Wednesday, August 13, 2008


A few years ago I was working crappy, mindless office jobs that paid next to nothing to do next to nothing. It was a pretty fulfilling existence, let me tell you. When I wasn't boring myself with data entry, I spent much time reading the news, browsing music sites, etc. One day on Rhino's website, I came across this interesting article on the Talking Heads' Fear of Music. Overall it's a well written examination of the album, but one claim struck me: "The path to 1980's Remain In Light led through Fear Of Music. If the former is Talking Heads' Sgt. Pepper, the latter is their Revolver."

I'd been familiar with the Talking Heads' catalog for a number of years, but had always brushed over Fear of Music. Sure, it has some great songs - "Life During Wartime," "I Zimbra," "Memories Can't Wait," "Heaven" - but as an album, Fear never really cohered for me. Giving the album a spin in light of the above review, I hypothesized that in general, the songs on Fear are great. Where the album suffers is simply in its sequencing of these songs.

That's when I decided to do a little experiment. I ripped the album to my computer and played around with the sequencing to see if there was a configuration that would make the album a more cohesive whole for me. And I did! Here's what I came up with:

Original Sequence:
1. I Zimbra
2. Mind
3. Paper
4. Cities
5. Life During Wartime
6. Memories Can't Wait
7. Air
8. Heaven
9. Animals
10. Electric Guitar
11. Drugs

Gonzo's Reconfigured Sequence:
1. Memories Can't Wait
2. Animals
3. Air
4. Electric Guitar
5. I Zimbra
6. Life During Wartime
7. Cities
8. Drugs
9. Paper
10. Mind
11. Heaven

For me, it works quite well. I admit that this still isn't the way that I normally listen to the album, but occasionally I'll program it in this sequence.

This little experiment made clear to me that sequencing is incredibly important in making an album. Just think of how sometimes hearing one of your favorite songs (say, "With a Little Help from My Friends") without it's neighboring album track ("Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds") seems slightly odd. (Even worse when there are songs that segue into each other - one of the reasons Pink Floyd's music just seems trite on the radio).

Fast forward a year or two. I had a similar inkling about Prince's 1985 album Around the World in a Day. The album has some of my very favorite Prince songs - "Pop Life," "Raspberry Beret," "Paisley Park," but somehow just doesn't rank highly as an album for me. I've been meaning to do a similar experiment on Prince's album for about 3 years, but only brought myself to do it last night.

Result: Yes! It works! Of course, so much of this is about the individual listener, and I by no means aim to put forth these sequences as fundamentally better or definitive. I also added in a couple of b-sides from the album's singles, which I think helped to even it out a bit more as well. I also used the 12" versions of "Raspberry Beret" and "She's Always in My Hair," because they rock. Some of Prince's 12" versions feel slapped together ("Kiss," for instance), but these are two of the best, and I see no reason to not include them. For me, they are the definitive versions of these songs. The 12" version of "America" is simply too long for an album cut (around 20 minutes as I recall) and I'm not a huge fan of the 12" mixes of "Pop Life." Anyway, here it is.

Original Sequence:
1. Around the World in a Day
2. Paisley Park
3. Condition of the Heart
4. Raspberry Beret
5. Tambourine
6. America
7. Pop Life
8. The Ladder
9. Temptation

Gonzo's Reconfigured Sequence:
1. Around the World in a Day (3:28)
2. Pop Life (3:43)
3. Condition of the Heart (6:48)
4. Girl (3:48)
5. Paisley Park (4:42)
6. Raspberry Beret (6:34)
7. The Ladder (5:29)
8. Tamborine (2:47)
9. America (3:42)
10. She's Always In My Hair (6:30)
11. Temptation (8:18)


So give these a whirl, and let me know what you think. More importantly, I'd love people to share their own resequencing of these or any other albums.

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