Ever tried picking your twenty favourite albums? ‘Easy’, I hear you say.
Just mosey up to the old record collection – flip, flip, flip – and out pops a range of classic records that
represent you personally, emotionally and show what a person of great taste you rightly are.
I tried and it wasn’t quite that easy but this is how I got on.
As I started taking records off of the shelves, I was reminded of the universal truth: music is related to time and place. There will always be a tune that accompanies you through times of happiness, freedom and depression and you’ll never be alone when you go on a long journey.
Never was this more apparent as when sifting through a pile of discs that were scattered across the floor.
I found an old vinyl version of the Orange Juice LP, ‘Rip It Up’. I played this to death when I moved flats. I put it on again and the opening bars transported me back to my old living room with light streaming through the windows and the heat of the Sun on my neck. I could almost touch the scene.
Underneath another pile I found ‘The Heart of Saturday Night’ by Tom Waits. It took me back to the local Public Library where you could borrow records. (Yes, that’s right young people – we borrowed records! And we even went around to a friend’s house just to listen to their new LP!).
A new record conversation normally went like this:
KNOCK, KNOCK. (Having turned up at friends house on the off-chance they might be in. No forms of electronic communication then, of course and some people didn’t even bother with a land-line).
‘Hi Bob, have you got the new album?’
‘Yeah, got it from HMV this morning’
‘Can I come in and listen to it? I can’t really afford to get one yet?’
‘Er, Ok, but my Mum says I can’t play it that much because it’ll wear the record player needle out’
I was fourteen and, randomly, had borrowed an LP by someone called, Tom Waits. That was my first brush with him. The second was some years later; I was on tour and I stood with my ear up against a closed door and listened to him play the piano as he was writing what would become, ‘One From the Heart’. I slavishly followed his career from then on.
Unfortunately both of these records didn’t make the final twenty. And therein lies the problem. Great memories aside, I had to try and pick a range of music that I thought best represented me. Not necessarily the ‘best’ records ever made and certainly not to everyone's taste but ones that ‘make the man’.
A typical dilemma: I like Kraftwerk; I like ‘Autobahn’ and ‘Tour de France’. I also have soft spot for Señor
Coconut’s, ‘El Baile Aleman’ – a frankly mental record where the great Señor does Latin, Rumba and Swing
versions of many Kraftwerk songs. Try playing that CD after a few drinks and you’ll think the world is a better place.
Annoyingly, there was one other handicap: I wasn’t allowed to include ‘blatant’ compilations or ‘Greatest Hits’. So ABBA, The Four Tops, Thelonious Monk and Trojan Records – to name but a few – suffered badly. And, also, there are givens: The whole twenty could have been Beatles LP’s and ‘Kind of Blue’ by Miles Davis is, collectively, one of the greatest pieces of music made in the twentieth century.
So, in the end, I went for a balanced selection with no particular genre of music having too much influence.
Here, in no particular order, are my final twenty – which are subject to change tomorrow; next week; next month and next year:
Beck, ‘Odelay’ Neil Young, ‘After The Gold Rush’
The Clash, ‘The Clash’ The Beatles, ‘Rubber Soul’
Jimmy Cliff, ‘The Harder They Come’ Charles Mingus, ‘Blues and Roots’
Motown Chartbusters Vol. 3 Tom Waits, ‘Rain Dogs’
Van Morrison, ‘Moondance’ Television, ‘Marquee Moon’
Ella Fitzgerald, ‘Sings The Cole Porter Songbook’ Robert Wyatt, ‘Nothing Can Stop Us’
Steely Dan, ‘Can’t Buy A Thrill’ Air, ‘Moon Safari’
John Lennon, 'John Lennon and The Plastic Ono Band' Camille, 'Le Fil'
Blind Willie Johnson, ‘Dark Was The Night’ David Bowie, ‘Hunky Dory’
Fanfare Ciocarlia, ‘Queens and Kings’ Bob Marley, 'Catch A Fire'