years before the Beatles Grew Rock Up.  “Pepper” only “opens” the era of “Album as Significant Artistic Statement” if you equate “Significance” with lyrical seriousness (which excludes jazz) on “themes other than mating” (which excludes Ella & Sinatra) by potentially Top 40 acts (which excludes Seeger & Guthrie, though Seeger did have Top 40 hits, even a couple Number Ones!).  That’s the tradition we’re in now, and it’s the tradition that “serious album makers” see themselves in, but the drive to exclude bums me out.

    Posted by john  on  08/18  at  08:43 PM
  93. The Allman Brothers band, by, um, the Allman Brothers Band, begins with the searing 1-2 punch of Don’t Want You No More sliding into It’s Not My Cross to Bear (the latter featuring Gregg at his gravel-throated cross-bearing best) and ends with Whipping Post.

    Of course, the live version of Whipping Post which concludes At Fillmore East is at least an astronomical unit richer, and that album’s opener, Statesboro Blues, features Duane’s slide work at its deliriously snarlingly syrupy best.

    My personal all-time favorite closer, also featuring Duane Allman, is his acoustic guitar duet with Dickey Betts, Little Martha.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  08:53 PM
  94. 89: One element of the weakening is the frequent additions of “Bonus Tracks” to re-released albums on CD - killing many original “closings”.

    As happened, I’m surprised no one has pointed out (as far as I can see) to Armed Forces in its Rykodisc remastered edition.  In the spirit of “authenticity”, the original closing track of the British release, “Night Rally”, was put in the place of “Radio, Radio”, the latter being relegated to a bonus track.  So, so unsatisfying, especially considering the virtues of the Rykodisc reissues otherwise.

    Elvis C. was of course a master of arranging records.  He almost always obeyed the rule: bury the filler in the middle of side two.

    Posted by JL  on  08/18  at  09:05 PM
  95. I can think of at least two artists who have attempted to subvert the album-track-running-order-as-word-of-artist-as-god thing: Lull and Miki Yui, both semi-ambient electronic artists who released albums with tracks intended to be played in random order. Yui’s Lupe Leup Peul Epul was described on the label website as “a loop for listening to our environment. It is designed to be played back in loop/random mode and at a quiet, transparent level.” The Lull disc (can’t remember name now) had 99 tracks and was similarly intended to be shuffled.

    Posted by pdf  on  08/18  at  09:38 PM
  96. Some great tunes mentioned, which I must second or I will die: Candy Says, Got the Time, Lonely Woman, Thank You For Sending Me an Angel, Break on Through (which pairs just as nicely with Light My Fire at the end of side 1 as it does with The End).  And of course Marquee Moon (and See No Evil, which is a scorcher).  And if we’re listing great tunes off that disc let’s not forget Friction ("how does a snake get out of its skin?").

    Re: Crimson, while I approve of Starless and Bible Black (Great Deceiver, Fracture), I prefer Red (Red, Starless).  Bruford rules; there’s a reason he’s sitting in the front on the cover.

    Not yet mentioned:

    Brian Eno, Another Green World: Sky Saw burns, Spirits Drifting spaces.
    Dire Straits, Communique: Once Upon a Time in the West and that glorious opening solo; ending with the beautifully minimal Follow Me Home.  (This was their best record; what happened??)
    Peter Gabriel’s second eponymous disc, side 1 opens with the blistering On the Air and closes with White Shadow, both featuring classic Robert Fripp guitar bits.

    And speaking of Fripp, here are two more bookend-type discs:

    David Bowie, Scary Monsters has some more blazing Fripp guitar on It’s No Game, pt. 1; pt. 2 is mellower.
    Fripp devotee Richard Pinhas opens what was otherwise an uneven disc, East/West, with Houston 69 pt. 1 (treated vox by Norman Spinrad), and ends with pt. 2, whose sparer arrangement (no menacing guitar drone) allows closer attention to the piercing lead and Francois Auger’s killer drums.

    The Lull disc is called Moments.

    Posted by Duck  on  08/18  at  09:46 PM
  97. Well Michael, this has been a very fun ABFF indeed.  This will probably do it for me for tonight, but I thought I’d include one more record as it represents a genre of music we haven’t touched on yet.

    The album is John Fahey’s 1967 Takoma release of Blind Joe Death (for those who are familiar with the record you’ll understand the overdetermined marking of the recording). This is the one with the by now familiar blue Takoma album jacket. It opens with “On Doing an Evil Deed Blues” and ends with “I’m Gonna Do All I can for My Lord” and believe me, there just wasn’t anything like this going on when Fahey first introduced these original compositions and arrangements way back in 1959 (when the first BJD appeared).

    The CD reissue changes everything of course so the experience just ain’t the same. Luckily I have this baby on vinyl and it is still in pristine condition depite being well-played.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  10:01 PM
  98. Cornel West, *Sketches of my Culture*

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  10:31 PM
  99. S & G: P, S, R & T

    SF/C --> 7 O’CN/SN

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  10:41 PM
  100. Michelle Shocked. Short Sharp Shocked.

    We’re gonna give ‘em that watermelon when they starts yellin’

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  11:19 PM
  101. Njorl - New Mexico free radio played “Gimme Shelter” as the US announced bombing of Afghanistan.  Appropriate?

    No one mentions the album qua albums of prog like Queensryche’s Operation Mindcrime.  Beautifully narrative and melodic - opens with “I remember now” (all narrative) and closes with “Eyes of a Stranger.”

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  11:31 PM
  102. The Allman Bros. ‘Brothers and Sisters’ begins with ‘Southbound’ and ends with ‘Pony Boy’, an acoustic blues whose refrain goes ‘Pony boy gon’ carry me home’ and a break talking about easing on down the road…

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  11:38 PM
  103. OK Michael, it looks like you’ll have a class action on your hands…

    I’m with Orange and Brian too; I vote for Duran Duran’s Rio (1982).  I was 14 at the time, but it is still one of the Best Albums Ever (in my honest opinion as an unrepentant Duranie).

