Bob Marley sang ‘One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain’. At first, this may sound a rather grandiose statement. However, on further consideration, a song or sonata harbours the ability to both pull us from the darkness and make the light even brighter. Music goes deep, the alchemy of melody, rhythm and lyric combines to move the most cumbersome of furniture. Music opens the mind to new possibilities, creating space to think and dance.
Why are we singing music’s praises you ask? Well, music conversation, at Meyer & Mortimer, is a daily occurrence, sometimes singing too. It’s also the very first National Album Day on Saturday, the 12th October, which celebrates 70 years of the album. It is being organised jointly by the Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA), which represent the nation’s music retailers and digital/streaming platforms, in partnership with record labels body, the British Phonographic Industry (BPI).
To celebrate this, we thought we’d ask the bespoke tailors, and shirtmaker, for their Top Three Albums, which will share with you shortly.
The Fragmentation of the Album
In this age of streaming music, people can pick and choose tracks and add them to playlists of their own. Any attempt by the artist to create a unified journey, a concept even, can be lost. The National Album Day aims to remind us of the majesty of the long player which has the potential, with careful track selection, to become greater than its parts.
While considering the tailors’ choices, we will pull out one of their album choices to consider the story behind it. The process of making an album is almost as interesting as the finished product. Did the band vehemently hate each other during its production (The Who); were romantic relationships falling apart (Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours) or were the band sober or not (Mötley Crüe)? Then there’s the cultural impact of an album. Albums certainly have the potential to change music, but what about society?
We will be focusing on the music here but let’s not forget album artwork. We must all have a favourite album cover, one we studied intently on the journey home from the record shop. Turning it this way and that, reading every word before we hear a single note. If you think of The Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper’s; Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd; John Coltrane’s Blue Train and anything by Factory Records; these are pieces of art in their own right.
The Beatles, Pink Floyd, John Coltrane & New Order
Music and Meyer & Mortimer
Music, along with last night’s food and TV choices, are daily conversation topics at Meyer & Mortimer. If not discussing music, and when the shop has no customers, a bespoke tailor, or shirt maker, can spontaneously burst into a few lines of a song. It’s a varied and extensive repertoire, and if a song, on occasion, is not immediately known, a discussion will then ensue to discover who recorded it. This is often concluded with the team huddling around a smartphone to search for the song on YouTube. Recent examples include ‘Tainted Love’ by Soft Cell; ‘The Pina Colada Song’ by Rupert Holmes and ‘Fanfare for the Common Man’ by Emerson, Lake & Palmer.
So what about the individuals at Meyer & Mortimer and their album choices? We asked them for their Top Three Album choices, and we start with director Brian Lewis.
High Tide & Green Grass (1966) by The Rolling Stones
Abbey Road (1969) by The Beatles
Mystery Girl (1989) by Roy Orbison
Who can argue with The Beatles and The Stones? So good they even had a song written about them both by The House of Love. In one of the daily music discussions, Brian let it be known he owns the original pressings for his top two choices: High Tide & Green Grass and Abbey Road which he brought in to show the team. Although Brian missed out on The Beatles famous rooftop gig at No.3 Savile Row in 1969, he did get to see The Rolling Stones play Hyde Park in the same year. This leads us nicely to the reason for Brian included the Stones’ album. It came out around the same time he met his wife, Joan. It was the soundtrack to their of blossoming romance, and listening to that record takes him back to those days.
Brian’s Playlist from 2016
Brian’s last choice is Mystery Girl by Roy Orbison who arguably has the most recognisable voice in the industry. Orbison sadly died in 1988 of a heart attack aged 52. Before his untimely death, however, he had seen his career revive after a long spell of critical and commercial failure. With a little help from his friends: George Harrison, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, and Jeff Lynne, Orbison rightly regained his position in the limelight with the worldwide smash ‘You Got It’ and his inclusion in the British/American supergroup, The Travelling Wilbury’s.
