A rush of balony to the head

Is there anything more boring than another list of the “best” albums of all time? Maybe not, but with every new poll that comes along I can’t resist having a quick look to see if Joe Public has got it right this time. Well, not only did the voters get it very wrong in the latest attempt, it looked as if they had limited their choice to moronic pop tunes sung in the shower. I refer, of course, to the recent BBC Radio 2 listeners’ poll. Oh dear, what a load of tripe! Here are the so-called “Top 10 albums of all time”:

1 Coldplay: Rush Of Blood To The Head (2002). As tone-deaf social misfits across the world hum along to ‘Viva la Vida’, the rest of us hang our heads in shame at this travesty of a rock band. Just to remind myself of the cringing mediocrity of Chris Martin’s songs, I’ve just watched ‘Fix You’ on YouTube. Not all of it, of course, as my toes began to curl so much that I fell backwards onto the floor in a lifeless heap.

2 Keane: Hopes and Fears (2004) The four 15 year-old boys who formed a band at my secondary school in Bradford were better than Keane. ‘Jedediah Strut’ had guts, spunk and raw energy. Keane are a band for Brownies who want something to singalong to as they practise joined-up writing.

Duran Duran: Rio (1982) I’ve heard that if you slag off Duran Duran you receive death threats, which doesn’t say a lot for the mental well-being of their fans. Nevertheless, it has to be said that Simon Le Bon and his pals were pretty dreadful, even in the vacuous, synthesized 1980s. Not convinced? OK, organize a party, invite all your friends and play DD all night. You’ll be lynched.

4 Pink Floyd: The Dark Side Of The Moon (1973) Finally, at No 4, we have a decent album. When this came out, we all sat stunned on the sofa with our gobs wide open. Then we made frantic love on the carpet. A ground-breaking record as rich, dark and complex as a bottle of chocolate stout.

5 Dido: No Angel (1999) I thought everybody knew that Dido was a one-hit wonder. ‘Thank You’ was a big hit on the wards when I was doing hospital radio. Then we all got sick of it. Some of those patients have now sadly passed away, though I am not suggesting for one minute that it had anything to do with listening to Dido.

6 The Rolling Stones: Sticky Fingers (1971) OK, fair enough, another goody. In fact, a stonking album that should be in every half-decent record collection.

7 The Pet Shop Boys: Actually (1987) I always love that moment at football matches when the crowd sing to the opposing fans: “You’re ****, and you know you are…” to the tune of the Pet Shop Boys’ Go West. But the 7th best album of all time?

8 The Beatles: Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) So Chris Martin’s silly schoolboy songs are 7 places higher on the rung of greatness than some of the best efforts of the fab four? Sgt Pepper was a landmark in 20th century popular culture, no less. A diamond twinkling on the gravel path of life.

9 U2: The Joshua Tree (1987) Mormon settlers in California gave the Joshua tree its name because its shape reminded them of the biblical story of Joshua raising his hands to the skies. If Joshua were around today, I’m sure he’d be praying that Bono and his chums would stop repeating those dad-rock chords that have turned many a stadium into a fool’s paradise.

10 Queen: A Night At The Opera (1975) Freddie, Farrokh Bulsara, whatever your name is, we still miss you. I saw Queen live on stage twice in the mid-70s – in Bradford and Liverpool – and they were hotter than a Turkish kebab. ‘Opera’ is a patchy album, but ‘Love of my Life’ always has me in tears.

So, as you can tell, my verdict on the Radio 2 poll was two thumbs down, one roll of the eyes. But it did inspire me to dash over to my LP collection and yank out 10 albums (vinyl only, of course) as challengers. So here they are, in reverse order :

The Rutles: a brilliant and hilarious parody of the Beatles with 14 uncannily good songs

The Rutles: a brilliant and hilarious parody of the Beatles with 14 uncannily good songs

10 The Rutles: The Rutles (1978) Good parodies should be so close to the original that they make you think you’ve seen, or heard, a ghost: songwriter Neil Innes is so clever he has you singing along from track one in a parallel universe aboard a tangerine submarine.

Julio: not just a Spanish smoothie

Julio: not just a Spanish smoothie

9 Julio Iglesias: Raices (1989) For the latent Latin lover in all of us, ‘Julito’ croons his way through Spanish, Mexican, Brazilian, Italian and French popular classics proving Forest Gump’s assertion that life is just like a box of chocolates: there’s something for everyone.