    When you break it down Rio also works in terms of the A and B side switch.  You start with the effervecence of “Rio” and end with the howling of “Hold Back the Rain.” Then over to “New Religion” and the keyboards slowly pulling you in, to the final rattle of keys in “The chauffer.” Nick Rhodes produced all their albums to an inch of their lives, but Rio and their eponymous first album (the UK release from winter 1980/81) emerged relatively unscathed. 

    On Duran Duran you get the hook of the camera opening “Girls of Film” to end side A with Andy Taylor’s licks in “Careless Memories.” Flip to “Night Boat” (pretentious but GREAT drumming) and conclude with funky Middle Eastern rhythms from “Tel Aviv.” It isn’t a great closer ("Careless Memories” is much stronger), but GOF is still a kicking opener.  They managed to top it with “Rio” and the rest of album #2, but never reached that level again. 

    Michael, Roger Taylor is an amazing drummer and with John Taylor on bass, DD has one of the strongest rhythm sections of any pop band out there.  They aren’t just pretty faces, people!

    I agree with the other commenters on the power of a great playlist.  And to show that I do have some musical integrity, my vote for the best opening and closing statements EVER: Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro.”

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  11:53 PM
  104. 1. Jerry Jeff Walker’s album “Mr. Bojangles.” It begins with “Gypsy Songman,” about an itinerant musician who has a stage on every corner and a hall on every street. It ends with “My Old Man,” narrated by the son of a man who “said he’d been blessed with a gypsy bone”—an itinerant fiddler who spots a beauty at a dance, takes her home, hops a freight train the next morning, and the narrator is born nine months later. The album was introduced to my mom in 1968, when I was 5 years old, by a Rolling Stone writer she had befriended, Grover Lewis. Maybe he thought she would intrigued by the parallels to her life—she had had an affair with a married man who died shortly after she discovered that she was pregnant. Maybe he knew that I would be intrigued, years later. The album is from Walker’s folkie period, with lots of finger-picked guitar and fiddling.

    2. Lucinda Williams, “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road.” The opening song is the title tune, a tale of a sad road trip told from the perspective of a 5-year-old girl. So evocative that Williams’s father apologized to her when he heard it. She told him it was entirely fictional. The album ends with “Jackson”—“All the way to Jackson / I don’t think I’ll miss you much.” Lovely guitar, perfect bass.

    3. Stone Roses, “Stone Roses.” The scarily intense “I Wanna Be Adored” bookended by the impossibly funky “Fools Gold.”

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  11:55 PM
  105. Chocolate city:

    Uh, what’s happening CC?
    They still call it the White House
    But that’s a temporary condition, too.
    Can you dig it, CC?

    To each his reach
    And if I don’t cop, it ain’t mine to have
    But I’ll be reachin’ for ya
    ‘Cause I love ya, CC.
    Right on.
    ----
    And when they come to march on ya
    Tell ‘em to make sure they got their James Brown pass
    And don’t be surprised if Ali is in the White House
    Reverend Ike, Secretary of the Treasure
    Richard Pryor, Minister of Education
    Stevie Wonder, Secretary of FINE arts
    And Miss Aretha Franklin, the First Lady
    Are you out there, CC?
    A chocolate city is no dream
    It’s my piece of the rock and I dig you, CC
    God bless Chocolate City and its (gainin’ on ya!) vanilla suburbs
    -----------

    Posted by  on  08/19  at  12:27 AM
  106. Openers.
    I heard King Crimson’s Court of the Crimson King when I was 12 in ‘69 (I’m still 38 though), and the opening kicked my behind with those fog horn ambient sounds signaling the heavy metal chord goodness (with sax too!).

    Posted by  on  08/19  at  12:55 AM
  107. Okay...maybe just one more.

    Although it is the slickest of his albums in terms of its production--and thus will be dismissed for that reason alone by a certain type of fan--Elliott Smith’s XO cannot, in fairness, be charged with being overproduced.

    Frankly, it is the standout among a number of fine Smith albums, and its opening and closing tracks certainly fit the criteria Michael has established better than any of the others. The simple descending guitar notes that open “Sweet Adeline” strike the immediate note of melancholy that permeates the entire album. A very simple but utterly assured opening that announces that here is someone whose lyrics deserve attention.

    The closing track pairs Smith’s wistful lyrics (I’ll close with them in a moment) with hauntingly beautiful a capella soaring harmonies that turn the speaker’s despondent realization into a moment of sublime epiphany. I should point that the harmonies are quite consciously modeled on Brian Wilson’s gorgeous work on Pet Sounds.  Here are the lyrics:

    thought you’d be looking for the next in line to love then ignore
    put out and put away
    and so you’d soon be leaving me alone like i’m supposed to be tonight,
    tomorrow and everyday
    there’s nothing here that you’ll miss
    i can guarantee you this is a cloud of smoke
    trying to occupy space
    what a fucking joke
    what a fucking joke

    i waited for a bus to separate the both of us and take me off far away
    from you
    ‘cos my feelings never change a bit i always feel like shit i
    don’t know why i guess that i “just do”
    you once talked to me about love and you painted pictures of
    a never-neverland and i could’ve gone to that place
    but i didn’t understand
    i didn’t understand
    i didn’t understand

    Oh yeah, and you owe it to yourself to own this one too if you don’t already. Gorgeous stuff. 

    Eric

    P.S. And now I really will sign off for the evening, but not before adding that Jeff Buckley’s beautiful and achingly sad “Dream Brother” deserves mention as a brilliant close to his first album.

