Classic Albums by Women by radio host, DJ, journalist and founder of Classic Album Sundays, the world’s most popular album listening event and content platform, Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy, is an overdue celebration of women’s creativity and musicianship within a male-dominated sphere. It features more than a hundred submissions from high-profile contributors including Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason, musician KT Tunstall, The XX’s Jamie XX, DJ Black Madonna, photographer Rankin, Joy Division and New Order’s Peter Hook.
Artists include Beyoncé, Madonna, Florence + the Machine, Grimes, Joni Mitchell, Amy Winehouse, Grace Jones, The Spice Girls, Nico, Carole King, Billie Holiday and more.
Available September 24th 2019.
I grew up at a time when the album represented certain milestones in our lives. Listening to an entire album was a momentous occasion, an all-consuming activity that accompanied meaningful episodes in our lives, and later evoked indelible memories of those events. As a teenager sitting in my room listening to my favourite records, I felt I was communicating with the artist, getting inside their head and allowing them inside my own. My most-loved albums were like dear friends who understood me and were there for me in my times of need, or who joined me in the celebration of life and love. I have often said that my record collection, made up of thousands of these personal signposts, could probably tell the story of my life better than I could in words.
I founded Classic Album Sundays in 2010 as a response to a societal disposition that I felt was devaluing music, the act of listening and the significance of my beloved album format. As our lives sped up and became more inundated with the consuming demands of the digital world and the inevitability of multi-tasking, we rarely took the time to savour an album in its entirety without distraction. For many in my generation, this was a lost pastime or even a lost art. For a younger generation growing up with firmly fixed ear-buds and the predominance of ‘shuffle culture’, this was a missed opportunity. I thought it was concerning that many hadn’t experienced music and albums with the same kind of attention. It seemed that music was in danger of becoming aural wallpaper rather than the focus of one’s senses and emotional being. At a time when our lives were becoming increasingly overloaded, taking the time to listen to an entire album seemed not just a luxury, but also a necessity.
For International Women’s Day 2018, I wanted to spotlight the significant contributions women have made to music and to the album as an artistic statement. I felt that there were many female musical game-changers who didn’t often get the same recognition as their male counterparts and I was compelled to redress the balance. It should be said that I feel our collective response to female musicianship is changing positively in this respect, and I hope there will be a time when a campaign and a book of this nature is no longer necessary. I remain optimistic.
So, a few short weeks before IWD2018, I came up with a last-minute idea to ask our friends in the world of music to nominate their favourite album by a female musician by taking a ‘selfie’ of themselves holding up their chosen album, and giving an account as to why that album held such personal importance. The affirmative response was overwhelming. We received over 100 entries, too many to release over the course of one day, so these contributions were instead featured around the clock for an entire week. It was a lot of work for the Classic Album Sundays team, but it was also a lot of fun.
It was so uplifting to read personal accounts as to how female musicianship has impacted people’s lives. We received long-form essays to pithy statements with respect to people’s favourite albums, each imbued with overwhelming sentiment. A wide range of talent was celebrated, ranging from well-known mainstream artists through to more underground, experimental musicians. We were reminded of artists and albums from times past and also discovered other musicians and records for the first time. We put together an online playlist featuring one song from each album which became a testament to the diversity of female musicianship and which would encourage listeners to later engage with full albums by these artists.
One of the most charming aspects of the campaign was the fact that people were not only in control of their own words, but were also in control of their own portraits. Our subjects photographed themselves in their own environments in a way in which they felt comfortable, allowing their individual personalities to shine through.
At the end of our International Women’s Day Albums by Women campaign, we realised we had the foundations of an enjoyable and inspirational book, which you now hold in your hands. We put together some of the contributions from that original campaign, and solicited new entries by music people with a diverse range of backgrounds, from colleagues who work behind the scenes in the industry to high-profile musicians.
There are so many kinds of records from different generations of artists and varying musical styles featured in the pages of this book. There should be something for everyone. Sometimes an album was picked by more than one of our contributors, but we didn’t censor. We allowed our friends and colleagues to choose the album they felt was important to them and this personal sense of freedom and passion for music comes through.
I hope you will enjoy reading through these personal accounts and that you will remember some of your own personal favourite albums by women whilst discovering new female talent for the first time. Let this book inspire you to slow down, relax and close your eyes whilst listening to one of your own favourite albums in its entirety, and to remember why music is so important in your own life. Thanks for listening.
Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy