Why Their First Album Is So Important When you Become A ‘Super Fan’

A friend, an older brother or a coworker hands you an album and says: “You gotta hear this. It’s their debut album. I love it!”. You’d heard of the band, and maybe the first single, but you hadn’t listened to the whole album. You take it home and give it a spin.

One of two things usually happen.

Either you hate it and chastise them for having such poor taste in music…


…you love it and immediately search for more of their music.

I recently, and finally, picked up The Tragically Hip’s self titled EP at one of my local record stores. After listening to it a few times and reminiscing with my wife, I started thinking about the significance of a band’s first album. My wife and I would spend countless hours cruising Sault Ste. Marie’s backcountry roads while what we referred to as The Hip’s ‘blue tape’ roared out of the speakers of our van.

A band’s debut album is often the entry point for the ‘super fan’. It can be the start of a lifelong, or career long, love affair. However, it can also be a way for ‘new’ fans (folks that discover the greatness of their music years or even decades after they were recorded) to rediscover their music and appreciate how they got where they are now.

I came of age in the era of music videos. I discovered artists, such as; AC DC, Aerosmith, Bonnie Raitt and Robert Palmer, through their most successful hits. It wasn’t until years later, and when I started collecting records, that I discovered and fell in love with their back catalogues, including their first albums. I wasn’t exposed to these albums when they were released, but because I’ve progressed from a fan of their hits to a fan of their work, I can truly appreciate where they came from and these albums become equally as important.

Only the super fan can truly appreciate that first album, often after the band has amassed a healthy back catalogue. The super fan either stuck with the band because they connected with the music right from the start or they  connected on a later recording that inspired them to take a look back, hoping to learn where that genius came from.

Bands with any longevity usually benefit from more lucrative recording contracts, access to higher quality recording studios, better producers and better engineers. This is often reflected in subsequent albums, but when the super fan listens to that first album they’re aware of where the band is now and can truly appreciate what got them there.

This is why that first album will always become so important when you become a super fan. It’s the birthplace of something great.



A good nights sleep could be keeping you from writing your first novel

Sleepless nights, I’ve had a few.

Although I’ve never been diagnosed with insomnia, I often lie awake at night while thoughts seemingly race through my brain. Sometimes they’re quite random, while other times they’re almost fully realized.

Somehow, and for some reason, I’ve thought up jokes in the middle of the night. Some of them have been so hilarious that I’ve woken my wife because I was actually laughing out loud at my own joke. And yet, I’ve never remembered to write them down!

I’ve thought of what I think are great lyrics and almost entire chapters to novels that I know I will never write. Again, I never seem to remember to write anything down!

I don’t consider myself to be a creative person, never have. However, perhaps its the lack of sleep or my subconscious that occasionally provides me with a glimpse of what is really going on in my head that I’m unable to express, for whatever reason?


Have we lost the art of listening to music?

I recently read an article that Alan Cross linked to that was published in The Guardian on Tuesday, May 9th. Kate Hennessey’s article was entitled “In full, on vinyl, no talking: have we lost the art of listening to music?” You should read it. It was very good.

I was absolutely blown away when I read about a venue hosting events where music fans gathered to listen intently to recorded music like it was something groundbreaking. These so called music fans were actually willing to pay money to sit quietly while they listened to an album in its entirety. Would they consider doing this if the same artist was in front of them performing live? In my experience, they wouldn’t.

If such events have any traction beyond ‘trend’ status, should we not be trying to promote the act of listening intently to an artist actually performing live? Or does such an act lack the irony that a certain demographic finds necessary in order to justify their participation?

I love experiencing live music. I don’t get out as often as I’d like, but when I’ve made a conscious decision to see a band or solo act perform live I want to actually hear them perform. My biggest pet peeve is people that talk during a show that I’ve invested time and money to see. Since when are musicians less worthy of our undivided attention than other performing arts? Would you talk or take a phone call during a ballet, contemporary art performance or while an author is reading from their latest work? I highly doubt it.

If the popularity of these ‘listening’ events is indeed on the rise, why the heck can’t fans gather together to actually listen to a musician perform live? Perhaps live music just isn’t cool enough.

Why I listen to records. It has nothing to do with sound quality.

Finding himself home alone for a few hours and his to do list completed, he flicked on the light switch and walked down the stairs to their basement. His eyes scanned the shelves filled with close to a thousand titles, organized alphabetically and chronologically. He needed a few minutes to consider his options.

What was his current state of mind? How much time did he have? How did he want to feel? What memories did he want to recall? Something familiar? Something old? Something new?

The tips of his fingers slowly brushed the spines as his eyes scanned each title. His decision made, he gently removed his selection from the shelf and walked across the room. Removing it from it’s protective sleeve he carefully placed the center spindle through the small whole in the black vinyl disk, raised the tone arm and set the needle.

He sat cross legged on the floor in front of the turntable, slowly examining the cover art, allowing the music to wash over him. Within minutes he was transported, no longer in their basement. He’d listen to the entire album while reviewing the liner notes and enjoying a much needed distraction.