    Posted by  on  08/19  at  12:58 AM
  108. J @ 106 didn’t mention it, but the title track In the Court of the Crimson King and the way the main melody section undergoes a key change in the final part, is a perfect way to end that great, great album and to bookend 21st Century Schizoid Man.  One of the great album covers ever too.

    Michael, I think you’re completey wrong about Topper Headon.  Get the Give ‘em Enough Rope album and listen to Safe European Home and Tommy Gun. Powerful, driving drumming that’s not just bass drum on 1&3, snare on 2&4, hi-hat doings 8ths.  If you still feel that way after lending an ear, then, well, you’ve obviously gone completely insane with all the thinking about Loony Leftists recently. grin

    The Who: “Who’s Next.” Baba O’Riley and Won’t Get Fooled Again.  Still the best two songs recorded with a synthesizer

    B O’R isn’t even a synthesizer, it’s a Lowry organ’s maribma setting put on repeat with some echo thrown in during the mix. I can think of dozens of better synth oriented songs, such as On the Run, some Eno-era Roxy Music, tons of Kraftwerk, Donna Summer’s I Feel Love and so on, and those are just the songs that use it as pulse generator and not in coloristic way.

    Posted by  on  08/19  at  01:26 AM
  109. somebody mentioned clapton already, but in connection w/john mayhall.

    personally i’d just suggest clapton’s original version of layla (not the acoustic version).

    great opening guitar riff that says it all:  it’s raucous, it’s powerful, it’s complex, it rocks.

    and then the ending piano coda, almost concerto-like in its construct, brings us to an almost nostaligic, dreamy state of mind, which reminds me of what is like to love...not just be in love, but to actually love someone, continuously, over time, and the joy it brings to one’s soul.

    oh, and dance this mess around by the b-52’s.  the insidious organ beat and the bizarre guitar jump up the minor scale under kate pierson’s accusatory words “do you remember...when you held my hand?” and ending with the cymbal crashes and fred schneider shouting “round, round, round,” all suddenly ceasing, as if everyone in the world is suddenly danced out.

    Posted by skippy  on  08/19  at  01:55 AM
  110. Rolling Stones: Exile on Main Street
    Open: Rocks Off
    Close: Soul Survivor

    Posted by  on  08/19  at  03:12 AM
  111. The last album that felt like an LP (two sides) that I never had on vinyl- Radiohead’s “OK Computer"- “Fitter Happier” really divides the two halves, and Electioneering takes the “Money” slot (opener of side 2). An album that I think is underrated- meaning I don’t think any backlash is legit.  “The Tourist” is a nice outro, and makes the end much more complex, as “Lucky” seems so perfect to end.  Very similar to the Bends final 1-2 with “Sulk” and “Street Spirit.”

    Posted by Pinko Punko  on  08/19  at  03:58 AM
  112. Regarding Tom Waits (got to agree about Frank’s Wild Years and Raindogs), you’ve also got to give kudos to Mule Variations opening with “Big in Japan”, a low-fi industrial grinding self-deprecating take on conscious performance and popularity, and closing with an uplifting hymn of shared refuge from the troubles of the world in “Come On Up To The House”.  It’s a hell of a journey.

    And speaking of Tom Waits, it’s hard to go past Blue Valentines.  Opening with a gruff growling fragilely optimistic rendition of “Somewhere” complete with swelling strings, the rest of the album leads inexorably through grubby realities, broken dreams and discarded expectations to the bitterest of recollections negating every hope from the opening song in “Blue Valentines”, aching out the haunting disappointment of that failure. 

    “The ghost of your memory - baby, it’s the thistle in a kiss. 

    It’s the burglar that can break a rose’s neck.

    It’s the tattooed broken promise I gotta hide beneath my sleeve

    I’m gonna see you every time I turn my back...”

    Enough to make you turn to razor blades or whiskey if you’re so inclined.

    Posted by  on  08/19  at  08:07 AM
  113. Speaking of guys who could play and opening/closing statements, I can’t remember whether it was the album personnel performing live when I saw Melissa Etheridge live in the days of Brave And Crazy, which ends with a wailing departure of a train song with overtones of epic emotional pull in “Royal Station 4-16”...but I digress. 

    The concert ended with a sizzling jam where one by one the members of the band (with the aid of (lack of) lighting) near invisibly and unobtrusively left the stage until all that was left were the drummer and bass player.  They jammed with sparks flying for about 10 minutes before the drummer made a quiet exit leaving the bass player to hold the audience captive with his solo for several minutes - utterly compelling, he had the audience in the palm of his hand - and it was a hell of a way to go out.  Those guys could really play.

    Posted by  on  08/19  at  08:16 AM
  114. Speaking of closing statements, on World Party’s Bang!, the closing song finishes.  If you don’t notice immediately, you get a surprise after the silence a couple of minutes later because the track closes with a “hidden” rather irreverent song in a somewhat Beach Boys-esque style about Gulf War I lampooning the seriousness (or otherwise) of American attitudes (can’t go surfing in Kuwait City...).  Strangely relevant again…

    Posted by  on  08/19  at  09:01 AM
  115. For the record, my name didn’t show up on 112-114.  Maybe if I add a URL…

    Malcolm McLaren and the Bootzilla Orchestra open Waltz Darling with “The House of the Blue Danube”.  It opens with the classical Blue Danube, overlaid with a female voice in the ... er, throes of passion, before kicking into a House remix of various classical icons (which defines much of the album and works quite well if you’re not too much of a purist).

    Posted by Lotharsson  on  08/19  at  09:07 AM
  116. One of the most compelling abums is Gavin Bryars (with Tom Waits) Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet, providing you have the patience for it.  It very very slowly fades in with a (real) tramp/hobo quaveringly singing

    “Jesus’ blood never failed me yet, never failed me yet...this one thing I know, for he loves me so.”

