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.
3 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 :
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.