I have fairly diverse musical tastes when I am working. I can listen to classical, country, rock, jazz, you name it. This eclecticism is not always appreciated by my co-workers but I think that it is better than listening to the same twelve pop songs 24-7. While working at home, I’ll throw in a couple of CDs – usually something from the mid to late 80’s or I’ll put on a random radio station.
When I started stripping the wood in the bedroom, back in March, I began searching out something that would both give me the drive to work and give me enough breaks to help train my patience. For the right kind of music and a much needed break every twenty minutes or so, there is nothing better than listening to a vinyl LP. If you don’t have vinyl, then you probably aren’t restoring an old home. An old home and a good vinyl collection pretty much go hand in hand, don't they?
I started the project listening to my jazz albums. I found the Ellington a bit too mellow and the Puente was a bit too, well, Puente. I sang along, much to my neighbor’s dismay, to Sinatra, Bennett, and countless others but I soon become distracted from the work at hand. Maybe I just needed some mood music, something that sat in the background and didn’t get me tapping my feet so much. In this search, the Hawaiian music got me a little too tired, the Polka music got me tapping again, and the Bavarian music just got me thirsty for a beer. After cycling through a slew of odds and ends, actually skipping over the Steve and Edie, I found myself in the middle of June, half-way through my collection but not half-way through the stripping work.
By July I was gravitating back to Springsteen and knowing that I needed something that was a little longer, I turned to “The River”. The mid-summer temperatures, lazy afternoons and Classic Rock were a pretty good mix and I was soon working through my array of Yes, Springsteen, Zeppelin and other 70’s albums.
There was one album in particular in this period that I repeated again and again and I now consider the greatest wood stripping album, if not the greatest rock album, of all time: “Physical Graffiti”. I am no music critic so for insight into the musical value of the album, you’ll have to go elsewhere. From the wood stripping perspective, it really has it all and it propelled me through the completion of the project.
The first thing about this album that gets you is the album cover – a depiction of a group of disheveled New York City apartments well before the Historic Preservation movement got into full swing. If this doesn’t inspire one to work on their home, I am not sure what kind of image will. Inside is even better: four album sides of excellent music. Each side is approximately twenty minutes long. This allows you twenty or so minutes of stripping, five to ten minutes changing the side and getting a drink, and so on until you reach the last song. This adds up to almost an hour and forty-five minutes of work; about the maximum amount of stripping I can do in one day without starting to feel light-headed.
Important to the process of stripping wood is that you don’t get bored (burning the wood because you fell asleep with your Speedheater in one place) but also don’t get overly excited (and gauge the wood while scraping away the loosened paint). “Physical Graffiti” has a good mix of both slow and fast songs. It sets the pace of your work in such a way that you don’t screw things up. It also has enough variety in musical influence, from blues to funk to pop rock and folk, to satisfy any mood you might be in.
The only criticism I would give the album, from a paint stripping perspective, is the placement of “Trampled Under Foot” so early in the album. It comes just before “Kashmir” on the second side of album one. After hearing the song so many times, I have come to think that this is one of the finest hard rock guitar songs ever recorded. The overt lyrics don’t hurt it either. The problem is that this hard rocking treat is served up a little too early; kind of like having your desert and then having to slouch in your seat through several more rounds of tea before leaving the dinner party. I guess I would prefer this crescendo to occur more than half-way through my day’s project, sort of getting me over the hump.
I guess this lapse in paint stripping consideration on behalf of the album’s producer is fine because “Trampled Under Foot” is quickly followed by the immensely long “Kashmir”. This comes at an a perfect point in the project. It is the longest stretch of work before the half-way mark.
The only difficult part about listening to this album while working is that it is better loud so working with others becomes a bit of a challenge. Or worse, if you have my case, it is challenging to listen to this and work while a 3 year old is napping or your wife is trying to relax catching up to the TV shows she Tivoed this week
There are probably a good number of you out there that are lost while reading this. In that case, I would guess that you have never stripped wood in an old house. If you have done so and still don’t know what I am talking about, and your religion doesn’t prevent you from doing so, I urge you to patronize your local used record store and get a copy of Zeppelin’s “Physical Graffiti” for your next project.