It is well documented that Orbison suffered more than his fair share of slings and arrows losing a wife and two of his children in the late 60s. Musicians will often talk about the redemptive powers of music, and one wonders if Orbison felt the same. Sure, it doesn’t make everything completely OK all the time, but it allows a vent, a channel to share the most painful of emotions and hopefully, in doing so, deliver some degree of peace in the process.
As is often the case in a music awards ceremony, Paul Munday couldn’t be with us today at the time of writing. He’s not putting the finishing touches to his album in The Bahamas but is fact in New York visiting our valued customers before moving onto Toronto. We contacted him earlier via satellite (FaceTime) to gather his Top Three Album choices which are:
Out of the Blue (1977) by ELO
Pet Sounds (1966) by The Beach Boys
Sundown (1974) by Gordon Lightfoot
Out of the team at Meyer & Mortimer, Paul is the most active on the gig-going front. In the last couple of years, he has, with wife Claire, seen ELO twice, Cold Play and Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys. It is no surprise then that ELO’s most successful album makes it to his top spot. And if you’ve ever had a conversation with Paul about music, you’ll understand his third choice. You can guarantee he will reference Canadian singer-songwriter, Gordon Lightfoot within ten minutes.
ELO’s brilliant Out of the Blue album cover by Japanese artist Shusei Nagaoka
When asked why Jeff Lynne’s ELO was at the top of his list we received an answer familiar to us all. His father bought Out of the Blue back in 1977 and would play it a lot in the Munday household. We will find, osmosis and/or being introduced to music by a member of the family is a familiar process to most. Through this very mechanism, ELO, seeped into Paul’s consciousness and as a result he became a fan. It helps that Jeff Lynne wrote and produced great tunes. It’s of its time without sounding overly dated and with most music, from years past, it has the ability to transport us back in time.
Paul’s second choice is a recent favourite. On one of the many flights overseas to see our customers, it forces the opportunity to catch up with a film or two. After watching John Cusack playing Brian Wilson in the 2014 movie Love & Mercy, Paul landed in America a Beach Boys fan.
The Beach Boys in 1965; one year before the release of Pet Sounds
In 1964, The Beach Boys had largely turned their backs on the Pacific Ocean, and the surf-themed tunes, allowing them to focus on other subjects. In the lead up to the making of Pet Sounds, leading composer Brian Wilson, combined with heavy drug use, experienced a number of severe mental health episodes. This resulted in him pulling out of touring to concentrate on the music. These experiences, in partnership with lyricist Tony Asher, would provide Pet Sounds with the themes of self-doubt and emotional longing.
In the early 60s, albums were mainly vehicles to sell singles. Records were packed with substandard material, filling the gaps between the singles, hence the term album fillers. There was little or no thought given to overall themes. With the release of Rubber Soul in 1965, The Beatles changed this with an album of consistently high-quality songs. Brian Wilson took notice, and so started a cross-Atlantic competition between himself and The Beatles to create the best album ever. To the benefit of music lovers, the world over, the two camps would try to outdo each other in terms of composition and production.
Brian Wilson in 1966 with Pet Sounds
Released from touring commitments, and with the Beach Boys touring overseas, Wilson set about creating an album incorporating elements of pop, jazz, classical, exotica, and avant-garde music. On the band's return and with the record nearly finished he faced the issue of selling in the new musical direction to the rest of the band. The understanding is, it was not received well with them vehemently questioning the direction and the lyrics. Wilson said that the band "didn't like the idea of growing musically ... They wanted to keep making car songs, and I said 'No, we've gotta grow, guys’. Thankfully, the infighting was – to a degree – resolved and released with some amendments.
Although considered a classic today, Pet Sounds received a mixed response in the U.S. Commercially, it underperformed compared to previous albums. This was not the case, however, here in the UK. The album reached in No.2 in the charts and stayed in the top ten for six months. Today, Pet Sounds is rightly considered a classic album on both sides of the Atlantic, and around the world. How could it not be with songs like ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’ and ‘Sloop John B’. God Only Knows why it took so long!
