I was reading about Taylor Swift the other day and how she’s trying to release her new LP in an “old school way” and honestly, I have no idea what that means in the Spotify era we live in.
But I do remember what it was really like to release an album old school because I lived it and, if you were not there, it’s hard to explain how magical it was.
I was 16 years old when The Beatles released Abbey Road and I distinctly remember going down to Alexander’s department store on East 59th Street to buy it with my meager savings.
Don’t know why I was in Manhattan and not the Bronx where I lived but I’m thinking I must have gone after work because I worked in a deli in the area. I took the elevator to the record department where the lines were long and the people were buzzing.
It took no time at all to find Abbey Road. The salespeople at Alexander’s were no fools and there was an entire display devoted to nothing but the lads’ latest. It was the first time I laid eyes on that iconic cover. I read somewhere recently that a record exec had been apoplectic that The Beatles name was not on the cover, as if that mattered.
Everyone seemed there for the same purpose. There was a crowd milling around the Beatles display, turning their new LP over in their hands.
I practically ran over to the display and grabbed my copy. If you were alive when the Beatles were releasing their albums, you know how it was. For the rest, it’s nothing like it is now. No LP release these days comes close but of course it was a different time. The Beatles had no equal. It was almost like Picasso was releasing a new painting once a year or so and everyone could have their own copy.
The Beatles were THAT special. As I stood in a long line to pay, I examined my prize and dissected the cover art. There were no lyrics on the back cover which was a disappointment but the shot of the boys walking across the street was so cool. I wondered if the lyrics might be inside but back then, the shrink wrap hid the contents and there was no way I’d open the LP until I paid.
I’m pretty sure back then I had no idea that Abbey Road was the name of the studio where the band recorded. I just thought it was some street in London.
Buying that album was a community event. You had to do it in person and that, plus the cover art, made a huge difference to the sterile ways releases are handled today. Back then, everyone was buying a copy and everyone was excited and talking about the songs they had heard so far and how good they were.
As everyone knows, the Beatles had stopped touring by then. They could hardly stand to be in the same room with each other but somehow, they created this final masterpiece. There was no hope of seeing them perform and I don’t recall any of them doing interviews on television.
What carried the album was their magic–a combination of the beautiful harmonies and the songs they created.
Cut to present day: I just saw an interview with Taylor Swift where she appeared to be promoting her album but was largely complaining about how tough women have it. Blah, blah…never heard that before. Seems to me women in general and women performers have it better nowadays than ever before.
I say let the music speak for itself. If there is any magic there, listeners will find it.