    It continues in a somewhat repetitive fashion for quite a long time, with strings quietly joining as backing, and over a long time turning into various orchestral and choral configurations with subtle variations.

    The first time I heard this was on the radio when I came across it part way through, and after a long long time, enough to lull me into an almost hypnotic background appreciation of the music while I was working on something else, I had a spine tingling moment as Tom Waits gravelly voice slowly joined in the vocals and over another fifteen minutes or so branched out to harmonize with and eventually take over the melody and fade out on his own…

    Hypnotic, beautiful, spine-tingling at times, and evocative and resonant because Tom Waits so often evokes the hobo finding enough hope to survive in a dark and dangerous world.

    Posted by Lotharsson  on  08/19  at  09:48 AM
  117. Michael, I think you’re completey wrong about Topper Headon.  Get the Give ‘em Enough Rope album and listen to Safe European Home and Tommy Gun. Powerful, driving drumming that’s not just bass drum on 1&3, snare on 2&4, hi-hat doings 8ths.  If you still feel that way after lending an ear, then, well, you’ve obviously gone completely insane with all the thinking about Loony Leftists recently.

    Oh, this is just great, Henry.  Now I have to write five consecutive 3000-4000 word entries on why the democratic left should oppose Topper Headon.

    Opposing Tory Crimes is another thing.

    Posted by Michael  on  08/19  at  10:40 AM
  118. Michael’s question in #75 starts by discussing “means of production”, moves to “Mechanical Reproduction” and ends by actually asking about “Electronic Transmission”. I think that the relevant question to ask should be directly about the means of representation of the music - analog vs. digital - which in turn had effects both profound and subtle on those three processes and more.

    And for that question I would vote the advent of the CD as the signal event - the first widespread use of the new representation. Among the direct effects of the CD that weakened albums were: increased capacity, Bonus tracks, and devices with easy “skip” and “shuffle” - but it is the digital representation itself which enabled this and the all the continuing developments. [And to mark revolutionary transformations I believe the usual practice is to mark its earliest, even if incomplete, manifestation.]

    So “Digital Killed the Audio-Phile”, and did collateral damage to concepts such as albums (which term itself appears to be a carryover from the need to have an actual “album” of multiple 78 discs to hold something hte length of a symphony.) Here is an interesting look at the history of recording technology.

    Posted by  on  08/19  at  10:58 AM
  119. Sorry, a bit late to this post.

    Would have nominated Pet Sounds or Born to Run if I’d seen this yesterday, but instead I will mention one of my favorite underappreciated albums - Lloyd Cole’s Love Story.

    Opening: Trigger Happy
    Closing: For Crying Out Loud

    A great arc of songs about romance.

    Posted by  on  08/19  at  12:33 PM
  120. Tattoo You by the Rolling Stones opens with “Start Me Up” and ends with “Waiting On a Friend”; two magical performances by a band still on top of its game.

    In early 80’s I was into Punk and New Wave and the Stones were far from my favorite band, but even I could appreciate these old dogs of Rock & Roll on this pretty damn good record.

    Posted by Alex Von Waldenberg  on  08/19  at  12:52 PM
  121. "Zen Arcade” by Husker Du begins (drumwise) with a quick militaristic ratta-tatta going into “Something I Learned Today” and finishes with the triplet-y, jazzy drones of “Reoccurring Dreams”. Hardcore proto-grunge (and “emo” as all heck) to party-clearing-out indulgent psychedelia.

    Supposedly Hart, Mould, and Norton had a vague concept album thing going on. The concrete emotional pounding of the beginning of the album give way to experimental stream of consciousness amidst feedback, MXR distortion, and Hart’s drumming (he later gave up on his hardcore press-roll playing for a more straightforward thud)...and a bunch of footloose punkrockers got a look at how punk + ambition could work for them.

    Posted by  on  08/19  at  01:26 PM
  122. Bob Marley on Natty Dread takes you from “Lively Up Yourself” to “Revolution” by way of “No Woman No Cry,” “Rebel Music,” and “Bend Down Low”—hell, they’re all great. I always play both sides, and I’m always ready to stand up for people’s rights after.

    The bass and piano that open “So What” on Kind of Blue create a four a.m. world for the listener to live in until becomes complete in “Flamenco Sketches.”

    And on and on.

    Posted by  on  08/19  at  02:04 PM
  123. Late to the game as well, echoing the Television & Waits love, but a few more entries to add:

    Built to Spill, Keep it like a Secret - from “The Plan” razor-sharp opening chord to “Broken Chairs” fading jam, pure art-punk perfection in-between

    Dylan, Blood on the Tracks - I’ll take “Tangled up in Blue” and “Buckets of Rain” as his best of many great bookends

    And to echo Pixies Doolittle - as good as “Debaser” begins, “Gouge Away” is the perfect pop ode to mutilation to end it.

    Posted by  on  08/19  at  02:29 PM
  124. I thought about Blood on the Tracks, the main soundtrack of my second semester of college, but I prefer the Side 1 pairing of “Tangled up in Blue” and “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go.” (The latter contains the exquisitely pithy observation When somethin’s not right it’s wrong.)

    How about covers of opener/closer pairings? In this case, Jerry Garcia’s “Tangled up in Blue” and the throbbing vibrato of Shawn Colvin’s “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go.”

    Yer gonna make me wonder what I’m doin’,
    Stayin’ far behind without you.
    Yer gonna make me wonder what I’m sayin’,
    Yer gonna make me give myself a good talkin’ to....................

    Posted by  on  08/19  at  02:58 PM
  125. Gang of Four, “Entertainment.” Opens with the short sharp chops of “Ether” and ends with the screeching mess that is “Anthrax,” a song that, itself, moves from unbounded, ear-bleeding feedback to King and Gill chanting over Burnham’s understated funk (I saw them play in Boston after the release of the “To Hell with Poverty” EP and I think my ears are still ringing from that night’s Anthrax). Back in the vinyl days side 2 began with the best dance tune with lyrics about the vapid ability of Westerners to enjoy the atrocity of atmospheric nuclear testing: “I Found That Essence Rare.” Twenty-seven years later, this record still makes me jerk about wildly.

