Monday, April 6, 2009
First a bit of a book update. Audible.com is recording an audio version book (with actor Miles Chapin doing the reading) that will be available as an mp3 download (along with 60,000 other titles) at their website. No word yet on when it will be available. I've spoken with Miles and he's a fan of the record.
When you think about the decline of the LP and the rise of the CD, a lot of things have been lost in the transition that I miss. The sound of vinyl. (heck, just the sound of the needle dropping onto the vinyl and the few seconds of anticipation before the first notes). The album cover as readable art, not something that made me buy my first magnifying glass (and I now have one in every room where I listen to music). The feel of flipping through bins of wax in a record store. The thought that went into how an album was sequenced over two (or in some cases, four) sides. Stretched over an uninterrupted 75 minutes or so, almost all CDs seem to drag on interminably to me. But Radio City – like most great records – is sequenced in a way that adds to the listening experience.
Here's an excerpt from the book about how the album was sequenced:
Once mixed, the album needed to be sequenced and titled.
One thing that struck me most that first evening in June
of ’76 that I spent playing Radio City over and over was the
sequencing. Most vinyl LPs in that era were front-loaded
with what the band (or the record label) felt was the stron-
gest material, often with an emphasis on more up-tempo
rockers. Potential hits were usually positioned early to catch
the attention of radio programmers or reviewers. Weaker
cuts (ballads or songs written by someone other than the
primary songwriter) were stashed in the middle of Side
Two and then followed by a strong track to finish out the
side. Radio City threw that playbook out the window. After
kicking off with ‘O My Soul’—the longest track and not
exactly a flag-waver for the band’s trademark power pop—
the album settles into a methodical, even languid, pace.
Only the placement of ‘You Get What You Deserve’ at the
end of Side One and ‘Mod Lang’—both strong up-tempo
tracks—to start Side Two follows the standard sequencing
strategy. The potential hit single—‘September Gurls’—is
buried on the second side (the same could be said for ‘Back
Of A Car’). The album ends with two songs that sound
almost like demos or outtakes. Because of this unorthodox
approach, the album builds over the course of the two sides,
climaxing with ‘September Gurls’ before unwinding with
the two Chilton solo songs. Although less friendly for pro-
motion purposes (now many critics or deejays never made
it to Side Two?), it makes for a compelling experience for
the listener, one that may have been more a happy accident
Andy Hummel: From my limited experience, an awful
lot about the way you order songs on an LP is influenced by
the order they’re on master tape. You get used to it in that
order—every time you go into the studio to work on them
you go through that song and then you go through this song
and every time you record yourself a little quarter track mix
to take home and listen to they’re in that same order and
you get used to listening to them in that order. But sequenc-
ing the album would have been a conscious decision during
and after mixing them. So that’s when those decisions made
would have been made but even then they were made some-
what haphazardly because those last two songs Alex recorded
wound up at the very end. Obviously the order of a lot of that
other stuff must have been pretty much accepted.
Alex Chilton: There might be a sort of chronological
thing to the sequencing. I imagine that ‘September Gurls’
was one of the later tunes I composed. I think probably at
the end several of us sat down and said, “This will be the
running order” and we saved some of the weird, offbeat stuff
for towards the end just so as not to put people off too early.
As for the actual title of the album...stay tuned for Andy Hummel revealing how Radio City got its name...