“Your fourth album should be double-live”
One of my favourite music videos is for Yo la Tengo’s song Sugarcube. The video features Bob Odenkirk and David Cross from Mr. Show, as teachers at a ‘Rock School’. They try to teach the members of Yo La Tengo to act like stereotypical rock stars, i.e. to wreck hotel rooms and smash guitars. At one point, Odenkirk’s character advises them to remember “The Foghat Rule”, which states that “Your fourth album should be double-live.”
Strictly speaking, the name of the rule is inaccurate, as Foghat’s fourth album wasn’t double-live. However it’s so often the case that a few years into their career, rock bands often suffer a dearth of creativity and a surfeit of self-indulgence, resulting in a fourth album that’s double-live (4ADL).
I was keen to name and shame 4ADL artists, so I undertook a vast amount of research (15 minutes on Google). Below is a list of all the offending albums I could find. Please note: I haven’t actually listened to any of these records!
Grand Funk – Live Album (1970)
I only knew two things about this band: (1) They’re a favourite of Homer Simpson. (2) They didn’t seem to be able to decide whether they were called Grand Funk, or Grand Funk Railroad. Keen to expand by knowledge, I scuttled off to YouTube to listen to some of their tunes. I lasted about one minute before getting thoroughly bored.
Blue Öyster Cult – On Your Feet or on Your Knees (1975)
Blue Öyster Cult are famous for ‘Don’t Fear the Reaper’, which is beloved of people who release rock compilations. Seemingly though, they had more than just the one song: enough to fill a double album, in fact. BÖC must surely score extra points in the cliché category, for the having a name with an umlaut. Sometimes called “Röck Döts”, these plagued Rock music for far too long.
Hawkwind – Space Ritual (1973)
Hawkwind are another one-hit-wonder band, but curiously this album doesn’t feature said song (Silver Machine). According to Allmusic.com, the album is a rock opera about The Music of the Spheres, so perhaps the song didn’t fit in with the concept. The description makes it sound a bit odd, with lots of long instrumental jams interspersed with poetry readings. At least one of the band members must’ve realised that it was a bit silly, as he (Lemmy) went on to form the much harder rocking band, Motörhead. There’s that damn umlaut again.
Kiss – Alive! (1975)
This is probably the archetypal 4ADL. Kiss produce the kind of music that gives Rock a bad name: noisy, pompous and dreadful. Unaccountably, the band still seem to be a popular live act. When they played Manchester’s MEN Arena the city was full of teenagers wearing Kiss’s signature black and white makeup. Those kids didn’t even have the excuse it being a nostalgia trip.
Ted Nugent – Double Live Gonzo (1978)
I don’t know much about Nugent’s music; he’s much more famous for his offstage behaviour. He’s a staunch conservative and pro-gun activist. Also, his most recent album featured a song in which he lusts over Girl Guides. That probably explains why he wants a smaller government: he’s worried that the Feds will come and get him. I wonder if a song can count as a taped confession.
Spiritualized – Royal Albert Hall October 10, 1997
Unlike all the other albums on this list, the album is from the CD era. That means it could potentially be almost 160 minutes long. I checked, and thankfully, it’s only 95 mins. I’m quite prejudiced against this band, because in 6th form college, all the fashionably depressed kids were into them. Actually, to be a true hipster, you had to be into their precursors: Spacemen Three. They were even more annoying than Spiritualized, having an album subtitled: “An Evening of Contemporary Sitar Music”.
(N.B. This is not strictly Spiritualized’s fourth album, as there was a limited release, mail-order album sometime prior to this one, but I’m not counting that.)
There are quite a few artists that just miss out on fulfilling the The Foghat Rule. Some, such as Oasis and The Ramones, had fifth albums that were double-live. Others, like Jimi Hendrix and Neko Case, had fourth albums that were single-live. However, I’ve come across a couple that were even worse than 4ADLs…
The Allman Brothers – At Fillmore East (1971)
The Allman Brothers’ creative dearth must have come even earlier than most, as it was their third album that was double-live. This one should get extra marks for indulgence, as it has a really long version of the song Whipping Post, that takes up a whole side of an LP. I actually like this band quite a bit and it annoys me that they’re best known for composing the song that’s used as the theme tune to Top Gear.
Chicago – at Carnegie Hall (1971)
The prize for self indulgence of must surely go to Chicago, whose fourth album was a massive four-LP set. It’s 2 hours and 48 minutes of soft-rock, which even one of the members of the band admitted that he hated. For some reason, I’m perversely curious to hear this record!