music friday: 29 singers

So, what is this list?

Joan Baez, Chuck Berry, Bono, Roger Daltrey, Bob Dylan, Billie Eilish, Marianne Faithfull, Rob Halford, Emmylou Harris, Debbie Harry, Levon Helm, Chrissie Hynde, Etta James, Paul McCartney, Van Morrison, Youssou N'Dour, Willie Nelson, Stevie Nicks, Robert Plant, Prince, Bonnie Raitt, Lou Reed, Patti Smith, Bruce Springsteen, Rod Stewart, Joe Strummer, Corin Tucker, Muddy Waters, Neil Young.

To start the new year, Rolling Stone gave us their list of the 200 Best Singers of All Time. The above 29 singers are the people on that RS list that I have seen live. A few selections follow.

Chuck Berry, backed by the Steve Miller Blues Band at the Fillmore Auditorium, was my first rock concert (1967). It was recorded for a live album:

The first time we saw Patti Smith was at a club in San Francisco in February of 1976. It was simulcast on local FM channel KSAN:

The fourth and fifth times we saw Bruce Springsteen came at Winterland in December of 1978 (it was the last month before Bill Graham closed down the old hall). The first of those two shows was also broadcast on KSAN:

Our first Prince show was at a small club in March of 1981, the Dirty Minds tour. Here's a few minutes of a show he played a week before we saw him:

And here is a clip from the last song from the last concert I attended, last March:

music friday: rock and roll hall of fame part 4

[I'm going to take the next few weeks to adjust the current "acts I've seen live" theme. What will follow for a month or so will be artists I've seen, that haven't previously been featured in this long series, who are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They'll appear in order of their induction, and I'll mostly avoid comments ... I'll just post some relevant videos.]

Prince, inducted 2004. (The Stone, 1981; Civic Auditorium, 1982; Oakland Coliseum, 1983, 1988; Cow Palace, 1985;  HP Pavilion, 2004.) There aren't too many artists I've seen six times ... Bruce, obviously, and Sleater-Kinney. I've seen Pink six times. I lost track of the number of times I saw Lou Reed, but he might be up there. Prince is the equal of all those artists, and that first concert, at a 700-seat club, was arguably the most notable show I ever attended. As for the others, The Time opened in '82 and '83, '85 was the Purple Rain tour (he played six shows for his Cow Palace gig), '88 is when I took my son for his first Prince show (I think ... and I think that was the Lovesexy tour), and '04 was the Musicology tour. Here he is, about a week before we saw him in 1981:

U2, inducted 2005. (Civic Auditorium, 1982.) The last time U2 opened for another act, other than in festivals. (J. Geils was the headliner.) This was somewhat like that first Prince show, in that U2 was just about to hit big, and once they did, well, there weren't too many acts bigger. The audience for the J. Geils band in 1982 was a lot different than the audience for U2, but my memory is U2 went over quite well, with Bono impressing with his showmanship. But then, I was on mescaline, so my memory might be warped. Here they are, about a week after I saw them, playing mostly the same setlist:

Peter Gabriel, inducted 2014. (Oakland Coliseum, 1988.) This was the Amnesty Tour, or, as it was officially known, The Concert for Human Rights Now! Wikipedia says Roy Orbison was a guest, although I don't remember him (he died only a couple of months later). Joan Baez guested, and I do remember her ... it was Bruce Springsteen's birthday, and she led 58,000 of us in a rendition of "Happy Birthday". As for Gabriel, I admit I spent a lot of time in my nosebleed stadium seat trying to spot Gabriel's then-current partner Rosanna Arquette (I failed). Here are parts of the final show on the tour:

music friday: rolling stone's 500 best albums of all time

So Rolling Stone updated its list of top albums ... I think this is version 3. Here are a few selections.

Prince, Purple Rain (#8):

Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run (#21):

Sleater-Kinney, Dig Me Out (#189):

Miranda Lambert, The Weight of These Wings (#480):

music friday: prince 9-11-2004

We saw Prince for the last time on this date in 2004. It was the last show of the Musicology Tour. Maceo Parker was in the band. Prince did a lot of covers ... "Georgia on My Mind", "Satisfaction", "Whole Lotta Love", Stanley Clarke's "Lopsy Lu", "Knock on Wood". Nikka Costa was the opening act.

