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Baker's Dozen

The Right Things: David McAlmont's Favourite Albums
The Quietus , October 1st, 2015 13:22

As McAlmont And Butler mark the 20th anniversary of The Sound Of... with a deluxe reissue and a run of tour dates, David McAlmont pens us his own Baker's Dozen, moving through his 13 most formative albums


Michael Jackson - Thriller
By 1984 there were gangsters in Georgetown servicing the wealthy with American television. They sold satellite dishes that could pick up signals from the US. I don't know how long they were able to get away with it. I was desperate to see Dynasty and Dallas, especially when my classmates would circulate the National Enquirer.

The popular kids at my high school, Queen's College, would congregate in the morning and discuss Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson and what they had seen of them on their TVs the night before. I eavesdropped with awe and envy. Luckily we had a radio at home, so I heard a lot of the artists on the Guyana Broadcasting Corporation. Michael Jackson I remembered from the Jackson 5 cartoon and Top Of The Pops back in the UK. I had no idea what Cyndi, Whitney or Madonna looked like, for a long time. They were only mentioned in passing in those morning conversations, but something extraordinary would happen when Michael's name came up: collective obsession. We would become stuck in a loop that went around and around the subject of Michael. A morning might pass without a mention of him, but the minute his name came up we would all be off: the Pepsi ad, the accident, the rhinestone glove, the sparkly socks, the hair, the chimp, the children, the siblings, the moonwalk, the Grammys, the American Music Awards, Captain EO, Motown 25.

Slowly, a combination of radio and loud music from the homes of neighbours established the existence of the Thriller album in my awareness. Paul McCartney. I recognised that name. I remembered seeing a cover in Norfolk for an album about a band on the run. I read about the song 'Thriller' before I heard it. I was desperate to hear it because it featured Vincent Price: my sister and I had become fans in the UK when mum allowed us to stay up to watch late-night horror movies.

I found the Thriller tracks that I heard OK. I couldn't ignore them. Everybody was playing them, enthusing about them. Something clicked when I heard the song Thriller. It was so exciting, a truly thrilling title track. The manner in which the arrangement heralded Vincent's arrival was the coolest musical thing I'd heard. I had never heard Vincent sound that malevolent, that evil, and that laugh at the end…

My other Thriller favourite was 'Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'', especially the bit when the music stopped and the voices would sing, "heee haaa". The conclusion always reminded me of a spaceship taking off.

Thriller isn't an album that I enjoy in its entirety, but for months at high school I was consumed by the collective Jackson obsession that wouldn't let up.