I love music and I love listening to records. I’ve been collecting them for over 15 years. I prefer listening to music on vinyl for several reasons, the least of which is the quality of the audio.

Music is art, a performing art the same as theatre and dance. It’s also an art as is literature and the visual arts. It deserves the same level of respect, therefore, when I’m in the mood to listen to music I often try and create an atmosphere where I can devote my attention to the art itself. This requires me to take my time, focus on the music and be able to really hear and see what the band/artist is trying to present.

I much prefer vinyl records to other formats, especially digital, because it forces me to slow down the entire process of experiencing the art. Listening to records takes time. It’s an investment. That’s the point. Isn’t great art worth investing in?

Listening to records also helps me focus on the music because it’s not easy to throw on a record and go about your day. You can’t simply select shuffle then play and leave it alone. Having to flip the album further slows down the process and keeps me close to the turntable, which helps me to focus on the music.

And then there’s the size of the packaging, the album cover and liner. It provides the band/artist with so much more space to convey their message. I’m drawn to the large scale (when compared to CD’s and cassettes) cover art and the easier to read liner notes. I usually end up Googling the cover art, history of the band/artist or any number of musicians that played on the album.

Surprisingly I rarely consider the quality of the audio when I’m listening to records. I simply enjoy how the entire experience makes me feel. Art intends to evoke emotion. When it comes to vinyl records, I’d say mission accomplished.




Driving down a corduroy road

It was the late 70’s. I was probably no more than 6 years old. My father was a priest. At that time he served 3 churches in rural Ontario. Sunday was a busy day with multiple services to hold before noon. Each church was in a different community several kilometres away from the other. As my father was known for his lengthy sermons and insistence upon saying goodbye to everyone following the service, it almost always left him with very little time to get to the next church.

I remember looking forward to being asked to join him on these trips, not because I was keen to hear another lengthy sermon, but because I loved riding down those corduroy roads.

Its the middle of the summer. The sky is a bright blue with just a few pure white, puffy clouds. The air is warm. The windows are down. A 70’s green Plymouth Valari driven by a priest, with a 6 year old beside him in the passenger seat, speeds through the countryside, down gravel roads, passing fields of corn (knee high by the fourth of July) and cows. The car is travelling so fast it appears to fly off even the smallest hill. The boy’s arm sticks out the open window as he feels the air push against it.

It seemed like we were always running late, immediately issuing apologies as we arrived in the church parking lot. Instead of the sermon, its the buildings that I remember the most. I was surprised that people had come together to build something so grand, often in the middle of nowhere, just so they could gather 1 day per week to worship. The tall, ornate steeples, intricate stained glass and detailed woodworking.

Even today, I find myself drawn to the architecture of places of worship. They often feature prominently in my travel photos. Maybe it reminds me of driving down those corduroy roads.

I Learned Everything I know From Someone Else

It’s true! I’ve literally learned everything I know from someone else. I often think about this fact and, by doing so, I remember to always be open to learning something new from anyone in which I interact.

However, I readily admit that grammar is a notable weak point.

By being honest with myself that I don’t know everything and that I’ve learned everything I know from another person, I find that I’m a better listener and more open to taking time to consider how and why people say and do what they do.

There’s always multiple sides to any story in addition to multiple view points. Despite our desire for a black and white world, it simply doesn’t exist and once you embrace this fact you might just find yourself less stressed and more amazed at the randomness and beauty that is the chaos surrounding us.

I find myself triggered for inspiration and have a great deal of respect for anyone that inspires me. I think my greatest gift to family, friends and neighbours is to inspire them. Inspire them to do or say something that they hadn’t previously considered prior to our interaction. What a gift!



I’m the worst friend, ever!

I’m the worst friend, ever!

I’ll likely forget your birthday, unless Facebook sends me a reminder. I never send a card. I absolutely and positively abhor speaking on the telephone! Is there such a thing as a phobia of speaking on the phone? If so, I have it.

I’m the worst at gift giving, unless I discover something that screams you. However, I’m the guy that’ll help you out anytime I can. Help you move, lend you my truck and/or trailer and share your latest venture with everyone I know. If you meet me half way I’ll go above and beyond for whatever it is that’s important to you. Sadly, I often feel that my intentions miss the mark, by a long shot.

I find it perplexing, and it takes up a lot of my free time, yet I still try and figure out how I can meet people’s expectations, despite the fact that I rarely understand them.

The point? Be patient, be kind, and just know that I wish you all the best and am just figuring out how to be your friend the best way I know how.


You’re so vain!

A blog? Seriously? You’re so vain. While I admit to a certain amount of vanity, I find myself constantly attempting to suppress a need to express my thoughts and feelings. I totally admit to being addicted to Facebook. I use social media to keep my family, friends and neighbours updated on my life, however, I often find it challenging to balance updates with methods of expression. Perhaps WordPress can provide me with the gratifaction that I apparently crave?