Recording is taxing for a band. A ton of time is spent taping, refining and re-hashing tracks. You fall into the monotony of playing those 10-12 tracks over and over again, and during that time you’re either not working on new material and probably aren’t playing out much.
Your career is off to a good start, but now comes the follow-up album. You want to get bigger and better, but now you have to write new material. In an effort to create something monumental, a band may try to create the coveted double-album. This may seem like a good idea, but you’re taking all of that taxation and knowingly doubling it. What may seem like a quick payoff often results in destruction or permanent damage to the band. I call this: The Curse of the Successful Double Album. Looking back through my music collection I have the following examples:
Pink Floyd – The Wall (1979)
After the success they reached with The Dark Side of the Moon, The Wall was a monumental 2 disc album that not only caught lightning in the bottle again after Dark Side, but it propelled their status as a legendary band. However, the curse takes over. After The Wall, Pink Floyd released The Final Cut, which was basically a Roger Waters album dedicated to his father. Waters quit the band in 1985, saying that Pink Floyd was a “spent force”.
Smashing Pumpkins – Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995)
Billy Corgan & Co followed up the classic Siamese Dream with a double CD with one of the defining albums of my teenage years. The album was so polished, so diverse, and so very defining of the Smashing Pumpkins. There were a landmark 28 songs over the two discs that were written so well, but again this spelled destruction for the band. In 1996, their touring keyboardist died of a heroin overdose which led to drummer Jimmy Chamberlin being kicked out of the band. As if they didn’t have enough problems, the Pumpkins decided that they would stop making “conventional” Pumpkins music, with guitarist James Iha saying, “The future is in electronic music. It really seems boring just to play rock music.” The Pumpkins never had the same lineup or success ever again.
Michael Jackson – HIStory (1995)
This album is more coincidental than a curse, and I’ll admit that this may not actually fall within the realm for two reasons: 1) This wasn’t a 2-disc album of original songs, the first disc was a “Greatest Hits” compilation. 2) Jackson’s career was already on the decline due to his 1993 tour cancellation and the sexual abuse accusations. Jackson followed this up with a huge multi-year tour. Jackson didn’t release new material for another six years, and Invincible’s sales were notably lower than any of the other albums.
OutKast – Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (2003)
This is another one of those gray areas, while OutKast did release this as a 2-disc, these essentially were two solo albums (although they did appear on each other’s songs). This album was their most commercially successful album, and “Hey Ya” transcended hip-hop to commercial pop, with “The Way You Move” on it’s coattails. The album won a Grammy for “Album of the Year” in 2004. The curse struck again and they followed it up in 2006 with IdleWild, a film-based concept album. We’re still waiting for the real follow-up album, and Wikipedia says that they were anticipating a 2009 release. We’re half-way through the year, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Stadium Arcadium (2006)
The Chili Peppers had been around for over 20 years when they released this double CD, which featured 28 tracks. What I didn’t realize was that according to Wikipedia they actually recorded 38 tracks and were planning to release this on three albums (each six months apart). After touring for nearly 2 years, the band is now officially on a hiatus. Lead singer Anthony Keidis cites burnout from the touring and says that the Chili Peppers will reunite later this year to begin studio work, but guitarist John Frusciante has no immediate plans to return right now. Drummer Chad Smith is doing Chickenfoot, so I’m just hoping the curse doesn’t ring true for another one of my other bands.
Double Albums Not Mentioned:
- Foo Fighters – In Your Honor: This may be very subjective, but this album just wasn’t that big to me when compared to the other double albums and their respective band.
- Every Live Album: I only considered studio albums