by J A Gray


My life has a discography.  If you’re about the same age as me, more or less, yours probably does too.  If you spent all your pocket money and far too much of your wages on LPs and CDs then you’ll likely be able to resonate with much of what follows.  What I’m about to attempt will be part autobiography (filtered through rock ‘n’ roll), and part a discussion of my favourite albums of the late 20th Century (filtered through how I relate to them).  Each chapter will cover a year of my life and my favourite album to be released in that year.  I don’t for a minute claim to have been listening to Love Forever Changes during the second year of my life, or Abbey Road at the age of 4 (though I was certainly listening to it by the time I was 8) – the music is discussed chronologically, but my interaction with it occurs in a more haphazard way, depending on when I first came across the record in question.  I thought this was preferable to spending too many chapters discussing the songs I was really listening to as a toddler, even if I could remember what they were (I’m sure Parsley the Lion would be in there somewhere).

I will be incredibly decisive and choose just one album to represent one calendar year.  Obviously this is an utterly ridiculous conceit as in truth there is no such thing as a “greatest album of 19xx”.  Music isn’t, or shouldn’t be, a competition, and choices like this are often down to age, gender, cultural background, temperament, and a thousand other factors.  These are just my personal favourites at the time of writing.  There will also be a short list of other albums that I feel deserve to be mentioned in dispatches at the end of each year/chapter.

Remember though that not all years were created equal.  For some years (and 1969, ’70 and ’71 spring readily to mind), the pickings are so rich that these lists of also-rans could fill up page after page.  For other years (stand up please 1974-6, and also 1980-2) it has proved to be a monumental struggle just to jot down a few halfway decent albums and I’ve lowered my standards in such instances.  Indeed 1981 is such a low point that I’m not even totally convinced about the album I have chosen to discuss.

If a particular favourite record of yours hasn’t made the list though, this doesn’t necessarily mean I don’t like it.  It could be that it was released during one of those golden years and, heck, I had to draw a line somewhere.  Or it could be that I haven’t yet heard it – shocking, I know, but I’ve still not heard every album released in my lifetime.  Of course it could be that I think it stinks to high heaven.  You can probably guess which of these three options is nearest to the mark without my having to tell you – there are more than enough clues on these here pages.

In an age where the whole notion of ‘listening to an album’ is fast becoming an old-fashioned concept, I felt the urge to document the formative years of my ongoing romance with the LP and the CD.  I intend to write whatever comes out and try not to think too much.  I hope it’s mostly entertaining and occasionally informative.  Right then, pull up a chair and I’ll begin at my beginning…..