I am still doing it—’it’ being a joyless trudge through one of these exhaustive musical lists everyone’s so fond of. Except this one is massive, and is crammed up to the eyeslots with hurt. I am now 20 per cent of the way through. Do you think we’ll ever be troubled by what Rolling Stone imagines are the real best albums of all time?
The Rules: Try and listen to all the albums on the Rolling Stone top 500 albums of all time. No vetoes. I’m not even allowed to veto things on the grounds that they contain Ian Brown.
My Progress: 424-400
424 Bruce Springsteen – The Rising: The Boss’ first album in seven years was a response to 9/11, and was chock full of positivity and healing ‘vibes’. Which probably means I’m a really bad person for finding it as soothing as eczema.
423 Diana Ross and The Supremes – Anthology: Do we really need another three disc anthology on the list? Especially one that’s not actually on Spotify and needs to be manually recreated from their entire discography? There’s naturally a lot of filler on here, especially the later 70’s stuff when they shift from Motown to disco. But for the most part, this is good pop.
422 The Ronettes – Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica: Ah, the Phil Spector wall of sound. Whoever came up with that term has clearly never heard of Ufomammut. We transition from 1960s girl band pop to 1960s girl band pop, and I’d rather listen to this than Pic n Mix or whatever the current girl band du jour is. It’s also an actual album rather than an elaborate box-set compilation, so doesn’t take the best part of a day to listen to.
421 Various Artists – The Best of the Girl Groups: Ah yes, good old Various Artis—wait, more 60s girl band pop? Jesus. Ok then. Once again this took longer to assemble in Spotify than it did to listen to it, which is slightly irritating. I’m starting to tire of the 60s sound now. Need riffs please.
420 Buddy Holly & The Crickets – The “Chirping” Crickets: I loved Buddy Holly when I was growing up, so much so that my parents took me to see the musical Buddy four times. I’m so metal. Anyway, Buddy Holly was excellent. So there. Still, can we have something that is younger than I am please?
419 Portishead – Dummy: That’s more like it. One of my favourite albums of all time, still as haunting and weird now as it was then. I have no idea how this managed to end up as popular as it did, but then the people have to get something right every now and then. Roads is still the best of all the best things.
418 Wings – Band on the Run: Baaaaaaand on the ruuun, baaaand ooon the RUN. JET! JET! Wooo Oooooooooo Ooooooo! This album is equal parts ‘hey Macca was a great songwriter once, wasn’t he?’ and ‘oh shut up Macca you insufferable buffoon.’ Mostly the latter.
417 U2 – Boy: Oh for fuck’s sake. I have counted five U2 albums on this list, which means it is, objectively, at least one per cent complete bullshit. And to push our statistical analysis still further, there are 11 U2 tracks on this album, which makes it, definitively, 100 per cent bullshit.
416 Tom Waits – Mule Variations: Here’s a lesson for all aspiring singers. Bono can hit lots of those notes that you hear about. Tom Waits, by contrast, can’t hit any of them; nor can he sound like anything other than a drunken vacuum cleaner. But I would rather listen to Tom than Bono from now until the end of time.
415 Van Halen – Van Halen: Tremendous fun, great guitars, sleazy vocals, all delivered with an earnest cheeky chappie delivery and a twinkle in the eye. Whilst this was playing in my head I became Dalton from Road House. I’d love to be Dalton from Road House. Such hair, many bar fight. Wow.
414 The Go-Go’s – Beauty and the Beat: Well this is jolly. New wave pop with Belinda Carlisle on vocals. A delightful breezy bundle of hooks and jaunty jangly guitars.
413 Minutemen – Double Nickels on the Dime: So often when you get to hear something that is considered a pivotal record, the result is disappointing; a legacy forming all the bands and albums that follow in its wake tarnishes whatever brilliance it may have once held. I assumed this would be the case with Minutemen, a band I’ve heard about for years and never got round to. How wrong. Mixing early hardcore with the songwriting brilliance of the Pixies and the funk of—well, funk, this double album full of one or two-minute bursts of magnificence is quite something.
