I don’t want to overwhelm you over a weekend, but in case you missed it, tomorrow is going to be one very big day.
That’s right – while you were running your lives, it may have slipped your attention that October 12th is National Gumbo Day here in the U.S.
But if that isn’t enough, National Day Calendar – our definitive source for these celebrations – Saturday has also been set aside to honor the following milestones:
- National Farmer’s Day
- National Saving Day
- National Freethought Day
- National Costume Swap Day
- National Motorcycle Ride Day
Hopefully, you’ll be able to contain yourselves. But across the pond, there will be something very different happening in the UK.
For the second consecutive year, they’re celebrating National Album Day supported by BBC Sounds. This group isn’t just talking about vinyl (although it’s a component) but the album format that’s been with us for decades.
Because of digital music delivery, the album format may be nearing the end of its life cycle. A study of 2,000 adults in the UK revealed nearly half are listening to fewer complete albums than just a few years ago.
Many – especially those under 25 – put albums on shuffle or just keep playing the same individual songs, rather than listening to the entire sequence as it was originally recorded.
Digital Music News broke down the study and came up with a few fascinating factoids that help explain why all the fuss about National Album Day:
- 15% of these UK music fans under 25 have never listened to an album in its entirety (as we used to say on AOR stations).
- Just over one-fourth actually play albums in the order in which they were recorded, especially men.
- Live events spur interest in album listening. A whopping 74% say they’re more apt to listen to an album after they’ve seen the artist in concert.
We don’t know whether these numbers would differ very much here in the US. Oddly, Deezer found that Scots are quite a bit more likely to listen to album than Brits. Go figure.
Most cite a lack of time and busy as key reasons why they don’t listen to albums. And there’s probably some truth to that, given that sitting down and listening to a favorite album was truly an activity people enjoyed, especially in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s.
While it may not be three strikes for the album format yet, it certainly appears that after 70 years of popularity, it may be yet another victim of digital disruption.
So, perhaps tomorrow (it’s a Saturday after all), walk down your basement or den and look through those old albums (assuming you haven’t sold them all), pick out a favorite, and let us know what it is, via social media or the “comments” section below.
And if you’re so motivated, pull another album whose artwork had great appeal for you.
It’s won’t be like visiting a museum, but it may feel that way.
Last year on the first National Album Day, music fans were encouraged to listen to a favorite album at 3:33pm. Hopefully, tomorrow or next year, it won’t be a moment of silence.
And perhaps on an ironic but fitting not, the #1 best-selling album in the world last week? A half century after its release, “Abbey Road.” It sold nearly 70,000 units – a huge number for a reissue.
And to ensure that I would only ask you to do something I would do, perhaps my favorite album of all time is Bob Seger’s “Stranger In Town,” released in 1978, not long after I went to work in Detroit at WRIF.
We usually threw in several tracks when new albums would come out from core artists, let them play for a week or two, and then select a couple of two or three songs to stick with based on phone and internal reaction. The labels always wanted us to play the single, but it didn’t always work out that way.
When “Stranger in Town” walked into the station (I believe it was Capitol Records’ Craig Lambert who proudly delivered it to us), I was in PD Tom Bender’s office. Along with MD Tawnya Townsend, we “needle-dropped” the entire album. And my memory is we green-lighted every song on “Stranger in Town.” It was that obvious and the album was that good.
A great story showed up last week in Stereogum by Brady Gerber, breaking down Seger’s entire career and discography. While some will choose “Night Moves,” “Against The Wind,” or “Live Bullet” as Seger’s greatest, “Stranger In Town” is the story of a Midwestern musician’s dreams shattered – or at least tempered – in L.A.
That’s the story of “Hollywood Nights,” and several other songs on the album. And the title of the album literally says it all. And to me, at least, “Stranger In Town” cemented Seger’s status as a rock superstar.
As for album artwork, it’s probably a tie between “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band” and Pink Floyd’s “Animals.” Force a choice and it’s the latter, thanks in no small part to the brilliant design team at Hipgnosis and the brilliant Storm Thorgerson.
In those days, artists often used the same designers on multiple albums, providing a unique sense of style and a signature look. Yes, it was pretty common to put the tone arm on the record, and then spend time looking at and appreciating its album art.
The day will come when album artwork will be celebrated for the true art it is. – FJ
Thanks to David Moore, a true Motor City guy.
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