I think this was my fifth time seeing him, going back to the Dirty Mind tour in 1981. Here he is, a week before we saw him in '81:

And here is the full show that started the Musicology tour:

music friday: 2004

Franz Ferdinand, "Take Me Out". Some of the comments on the video, which is of a live performance: "When the crowd sings the know you made it" ... "this crowd is so good It makes me want to cry" ... "The video does not do justice to how amazing this was live".

Kanye West, "Jesus Walks". Video, from Dave Chappelle's Block Party, one of the best movies of 2005. So good I'm willing to ignore the fact that the picture is reversed.

Kelly Clarkson, "Since U Been Gone". Clarkson won the very first American Idol.

Arcade Fire, "Rebellion (Lies)". For many years, I wondered if I loved Arcade Fire. Eventually, I realized I just loved this song.

Loretta Lynn, "Portland, Oregon". 72 years old in 2004. It's pretty impressive when you're the oldest artist on a list that includes Willie Nelson.

Usher, "Yeah!" I always forget that this isn't a Lil Jon song.

Willie Nelson, "Midnight Rider". Only 71 years old in 2004. We saw Willie in concert that year ... not sure, but he might be the oldest headliner I ever saw.

Gwen Stefani, "Hollaback Girl". In an interview that year, Courtney Love said, "I'm not interested in being the cheerleader. I’m not interested in being Gwen Stefani."

Prince, "Cinnamon Girl". The New York Post called the video the most tasteless ever.

Green Day, "American Idiot". Feels ten years past their prime, but that's just me.

Spotify playlist:

music friday: creep

On his weekly blog post about music, Tomás Summers Sandoval wrote:

I think the best music is often music geared toward a teen/young adult audience, people experiencing some of the enduring emotions and struggles of life for the first time. That’s because we love music about love, about loss, about struggle, and about pure fun.

Music speaks to this period of our lives so well because of who we are in those years. We are possessed by ourselves, by our discovery of self and the world. That comes with the hubris of thinking that we are the first, the most authentic, or the most real of any generation to have experienced these things. And, if we are lucky, those years come with tremendous possibility and not too much responsibility.

One thing I would add is the unspoken notion that we’re supposed to outgrow a lot of our teenage passions. In his post, Tomás mentions Nirvana, who have avoided this notion (if indeed it exists) ... Nirvana/Kurt Cobain are considered artists, and thus not something to outgrow. But he also mentions “What’s Up?” by 4 Non Blondes. I admit I’ve never been quite sure what this song was about. I also admit I loved it when it came out, for its sing-along chorus, and for its vaguely hippie-ish lyrics. (I’m nothing if not consistent ... I just noticed I wrote only a couple of months ago, “It’s got a catchy sing-along chorus, and the lyrics are vague and hippie-like.”) Still, the time comes when you realize “What’s Up?” is more of the moment than it is a timeless classic, and it becomes a bit embarrassing to admit you liked it. I lived in this zone for many years, until I saw Pink pull it out in concert back in ‘02. Her un-ironic approach, combined with the exuberant singing of the pre-teens in the audience, reminded me that someone is always experiencing something for the first time.

I have always loved “Creep” by Radiohead. Other than that, I confess I never gave Radiohead much thought. I was aware that they were very popular and very highly regarded, but that’s about it. The only reason I didn’t completely lock into Nick Hornby’s infamous review of Kid A was that I hadn’t been paying Radiohead enough attention to get the furor. Hornby, who is of my generation (he’s four years younger than I am), wrote:

[I]t relies heavily on our passionate interest in every twist and turn of the band's career, no matter how trivial or pretentious. You have to work at albums like "Kid A." You have to sit at home night after night and give yourself over to the paranoid millennial atmosphere as you try to decipher elliptical snatches of lyrics and puzzle out how the titles ("Treefinger," "The National Anthem," and so on) might refer to the songs. In other words, you have to be sixteen. Anyone old enough to vote may find that he has competing demands for his time - a relationship, say, or a job, or buying food, or listening to another CD he picked up on the same day.

You have to be sixteen. Experiencing some of the enduring emotions and struggles of life for the first time.

