what i watched last week
how i wrote in 1987

fifteen albums

On Facebook, Charlie Bertsch linked to "Ana Marie Cox gave us a list of her favorite records".

Charlie thought that Insound, who are the ones who asked for the list, should ask other Bad Subjects contributors besides Ana for similar lists. I couldn’t resist trying to reduce the entirety of recorded music down to fifteen albums (which is how many were on her original list). It can’t be done … I could only get it down to 15 albums plus one DVD box set. Here goes, in rough chronological order.

Elvis Presley: The ‘68 Comeback Special Deluxe Edition DVD. There are a couple of CDs that take care of the music I most care about from this greatest of all rock and roll nights, but this set overwhelms them all, so I’ll cheat, get it over with, and move from here to fifteen actual albums.

The Beatles: A Hard Day's Night. Because early Beatles are at least as good as late Beatles.
The Velvet Underground: The Velvet Underground and Nico. If I could remove one track from either White Light White Heat (“The Gift”) or The Velvet Underground (“The Murder Mystery”), one of them would be my choice here.
Otis Redding: Live in Europe. I could pick a greatest hits package for Otis, but this is the album I played over and over as a teenager.
Van Morrison: Astral Weeks. In the running for my favorite album of all time.
Derek and the Dominos: Layla. Even better than whatever Led Zep album I might have picked.
Aretha Franklin: 30 Greatest Hits. At what point do these become self-explanatory?
Bruce Springsteen: Born to Run. Since Bruce is my favorite, and this is my favorite of his albums, I guess this is my favorite album ever.
Patti Smith: Easter. It says something about an artist when more than one album is a contender. On a different day, I might have chosen Horses.
The Clash: London Calling. Hey, they were the only band that mattered.
Prince: Sign 'O' the Times. Or Dirty Mind. Or Purple Rain.
Public Enemy: It Takes a Nation of Millions. I guess I like Paul’s Boutique even more than this one, but PE sounds better with the volume turned way up.
Hüsker Dü: New Day Rising. Speaking of sounding good with the volume turned way up.
Sleater-Kinney: The Woods. Talk about going out on top. They made seven albums, not a dud among them, with a couple that could easily make this list. And I chose the last album they ever made, because they were still getting better when they went on “hiatus”.
Pink: Funhouse. We’ll finally know if she’s underrated when she does/doesn’t make the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in her first year of eligibility.

(Number of the above artists I’ve seen live: nine, if I count Eric Clapton as Derek and the Dominos, which I shouldn’t. I mean, I didn’t count Lou Reed as the Velvets, and I saw him lots of times.)



I'll take a stab at this.

1. Lou Reed, either Berlin or New York, depending on what's going on in my life.
2. Beatles, Revolver, UK version.
3. Grateful Dead, American Beauty/Workingman's Dead (it's a cheat, I suppose, but when they were digitized they were sold in a pair for a while, so I'm taking it.)
4. Jorma Kaukonen, Quah.
5. Jefferson Airplane, Surrealistic Pillow.
6. Bruce Sprinsteen, Born to Run or Nebraska, depending on what's going on in my life.
7. The Clash, London Calling
8. Pink Floyd ought to be on this list given my age, etc. Dark Side of the Moon seems cliche, on the other hand, so does Wish You Were Here. (then again, I can always go with The Wall, which is the only time I ever saw them live. I was a freshman in college.)
9. Joni Mitchell, Ladies of the Canyon
10. David Bowie, Heroes
11. Steeleye Span, Hark! the Village Wait
12. Queen, Innuendo
13. Led Zeppelin, Houses of the Holy (you thought I was going to say Zeppelin IV, didn't you?)
14. Arlo Guthrie/Pete Seeger, Friends
15. The Ramones, Rocket to Russia.

I'm reasonably certain that if you ask me this question tomorrow, I'll give you a different 15 albums, though they might well be the same bands throughout.

As an aside, apart from The Beatles and Jefferson Airplane, I've seen all of these bands live, in one incarnation or another.

Three guesses who I've seen most often, and the first two don't count.