    I’ve long argued that 1979 was an amazing year in pop music. The other record from that year that I’d urge we not forget is Nick Lowe’s “Labour of Lust.” Start with “Cruel to be Kind” (a song I didn’t fully appreciate at the time), end with “Love So Fine” and enjoy along the way the unsentimental love songs of “Cracking Up” “Big Kick, Plain Scrap” “Born Fighter” “Switchboard Susan” “Skin Deep” (Love and affection, of the covert kind, is just belly-to-belly, but never eye-to-eye/ a moment to treasure, is just a matter of time.") and the infectiously disturbing “Dose of You.” I swear my vinyl copy had “American Squirm"—the single drum beat at the opening having been perfectly timed to make for the greatest opening second in rock ‘n roll, imho—but I can’t find any proof of the song’s presence on the album anywhere on the internets and my vinyl lies forgotten and resentful in Indiana. Oh well, false memories really are preferable after all.

    I agree with much of what was written above—with the exception of the efforts of the Duran Duran partisans. I just want to add that I once had a Repo Man experience while driving through Detroit about 2 am at the tail end of 10 hours of solo driving thanks to Marquee Moon. Cruising among the corpses of abandoned cars under the regular flashes of the orange streetlights, the Verlaine solo that begins building 6 minutes in literally lifted my car off the ground.

    At least, that’s how I remember it.

    Posted by  on  08/19  at  03:38 PM
  126. Michael @ 117, hahahaha.

    Posted by  on  08/19  at  03:52 PM
  127. Sorry to join so late, but what the hey:

    Lots of credit here to Tull for Thick as a Brick, but practically every album of theirs does this, some more successfully than others, of course. My vote for their best would be Songs from the Wood, which starts with multi-layered harmonies singing “Let me bring you/Songs from the Wood” thus kicking off a beautifully-produced elegy (bucolic?) to the merits of the country life. It ends with Fires at Midnight, an organ-led meditation on domesticity at the end of a long day: “Me, I’ll sit and write this love song/As I all too seldom do/Build a little fire, it’s midnight/It’s good to be back home with you.”

    Hendrix’s second album, Axis: Bold as Love, begins with whacked-out dialogue, leading to a bit of distortion-ey silliness. But it ends with Bold as Love, which is relatively slow and intense, ending with a guitar outro that makes the stereo speakers want to sprout wings and fly up to heaven.

    Someone mentioned Sinatra: “Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely,” and while neither the opener - Only the Lonely - nor the closer - Where or When - are the strongest songs on the album, they’re great mood-setters, with Where or When actually providing uplift (and a too-loud crescendo) at the end of an album about heartbreak.

    Lastly, S&G’s Bookends only achieves half of a complete album - the arc from Save the Life of My Child (begun with that gorgeous Bookends melody, cut short with a bit of slashing organ) through America and Old Friends to Bookends itself, an astonishing anticipation of bittersweet memories at the end of life. And then a bunch of nice songs on Side 2, with At the Zoo relieving the dark Hazy Shade of Winter.

    Posted by JRoth  on  08/19  at  05:44 PM
  128. Absolutely Free! Starts out in your face, keeps going and going with no chance for you ever to catch your breath, and at the very end they even have the grace to solicit tips for the wait staff.

    Posted by  on  08/19  at  06:03 PM
  129. New Day Rising/Plans I Make

    Posted by Ouish  on  08/19  at  08:58 PM
  130. Dear Michael,

    Forgive me for doing this, but because I so rarely find myself in such a large company of like-minded folks I felt the need to point out the broad agreement my nomination of Marquee Moon elicited.  To recap we have:

    #41: My intial nomination
    #55: Karl the Grouchy Medievalist
    #61: m.ho
    #62: our esteemed host (Michael)
    #69: nick (included on the basis of his contribution of a cool factoid about Coltrane’s influence on Verlaine)
    #91: foobarski
    #96: Duck
    #123: Jason
    #125: Alan

    If we can agree on the strange transcendent splendor of “Marquee Moon” then there is real hope for building a broadly based left/progressive/liberal coalition in the U.S.

    I’m just sayin’

    Eric

    Posted by  on  08/19  at  09:43 PM
  131. Just a few additions, though how we react to an opening/closing really depends on how we feel about that album as an emotional marker.

    Radiohead: Kid A - I love the sound of the keys and the very closed/dry sound.

    Dream Theater: Awake - It opens with a killer drum intro and closes with Kevin Moore’s goodbye to the group.

    Posted by bruce  on  08/19  at  09:46 PM
  132. Personally, Ted Leo’s “Where Have All The Rude Boys Gone” knocked me completely flat when I first put on ‘Hearts of Oak,’ but in general? Let’s see . . .

    openers

    “Satellite” from TV on the Radio’s ‘Young Liars’ EP
    “London Calling” (come on)
    “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House” by LCD Soundystem (s/t)
    “Planet Telex” from Radiohead’s ‘The Bends’ (sets the tone perfectly for the album)

    closers

    “Leif Erikson” from Interpol’s “Turn On The Bright Lights”
    “Caught By The River” from Doves’ “Last Broadcast”
    I’m not counting “The (Stupid) Overload” from Remain In Light, because I refuse to acknowledge it’s existence, so therefore “The Listening Wind” is an awesome closer
    “Motion Picture Soundtrack” from Radiohead’s ‘Kid A.’ Completely epic.

    I didn’t thouroughly read the comments so sorry for any repeats.

