Three Classic Albums That Came Out this Week in History

Though January is traditionally a dumping ground for shitty movies and mid-season replacement television, the world of music knows no such limitation. A great album can drop at any point in the year. The inherent problem with releasing an album so early on is that come December, when folks are making their “Best of the Year” lists, those winter releases often get overlooked. On the other hand, we’ve definitely still heard of the following three albums, so maybe great albums have a way of showing up year-round.

Blood on the Tracks – Bob Dylan (1/20/75)

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Blonde on Blonde and HIghway 61 get more attention, but there are very few songs on either of those records that are as good as “Tangled Up in Blue.” Blood on the Tracks is one of the rawest explorations of a dissolving romance that has ever been put on vinyl, and tracks like “You’re a Big Girl Now” still ache all these years later. “Meet Me in the Morning” might be the single sexiest Dylan track (although let’s face it, there’s scant competition), and then “Shelter From the Storm” and “Buckets of Rain” close things out with a bang. Blood on the Tracks is Dylan’s finest hour, though it’s fairly obvious that the record represents a personal low point for the man himself. It’s weird to think that Bob Dylan is capable of having his heart broken, but we have proof, don’t we?

Excitable Boy – Warren Zevon (1/18/78)

Yes, this is the album that has “Werewolves of London.” Nothing against that song, but you’re selling Zevon (and, ultimately, yourself) short if you skip right to it. Excitable Boy is an electrifying breakthrough album by one of the most scathing lyricists in rock music. Zevon had recorded two albums previously, but nothing caught fire like Excitable Boy. Song for song, it’s hard to argue. Along with “Werewolves,” this album boasts the title track, “Accidentally Like a Martyr,” “Lawyers, Guns and Money,” and a whole mess of other great songs. Zevon is one of rock’s truly singular personalities, and there’s a reason he used to come out for concerts in shackles. At his best, Zevon is unhinged, hilarious…and yes, a little scary.

The Graduate OST – Simon and Garfunkel (1.21.68)

Those folks who see The Graduate as a love story are adorable but misguided. The iconic ode to post-collegiate ennui ends on a decidedly uncertain note; is it possible that everything we’ve thought would make us happy is somehow lacking? Is the way we’ve been instructed to live our lives necessarily the “best” way, or merely the most efficient? The late 60’s heralded a drastic change in cinema. Along with The Graduate, films like Midnight Cowboy, Easy Rider and Bonnie and Clyde began to question the established way of telling stories in a big way, while the lines between good and bad, between hero and villain, became irrevocably blurred. But what music to pair with this new style of movie? After all, in The Graduate, Benjamin gets the girl. This is the final shot in most movies. Instead, here, we linger with his decision on that bus. We see the consequences, the sheer panic, in the faces of these young lovers. There’s no safety net, n precedent for what they’re doing. This, without a doubt, would be somewhat effective with no music at all. But only somewhat. It certainly wouldn’t reach the emotional crescendo required to really sell it. The true stroke of genius was marrying a complex and nuanced songwriter like Paul Simon to the subject matter featured in the movie. The music of Simon and Garfunkel is as much a part of The Graduate as Dustin Hoffman himself, and I’m willing to bet the movie wouldn’t have been quite so impactful without the sounds of S & G. There were a lot of important things that needed to happen in cinema during the late 60’s, and pop music was an excellent chaser for some of the more bitter pills (Witness also “Born to be Wild” in Easy Rider).


See you next time I feel like doing this!

Photo: Warren Zevon; By Klaus Hiltscher [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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