When I was sixteen, I owned maybe a dozen records, tops. I could spend time listening to those same albums over and over again ... I had the time, I had the desire. Nowadays, I’ve lost that ability ... partly because I’ve been Spotified to such an extent that listening to entire albums seems alien to me, but also because I’m not sixteen, I don’t have the desire (I have the time, but I spend it in different ways). I listen to music as much or more as I ever did, but in a less focused way. I don’t become fiercely attached to new things (unless Sleater-Kinney counts as new, which they no longer do).

So now, more than ever, I find that I lock onto certain songs, the way I always did, even before I was sixteen. And if those songs are older, I eventually find that I have “outgrown” them. Or at least I think I am supposed to outgrow them. The truth is, sometimes I still feel the same chill down my spine.

A few years ago, Andrea DenHoed wrote, in the New Yorker:

“Creep,” Radiohead’s 1992 anthem of alienation, is one of those songs that everyone has loved at some point, and no one would admit to loving now. It’s hard to watch the original music video without cringing a little bit. Thom Yorke’s pasty face, with its cavernous cheeks and olive-pit eyes; the other, stringy-haired members of Radiohead looking moody and disaffected behind him; the lurid sherbet-hued lighting—it’s all just too sincerely pathetic. And so nineties. It’s not a song that you want appearing on your Facebook/Spotify feed without a knowing comment to diffuse it.

DenHoed is saying that we outgrew the sentiments in “Creep”, that it’s one thing to identify with the song when we are young, but when we grow up, we understand that the world is bigger than our navel.

But I’ve never outgrown it. I identify with “Creep” just as much today as I did when it first came out:

Whatever makes you happy
Whatever you want
You're so fuckin' special
I wish I was special

But I'm a creep, I'm a weirdo,
What the hell am I doing here?
I don't belong here

“Creep” is back on people’s minds because of a version Prince performed in concert back in 2008. Of course, a video surfaced immediately ... it was a remarkable performance. And, of course, the next day, Prince ordered it taken down ... he doesn’t like his music on YouTube. A month or so later, Thom Yorke said Prince should unblock “our song”. And so things stood until October of this year, when a copy of Prince’s “Creep” was uploaded to YouTube. And this time, Prince has given his OK (at least as of this writing).

The Internet has gone predictably crazy. Prince is the greatest, no doubt about it, and his version of a classic like “Creep” has inherent value. His version also has a couple of great Prince guitar solos, which are always good.

But he gets the song all wrong. He flips the pronouns ... “You wish you were special” is not the same thing as “I wish I was special”. As I said to my son, “Creep” personifies self-loathing. And there is no self-loathing in Prince’s version. Here’s Hornby again:

"Creep" ... gave voice to everyone who has ever felt disconnected, alienated, or geeky - just about anyone who has ever used rock music to get through the day. "I'm a creep, I'm a weirdo," the singer Thom Yorke piped with unnerving sincerity. "What the hell am I doing here? I don't belong here." The genius of the song was its mournful anguish ...

No, I have never outgrown this feeling.

DenHoed led me to something else, however, and I am so glad she did. She had written, “The performance is very Prince and not very “Creep.”” But then she mentioned a new video of the song, by someone I’d never heard of. Apparently this performance was viral for a moment ... I never got on that wagon ... the singer is someone named Carrie Manolakos. Neetzan Zimmerman’s Gawker piece was headlined, “This Cover of Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ Will Make Your Ears Orgasm”. Manolakos had a Broadway background ... she’s got a great voice, but she is also attuned to the possibilities of dramatizing a lyric. There is no telling if she is “acting” or singing with unnerving sincerity. But, for my money, she understands the song in ways Prince does not. DenHoed one more time:

Manolakos, whose background is in musical theatre, performs the song with perfect earnestness, closing her eyes and choking back tears. She floats lightly over the soft notes and reaches up to a stringent wail towards the middle of the song. She takes all the qualities that made “Creep” moving in 1992 ... and repackages them in an old-fashioned night-club singer’s torch song.

Manolakos’s version does what covers ought to do; it picks up a song that has sunken into throwback territory, dusts it off, and treats it like a classic.

