The current issue of Mojo is a belter. Occasionally, my favoured journals produce an edition in which each and every article is resonant and crucial and September’s Mojo is to be acclaimed for its fine array of pieces. Two of its features highlight a pair (I can’t bring myself to type the word ‘brace’ again) of classic albums that are celebrating anniversaries this year and I’ve been revisiting, with no little relish, these recordings on my information pod. The Beatles’ eponymous classic double album, known by the masses as ‘The White Album’, is forty while Murmur, R.E.M.’s mumbled, melancholic masterpiece of a debut, was released five-and-twenty years ago.
I’d suggest there was a period in my life when I played Murmur four or five times a week, on my much-loved and battered old car stereo in my much-loved and battered old car. I would have been wearing desert boots and a plaid shirt. Listening to it again for the first time in ages and having lost some of my familiarity with its songs, I’m staggered how wondrous this long player sounds. Naturally,
It was once fashionable to suggest that The White Album, if shorn of some of its ‘filler’, could have been one of the greatest single albums ever; it is now modish – and heartening – to notice a new school of thought ululating the proposition that the sprawling, untidy mess of genius, folly and fun should be celebrated for what it is: a hotch-potch of wonder and wit that English popular music has ne’er seen the like of before or since. This is not my most-played Beatles album – Revolver wins that accolade – but so many of these songs are firmly embedded in the old consciousness. For every number I could live without (Piggies, Honey Pie, Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey) there are a host of dazzling, clever and essential tracks that maybe I couldn’t. I guess my favourite song is Happiness Is A Warm Gun, a challenging cornucopia of magical moments linked together with aplomb and dexterity. I also adore the pastoral tenderness of Mother Nature’s Son, the fragile and poignant Julia, the lilting whimsy of Dear Prudence and the Nick Drakey acoustic gem, Blackbird. The White Album does appear in many of those Top Albums of All-Time lists and often makes the top ten. I don’t hold it in quite that level of acclaim but I’ve really welcomed its eclectic brew again and, while I know this sounds a bit shallow, I salute the fact that all songs (apart from the experimental musique concrete piece Revolution 9) are all roughly four minutes in length or shorter: one doesn’t have to wait too long for the next jewel.
Happy birthday both.