I’ve been dipping in and out of Julian Cope’s entertaining book Copendium and came across his concept of the “boneyard” position. Basically, the boneyard is the penultimate placing on an album. Cope reasons that, if a band is stuck with a filler track it has to use, it will be placed in the album’s boneyard where it’s more likely to be overlooked. It got me thinking. So, for a fun experiment, I’ve picked five albums at random to see if this concept holds up. I’m going to take a look at each one and decided if its penultimate track belongs in… THE BONEYARD!
UFO – A Fool in Love (from the album No Heavy Petting)
Here’s some mid-70s UFO, by the short-lived line-up with Danny Peyronel on keys. It’s most notable for its opening tracks Natural Thing and I’m a Loser. The rest of the album, while good, doesn’t quite live up to the classic opening. But the album’s B-Side features a couple of great deep cuts in the moody On with the Action and the cosmic ballad Martian Landscape. Our penultimate track, A Fool in Love, is lost between those two. It isn’t awful but it’s a bit of a throwaway and I feel like it’s been buried between those two epics for a reason. Boneyard? YES
AC/DC – Love Hungry Man (Highway to Hell)
Hmm… obviously a classic album but what about track nine, Love Hungry Man? Is this anyone’s idea of a classic AC/DC track? It does sport a great chorus but it’s a bit laid-back and lazy otherwise and the bass fills sound like a desperate attempt to liven up a dull tune. Far from a disaster but definitely not one of Acca Dacca’s shining moments either. How about we avoid offending the band’s adoring legions and call this the “least-good” song here? Boneyard? YES
Black Sabbath – I (Dehumanizer)
Dehumanizer was a lumbering, colossus of an album from the reformed Mob Rules lineup. It’s not held in the same esteem as that album or its predecessor Heaven and Hell but I’ve always thought it a rewarding album-for-life. So get it up ye. And its penultimate track I is one of the best songs Dio Sabbath ever put out. Pure invigorating metal bravado. Black Sabbath smashing faces in… but with a smile. Boneyard? NO
Iron Maiden – 2 AM (The X Factor)
Maiden’s first album with Blaze Bayley has some under-rated gems but is also quite heavy-going and joyless. I had thought the penultimate track here was The Unbeliever, one of my favourites from the album, but it turns out it’s actually 2 AM: a track I had forgotten existed. Doesn’t bode well does it? It’s one of the least flabby tracks which is good but the lyrics are absolute shite: a brainless, artless mid-life crisis from a band that is supposed to be cleverer than this. Boneyard? YES
Megadeth – How the Story Ends (Endgame)
This 2009 album is still the pinnacle of modern Megadeth and one of the greatest albums of the ’00s. How the Story Ends (odd title for a penultimate track?) is a sturdy anthemic chugger that, along with the raging Headcrusher, helps recover Endgame after a slight mid-album lull. The riffs are a bit stock by Mustaine standards but it’s a catchy, engaging tune that adds to the album. Boneyard? NO
So, the boneyards have it… but only just. It’s close enough that another random selection might have went the other way. Obviously, the concept relies on there being a filler track in the first place (and the artist being self-aware enough to know that a given track is sub-par). Also, for the sake of discussion, Cope applies the concept chiefly to vinyl but does the boneyard concept apply equally to albums designed for CD or Spotify?
Hope you enjoyed this. Let me know what you think about the boneyard position and my examples. Got any good examples of your own? Or exceptions? Chip in below.