I suppose I should get to the videos. First, here is Prince in 2008:

Next, Manolakos in 2012:

And finally, Radiohead’s original:

music friday, keith law edition

The great Keith Law is known for his baseball expertise, but he’s never shy about offering his take on other things ... music and food and board games are among them, plus he has written powerfully about anxiety disorders. He has regular online chats on the ESPN website, where he is asked mostly about baseball prospects. But he always tosses in a few “off-topic” questions, and this week, one person asked, “I was wondering if there is an identifiable point in your past where your taste in music was most impacted - was there an album, artist, song, that changed how you hear and appreciate music?” His answer was, “Mother Love Bone's Apple. Metallica's ... And Justice for All. Doves' The Last Broadcast. Alt-J's An Awesome Dream. Public Enemy's It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back.” None of those would make my list, with the possible exception of PE, but it’s an interesting list, and it leads to this week’s Music Friday: things that changed how I hear/appreciate music.

The Beatles on Ed Sullivan. I remember quite a bit about popular music before that famous date (at which point, I was 10 years old). I have memories of once asking for an Elvis 45 when I had to get an injection at the doctor’s office, and since I had a brother six years my senior who had a record player, I heard a lot via his collection. But The Beatles on Ed Sullivan was different. I professed to indifference, and watched on the sly from the kitchen, afterwards assuring my parents that I didn’t get The Beatles. But the truth is, I was enthralled, full of emotions bigger than myself.

KMPX and freeform “underground” FM radio.

Wolfman Jack.


I bought Born to Run on its release in 1975. I wasn't yet the Bruce fanatic I would soon become ... on the other hand, we already had tickets for his concert, which was still two months away. We took the album to our friend’s house down the street, opened it, and put on Side Two, for no other reason than the title track was on that one. After the last strains of “Jungleland” faded away, our friend said, “You are going to see a great concert.”

I went into a record store across town, and as I was browsing, a song came on that gripped me with its unadorned power. When it ended, I asked the guy behind the counter who it was. “The Sex Pistols!”

Prince, 1981. It’s always nice to say you were there before anyone else. At least, I assume so ... I’ve never been first. The closest I came was in 1981, when we saw Prince in a small club during the Dirty Mind tour.

Dig Me Out. I liked Call the Doctor, but Sleater-Kinney became The Band for Me only after Janet joined Corin and Carrie. The album came out in 1997, and we saw them for the first of fourteen-and-counting times the next year, just after “One More Hour” had been released as a single.

music friday: favorites through the years

If I were to make a list of my favorite musicians over the years, the only easy selection would be Bruce Springsteen at the top. But I wonder if perhaps I could offer a chronology of favorites over the years.

One of my first memories (meaning it is entirely untrustworthy) is being a little boy and having to get a shot at the doctor’s office. I cried and ran around the room until my dad promised I could buy an Elvis Presley 45 after we left the office. My memory is it was “Hound Dog”, although that is probably the most untrustworthy part of this whole story. Since I’m trying to concoct a chronological list of favorites, I can’t really use this memory to place Elvis in first place. I didn’t have an Elvis fixation, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was merely the only rock and roller I’d heard of at that young age. I lost interest in him after that, and only really started paying attention to him after Greil Marcus’ book Mystery Train. That book took me to the ‘68 TV special, and if you want a favorite, there you are … whenever I fill out one of those “if you could pick one moment in time, where would it be” memes, I choose to be sitting in the audience as The King and his friends played in the summer of 1968. From there, I went on to write my college honors thesis on Elvis, and I’ve never lost my fascination with him. Truthfully, though, it’s the ‘68 Elvis-and-Friends sessions that affect me emotionally … everything else for me is more academic. So Elvis is a favorite, to be sure, but it’s hard to place him chronologically … 1968, when I didn’t notice him? The mid-70s, when Mystery Train came out?

