My Winter Albums (Part 1)

29 12 2011

Some songs remind us of love, family, friendships, joy, sadness, birth, death, events in our lives and even entire years or seasons. (At least that’s true for me.)  There are entire albums that, regardless of their release date, remind me of winter or are good albums to listen to during that season.

These are my winter albums.

5150, Van Halen — I faked being sick so I could stay home from school and hear the worldwide debut (on radio) of the new Van Halen’s first single, “Why Can’t This Be Love.”  Of my own memory, I can only recall that the day was cold and gray.  The song, though decent, was a bit of a letdown.  Amazon.com says the single was released on March 26, 1986, which sounds about right.  The entire 5150 album.  Was released in April of that year.  Why does it remind me of winter?  I don’t know other than to say that it was cold when I first heard the first single.  I know “Summer Nights” is on that album, but I had played it probably a hundred times before the ground thawed.

Rubber Soul, The Beatles —  I don’t know why exactly, but this album seems like one to listen to as fall breaks into winter, about this time of year.  That’s probably because I always envisioned in my mind the lyrics to “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown).”  I imagined the couple drinking wine next to a roaring fire — though the “fire” that was “lit” in the song was the woman’s house burning to the ground after rejecting our protagonist.  Before I had the album, I had Love Songs, the compilation album of Beatles ballads that Capitol released in October 1977.  That has four songs from the British Rubber Soul album.  Love Songs was a Christmas present for me that year and I used to listen to it while wrapped in a blanket, laying on the floor, looking at the cold, gray sky outside.

The Beatles a/k/a “The White Album,” The Beatles — It opens with “Back in the USSR,” a song that plays on love in the cold Russian weather (in stark contrast to “California Girls”; sunshine and girls in bikinis.)  The outro, bleeding into the chiming guitar of Dear Prudence, is a howling, cold arctic wind.  After that, the entire two record set sounds like something that’s played indoors, away from the elements.   As far as I’m concerned, there’s no music on that album you’d think of playing at a beach or a picnic.

Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes — “White Winter Hymnal,” I think, sets the tone for the whole album.  These guys nailed the sound of winter (if there is such a thing.)

GN’ R Lies, Guns N’ Roses — In the old days, people used to be music in stores.  Those stores sold music on these large black discs called “vinyl records” or LP’s, meaning “long playing” discs.  These stores also used to sell music on small, rectangular cartridges that had magnetic tape in side them, which contained the music.  These cartridges were called cassettes.  Then there were CD’s or compact discs, which were shiny, plastic-encoated metal discs smaller than an LP.  I once worked in such a store, and spent a lot of hours in it during the holiday season of 1988.  That “record store” was Musicland in the Westland (Michigan) Mall.  We record store employees were encouraged to open and play sample cassettes or CD’s and we played GN’R Lies quite a bit.  Westland is (or was) a blue collar, hard-rockin’ town, and rockers by the hundreds came into the store around Christmas of that year to buy this album.  We were constantly running out of it and having to restock it.  It wasn’t the only big seller that year, but it is an album that makes me think of the winter of my senior year in high school.  I’m no GN’R fan, but it was a decent little album.  “I Used To Love Her” is a classic in my book.

To be continued, should the inspiration hit me…

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