‘Downloads are great’, I hear so many people say. ‘You can just get the songs you like and not have to buy the whole album’.
Imagine if downloads were available in 1966. The Beatles have just released Revolver, and Yellow Submarine is the single taken from it. Thousands of people rush to purchase this throwaway track, sung by a drummer with the vocal range of a St. Bernard. Meanwhile, they are missing out on album tracks I’m only sleeping; Here, there and everywhere; For no-one; and Tomorrow never knows: imaginative, beautifully constructed songs that have helped shape popular music.
The release of Yellow Submarine was a bit of a rarity for The Beatles; a band that frequently refused to cheat their fans by releasing singles that had already appeared on albums. During the past decade, before downloads had come to the fore, record labels made a mockery of the record-buying public by releasing as many as five or six singles off an album. The download has essentially ended such blatant money-grabbing, but has it also brought about the end of the album?
I would be dismayed if this happened. There is an unparalleled joy of playing an album having heard none of its tracks in advance, and gradually becoming acquainted with them over time. Yes, some turn out to be duds, but some provide us with years of great listening, and become part of our lives.
Over the course of the year, I will listen to one album a week that I’ve never previously heard, and place my comments here. These will be albums I’ve always fancied trying out but never got round to: recommendations from friends or critics; ones I’ve bought for bargain prices on the internet; or simply ones that have been hyped up so much I feel I have to try them out.
2010 is the year to rescue the album. Who’s with me?