Jack Nitzsche “St. Giles Cripplegate” fits this bill exactly. It’s rumored to be the lowest selling LP ever found in the WEA catalogue. And why is this album so esoteric? It’s classical music written by a ‘rock guy’ – something classical music buffs would not touch with a barge pole. And – for 1972 – rock & roll people listening to classical music? I don’t think so – some were gearing up for the onslaught of progressive rock, others were waiting with sleepy eyes for Linda Ronstadt and The Eagles. Nobody I knew was waiting for a “fake classical” album.
I don’t think I heard “St. Giles Cripplegate” when it was released. I certainly knew the front cover of it, as it’s wonderfully ‘ugly’. I was tempted by it, however, when it received a limited edition re-issue about 1980 or so – on the Initial label in England. What were they thinking? Re-issuing the worst selling album in Warner Brothers records’ catalogue? Perhaps the folks at Initial thought that with different packaging, it could find it’s appeal in the classical community. I’m not sure…
It is a wonderful album of orchestral music, written and arranged by ‘pop meister’ Jack Nitzsche, who would go on to find his fortunes with award-winning original soundtracks in a few short years. My guess is that he wrote the music to see if an orchestra could be cue’d with rock music notations? I suppose I would need a classical music expert to tell me why it fails in the straight-laced classical music pantheon.
There are certainly other more-difficult-to-listen-to records than “St. Giles Cripplegate”! Either of the first two Basil Kirchin LP’s come to mind – but the first one of those was pitched to a jazz community, and the 2nd one to Brian Eno fans (who wrote liner notes for “Worlds Within Worlds Parts 3 & 4”). It’s esoteric music, to be sure – but it found it’s fans – without question.
It’s interesting how esoteric music seemed to get taken more seriously beginning in the 80’s. More of it got paid for, pressed up and sold. With the advent of electronic music in the 90’s – LOTS of esoteric music is presented with a straight face by people who make their living selling “noise” music.