I had a few 45s when I was a kid … there was Bobby “Boris” Pickett with “The Monster Mash”, Link Wray and “Jack the Ripper”, a few more that are long forgotten. The first LPs I can recall (some gifts, some bought by me) include Herman’s Hermits On Tour, Bringing It All Back Home (for “Like a Rolling Stone”, the first Dylan to grab my attention … of course, that album did not include “Rolling Stone”), and the first two American Yardbirds albums, For Your Love and Having a Rave Up with the Yardbirds. It would be accurate to say that The Yardbirds were my first “favorite” musicians. I put “favorite” in quotes because The Beatles ruled over everything by then, and I was not immune. (I can remember buying Revolver right when it came out, and someone asking me how I knew it was good before I’d even heard it. “It’s the Beatles!” was my reply.) Finally, to complete this time frame, I had an older brother who lived at home until 1964, and his tastes were very influential on me, plus he had lots of records.

The Yardbirds, “I Wish You Would” (Eric Clapton on guitar)

For the rest of the 60s, my favorites were identified more by albums than by artists, although the Beatles and Rolling Stones were always there. Representing the “San Francisco Sound” were Surrealistic Pillow, Children of the Future, Electric Music for the Mind and Body, and the first Quicksilver album. Oh, and the Firesign Theatre. But I don’t think any of these artists were favorites beyond their best albums. If I had to list a favorite, let it be Jack Casady. One album, though, made such an impression on me that it lifted the artist to a favored spot: Astral Weeks by Van Morrison. His first four solo albums (through His Band and the Street Choir) were often played, and there was plenty to like after that. I finally saw him live in 1998.

Van Morrison, “Cypress Avenue

Not sure I had a favorite for the next few years. Listened to a lot of The Moody Blues in the late-60s. Allman Brothers. Boz Scaggs’ “Loan Me a Dime”. No, the next My Favorite came when I re-discovered Bob Dylan around about the time of Planet Waves. I had liked him since long before that, of course, and The Band was always thisclose to being a favorite … in hindsight, I don’t know if there is a double whammy I love more than Big Pink and the second album. Robin and I saw them on the Before the Flood tour, our first concert together after we were married … we saw Dylan twice more over the years, The Band once more (they were/are a favorite of hers, as well). I buried myself in Dylanology, reading everything I could find, going back to the earlier albums. Then Blood on the Tracks and The Basement Tapes followed … it was a great time to be a Dylan fan. Things went downhill after that … we saw him on the Street Legal tour, and it wasn’t the same … we didn’t see him in concert again for 20 years. It’s hard to get mid-70s Dylan on YouTube (The Band is easy to find), so here’s what I (along, I’m sure) consider the best use ever of “All Along the Watchtower”, the culmination of its use in Battlestar Galactica:

BSG, Starbuck

Then came Bruce … do I really need to say more? My various stories are scattered throughout this blog. My favorite of his songs after all these years is still “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)”, and it was 1978 that cemented his place forever in my heart. So here’s “Rosie” from 1978:

Bruce Springsteen, “Rosalita

Punk was probably the musical movement I most loved. Patti Smith could be on this list. But my true favorites were The Clash … it’s really not even close.

The Clash, “Safe European Home

Lou Reed is in there, too … we saw him quite a few times then. The Velvet Underground belongs on this list, but as with Elvis, I don’t know where to place them. We listened to the first album all the time when it came out, and I was aware of the other albums. But it took a long time for me to realize that they were my favorite band, by which point they had long since broken up. The real favorites of the … what do I call it, post-punk era? College rock? Anyway, the favorites were Hüsker Dü. I would vote for the Velvets over the Hüskers overall, but in the context of this post, Hüsker Dü is the right choice. And my favorite of their songs is an easy choice. “So now sit around staring at the walls. We don't do anything at all. Take out the garbage, maybe, BUT THE DISHES DON’T GET DONE!”

Hüsker Dü, “I Apologize

Predating Hüsker Dü by a bit (and thus throwing off the chronology a bit, but I wanted Hüsker Dü in with the punks) was their fellow Minnesotan, Prince. He would be the frontrunner if I decided I had to pick a #2 favorite. Seeing him in a small club in 1981 ranks as one of the finest concert moments of my life. For most of the 80s, he was crucial, and he has never really gone away … saw him in concert just a few years ago.

Prince, “Uptown

Don’t think I haven’t noticed that the above are all guys. I’ve loved many women rockers over the years, going back at least as far as Aretha in the 60s. I mentioned Patti Smith earlier … and there’s Bonnie Raitt and Lucinda Williams, and more. But they weren’t my favorites the same way acts like Bruce and Prince were.