    And DUH Blitzkrieg Bop

    Posted by  on  08/19  at  11:33 PM
  133. "So What”, the opener for Kind of Blue is ‘live’ on youtube.

    8 minutes of internet bliss.

    Posted by  on  08/20  at  12:45 AM
  134. "The Who Sings My Generation.” Opens with the brash declarative shout of “Out In the Street,” ends with gouing around in “Circles.”

    The first tune’s driven by raw guitar and James Brown-style vocals, the last by ballad vocalizing and Entwhistle’s French horn.

    Posted by RJ Eskow  on  08/20  at  01:17 AM
  135. PS - I agree with you entirely about Topper Headon.  Best in class ...

    Posted by RJ Eskow  on  08/20  at  01:19 AM
  136. Bach’s Goldberg Variations with the theme beginning and closing. Any mass by Josquin beginning with a Kyrie and ending with Agnus Dei. Any symphony by Haydn thruough oh lets say Mahler. Any crystal by Webern. Try Birtwistle’s EarthDances or Ian Wilson’s Far Country. This IS music.  PS: Michael, “Nubbingly” is a perfectly acceptable term of end-the-rope disquietude where I come from. Add it to your lexicon.

    Posted by  on  08/20  at  01:32 AM
  137. D. J. Bonebrake of X

    You got one right. Another underrated drumdrum dude: Jim Hodder, who played in early Steely Dan CDs; and who can forget Gadd on Aja. Btw, where be the great Berube Summer of ‘06 Dan post? They are sort of, er, bloggable.

    Posted by  on  08/20  at  02:19 AM
  138. Which is less common: A rap album without an opener, or one with a closer?  This is assuming that 1) skits get glossed over, and 2) rap is exempt from the “can’t be too obvious” rule.

    Opening statements:
    “Ebonics” by Big L
    “Oh Shit” by The Pharcyde
    “Nutmeg” by Ghostface Killah
    “Peter Piper” by Run-DMC
    “The Boomin’ System” by LL Cool J
    “Pitch Black Ark” by Micranots
    “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” by Old Dirty Bastard
    “The Humpty Dance” by Digital Underground
    “Funky Voltron” by Edan
    “New York State of Mind” by Nas
    etc.

    Closing statements:
    “Scenario” by A Tribe Called Quest.

    Even leaving off remixes at the end, there are very few closing statements.  There are some good posse cuts, and a lot of lame “conscious” songs tacked on ("I forgot to mention it, but the youth are the future and education is key and go to church and eat your vitamins!").

    It’s like they’re using the inverted pyramid, and if they have anything to say, you’ll get the important stuff in the first five tracks.

    Posted by  on  08/20  at  04:35 AM
  139. Gram Parsons, alas, was dead by the time “Grievous Angel” was released but opening with “Return of the Grievous Angel” and finishing with “In My Hour of Darkness” sure worked for me.

    Posted by  on  08/20  at  09:11 AM
  140. Ooh!  Ooh!  While most of my nominations (Rain Dogs, “Safe European Home,” Exile on Main Street, Tim, Horses--did anybody mention Horses??) have been covered here, I’m amazed nobody’s named Richard and Linda Thompson’s Shoot Out the Lights.  To those who love it, the greatest breakup album in history (though Richard denies it, and in fact most of the songs were written a couple of years before their divorce).  Opens with “Don’t Renege on Our Love,” a lyric about a relationship in trouble, set to a softly throbbing, lone-man-on-a-horse tune that eerily combines stoicism with piercing need.  Closes with “Wall of Death,” at once just a laugh and an utterly final song, so devotional in its passion and delirious in its sheer nutty tunefulness that it makes entirely good on its notion that closeness to death is nearness to life.  It has nothing to do with the album’s relationship theme, but the way in which--for the first and last time on the album--Richard’s and Linda’s voice really intertwine in glorious Byrds-like harmony (as opposed to lead-voc-with-backup) makes it a paradoxically perfect, uplifting conclusion--something about how, even after all the strife and bitterness of the preceding songs, the pair are together in the face of the bitterest fact of all.

    (Incidentally, the first CD release of the album tacked on a totally anticlimactic bonus cut that seemed like a sacrilege, coming after the unfollowable “Wall of Death.” When a later release that thankfully lopped that one off was forthcoming, Richard told an interviewer, “We were going to attach a sticker: ‘New, Improved Edition!  No Bonus Track!’")

    Posted by  on  08/20  at  10:16 AM
  141. I want to thank the folks who mentioned “Marquee Moon” enough to persuade me to buy it. WOW! There aren’t many un-macho guitar heroes, but these guys were among them. They had influence way beyond their record sales—I hear Patti Smith a lot, Richard Hell, Midnight Oil, um ... gosh, I’m blanking now, but while listening I heard tons of other bands, contemporary and later ... Greg Kihn shamelessly swiped a guitar hook from “Elevation” but that’s just a minor example.

    Another album with strong bookends: “Pretty on the Inside,” Hole. The opening line, “When I was a teenage whore,” grabs the attention, and the final song, “Pretty on the Inside,” is strong punk. And in the middle is “Garbage Man,” which belongs on the Top Five list of the Guitar Hooks Hall of Fame, and is an amazing song about childhood sexual abuse.

    Posted by  on  08/20  at  12:08 PM
  142. My nomination for album with best opening and closing statements goes to the recently late, great Arthur Lee and Love for “Four Sail.”

    The opening song, “August,” with Lee’s Spanish guitar stylings, his new speedfreak guitarist and the lyrics, opens ominously and explodes like fire. “August, it is all that I know. It’s with me wherever I go. It’s with me when I need a friend. It brings me good weather. It keeps me together. It picks me up when I’m down.” The song breaks into a whirling dervish-like frenzy that leaves you breathless at its end.

