There is a proper procedure for taking advantage of any investment. Music, for example.. Buying a CD is an investment. To get the maximum you must listen to it for the first time under optimum conditions. Not in your car or on a portable player through a headset. Take it home. Get rid of all distractions, (even him or her), turn off your cell phone, turn off everything that rings or beeps or rattles or whistles. Make yourself comfortable. Play your CD. Listen all the way through…
Gil Scott Heron - Sleeve notes for I’m New Here
The BBC Golden Age of the Album series is under way, and as such, up and down the country, those watching and listening will be discussing the greatest albums of all time.
Back in the late 90s I interviewed Ian Brown of the Stone Roses for a student magazine, the Stone Roses album (don’t ask which one, it’ll show your ignorance) had just been voted the second best album EVER in a Music of the Millennium poll (sandwiched between Sgt Pepper and Revolver in a fairly bland list). It was a bold accolade, and Brown seemed a tad embarrassed about it. In reference to the poll, I asked Brown what his top ten albums would be, his response was ‘Bob Marley made at least 10 albums, so I’ll have them’. Bob Marley doesn’t feature in the 1998 list until number 58, and then its Legend, a greatest hits compilation and as such not really an album. Interestingly, that’s behind 3 Oasis albums and Alanis Morrisette, not to mention, Blur, The Prodigy and Pulp. It was the age of britpop, and it was a British poll, and these polls are inevitably defined by the time in which they are written no matter how hard the try not to be. The BBC are doing the current season, presumably, because the golden age of the album is over, or on its last legs. As is the art of making an album. As is the art of listening to an album, as was recognized by Gil Scott Heron in the sleeve notes to his final CD. People now consume music in a completely different way than even in 14 years ago, in 1998 when the Music of the Millennium Poll was conducted. In fact, the revolution really started a year later in 99 with Napster, leading to massive illegal downloads, and has exploded ever since with MP3s rapidly becoming a preferred format of consumption. The idea of a greatest hits compilation making it into a list of the greatest albums is even more of an oddity now than it was then, in an age where we can buy whatever we want.
Another point, and gripe I have with the 1998 list, Stevie Wonder making a first appearance at number 52 (just one place ahead of the Verve’s Urban Hymns) is inexcusable, and as such, anyone involved in the poll should probably be sacked as music journalists. If any more evidence is needed against that poll, there is only one genuine hip hop album in there, Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions is at 92 (Tricky’s Maxinquay above it at 88). Later that year, Lauryn Hill would release The Miseducation Of….. and album that’s never been far from my CD player ever since.
Polls are always unfairly judged though, but they are fascinating in terms of discussion and disagreement. Music is personal, the idea of placing an album as the best of all time goes far beyond its composition and lyrics. The love of an album, can be defined by the time in which you were listening to it, where you were, what you were feeling and so on. Certain albums will whisk you back to school, university, ‘that‘ summer, the list goes on. Someone somewhere probably goes weak every time they hear New Kids on the Block eponymous debut as the memories flood back. In years to come, someone somewhere will play their kids One Direction as their eyes well with water. Actually, no, that’s not going to happen, its a ridiculous idea, because that generation will just buy the tracks they like. The thing they have on us is that they can simply delete it from their collection when they grow up, and pretend it never happened and that they were always super cool. I on the other hand, will probably never throw away all that embarrassing vinyl that I purchased (first 7″ single, Shakin’ Stevens).
I’m looking forward to this series, although I’m sure I’ll be shouting in disagreement at the TV and radio. I’m 99% sure it’ll inspire people to go through all the old favourites as they cry; How could you forget THIS???? and transport themselves back to that summer.