Steven Rubio

Good list! A few that match my own, several that I could add to my own list without any problems, and a couple of surprises (Steeleye Span! Quah!). Now I want to play a new game: comment on someone else's list!

Lou Reed: Coney Island Baby has a special place in my heart, but I love all of the albums of the late-70s/early-80s, because that's when I saw him live a bunch of times.
Revolver: I've said enough about that one over the years.
Dead: I'm fascinated that you picked the ones I would pick. I always thought of those albums as Dead Albums for People Who Didn't Really Love the Dead.
Quah! Phil Dellio, who was part of the discussion about Perks of Being a Wallflower, had "Genesis" on a list of his 100 favorite songs.
Airplane: Hard to pick a fave, but yeah, that's the one I'd choose, too.
Pink Floyd: Wish You Were Here is my fave, although Ummagumma got a lot of play on my turntable when I was young.
Joni: That would be my choice, too.
Bowie: Others like him more than I do. I'd probably take Changes One or whatever that best-of was called. Of the real albums, probably Station to Station for "Stay".
Steeleye Span: Don't know them enough to have an opinion, so I'm listening to Hark! the Village Wait while I type this.
Queen: wouldn't make my list ... my fave Queen is Pink singing "Bohemian Rhapsody". Or maybe the soundtrack to Flash Gordon.
Led Zep: if I wanted to be different and avoid IV, I'd choose Physical Graffiti or III.
Guthrie/Seeger: wouldn't make my list, although like most people my age, I listened to Alice's Restaurant a lot back in the day.
Ramones: can't go wrong with any of the first four, which is why I'd probably just pick It's Alive.

This is fun! I've only seen five of yours live: Lou/Dead/Bruce/Clash/Zep/Ramones ... oops, that's six.


Fifteen is a good number because it's kind of odd. I meant to do no artist doubles but it was all I could do to keep Rubber Soul out as a third Beatles pick.

1. Bob Dylan, Highway 61 Revisited
2. Jimi Hendrix, Electric Ladyland
3. Beatles, A Hard Day's Night
4. Van Morrison, Moondance
5. Beach Boys, Pet Sounds
6. Pet Shop Boys, Very
7. Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Rust Never Sleeps
8. Elvis Costello & the Attractions, This Year's Model
9. Flamin' Groovies, Shake Some Action
10. Clash, Sandinista!
11. Velvet Underground, Loaded
12. Big Star, Third
13. Talking Heads, Fear of Music
14. Allman Brothers Band, Live at Fillmore East
15. Beatles, Help!


you know as I see other people's lists, I'm reminded that I didn't pick any Bob Dylan (probably Bringing it all back Home) or Talking Heads (More Songs About Buildings and Food?) or Allman Brothers (Eat a Peach).

Queen is on my list mostly as a bow to one of the only queer bands I knew of as a teenager. (As Paul Ellis once said "They dressed in spangles and makeup and called themselves "Queen"; what did we THINK they were?") Also, Innuendo was not released in the US and it might be the only one of their albums that I listen to from beginning to end.

I vaguely thought of replacing Queen with Lynyrd Skynyrd Pronounced, but I don't ever listen to them any longer, and I do still listen to Queen.

as far as the dead are concerned, my real favorite is "Cal Expo, August 6, 1989" but it wasn't ever released as an album ...

and like JPK below, I had a hard time picking only one Beatles album.

Steven Rubio

Charlie got us doing this ten years ago, as well. Here's what I wrote in August of 2002:

Top Four (these come before anything else):

Bruce Springsteen: Born to Run
Van Morrison: Astral Weeks
The Beatles: A Hard Day's Night
The Velvet Underground: The Velvet Underground and Nico

Rest of Top Ten (I start taking the criteria into account here):

Sleater-Kinney: Dig Me Out
Prince: Dirty Mind
The Clash: The Clash
Bob Dylan: Highway 61 Revisited
Public Enemy: It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
Bonnie Raitt: Home Plate

Honorable Mention (if we counted Greatest Hits or live quasi-albums):

Elvis, Chuck Berry, Aretha, Al Green

Honorable Mention (if we counted EPs, they'd make the Top Ten):

