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Immortal classics
March 29, 2002 11:20 AM   Subscribe

Immortal classics I remember as if it were today when I first listened to Marvin Gaye's "Whats Going On" when it first came out. This album has never tired. "What's Going On was the first album out of Motown to include the printed lyrics of the songs in the album liner. Marvin Gaye had something to say and he wanted to make sure people got the message. Thirty-one years later, we're still getting it." Always bewildering why an album becomes immortal.
posted by Voyageman (14 comments total)

 
Speaking of printed lyrics on an album cover, few people remember how absolutely revolutionary that seemed when the Beatles became the first musical artists ever to do such a thing, on the inside cover of "Sgt. Pepper." We pored over those lyrics for hours. (Of course, we were on drugs at the time.) Now, it is absolutely universal, and it's been years since I've cared enough to consult the lyrics that come with CDs. Not only is the print absurdly tiny, but, really, who cares about the stupid lyrics?
posted by Faze at 11:35 AM on March 29, 2002


uh, me. I think good songwriting is the only real irrefutable requirement for a band or artist to be worth listening to.
posted by mcsweetie at 11:44 AM on March 29, 2002


I love What's Going On, but just wish it was longer. It's only 30 something minutes...

When I used to play it on vinyl it was like throwing on a single.
posted by selton at 11:53 AM on March 29, 2002


It drives me nuts when the printed lyrics aren't the same as what's being sung. No idea why.

It is a mystery as to why certain songs, albums, people get immortalized. We've all heard the "so-and-so was plugged into the ethos of the times," or "they had their hands on the pulse of the nation and intuitively knew the perfect things to put on their album..." Personally, I don't care why they become immortalized, I'm just glad I got a chance to listen to them: Dark Side of the Moon, Are You Experienced, The Joshua Tree, Urban Hymns, etc.

Somebody call jonmc, he'd love this thread.
posted by ashbury at 11:53 AM on March 29, 2002


I have a fair number of CDs that do not have lyrics in them, actually. I'm embarrassed to admit they are in my collection, so I won't list any here, but I think my collection comes out about 50/50, and I have a wide variety of music.

I mean, not that I needed the words to "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" or anything, but what I lack in Wham! lyrics is more than made up for with the brouhaha over my Division Bell CD.

(They put a foldout cover on Make It Big! though, couldn't I get a poster or something?)
posted by verso at 11:55 AM on March 29, 2002


who cares about the stupid lyrics?

MC:uh, me. I think good songwriting is the only real irrefutable requirement for a band or artist to be worth listening to.

So classical, jazz and techno ( three styles known mostly for instrumentals ) aren't worth listening to?

Lyrics are a compliment to good songwriting, not a necessity.
posted by remlapm at 12:01 PM on March 29, 2002


The was alot of controvery surrounding Marvin's final creation for Motown.
In our Lifetime? is truly a masterpiece which should be heard by every Marvin Gaye fan.
(you have officially been hipped.)


"The tracks are happenin’ , but the lyrics are jive", Marvin Gaye (on why he didn't want the album released.)
posted by fatbaq at 12:06 PM on March 29, 2002


Doesn't good songwriting mean a whole song, and not just lyrics? If Bernie is solely responsible for lyrics, does that mean Elton is not a songwriter? Cuz, um, my answer would be no. You need music for a song, and as my right honorable colleague remlapm points out, there are some really interesting kinds of music where lyrics are optional.
posted by verso at 12:07 PM on March 29, 2002


faze: try some new bifocals. Worked for me. B=)

I was a kid when pop music lyrics started to "matter". I remember sitting in the car, I must have been about 11, listening to the lyrics of "Nowhere Man" by the Beatles. It was the first time I had ever pondered over the meaning of a song. I was pretty clueless, but was sufficiently insecure to wonder if I might be one of the Nowhere Men.

Later on, as a musician, the lyrics were secondary. But over the years, it's been interesting to revisit the old stuff and get into the lyrics I had previously disregarded - or lacked the maturity to understand at the time.

I listen to a lot of jazz instrumentals, and also lot of African music. The African stuff has lyrics, but I have absolutely no clue what they're singing about. That doesn't prevent me from singing along. In fact, I find the lyrics that I get the most out of are those that are singable, and that are integral to the music.

"What's Going On" is one of the few has that rare combination of innovation, melodicism and meaning.

And of course, having James Jamerson on bass doesn't hurt.
posted by groundhog at 12:50 PM on March 29, 2002


So classical, jazz and techno ( three styles known mostly for instrumentals ) aren't worth listening to?

sure they are. well, I dunno about techno!
posted by mcsweetie at 12:50 PM on March 29, 2002


The Guardian also printed this terrific excerpt with more info about What's Going On.
posted by anildash at 1:01 PM on March 29, 2002


It drives me nuts when the printed lyrics aren't the same as what's being sung. No idea why.

Actually, the Stones, to name one example made sure that the words were just short of indecipherable. Sometimes, I hear Mick sing "Lose your dreams and youth or lose your mind" in "Ruby Tuesday" other times it's "Lose your dreams and you will lose your mind".

So the song is either a mournful admonishment or a glowing tribute to the idealism of youth.

I've read interviews where Jagger has said that lyrical confusions of this sort are intentional. And even if he hadn't said so, expressing that sort of raging ambivalence has always been a big part of the Stones' brilliance, so I'd be inclined to believe it anyway.
posted by jonmc at 5:38 PM on March 29, 2002


the Beatles became the first musical artists ever to do such a thing

Were they? That doesn't sound right to me, but I can't come up with any counterexamples.
posted by rodii at 6:12 PM on March 29, 2002


It is absolutely so, Rodii. The Beatles on Sgt. Pepper. We take the printing of lyric so much for granted now, that we don't realize that there was a first time. Mind you, a lot of folk albums on Vanguard and Electra ran a verse or two of lyric along with their liner notes, and if I'm not mistaken, Folkways Records might have had their crude typerwritten lyrics stuffed inside with the record. But Sgt. Pepper was the first to have every lyric published right there on the cover. (That was also the end of liner notes, as we knew them. Another post, another time, maybe...)
posted by Faze at 3:26 PM on March 30, 2002


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