Of the various theme weeks I cover on the blog, I think my favorite is the Decades series. That’s where I dive into the same year across four decades (1972, 1982, 1992, 2002, for example) and write about noteworthy album releases.
I like it because it gives me a chance to both highlight some of my personal favorites and dig into albums I missed along the way. And jumping ahead a decade at a time allows me to explore different popular music movements.
Bow your heads in remembrance of the English band Witness, permanent residents in the wastebin of short-lived bands with tremendous untapped potential.
I’m more familiar with Witness’ sophomore album, Under a Sun, than I am with their debut record Before the Calm. I’ve written about Under a Sun a few times, always bringing up how I discovered it after hearing it playing in a record store.
I’ve written about the band Witness, and their sophomore album Under a Sun, two times before. Once for Song of the Day #268, in April of 2009, and once for Song of the Day #1,218 in November of 2011.
Both times I referenced the only association I have with this band and this album, the fact that I bought it on the spot after hearing it play at a record store. Back when record stores were a thing, I’m sure they sold a lot of albums that way, but this is the only time I can ever remember buying a CD I’d never heard of because a clerk decided to give it a spin one afternoon.
Whenever I think about record store experiences, I always go back to my discovery of an obscure band called Witness (or Witness UK, as they were forced to identify themselves on early albums due to the existence of an American band also called Witness).
Their 2001 album Under a Sun was playing once while I browsed the racks at a used CD shop and I was so taken by the music that I went to the register and bought it on the spot. It’s the only time I’ve ever done that.
Witness UK’s album Under a Sun was a serendipitous find. Years ago, it was playing while I browsed a used CD shop and after hearing three songs I walked up to the counter and told the guy I wanted to buy it. If that guy hadn’t opted to play that CD at that moment, I’m sure I never would have heard of this band in my life.
Now obviously that wouldn’t be the end of the world, and I could also choose to look at it the other way and imagine all the great albums out there I don’t know about because they haven’t been playing in a used CD shop right when I walked in. But I prefer to celebrate the happy accidents rather than dwell on the missed opportunities. So even though I don’t play it very often, this album has always been special to me for what it represents.