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Classic Albums

  • 1997
  • Documentary and factual
  • Music


"Classic Albums" lifts the lid on pop and rock albums considered by many to be the best or most distinctive by a well-known band or musician. The music and its production are dissected, providing an insight into how the sound was created. The albums that have been covered include John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band by John Lennon, Rio by Duran Duran, Reasonable Doubt by Jay-Z, British Steel by Judas Priest, Nevermind by Nirvana, Face Value by Phil Collins, A Night at the Opera by Queen, Bat Out of Hell by Meat Loaf, and The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd.


Episode 5: Classic Album: American Pie - Don McLean


Crowned by its titular overture, McLean's 1971 second album is a classic of the folk-rock genre. Here, the singer discusses the intricacies of his songs, the sometimes fraught recording process, and the album's legacy. Other contributors include producer Ed Freeman and musician Jake Bugg, whose musical path was initiated when hearing Vincent for the first time on the TV. Plus, a poignant archive performance of George Michael performing The Grave.


Rightly celebrated as a folk-rock milestone, with its giant, patriotic thumb dominating the sleeve, American Pie remains a melancholy classic. 

Written when McLean’s first marriage was in trouble, this 1971 album is sparsely arranged, from the title track about the day that music died (a tribute to Buddy Holly) to the medieval canon of Babylon. Humble pie indeed. 

Yet there is soaring poetry – in the “swirling clouds in violet haze” of heartbreaker Vincent – and timelessness, too, as George Michael knew when he covered the angrily anti-war protest The Grave.

Producer Ed Freeman, Jake Bugg and McLean himself, now 72, are among those to shed light on the starry night of his career. McLean is also a contributor to the Buddy Holly documentary Rave On at 11pm.





ContributorDon McLean
ContributorEd Freeman
ContributorJake Bugg


DirectorGeorge Scott
Executive producerTerry Shand
Executive producerGeoff Kempin
ProducerNick de Grunwald
ProducerCelia Moore

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