New Order

Just didn't quite make it (in alphabetical order):

Beastie Boys: Paul's Boutique
James Brown: Live at the Apollo Vol. 1
Iris Dement: My Life
Derek and the Dominos: Layla
Jimi Hendrix: Are You Experienced?
Husker Du: New Day Rising
Randy Newman: Sail Away
Nirvana: In Utero
Ramones: Rocket to Russia
Otis Redding: Live in Europe
Rolling Stones: Let It Bleed
Rod Stewart: Every Picture Tells a Story
Wild Tchoupitoulas: Wild Tchoupitoulas
Lucinda Williams: Lucinda Williams
Neil Young: Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere


I think the last time I made up an album list was in the mid-'90s for Jeff's fanzine. (And I think I wrote about which song or two from each album I didn't much like.) I couldn't do one now--these are the only three I'd be sure of:

Neil Young: After the Gold Rush
Rolling Stones: Exile on Main Street
Velvet Underground: either first or third


I'm tweaking the "favourite" imperative somewhat (and not just by adding a Canadian-approved 'u'). Rather than trying to say what, right now, are my 15 favourite albums, I offer instead, the 15 albums which mattered most to me back when I organized my listening around albums (which I haven't done for approximately 25 years now). My list includes stuff I don't care so much for now, though I vouch for most of these as being at least decent records. (One title will no doubt stick out like a sore thumb, but it's entirely accurate as a barometer of where my ears were at at a certain point in time.) I'll asterisk those which would still be in contention were I to try and go with a more straightforward "all-time favourites."

The list is chronological -- not by release date, but by when they entered my world.

Paul Revere & the Raiders Greatest Hits
Rolling Stones, Through the Past Darkly *
David Bowie, Ziggy Stardust
Bryan Ferry, These Foolish Things *
Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Brain Salad Surgery
Elvis Costello, This Years Model
Clash, London Calling
Talking Heads, Remain in Light
Prince, Dirty Mind *
Human League, Dare
Cyndi Lauper, She's So Unusual *
Al Green's Greatest Hits (released 1976)
Best of Dolly Parton (released 1975) (mid-80s was really the beginning of me starting to look backwards, which makes sense for a whole number of reasons) *
Various Artists, Wanna Buy a Bridge (Rough Trade compilation) *
Pet Shop Boys, Very *

So many gaps--hard to downplay the significance of Never Mind the Bollocks, for instance. But anyway... you asked for 15!


And just as a footnote, many of these titles are ones I could bracket with other related stuff from the time. The Springsteen fan in you, Steven, would be interested to know that This Year Model would be bracketed with Darkness; London Calling would be bracketed with The River; She's So Unusual would be bracketed with Born in the USA. (And Darkness and The River would each earn the almighty asterisk, too.)

Steven Rubio

I have to admit, none of those stick out like a sore thumb to me. I am also in that same point where albums have little to do with how I listen these days. The most recent albums on my list are by artists I see live whenever possible, were/are my favorite non-Bruce performers, and thus are among the few artists where I actually buy and listen to their entire albums when they come out.

I like the idea of choosing albums that mattered most at the time. From your list, I would include London Calling and Dirty Mind on any such list I made. I can never remember what was the first album I ever owned ... it was probably Having a Rave Up with the Yardbirds, but Herman's Hermits on Tour or any random early Beatles album could be the right one. The point is, when I only had three albums and a few 45s, those few records got played over and over, which is why when I hear even a minor track from that Herman's Hermits album, I feel warm fuzzies.


Yeah, your Herman experience is my Paul Revere (and Tommy Roe's Greatest Hits) experience in a nutshell.

Don Neal

2Pac Makaveli
Beyonce' I Am.....Sasha Fierce
Bone Thugs N Harmony E.1999 Eternal
The Click Game Related
Dr. Dre The Chronic
E-40 The Element of Suprise
Eminem Relapse
Geto Boys
Ice Cube Death Certificate
Kanye West My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
N.W.A efilzaggin
Outkast Aquemini
Prince Sign O the Times
Public Enemy It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
Young Jeezy The Recession

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