Tuesday, July 14, 2009

My name is Warren and I'm a completist.

9 George Harrison, ‘Under The Mersey Wall’; 10 John Lennon/Yoko Ono, ‘Cambridge 1969’; 11 Paul McCartney, ‘Ode to a Koala Bear’; 12 Ringo Starr, ‘Love is a Many Splendoured Thing’.

After the calm, smooth grooving of Grover the above fab four ‘songs’ are a perfect contrast. Why? Because, put bluntly, they are unlistenable. I am not, repeat, NOT, kidding. Let me prove it and before we go any further know this – there is no film, nor are they downloadable so you’ll have to take my word for all this.

Know this also – I’ll adore and worship the fabs while I am alive on planet earth.

The best thing about the Harrison piece (it’s not anything remotely like a song as we know it) is the title. It’s a whole side from his album Electronic Sound. It is made up of electronic sounds – beeps and bips and squalls. I’ve listened to it once and I’d have preferred to chew on tinfoil. Surely he’s taking the piss?

John Lennon and Yoko Ono went to Cambridge in 1969 and recorded a whole side of Unfinished Music Number 2; Life With The Lions there. It’s Yoko screeching (even screaming would have been preferable) while John’s guitar, leaning on an amp, howls constant feedback. Harrison’s bleeps sound way more appealing don’t they? I comfort myself with the thought that a whole audience sat through this ‘performance’. Poor sods.

McCartney is not immune. His saccharine, cutesy tendencies are legendary but how could he stoop to Ode to a Koala Bear? It’s obscure, I grant you, but it’s there alright – on the 12 inch of Say Say Say. Yes that same dreek he produced with Michael Jackson. Give me Mary Had A Little Lamb any day. I’ve now listened to the ode twice and it’s as bad as I remember it. At least it’s short compared to the Lennon/Harrison extravaganzas.

The nightmare continues – Ringo, bless him, can’t sing. I’m not telling you anything new. Somehow he thought it best to start his solo career in 1970 by singing a collection of standards. The album Sentimental Journey is impossible to listen to, let alone like. The Love…track is on side two. Even if you have the constitution to make it thus far – this will stop you dead in your tracks (pun intentional).

What were they thinking? Who knows. They were gods and knew they could put this stuff out and sad saps like me would buy it. That’s not the point though.

What the hell was I thinking when I bought them? That’s much easier to answer. I had no choice – I had to. You see I’m a completist. This means I collect everything put out by my chosen target, all the grotesque and despicable among the genius. This is what completists do – out of love and loyalty, we will buy anything connected to our focused artist, regardless of quality.

It all started with the song Imagine really, on Solid Hits Vol 2 (I think). I loved it and it rekindled my love of the Beatles Hey Jude album. I needed more so I bought Imagine, the album and... I needed more…My love of Lennon’s solo albums in the early 70’s led me back to Lennon’s Beatle songs. Already I’m too far in to turn back now – all Beatles material, all the fabs solo material morphed to all Apple product. For a while I even collected non Apple material by Apple bands. Jackie Lomax 3 anyone? Holy hell!

Label completists are a desperate lot. We have that haunted look because we can’t find that missing album/single or we had it, but traded it for something else we wanted more (in my case John Tavener’s Celtic Requiem for a Japanese box set pressing of Lennon’s Wedding Album). Even though I hated the music on the Tavener album it’s now the only Apple Album I don’t have and I want it. Sigh.

We put ourselves through this torture because of the payoff. When I eventually come across a vinyl copy of Celtic Requiem I will be in tingling, heart pumping, orgasmic ecstasy. I still remember the thrill I got when I finally got that Lennon album with Cambridge 1969 on it. That makes the trial of listening to it all worthwhile and some.

My completist streak since 1971 has extended to Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starhip/Starship/Hot Tuna/ Grunt Records (apart from Grunt – it’s an ongoing obsession); Crosby Stills Nash and Young (the 1980s Young output cured me of being a Young completist); Beach Boys (including Dennis and Carl Wilson but not Brian or Mike Love projects); Patti Smith; all the Woodstock festival (all three on-going). That's it. Plenty of others have fallen by the wayside but those obsessions linger on.

The latest recipient of my undivided attention has been David Gray. I just had to have those early albums! Don't be sad for me, help me find Celtic Requiem.

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