Brixton Prison...'Dear Mama, let me tell you what they done to Jim...'

“Mama, let me tell you what they done to Jim…”

8 Linton Kwesi Johnson: Forces of Victory (1979) The Jamaican poet who coined the phrase “Inglan is a bitch” with his first and best album: a suite of astute social commentary poems set to sound-system reggae rhythms that will turn your living room into a soup of body odour.

Lua de Mel (Honeymoon): with honeyed voice, tropical songs and fruity arrangements

Lua de Mel (Honeymoon): tropical songs and fruity arrangements

7 Gal Costa: Lua de Mel (1987) The dark muse from Bahia lets her honeyed voice melt its way through Brazilian popular classics penned by the likes of Lulu Santos, Djavan and Caetano Veloso: the standards of musicianship, production and sound quality are overwhelming.

The sun don't shine anymore in Scott Walker's torture chamber

The sun don’t shine anymore in Scott Walker’s torture chamber

6 Scott Walker: Climate of Hunter (1984) The 60s pop-idol grows into a serious avant-garde artist, leaving the Bacharach saccharine behind for an edgy, fantasy world of flesh-eating electric chairs, wailing souls and manic saxophone solos (all tongue-in-cheek, of course).

"Your world is still in the tadpole stage, my friend". Too right, Bob.

“Your world is still in the tadpole stage, my friend”. Too right, Bob.

5 Bobby Darin: Born Walden Robert Cassotto (1968) Another American pop star gets real, this time Bobby Darin chucks away the tuxedo (and wig) to concentrate on wry, political protest songs with a sound paired down to acoustic guitar and voice: smart, lyrical ballads that would make Dylan blush.

Track 3, Side 1: "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Sexually Aroused Gas Mask"

Frank’s songs have great titles, like: “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Sexually Aroused Gas Mask”

4 Frank Zappa: Weasels Ripped my Flesh (1970) Talking of smart Americans, Frank was the Einstein of rock, light-years ahead of the pack, making musically complex, satirical rock  – “My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama” – in the late 60s while manufactured groups like The Monkees were being daft on our tiny TV sets.

British modern jazz at it's best: fiery, funky, tight

British modern jazz at its best: fiery, funky, tight

3 Stan Tracey: The Poet’s Suite (1984) Stan plays the piano like a man possessed; here his quartet pay homage to five Irish poets with a suite of songs that glow with ideas and explode like sky-rockets (Art Themen must be the most under-rated sax player in the universe).

"Jenny's into black musicians, soft junk and butterscotch rum".

“Jenny’s into black musicians, soft junk and butterscotch rum”.

2 Gary McFarland & Peter Smith: Butterscotch Rum (1971) Savvy jazz orchestrator McFarland teams up with songwriter Smith for a mix of love ballads and funky off-beat songs that tell a poignant story of struggle, loss and redemption in the backwoods of mid-west America.

Oriental ambient jazz made in nirvana

Oriental ambient jazz made in nirvana

1 Collin Walcott: Cloud Dance (1976) India meets Africa, with American pluck and German aesthetics: an irresistible rhythm section powers along underneath Walcott’s snake-charming sitar; the music is earthy and ethereal at the same time – a transcendental sound-massage for groovy liberals.

Of course, musical taste is very personal, so don’t all rush out and buy my choices…as if you would! But mega-stars like Coldplay, with their mega-sales and mega-bucks, too often obscure truly talented artists who never seem to get a look in.

Categories: Music, Vinyl | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “A rush of balony to the head

  1. Everyone loves a best of. But you bring upon yourself the verdict of the masses:

    1 Coldplay: Rush Of Blood To The Head (2002). Yes – a thumbs up for your verdict. While a decent enough live act (CFOlympics closer), this is a bit tedious.

    2 Keane: Hopes and Fears (2004). Even more tedious. Not as bad as Snow Patrol though.

    3 Duran Duran: Rio (1982). You’ll be lynched – you said it. Duran Duran were great. This was terrific. Clear your ears out.

    4 Pink Floyd: The Dark Side Of The Moon (1973). Over-rated – Animals was miles better.

    5 Dido: No Angel (1999). My wife liked her. It was pleasant enough.

    6 The Rolling Stones: Sticky Fingers (1971). Only if it has the real working zip cover.

    7 The Pet Shop Boys: Actually (1987). I never quite understood how the boys became critically acclaimed musical geniuses. But they did.