412 Wire – Pink Flag: Steady on Rolling Stone, you’re actually introducing me to some good albums here. This record was recorded in 1977, the same year the Sex Pistols were releasing Never Mind The Bollocks. Whereas the latter is an infantile energy bomb that has (let’s face it) not aged well, this was quietly setting the template for the post punk and hardcore scenes while punk was in its infancy. Brilliant.
411 Eric Clapton – 461 Ocean Boulevard: If this is the kind of album you make when you’re recovering from heroin addiction then it’s a good job Kurt Cobain shot himself in the face instead.
410 Bob Dylan – Time Out Of Mind: Okay, Rolling Stone, I get that you really like Dylan. There are 12 of his albums on this list after all, but if an album doesn’t get anywhere near an artist’s individual top ten, do you really think it should be counted as one of the 500 greatest albums of all time in any genre of popular music? No. This is fine, but Highway 61 it is not. It’s also the source of the song Make You Feel My Love, which surely classes it as a biological weapon of some kind.
409 The Doors – Strange Days: Can’t go wrong with The Doors. Not much more to say than that.
408 Sinead O’ Connor – I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got: So much cheerfulness I don’t think I can take it. At first, I would have said I enjoyed this, but on balance, I don’t think it’s an album to enjoy, so much as to endure. Bleakness sliders pushed to maximum. By the end I was checking how much runtime was left every few minutes, which isn’t a great sign. Afterwards, I moved on to something more uplifting, like undercover slaughterhouse footage.
407 The Clash – Sandinista!: If, like me, 99 per cent of albums recorded in the 1980s make you want to replace your headphones with a pair of power drills, you’ll probably not be so keen on this. But aside from the awful production, this manages to take a handful of genre-bending scraps of excellence, then pad them out with over two additional discs of utter bilge, which lasts longer than eternity.
406 PJ Harvey – Rid Of Me: This is the sort of album that worms its way into your very core; a dirty, snarling bit of brilliance. I love Polly. More Polly please.
405 Big Star – Radio City: Not going to lie, I was expecting big things from this, given how much I loved the two albums lower down this list. But this fell a bit flat. Shame.
404 Dr. John – Dr. John’s Gumbo: I used to think Jools Holland had tainted “the boogie woogie” so much that I couldn’t actually listen to it any more—until I listened to this, which was excellent. Now I’m just confused. Who could ever have guessed “the boogie woogie” might actually be good?
403 Lynyrd Skynyrd – (pronounced ‘lĕh-‘nérd ‘skin-‘nérd): I have a ridiculous amount of affection for this album, but then given that it contains Tuesday’s Gone, Simple Man and Freebird amongst its scant eight tracks, maybe it’s not that ridiculous. I mean, some of the other songs are a bit shit really, but if you like your rock served southern and you don’t love this album, you’re doing your life wrong.
402 Nas – Illmatic: Oh look Rolling Stone remembered hip hop exists! This album is so good, it makes pretty much all the other mainstream hip hop albums ever made cower in incredulous inferiority.
401 Red Hot Chili Peppers – Californication: A festering pustule of an album. The moment when alternative rock as a genre finally jumped over the entire Jaws saga. The sum total of all of history’s cumulative banality. This album is all of these things. If your reply to this is ‘yeah but Flea is a great bassist’ then fuck you. You need to have a good hard look at yourself, because you are what’s wrong with almost everything.
400 The Temptations – Anthology: Jesus wept, this seems to be the episode of many anthologies. I don’t mind The Temptations, but I don’t need two hours’ worth of what is quite frankly a very repetitive formula, repeated once every three to five minutes.
But with 100 records down, and one-fifth of the entire list thoughtfully digested, that’s me done. Do I feel suitably enriched by my experience with the lower echelons of time’s greatest music? I suppose there’s only one way you’ll ever find out. Until next time…