Steve Phythian: The mild mannered metal, horror fan
Next, we have Steve Phythian who has the most difficult name to spell in all of Savile Row. Putting such orthography issues aside, let’s now concern ourselves with Steve’s Top Three Albums, which are:
Metallica by Metallica
Back in Black by AC/DC
The Number of the Beast by Iron Maiden
In describing the origin of the Black Sabbath sound, guitarist Tony Iommi said he wanted to create music that reflected the horror films he loved. The band also took their name from the Italian film of the same name directed Mario Bava in 1963. It is no surprise then that Steve, like our Tony, is an avid horror film fan which may account for his musical taste. Like Paul, Steve, was introduced to the above bands by his dad.
The legendary Back in Black album
AC/DC’S Back in Black is estimated to have sold over 50 million copies. It’s the third best-selling album ever with only Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and The Eagles Greatest Hits above it. Back in Black was the first album without singer Bon Scott, he tragically died in 1979. He was replaced by English singer Brian Johnson who went on to record twelve albums with the band. Sales never matched Back in Black again but if you love AC/DC that doesn't matter. They're AC/DC and loving Angus Young & Co is a way of life.
Sean O’Flynn: Street Fighting Man
Shirtmaker Sean O’Flynn runs his business out of the Meyer & Mortimer showroom. Put simply, Sean loves his music which is reflected in not only his choice of albums but in the number of them (and they are in order).
Here are Sean’s Top Five Albums. Yes, five!
Sticky Fingers (1971) by The Rolling Stones
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972) by David Bowie
Otis Redding In Person at The Whiskey Go Go (1968) by Otis Redding
Led Zeppelin II (1969) by Led Zeppelin
What’s Going On (1971) by Marvin Gaye
Returning to our theme of how we develop our taste in music, Sean has his sister to thank for his love of the David Bowie. She introduced him to the Thin White Duke in the 70s and he’s been a fan ever since. We were, in 2016, all shocked by Bowie’s death which we wrote about at the time here: David Bowie.
Staying with Bowie introduces us to the concept album which is collection of songs expressing a particular theme or idea. Bowie’s breakthrough The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars is a concept album, of sorts, based around Ziggy Stardust: an androgynous, bisexual rock star who acts as a messenger for extra-terrestrial beings (ah the 70s). It includes the classics ‘Starman’ and ‘Suffragette City’, as well as the eponymous track, ‘Ziggy Stardust’.
The album, the subsequent tour and the wholly bisexual nature of Bowie’s performance brought him to the world’s attention. The cultural impact of this album is immense. Even though homosexuality had been decimalised just five years earlier very few people were openly gay. This was a time of industrial dispute, rising inflation, and growing unemployment. Society back then was not kind to anybody considered, in today’s term, queer.
This is arguably Bowie’s first of many successes capturing the zeitgeist. He delivered his paean to androgyny and fluid sexuality three months after the first Gay Pride in London. This was followed by a legendary performance on the UK’s flagship weekly music programme, Top of the Pops. Not only did this performance turn him into a major star, but he also managed to reach out to a generation and say it’s OK to be queer, and by the way, go and start a band! Which many did: The Smiths, Joy Division, The Cure, Gary Newman, and later Pulp, Suede, Placebo…the list goes on.
The albums of M&M & Sean O’Flynn
This brings to the end of our Meyer & Mortimer album list and hope you have enjoyed it. As we’ve discovered, there are stories behind the album which is the same for the listeners. We touched on how family members can introduce us to the music we come to love which, unfortunately, we don’t have space to explore further. Music connects us to a time long gone or with loved ones no longer with us. It can also evoke memories with no words; emotions of happiness and longing captured by a song and locked deep in its structure. This ability to reconnect and remove pain, if only briefly, is the true power of music. Let’s hope the album remains its vessel for years to come.