    8 The Beatles: Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967). No – Revolver.

    9 U2: The Joshua Tree (1987). Either the first couple, or the later more experimental ones. Not this one. But they are genuinely important (in, you know, pop music terms).

    10 Queen: A Night At The Opera (1975). Yes – it is patchy (you’re not too bad at this). But the lovely boys do need to be in there.

    Of your deliberately obscurist selection I can speak only of two:

    10 The Rutles: The Rutles (1978). Fab – I had the pleasure of seeing Neil Innes bring the Rutles to life at the Bloomsbury Theatre about five or six years ago. They were really, really good. And brilliantly I think he rearranged a load of his non-Rutle songs to sound just like Beatles parodies. The man is a genius.

    8 Linton Kwesi Johnson: Forces of Victory (1979). I put Steel Pulse’s Handsworth Revolution at the top of any reggae list – just captures the late 70s in all its grim collapse.

    A different 10, in no particular order:

    Black Love – Afghan Whigs. Dark. Oh my god. Dark.

    Modern Jazz Today – various. Sublime 1960s jazz compilation

    Deranged Angel – ATP. Japanese. Deranged.

    Secondhand Daylight – Magazine. “I will drug you and fuck you – on the permafrost”. You don’t even get that from 50 Cent.

    Chairs Missing – Wire. Titans of art rock.

    Shiney on the Inside – David Devant and his Spirit Wife. No one even knows who they are. It’s a global crime.

    Ziggy Stardust – David Bowie. Even though he didn’t play the Olympics.

    The Slider – T-Rex. Seriously – how could this not be in the list? And the cover photo is by Ringo Starr.

    LA Woman – Doors. Despite – or because? – of being raddled by drink.

    Marquee Moon – Television. “Well, a Cadillac pulled out of the graveyard.”

    Well done, Mr Fletcher. Anything that gets me revisiting my album collection these days is to be welcomed…

    • Well, well, well, I certainly seem to have rattled your cage, in a pleasant, musical way.

      You sound like a deranged angel with a few chairs missing.

      I saw Television playing through the Marquee Moon set in Newcastle, when Blondie were the warm-up act (circa 1977). Miss Harry had the shortest skirt imaginable. TV were dark. Magazine were good, too. Problem is, you never find those kind of LPs in the second-hand shops – I have to make do with the rubbish other people leave behind. And all this because of my stubborn martyrdom to analogue sound…

      And yet, in the immortal words of Marc Bolan (R.I.P), “Life’s a Gas”. N’est ce pas, my new musical friend?

      Here’s a bit of info on genius Neil Innes and The Rutles: ‘The songs written by Innes so cleverly parodied the original source material that he was taken to court by the owners of The Beatles’ catalogue. Innes had to testify under oath that he had not listened to the songs at all while composing The Rutles songs, but had created them completely originally based on what he remembered various songs by The Beatles sounding like at different times. Ironically, Innes himself would go on to sue heavily Beatles-influenced band Oasis over their 1994 song Whatever, as it directly lifted parts of its melody from Innes’s 1973 song How Sweet to Be an Idiot.’ Thanks to Wikipedia.

      I could say what goes around comes around, but I won’t.

  2. David

    ebay is king. You can find (almost) every LP you want if you look for it.
    Just Another Band From LA is probably better then Weasles Ripped My Flesh but both are great.
    Trouble is, anyone who places anything by Julio Iglesias in their top 10 beggars belief and makes one wonder WHERE exactly you pick up your used records…… and WHY.

    • I must admit, I was being a bit ironic when I put Julio Iglesias on my list, though I do love the album. You’ve got to remember, David, that I’m a back-to-back house scruff from Bradford, so I’ve got funny taste…

  3. David

    That’s not funny…. it’s strange!!

  4. janeykate

    Love of my life is my absolute, all time favourite song. If I were more eloquent, it’s exactly what I would have written about the man who was the love of my life. And Freddie was one of the most magical performers of all time. He had this knack of being able to totally engage an audience, and hold them spellbound. I watched him on youtube at Wembley performing ‘Love of my life’, and its just beautiful.
    Jane x

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