Today my thoughts have gone to revisit those times when I have been disastrously wrong about something that upon revisiting, I will experience a 180 degree opinion switch on. Since I’ll never be Post-Punk Pope [I have no pull with the congress of New Wave cardinals…] any thought of my infallibility is far from my reach! I can remember three albums in particular that upon first blush, did nothing for me, but my take on them took an immediate turn for the dramatic better upon a second playback. The first two of these were from the dawn of my record collecting, so with limited purchases, the notion was dominant that “this was this week’s record – I’d better give it another try!” The later instance was from 2013, and because there was infinitely more [than in 1980] to listen to in the Record Cell, I failed to return for a second pass until four years later. But as with all three of these albums, the second time was a charm!
It was some time in early 1980 when chasinvictoria bought this album and told me how great it was. As we often did in those days, he loaned it to me for a listen. I was a cold listener to The Buggles. I had no concept of their 1979 worldwide smash but US dud, which barely made a Top 40 appearance at the last position. At the time I hadgone off of my Top 40 diet and was listening to FM Rock, which would never have touched The Buggles with a ten foot pole [though they would be – barely – playing the excellent Yes album featuring Horn + Downes later that year]. Hence my complete ignorance. Actually, I have almost zero Top 40 consciousness from the summer of 1978 to September of 1982, when MTV entered our lives. Whatever was popular at the time was unknown to me then.
Chasinvictoria had probably played me “Video Killed The Radio Star” at the radio station where we worked in high school, and I must have seen the merit in it. But on the first spin, I quickly came to the conclusion that this album was not very good. The single was great… but the rest of it was nothing but gimmicks and effects! It was not until giving my illegal cassette tape copy [sssshhh!] a listen sometime down the road, that I twigged to the notion that that was the whole point! I later bought my own copy of this and bought the CD that served me for over 20 years. I received two Japanese copy upgrades of that CD courtesy of Ron “The Man” Kane [R.I.P.]. Currently, I’m sitting on the 2015 JPN pressing which is perfect. All of the B-sides and single edits that it needs to have are there. But yowza! I see it selling for ka-raaaazy money on Discogs just three years after its issue. That CD was only $12.99 [super cheap JON budget line which never used to exist until recently] and now it’s out there at high two to low three figures. Thanks again, Ron!
It almost seems to be a fever dream in retrospect, but the first time I heard XTC was when the spiky dub pop for “Making Plans For Nigel” appeared on my screen as part of the weekly hour of music videos we lived for called “Rockworld.” It did nothing for me. The next year, I chanced to hear the song “General + Majors” on one of the two local FM Rock stations. I can’t remember exactly which one; possibly Zeta7. It sounded like pop nirvana to my ears in 1980, so I called the same station the next week during their request night where they actually played three hours of listener requests [as long as the listeners wanted Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd…] but they claimed that they did not have that in their library. It must have made a quick exit for some DJ toot.
Engaged without any other recourse, I made it a point to buy the album with all due haste. The Virgin album had gotten a US on a linkup with… RSO [?] Records when the label was still reeling from the bomb that had been the “Sgt. Pepper’s” movie and film. I was shocked to see the opaque green paper outer sleeve on the US copy; making me wonder if the cover art was deemed salacious or not. This had been a gambit that I had seen before. Of course the cover was the extremely uncontroversial posed diver shot as seen at right.
So I put the album on the turntable and cued up a black tape to record it as I listened the first time. [I always listened to tapes of albums instead of actually spinning the wax] And betcha-by-golly-wow… this album fell as flat as Exene Cervenka to my ears. I just did not get it and was afraid that my ardor for “Generals + Majors” had led me down the primrose path! Fortunately, a second play of the tape a few days later managed to hit me in the right way and this album went from zero to hero as it was like a virtual greatest hits phenomenon to my new ears. I have to admit, as much as I like albums that came before or after it, this was an impeccable first exposure to XTC for these ears! I replaced the LP with the first UK pressing CD in 1985, and that’s the end of that song. I’ve not bought any pf the RMs. Least of all the 5.1 Steven Wilson surround mix versions.
By 2013, Elvis Costello had been in the wasteland for me, for over a quarter of a century. The last release to make me buy was “Blood + Chocolate.” The Warner years meant less than nothing to me. But put $1.00 Elvis Costello CDs in front of me as was in a North Georgia thrift store on the back end of a trip to Athens in 2013 to see an incendiary Television concert at the Georgia Theater, and I’ll buy. No questions asked. That day I picked up copies of “North” and “The Delivery Man,” and after playing the unlistenable “North” first, I should have immediately succumbed to the many charms of “The Delivery Man,” but maybe because “North” was so cripplingly awful, my senses needed more time to reset themselves.
That first play of “The Delivery Man” was as inconsequential as mountain mist, so the D went back on the racks in the Record Cell to sit for four years, until it caught my eye for a second play and… mea culpa! How did I not see the merit in this, the first Elvis Costello album I’d heard since “Blood + Chocolate” [and I’d heard a few] to actually engage me, and hard. That it did this with a few guest shots from perennial least favorite female country artist Emmylou Harris, was beyond astounding. Full disclosure here.
So that’s three albums distinct in making a very wrong first impression on me only to elicit a complete reversal of opinion on the very next play. The only flip-flop faster than these that I can remember was my immediate take on DEVO upon their debut on Saturday Night Live in 1978! That set some sort of land speed records for a critical volte face on my part as I went from hatred to worship in the space of 3:30! Have you got any similar tales we can discuss further in the comments? If so, then have at it.
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