In the Owl last night, one of the more successful concept albums, Genesis’ The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, was addressed. Tonight, my wife and I brought my daughter to see a laser light show at a planetarium, set to the music of Pink Floyd. While my wife thought the tickets had said it was to be Dark Side of the Moon, it wound up being The Wall. And it was only about 1/4 laser show; the other 3/4 were cgi imagery following the musical storyline.
I’m pleased that we didn’t take an eight year old (especially, in this case, a precocious one) to see the movie The Wall, but I’m still a touch rueful that we dipped her feet into that pool quite yet. But, that’s the protective parent talking. The side of me that was prepping for tonight’s piece thought, instead, that maybe this is a good time to do a thematic sequel night. And if we’re going to deal with some of the most famous concept albums, it seems only right to shift gears and address one of the least famous, but most innovative, concept albums of all times: The Chapters, by Saga.
For most people, if they remember Saga at all it’s probably because of their minor hit On the Loose.
Saga fans, however, remember The Chapters… because most of them had to make the concept album themselves.
The band released the songs in two parts; Chapters 1 – 8, and Chapters 9 – 16. It was effectively two concept albums which combined to form one large storyline. The first part was finished in 1981; the second part was finished in 2003.
That’s not to say the albums were ever actually released at that time. Rather, the band took the eight songs that comprised each album and shuffled them, dropping the tracks two or three at a time across multiple regular albums. For instance, on the 1979 album which started this project, the first song was titled “It’s Time (Chapter Three)” and the sixth song was titled “Images (Chapter One)”.
People who wanted to hear the concept album had to purchase four successive albums, record the Chapter songs in the proper order onto cassette tape (this was the early 1980s), and then play the cassette tapes.
Then, if they wanted to hear the REST of the story, they had to wait eighteen years for Saga to feel comfortable enough with their project (and to have another three-record contract and a stable lineup) to release the final half, this time across three studio albums. Again, the fans were expected to shuffle and configure the album themselves, and maybe to dig up that old cassette tape and figure out how to get it loaded onto computer files so they could play the thing in its entirety.
Needless to say, not many people bothered to put in the effort to listen to the entire thing, although some of their most dedicated fans (every long-lived band has a small, dedicated following) did so, and reported positively on the experience. Saga decided to play the song set in its entirety for some live shows and recorded it. The resultant “Chapters Live” by Saga is now a particularly expensive CD, often fetching more than $100 for used copies, mostly from a handful of fans and some people who are just music trivia buffs.
For those who are simply curious about the result, there’s always Youtube.
Question of the night: What’s one of your favorite “deep tracks” (i.e., songs that never made it high in the weekly hit charts)?