    The final song, “Always See Your Face,” has gotten some recognition since it appeared on the “High Fidelity” soundtrack. I blogged about that song at my own place and people continually drift over there to read about it, particularly Brits. They love it. The song has all the emotional power of anything from “Forever Changes” and isn’t tainted by the Summer of Love paranoia and Armageddon talk of Love’s classic. It is a simple statement about the permanence of loss, turned inside out and left for all to see. Lee’s voice is high and gorgeous and rough and shouting in the space of three and a half minutes. “I’m looking at you looking at me.” Wonderful.

    Posted by Bob in Pacifica  on  08/20  at  12:22 PM
  143. First, I must make you all jealous:  I went to the “As the World Burns” tour last night with the co-headliners of the Rollins Band and X!!!  They can still bring it!!!  I’ve seen X a few times and love them, but it was my first time seeing Rollins - when he first got down into his crouch I thought he momentarily looked like the most constipated man in America.  But his intensity is righteous.

    OK, I always have to bring a little reggae to the table:

    Bunny Wailers’ first solo album, Blackheart Man, opens with “Blackheart Man” as an introduction to his world and ends with the old spiritual “This Train” and rides off to the promised land with some great soul singing!

    Burning Spear opens his album Marcus Garvey with the title track, introducing you to the great topic of his career, Marcus Garvey, and with that, repatriation, justice and a homeland for blacks.  It closes with “Resting Place” - as in ‘where will I find my resting place?’ - still looking for home.

    OK, since most of reggae isn’t really album-oriented, let’s move on… to Alejandro Escovdedo - on A Man Under the Influence he opens with “Wave,” a somber song about people leaving town.  The album wraps with “About This Love” which connects the pain of separation with the hope of love.

    How about Leonard Cohen’s opening of Songs from a Room with “Bird on a Wire”?  Or how he sets out an aggressive stance I’m Your Man with the song “First We Take Manhattan” and closes with a more humble homage to the songwriting craft in “Tower of Song”?

    Kudos to the Neil Young - Tonight’s the Night, Roxy Music - Siren, and King Crimson votes.  But you fellow Crim-heads, is there no love for more modern Crimson?  Discipline opens brashly with “Elephant Talk,” showing that a whole new Crimson is here, and closes with a nice textural/mathematical display of their new guitar overlapping technique “Discipline.” Or on Thrak you have your different versions of “Vroom” showing their harder, stomping, take-no-prisoners, metallized edge.  And on The Power to Believe you have Adrian Belew’s synth-voice and Fripp’s soundscapes opening and closing the album (both named variations of the album title).  Mind you, I’m not exactly complaining about Larks Tongue in Aspic opening and closing with 2 versions of that piece grin I like Crim in each decade.

    Posted by  on  08/20  at  04:01 PM
  144. The opening of New Order’s ‘Blue Monday’…

    Iggy Pop’s ‘Passenger Song’ opens well even if it closes somewhat weakly.

    “I ride through the city at night...”

    Posted by protected static  on  08/20  at  04:58 PM
  145. Re #138 and rap:  If we’re allowed to ignore skits, then you’ve got to add De La Soul’s “Magic Number” from Three Feet High and Rising to the list of great rap opening statements. And there’s no skit to ignore at the start of Tricky’s Maxinquaye; “Overcome” is a great opening cut.

    To leave rap entirely, Luna’s Penthouse (which has already been mentioned in connection with the wonderful “23 Minutes in Brussels” from its middle) starts very strong with “Chinatown,” and ends equally well, if rather differently, with an (unlisted) cover of Serge Gainsbourg’s “Bonnie & Clyde.”

    Posted by  on  08/20  at  08:56 PM
  146. Ha suckers, just when you thought I’d stopped I return with arguably the best opening and closing in all of rap.

    I’m talking about Digable Planets’ brilliant sophomore showing on Blowout Comb--perhaps the richest album hip hop has ever produced--opening with the head-knodding greatness of “The May 4th Movement,” a track that announces to the world that the Planets can bring the politics along with the funk--and concluding with “For Corners,” a generous tribute to all those--east, west, and otherwise--who’ve got the funk.

    The whole album marked an exponential leap forward for the group in terms of musical sophistication and lyrical depth (pretty good when you consider their fledgling effort was a dynamite disc on its own), and it showed that hip-hop didn’t need gimmicky skits to help organize a record.

    Another disc worth mentioning here is The Roots’ 1999 release Things Fall Apart which opens with sampled dialogue from Spike Lee’s “Mo’ Better Blues” and offers an indictment of the increasing homogenization of rap. Not counting the hidden track, it closes with probably the best of the Ursula Rucker spoken word tracks on any Roots album, “Return to Innocence Lost,” a story of the death of Rucker’s brother by violence that registers just how profoundly things have fallen apart.

    Posted by  on  08/20  at  09:56 PM
  147. Just wanted to drop by and toss in my two cents for:

    Heat Treatment by Graham Parker and the Rumour, opening with the rollicking “Heat Treatment” and closing with the poignant yearning of “Fools Gold,” and

    The Bizarros eponymous debut album, which opened with “Young Girls at Market” and closed with “White Screen Movies,” each punctuated by a remarkable, elliptical Gerald Parkins guitar solo.

    Posted by  on  08/20  at  10:31 PM
  148. Late to the topic, but this reminded me of an album that I always, always skip over the opener and closer: Rufus Wainwright’s Want Two. The first song is a very pretty (musically, anyway) “Agnus Dei”, but Wainwright pronounces a gard G in Agnus, and it drives me batty, so I can’t listen to it. The closer is a weird disco type of song, with Rufus sharing singing duties with some guy who sounds like he could be in the Bronski Beat, which just repeats the same lyrics over and over, “Old Whore’s Diet”. I hate that song.

