At the moment, I’m using my 30-year-old record player to listen to a vinyl copy of Moby Grape’s 50-year-old debut, an album I first listened to on mp3s downloaded from the song-sharing app Limewire. There have been many technological advances that have changed the way we listen to music (namely streaming) in the past 10 years, but this snapshot of my current listening habits is not a great example of that. Regardless, as we take a look back at 10 years of Mildly Pleased this week, we’ll take this particular Tuesday to look back at one of our longest-running features – Top Ten Thursdays. And we’ll do it by revisiting the first albums each of us ever christened classics back in 2008.
There is something appropriate about Moby Grape’s 1967 debut being the first classic album I’d ever review on this blog. Because I can tell you exactly why I felt compelled to review this album back in March of 2008. I believe I had just made my first visit to San Francisco that month, to scope out Academy of Art University, the school where I’d eventually spend four years and plenty of money on student loans (which I’m still paying off). So I’m sure I spent that fateful weekend in SF listening to this album a few times, since I’ve always been one for regionally appropriate music listening. While at that time, this was (and probably still is) my favorite album to come out of the late ’60s rock scene that San Francisco’s musical legacy still lives in the shadow of.
Which is probably something I’d built up in my mind pretty heavily, seeing as though San Francisco wasn’t quite the rockin’ hippy paradise I’d envisioned from watching too many rockumentaries about the ’60s. In fact, the city had long moved on by then, even if there were plenty of burned out old hippies still roaming the streets of the increasingly techified late ’00s San Francisco. But I supposed that’s something music can do to places you’ve never been – it forms the way you think about certain places, whether the music to come from there is an accurate representation of it or not.
And that’s something I think about when I think about those first few years of doing Mildly Pleased – of opening myself up to music that seemed somewhat foreign to me while also exploring this city that seemed a bit foreign to me. The fact that we had the internet to inform us on what good music was going on at the time definitely made it possible for a few amateur critics like ourselves to have access to albums that were critically acclaimed by publications more reputable than our own. But, I suppose looking back on those years, it’s hard to say my music listening taste transported me around the world, when it more or less just transported me to different neighborhoods in Brooklyn, seeing as though our indie rock tastes were dominated by the likes of Vampire Weekend, The National, The Hold Steady, LCD Soundsystem, TV On The Radio, etc.
But getting back to Moby Grape, besides its San Francisco connections, there are other reasons this debut seems a likely pick for me in particular. For one, because my taste is usually defined by loving music that’s obscure, but not too obscure. Because yes, Moby Grape doesn’t have the name recognition of say a Grateful Dead or Jefferson Airplane. But this album is still very high on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums (like so many albums, the gateway to me first hearing of it). Meanwhile, it wouldn’t be terribly hard to come across it in a used record store for a fairly reasonable price (like I did). But maybe I’ve always just enjoyed championing things that seem like they should be ubiquitous, but aren’t.
Another unsurprising reason I had Grape on the mind in ’08, is that I was still stuck in the school of thought that the ’60s was hands down the best decade for music. Though as time has gone by, I’ve grown a little more fond of the ’70s, though there are also so many artists from the ’80s and ’90s I love that it makes choosing a favorite decade seem a bit pointless now. There’s truly great stuff to be found in every decade, and the more I find myself burrowing down the infinite rabbit hole of music’s past, the more that seems apparent to me.
Here’s to ten more years of burrowing.
Favorite Tracks: “Come In The Morning”, “Omaha”, “Naked, If You Want To”