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A recent Twitter conversation had me reminiscing about my days as a new guitarist. I started with saxophone in third grade, but as a high school senior, I switched to bass and (to a lesser extent) guitar, which were the first instruments I played that I chose myself. Beyond junior year of high school, I’m entirely self-taught, including heavy music theory. At 52, I’m finally taking a legitimate stab at piano. Sure, I’m probably developing some bad habits, but I have those with the guitar, and as a pure amateur, I don’t care whether I impress anyone else. I’m having fun.
In the mid-80s, I subscribed to Guitar Magazine. Because I wasn’t a good ear player, having four or five pieces of sheet music (both tablature and staff notation) mailed to me each month was a godsend. Some of it I was never good enough to play, but there’s a great feeling of satisfaction when you take a song from the radio (e.g., Mood for a Day by Yes, Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd) and learn it note for note without any help other than the sheet music. I’m not a musical genius, so it’s the result of a decent amount of work on my part.
I also enjoyed the insights of the professionals that were interviewed in those magazines, as well as their direct contributions to the content. Steve Vai and Billy Sheehan had a monthly column. Jeff Watson of Night Ranger eventually took over Vai’s column. Frank Zappa personally approved the sheet music for Peaches En Regalia. It was a great magazine and, to my knowledge, the first of its kind in that it published the sheet music. Others posted only lyrics.
The Two Perfect Rock Albums
This brings me to a point I raised in that Twitter conversation. In the Listening Room (I think) was a column in which a professional musician was asked to listen to some songs. Maybe they knew the song; maybe they didn’t. Steve Vai was once interviewed in this column, and one of the songs he was asked to critique was his own (if I recall correctly, it was the Attitude Song, which I love). Between this column and all the interviews, a common issue was raised by context or by the asking of a direct question: “Are there any perfect rock albums?”
There were two albums, though, that the professionals consistently agreed were perfect: Boston’s self-titled, first album, and Def Leppard’s Pyromania. Each of us, from the professionals to the tone deaf, have our own ideas of what a perfect album is, and that’s great. I hope everyone has an album or two that they can call perfect. I certainly do (q.v.).
I found it interesting that there seemed to be such a clear consensus among the pros. I happen to agree that there are no bad songs on either album, and Pyromania was one of two cassette tapes that I owned (along with Get Nervous by Pat Benatar) when I started driving. I always went back and forth between those two albums and never got sick of either of them. I wonder what the current consensus would be 30-some years later.
Music is a huge part of my life and my favorite art form, which is why I find goofy anecdotes like this fun. YMMV. 😊 Feel free to share yours in the comments.