And then came Sleater-Kinney. I saw them for the first time in 1998, after Janet had joined the band and Dig Me Out was their most recent album. The first S-K song I can remember loving was “Good Things” from the second album, but Dig Me Out was and remains iconic for me, especially “Words + Guitar” and even more especially “One More Hour”. I don’t think I knew right away how much I would love them. It had been more than a decade since I truly obsessed over a new act … I was 45 years old in 1998, I had Bruce, I didn’t need more. But there was something about Sleater-Kinney. Their concerts were very interesting … I want to tell you what a great live act they were, but the truth is, I could barely distinguish a lot of the noise (Janet’s drums always came through, though). It’s the way they formed a real group out of three women with distinct personalities on stage. In the earlier years, Corin tended to be relatively calm, letting her colossal vocals do the work of expanding her presence to the audience. Janet was simply the best rock drummer since Keith Moon. Meanwhile, Carrie took care of the rock star charisma, and she had it in abundance, her bangs always in her eyes, her energy at once coiled and explosive. On record, Corin’s voice got my attention, and I had a fan’s crush on Janet’s drumming. But the fact was, I could barely take my eyes off of Carrie. They made seven albums, and all of them were good (sample: Christgau gave the albums grades of A-, A, A, A, A-, A, A). I made an S-K playlist for a friend … I ended up including more than 40 songs. The last album, The Woods, was arguably their best, as they released their inner Blue Cheer. And the concerts rolled on … over the course of just under eight years, I saw them 12 times. There was the time they played “Promised Land” on Bruce’s birthday, the many times they would man their own merch tables and I’d get tongue-tied in the presence of Janet.

And then they went on “hiatus” … that was in 2006, and I just about cry every time I think of it. By that point, I was 53 years old, and this time I was sure of it, I would never love another new act the way I loved Sleater-Kinney. “One More Hour” was the last song they ever played together … “i know it's hard for you to let it go, i know it's hard for you to say goodbye, i know you need a little more time”.

Sleater-Kinney, “One More Hour

Another woman has snuck in, though … I don’t obsess over her the way I did with Sleater-Kinney, those days are indeed probably gone. But I’ve seen her five times (the second at the Fillmore, two years after I’d seen S-K there) … she’s just about the only person left not named Bruce who can get my now-61-year-old ass to a show. Pink.

Pink, “So What

So, there’s my slightly botched timeline of my favorite musicians over the years:

  • The Yardbirds
  • Van Morrison
  • Bob Dylan
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • The Clash
  • Hüsker Dü
  • Prince
  • Sleater-Kinney
  • Pink

music friday, robin's birthday edition

Since it’s Robin’s 60th birthday today, I thought Music Friday should have a Robin connection. These are all artists we have seen live over the years.

Bob Dylan and the Band, “Most Likely You’ll Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine”. The first concert we attended together was Bob Dylan and The Band in 1974. This was the opening number.

Patti Smith, “We’re Gonna Have a Real Good Time Together”. We saw Patti for the first time in 1976. This was the opening number.

The Who, “I Can’t Explain”. We saw them in 1976, when Moonie was still alive. The link is to the actual show we attended, which means the audio sux. Yes, this was the opening number.

Lou Reed, “Coney Island Baby”. We saw Lou a bunch of times over the years. Robin once made me a Coney Island Baby t-shirt.

Talking Heads, “Take Me To the River”. We saw them in 1978. The audio is from the show we attended. This time the sound is good.

Neil Young and Crazy Horse, “Like a Hurricane”. We saw them at the concert which became the movie Rust Never Sleeps.

Iris DeMent, “Let the Mystery Be”. We saw Iris a few times.

Van Morrison, “Jackie Wilson Said”. We finally got to see him in 1998.

Sleater-Kinney, “Little Babies”. Robin actually went with us three times to see S-K, although I’m not sure she ever liked it.

Prince, “Purple Rain”. We saw him a few times. I wish he let folks put more of his stuff on YouTube.

Bruce Springsteen, “Born to Run”. We’ve seen him together more than 30 times. We’re not alone in thinking of this as “our song”.

Pink, “So What”. Normally, Bruce would close the show. But we’re going to see Pink again next week, so she gets the honored spot.

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.)