9 Album Oral Histories We'd Love to See

Categories: 2013

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The music industry doesn't produce director's commentary. Your average musician isn't doing press tours, they're doing three hours of phone interviews. Every album has a narrative, a set of circumstances that led up to its tenor and tone, but much of that is left by the wayside.

Music writing's answer to bridge that divide is the oral history. A way to tribute an important record from years past with a personal candor, the best example might be Pitchfork's oral history of Interpol's Turn on the Bright Lights, an album that turned out to be a defining moment for modern indie-rock, but will also never get a segment on 60 Minutes. As it turns out, it's pretty interesting to hear about the moment Paul Banks started singing from the people who were there. So with that in mind, we decided to pick a few albums that we'd love to read oral histories about. There's a good chance none of these will ever happen, for one reason or another, and that only makes us more curious.

See also: The Oral History of NYC's Metal/Hardcore Crossover

Happy Mondays - Yes Please!
This is perhaps one of the more underrated train wrecks in pop music history. Happy Mondays, a collection of Manchester druggies, were off to Barbados to record the follow-up to the excellent Pills 'n Thrills and Bellyaches. They chose Barbados to get away from the heroin, but instead they just started smoking a heroic amount of crack cocaine. The record would go one to bankrupt Factory Records and serve as the final death rattle of the decaying Madchester scene. Mostly we'd just like to hear if Shaun Ryder says he's sorry.

Sly & The Family Stone - There's a Riot Goin' On
Essentially the same story as Yes Please! but this one has a better ending because the music that resulted from the sad, frayed, life-ruining drug abuse was actually awesome. No word on whether Sly Stone is still capable of speech.

Rihanna - Loud
Really any Rihanna album would do, simply because we're really curious to get some insight into how mechanical the process is to put out a big-budget pop record in the 21st century. Rihanna put out an album every year from 2009 to 2012, hundreds and hundreds of people had their hands on it during that process. Is there any underlying soul or is it simply the sausage-making of the music industry?

Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Exiled in Hawaii, culturally ousted after the most memorable awards show moment of the last 20 years, and balled up into pure creative rage. MBDTF Kanye might be our most memorable Kanye, from the GOOD Friday series to the Twitter account. Yeezus might have captured him at his angriest, but we always prefer the stories where our heroes have their backs against the wall.

Swans - The Seer
Mostly we just want to know what it takes to make a Swans record. A laboratory? A preserved, Medieval-era cathedral? The deepest sewers of New York City? Nobody knows.

See also: The Oral History of Kid Rock's The Polyfuze Method


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2 comments
johnorfizz
johnorfizz

Kid A and Aeroplane were covered by the 33 1/3 series; those books are pretty much oral histories about some incredible albums.  Maybe you should send in some proposals in a few years when Bloomsbury is accepting again.

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