Next Van sent me this list, from NME in 2003. This list aligned much more closely with the way that I perceive music and the inherent greatness in certain collections thereof. In other words, a lot of albums that I really like appeared near the top of this list.
This list was significantly different than the Rolling Stone list.
For a while I thought, “Now, THIS is a list I can believe in!! This is MY LIST!” I was happy. I had a list of my very own. “But,” I thought, “how come it doesn’t have Album X, by Band Y, on it? Surely NME overlooked that one! And how come The Smiths and New Order and Joy Division are on there? Doesn’t NME know that they suck??!”
After a while I realized I had as much trouble with this list (Madonna?) as I did with the RS list (The Stone Roses number four-hundred-ninety-fucking-eight???!!!???!!!) as I did with the WSJ dude (Radiohead’s Kid A? Really? That’s the Radiohead album you’ll hang your hat on??)
I spent a lot of time in the course of a week or so thinking about these damned “Greatest” lists. And it made me mad at myself. Mad, I tell you!
Because of course I know that all these lists are just for the sake of marketing. I understand that. I doubt if the editors even think all that much about it. They probably send an email to a hundred people in the music industry, ask “Hey, jot down your favorite 20 or 30 albums,” then just count which albums appeared on the most lists. Really just a Pareto Chart of favorite albums – something to excite the Lean/Six Sigma blackbelts, I guess. Then they call the output “The Greatest.” Sorry, but calling anything “The Greatest” that has not won a contest – or is not Muhammad Ali – is simply inaccurate.
But I still find myself wanting to argue with every list I read, wanting to call up the editors and say, “What are you guys, high??!! FOUR-HUNDRED-NINETY-FUCKING-EIGHT!!!???” (Sorry for the repeat link. But really. FOUR-HUNDRED-NINETY-FUCKING-EIGHT!!!???) So, if I know it’s all just marketing bullshit, why do I seem to care so much? Why do I want these list-makers to know where I think they slipped up? Why do I feel the need to tell them to their face that their lists are bullshit? And why do other people* feel the same way**??
For me, I think it’s because music has been such a big part of my life – I’ve enjoyed listening to and playing music for as long as I can remember. I categorize my life by what music I was listening to, and I categorize music by what was happening in my life. Music is a very personal experience for me, extremely important.
So I want any list of important music to include the music that I found important, otherwise, maybe my life wasn’t all that important … Right? If Works Vol. 2 isn’t on the list, then the nights I spent listening to it when I realized J. wasn’t going to fall in love with me were all for naught, right??? (Oddly enough, it only recently dawned on me that maybe boys in 1985 who listened to 10-year-old prog rock albums just weren’t the type of guys that Homecoming Queens found interesting. Could that be true? That girls just didn’t feel romantic with Tarkus playing softly on cassette through the Ford LTD wagon sound system?)
So clearly, my Greatest Album choices might not align nicely with the magazine lists out there.
So maybe I’d better just make my own!
* – This guy cleverly points out that John Lennon’s Imagine was given middling reviews by the mag when it was released, but still showed up at number 76 on the top 500 list!
** – This guy is just furious. And has listened to WAY more music than I ever have!