John – My Life in 5 Albums
We’re back with another edition of ‘My Life in 5 Albums’. It’s the turn of soundlounge’s Head of Creative Product, John Ingham to give us a window into their musical upbringing. Let’s take a look at his favourite tracks…
1). Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers (1971)
In their heyday you were a Beatles fan or a Stones fan – you couldn’t be both. I was Beatles, but I’ve left them off this list because they’re, well, The Beatles. The Stones had to grow into their brilliance, which happened with ‘Aftermath’ and continued until ‘Sticky Fingers’. It felt like they decided to be the best rock and roll band in the world and set about making it a fact. It helped to have a crisp, nothing-to-prove drummer onto which they hung a finely tuned rhythmic pulse. This hid all sorts of subtle complexities, topped with the icing of Jagger’s often extraordinary lyrics. Best summed up in ‘Bitch’, which has one of the best twin guitar solos ever.
Favourite track: Bitch
2). Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti (1975)
I still intimately remember the moment in a California back yard when I heard the first Led Zep LP – just released – on a big stereo with the volume way up. We played it straight for about 2 hours. It was the start of a beautiful friendship, cemented when I saw them on their second American tour with Jimmy Page wearing skinny black jeans, hi-top Converse and a beaten-up leather jacket – a look that would be contemporary today. The fourth album gets the praise, but ‘Physical Graffiti’ is where it all comes together – a VistaVision expanse of sound and colour, populated by riffs so brilliant they still cause sober men to play air guitar in their presence.
Favourite track: Custard Pie
3). Talking Heads – Fear of Music (1979)
I could have put any TH album here, but this was the one where they changed from a really good band to a great band. I’d been going to gigs and listening to their records since 1977 (when they quickly stood out from the Punk roughage), first in England and then when I moved back to LA. In their third album, all their ideas came together in a perfect blend of Art and Funk and Eno. (1) The album title has to be one of the best titles ever. (2) The musicians have been fleshed out with members of Parliament/Funkadelic. (3) There’s Eno, the Oblique Strategist, the Electro Jangler, the Art Crowd pin-up. Half the time, his presence is there just in the atmosphere of the playing. At other times you hear the sounds that fuelled the start of Electro and House. My favourite piece is “Drugs”. It was originally a mid-tempo guitar tune called “Electricity”. On record, it’s a crawling on the floor electronic pharmacopoeia…”I’m charged up! I’m barely moving.”
Favourite track: Drugs
4). Ryuichi Sakamoto – Gruppo Musicale (1987)
I spent half of the ‘80s in Tokyo – easily the most futuristic city on Earth. It made anywhere else look old fashioned, and that extended to some of the most original music presentations I’ve ever seen. Working at MIDI Records, I was made Executive Producer of this Sakamoto “Best Of”. At the time Ryuichi was riding high with an Oscar for the ‘Last Emperor’ soundtrack and a string of albums in collaboration with (among others) Brian Wilson and Iggy Pop. Sakamoto was a fascinating mix of ego and nervousness; I got to see up close what happens when a star tries to find reality in a world where everyone says “yes”. Listening to the track “Neo Geo” (which mixes the chords of Zep’s “Custard Pie” and cutting edge electro with traditional Okinawan and Balinese folk singing ) I can still see the 8-floor discos, the ancient temples, and some of the best food I’ve ever enjoyed.
Favourite track: Neo Geo
5). Ella Fitzgerald – Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Cole Porter Songbook (1956)
I could easily have put several titles here: James Brown or Prince, Bernstein conducting Beethoven, a handful of African magicians, the Nelson Riddle era Sinatra…The point is that at a certain point, I started to hear music not for the genre but for what it is: music. And there’s always more! Ella Fitzgerald is arguably the greatest vocalist of the 20th century. Her technical skills are legendary, but she also makes it sound so easy that most of the science is invisible. The Cole Porter album was the first release on Verve Records and designed to carry her from jazz into the much wider world of popular music. It was a big hit and led to further Songbook explorations on Gershwin and Johnny Mercer. (And if you want to hear what she could do live, when there are no safety nets, dive into “Live At The Opera House”.) It’s impossible to have a favourite but “In The Still Of The Night” always lifts me on its gossamer wings. Flawless.
Favourite track: In The Still Of The Night
Thanks for reading and see you next time!