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In this regular feature we celebrate that all important opening track on a debut album, because for some it may have been the first song they ever heard from that artist.

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In this issue our resident feature curator John Hartley will be heading over to early 90s San Francisco to appraise The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s debut opener. Did it make his hair stand on end in the bath?

Artist: The Brian Jonestown Massacre
Album: Spacegirl And Other Favorites
Year: 1993
Track: Crushed

Today – the day of writing, not the day of your reading – I was sat nursing my ‘low mood’ in the glorious confines of The LP Café in Watford. It is a great place if you’re ever visiting the Hertfordshire town; carefully crafted coffee-based beverages, great cakes, LEGO decorations on the tables, lots of records to buy and always, ALWAYS, a record playing.

I don’t remember which record was playing when I walked in, but as I supped the last dregs of my coffee a second record came on; one that made me pay attention to the outside world for the first time in ten minutes or so. I enquired as to its title; the song transpired to be ‘Vad Hände Med Dem?’ by The Brian Jonestown Massacre. I was impressed, and told the serving gentleman so.

Walking home I realised I had completely forgotten to write the next edition of ‘First Track On First Album’. I knew EIO40HQ had suggested three possibilities. I also knew that I couldn’t remember what they were. As you will no doubt have guessed by now, one of the three was the debut album by The Brian Jonestown Massacre.

Since releasing their debut single in 1992, the band have gone on to release no fewer than fifteen albums, three of which were released in one year, one of which was the fantastically titled ‘Thank God For Mental Illness’. Their most recent is the similarly-wonderfully-named ‘Mini Album Thingy Wingy’. But I digress…

The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s debut album was entitled ‘Spacegirl and Other Favorites’. My friend reckons she would have made a great A&R person and can judge the greatness or otherwise of a song within the first ten seconds. It’s lucky she wasn’t working for one of the five labels who released this album, as the first track ‘Crushed’ has a barely audible first ten seconds, succeeded by a howl of guitar feedback lasting a further sixty seconds before the fuzzy guitar riff comes into play.

I have promised to do my friend a compilation CD (or mix-tape, as we used to call them in the good old days) on the condition that she at least gives the songs up until the end of the first chorus before casting them aside. I wondered how long into ‘Crushed’ it would be before the first chorus arrived. I eventually realised it wasn’t going to arrive. Not that that is a bad thing, of course: I like it when bands break the rules a bit.

If ‘Crushed’ was the first thing I had ever heard by The Brian Jonestown Massacre I suspect that in all honesty I would not bother to pursue them. However, there is clearly far more to them than just one track, and a longevity and back catalogue to match suggests as much. Perhaps they are one of those rarities, the band that only improves with age. I’m going to investigate further their 2014 album ‘Revelation’ on the basis of the track I heard this morning, and then maybe work my way backwards to find further gems.

John Hartley


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

After spending the best part of twenty five years trying to write the perfect pop song John Hartley has turned his attention to writing about those who have done a much better job at it. He tweets as @JohnyNocash and gives away his music, generally for free. He is currently raising money to support men’s mental health charity CALM (@theCALMzone) at http://brokendownrecords.bandcamp.com/album/the-broken-heed

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What first track on whose first album will John Hartley review next time?

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