Check out Self Made Man exclusively on rushonrock!
Track one, Side One: Words that mean nothing to one generation yet to another, it can define an album.
The day of LPs being the main format of albums are long gone of course while cassettes are virtually defunct.
The arrival of CDs and the proliferation of digital music has made tracklisting far less important than it once was but is it irrelevant?
I ask this after reading a review of Van Halen’s excellent new album A Different Kind Of Truth, which criticises the order of songs. I happened to agree with every word.
The album kicks off with the catchy pop anthem Tattoo, which may have split opinion among VH fans but essentially makes sense.
But what makes ADKOT unusual is that the best songs on it are tracks 10, 11 and 12, namely Outta Space, Stay Frosty and Big River while if there is filler material, it’s probably the two tracks which follow Tattoo _ She’s the Woman and You And Your Blues.
Unusual, but not unique. For another album released this year by class rock veterans, UFO’s Seven Deadly suffers from the same affliction.
It kicks off with two rockers, nothing wrong with that but Fight Night and Wonderland hardly send the pulse racing. The album closes with Waving Good Bye, one of the best tracks the band have written since their glory days in the seventies.
And just like Van Halen’s latest release, Seven Deadly gets better the longer you listen to it with The Last Stone Rider and Burn Your House Down featuring late on.
Historically, however, Track One, Side One sets the tone of an album.
Think AC/DCs Back In Black album and can you imagine it starting with anything but Hell’s Bells? It’s the same with Rainbow’s most famous album Rising which kicks off with the eerie keyboards and pounding riff of Tarot Woman.
Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here opens and closes with the brilliantly haunting Shine One You Crazy Diamond, a song which I suggest would lose much of its majesty had it been placed anywhere else. It’s the same with Dire Straits’ beautiful Telegraph Road on Love Over Gold.
Some bands’ best and most famous songs happen to be Track One, Side One of their very first album. A classic example is Bat Out of Hell on Meatloaf’s self-titled debut, another is Boston’s More Than A Feeling.
Even in the post-vinyl age, modern bands can send out a message with their very first song on an album. Airbourne’s Stand Up for Rock and Roll on Runnin’ Wild and Rival Sons’ All Over the Road announce themselves as serious players in the world of rock music and will probably remain two of the bands’ most impressive works.
Of course, there is no hard and fast rule about opening tracks. Led Zeppelin, a band that eschewed the singles’ market, don’t seem to have placed too much significance on tracklisting with Stairway To Heaven, Dazed And Confused, Kashmir and Since I’ve Been Loving You _ arguably their best-known tunes _ being placed mid-album.
In an age when more and more music lovers are cherry-picking their songs and rarely listen to albums in their entirety, order of play may seem to be an anachronistic irrelevance.
But to paraphrase AC/DC and The Scorpions, there’s something to be said for love at first listen and if the first song on an album is a cracker, then I’m far more likely to listen to the subsequent material than if the opener is a turn-off.