    Posted by maurinsky  on  08/21  at  09:09 AM
  149. Wolfstar, just goes to show how much tastes differ.  Early in the thread I said something about albums opening with a bang and ending with a whimper, and “Heat Treatment” was one of the albums I had in mind—I never liked Fool’s Gold and usually picked up the needle early.

    Posted by  on  08/21  at  12:03 PM
  150. Speaking of De La Soul (Ben, #145), their recent album “The Grind Date” has both a killer opening and a strong closer.  And no skits at all! 

    The first song, “The Future,” begins with its own miniature opening statement, a gradually fading-in combination of two voices: a sample of vocal harmonies from Switch’s “A Brighter Tomorrow” ("We are singing/you this message..."), and a floating De La voice repeating, “The past ... the present ... the future.” Eventually the beat drops, and wow.  Huge payoff.

    The closer is “Rock Co.Kane Flow,” featuring MF Doom, an ominous march with pounding piano chords and a witchy wordless chant in the background.  At the end of each verse, instead of any hook, there is either an accelerando or a ritardando, which the rappers follow diligently.  It’s the only time I’ve ever heard that device in a hip hop track.

    And when the track ends, the album ends.  No boring outros, no goofy hidden tracks.  From start to finish, it’s straight ‘70s-inspired hip hop, with much lyrical inventiveness and only a couple of weaker songs.

    Posted by  on  08/21  at  12:34 PM
  151. Who’s Next

    Baba O’Reilly - I love the bass on that
    Won’t get fooled again - you can’t beat that scream

    Posted by  on  08/21  at  06:18 PM
  152. Under most circumstances greatest hits collections would be out of bounds in a discussion like this, but in this, as in many things, Bob Dylan should be seen as an exception.

    “Greatest Hits, Vol. II” had its share of familiar stuff, but it also had five (out of twenty two) cuts that had never before seen daylight.  Beyond that, the familiar stuff now appeared in new sequences-- the setting was important to Bob, an early signal that he would be reworking his material throughout his career.  “Watching the River Flow” opens, “Down in the Flood” closes.

    Posted by Bill Altreuter  on  08/22  at  12:05 PM
  153. Re: Coltrane

    As far as opening tracks that put the world on notice:

    Giant Steps.

    the first 5 seconds are staggering; and then Trane’s solo starts.  And Sonny Rollins goes into hiding for a few years.

    Seriously, can anyone else make a similar claim—an album so good that it caused a rival to go into retirement?

    And thumbs up to the comment that suggested “The Shape of Jazz to Come.” 1959 was certainly an interesting year in jazz…

    Posted by  on  08/22  at  01:28 PM
  154. Four days into the thread and no one has mentioned the Replacements’ “Let It Be”? Shocking!

    Opens with “I Will Dare,” closes with “Answering Machine.” Both devastating in their own ways.

    Posted by Amy  on  08/22  at  02:18 PM
  155. Best thread ever..
    I was glad to see someone mention Arthur Lee and Love. I think Forever Changes has the the best closing line of all time: “There’ll be time for you to start all over..” Would that it were so.

    Posted by  on  08/22  at  02:35 PM
  156. Yeah, I can’t believe no one mentioned Let It Be, Amy.  How soon these kids forget!  Nowadays it’s all about Coltrane this and Dylan that.

    Posted by  on  08/22  at  02:45 PM
  157. I’ve always liked the way The Dream Academy’s Life in a Northern Town fades in with the first song, closes with “The Party” and then offers that sweet “One Dream” as a sort of coda to it all.

    Posted by  on  08/22  at  04:49 PM
  158. Late to the party as usual...but what the hell.

    Closing statements:
    Roxy Music, Bitters End and For Your Pleasure;
    Eno, Taking Tiger Mountain;
    Portishead, Glory Box;
    Dave Alvin, As She Slowly Turns to Leave;
    Ahlam, whatever the last song is called on Revolt Against Reason;
    Talking Heads, Road to Nowhere;
    Thin White Rope, The Fish Song.

    Opening statements:
    Tom Waits, Earth Died Screaming (or is this a closing statement masquerading as an opening statement? or vice versa?);
    Shriekback, All Lined Up;
    The Mekons, Memphis, Egypt.

    Posted by Tom Hilton  on  08/22  at  08:08 PM
  159. prince’s purple rain:  “let’s go crazy”, “purple rain"…

    (can i just say that the lefty blogs are so musically white it’s depressing...)

    Posted by  on  08/22  at  09:41 PM
  160. #159,

    You’re sooooo right. The presence of those fucking palefaces like Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Marvin Gaye, Mingus, Miles, De La, Digable PLanets, Tribe, The Roots and the rest really just highlight the unrelenting whiteness of left aesthetics. Glad you came along and rescued an otherwise bleached out list by adding Prince. <wink>

    Posted by  on  08/22  at  11:32 PM
  161. otherwise bleached out list by adding Prince.

    heh… i’m not saying there is an unrelenting whiteness of left aesthetics, just the music threads of the blogs i frequent…

    Posted by  on  08/23  at  02:31 AM
  162. Where is that confounded bridge?

    Posted by  on  08/25  at  07:02 PM
  163. The Mekons R&R: “Memphis, Egypt” ("Destroy your safe and happy lives before it’s too late")/"When Darkness Falls” (Why do you talk so loudly when your on my mind")

    Posted by  on  08/26  at  02:59 PM
  164. the WaPo had a very nice article on the recently deceased Knack drummer and the opening beat to My Sharona…

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/08/24/AR2006082401884.html

    And Greil Marcus wrote a whole book about the opening bip on Like a Rolling Stone…

    Posted by  on  08/28  at  03:17 PM
  165. Wow really very nice and good information you share here. I read your entire post and really very nice and good info on sandisk mp3 players. Really very nice and Thanks for sharing nice and valuable information.

    Posted by portable electronics  on  03/19  at  03:52 AM

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