The Order Of Songs On An Album – Part 1


While writing about the Grateful Dead song, “Black Peter,” it occurred to me that “Black Peter,” like the rest of the songs on the Grateful Dead’s album “Workingman’s Dead,” was strategically placed, or strategically dipped.   Strategically dipped?

“You walked into the party

like you were walking onto a yacht

your hat STRATEGICALLY DIPPED below one eye

your scarf it was apricot?”

Does that lyric sound familiar?   It’s from Carly Simon’s, “You’re So Vain.”

Before I get to the simple point I want to express, I have an enormous and probably flawed assumption – that in 2012  there is such a thing as an “album.”  Many have decried that albums died with Napster, P2P and the ability to cherry pick songs you like – fans just want to select the good stuff and ignore the weaker songs on an album.

My old fashioned premise is that albums are artistic statements – a collection of songs in a specific order which were conceived, arranged, produced, recorded and eventually distributed in order to make an artistic statement, expression or series of expressions.

The content of an album is important but so is the placement of the songs – what comes first, third, etc.  I’ve noticed patterns to song placement on better and best albums and concluded there is one I favor.

And now to my simple point – this is how one should do song placement on an album:

You put the four (4) best songs in these places.  And it’s often best to think of the album as a two-sided/two-headed entity, you know, like a 33 rpm vinyl record.  For many of us raised in the Album Period (1965-1999), albums will always have (or NEED) two (2) sides.  CD’s are approximating albums, and mix tapes and set lists can also approximate 2-sided albums.


Side 1

FIRST SONG – best song on side 1.  It doesn’t have to be the best but it has to be an invitation to listen to the rest.

LAST SONG – best on Side 1, other than the first song on side 1, which could be better.  But after this song ends, you think, “I can’t wait to get to Side 2.”



Side 2

FIRST SONG –  “Wow!  Side 2 is great too!  I’m really glad I got this album.  They’re still my favorite band!”  Also, the first song on side 2 is to tell the listener that this band is DEEP – there’s a lot more and some surprises to come.  The first song on side 2, I think, should be where one introduces something very new.  If you’re trying to show how eclectic and creative the band is, this is the spot.  This should be the most experimental place because if the listener is on side 2, chances are she/he sat through all of side 1, really liked it, and is looking forward to side 2.

LAST SONG – “Wow – that was the best song.  This is a fantastic album!  I’m glad they took chances, and after this song, I wonder what the next album will be like.”



To support this, I will turn to:


The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

The Doors – Waiting For The Sun

The Grateful Dead – Workingman’s Dead



and other albums in later posts.



What do you think about any of the commentary above?