Yep, we’ve made a list. Two separate lists, actually, so the above graphic is a bit misleading. Accounting for the limited overlap in Todd’s and Chris’ lists, it’s more like the top 174 or something like that.
Anyway, after months of scientific analysis, hours of listening and re-listening to albums from years gone by, we have arrived at a definitive list of the top albums ever recorded. Our research is not open to interpretation, but you’re more than welcome to complain about the fact that your favorite albums aren’t on this list; we’ll simply respond by telling you that your favorite records aren’t really all that good.
We’ve reached the really good stuff: our top 10s. We’ll roll these out one per day (Monday-Friday) over the next two weeks, reaching #1 on Friday, Dec. 14. The following week, we’ll unveil our favorite music from 2012.
Let’s get on with it…
Chris’ #3: The Beatles, Revolver
(click play button below to sample this album)
Music class at St. Patrick’s Grade School was a bit of a mixed bag. Often times we had to sing hymns from our Glory & Praise song books to prepare for Friday morning Mass, stuff like “Be Not Afraid” (ironic when you consider our education was a combination of fear and Catholic guilt mixed in with some phonics and math) and “Angels We Have Heard on High” and “Go Tell It on the Mountain.” Other times we sang stuff like “Joy to the World” (the one about the bullfrog, not the one about “the lord is come”) and “Home on the Range” and “This Land Is Your Land.”
Once a month, we had “Listening Day,” where we were allowed to bring records and cassettes to school and listen to our favorite songs at the moment. My music teacher once said if she had a nickel for every time she had to hear Duran Duran, she’d be a rich woman. (This was around the time of “The Reflex” and “Wild Boys,” so I felt obligated to share.) I don’t think I ever missed a month, also bringing in the Purple Rain singles and my Bryan Adams Reckless tape and Hall & Oates’ “Out of Touch” and even that Chaka Khan song (you know, the one where her name is the primary lyric: “Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Chaka Khan! Chaka Khan! Chaka Khan!”). It was my favorite day of the month.
And it was through Catholic grade school music class that I discovered the Beatles’ Revolver. One of the songs in our secular songbook was “Yellow Submarine,” which everyone loved singing, although at some point our class thought it was funny/whatever to change the lyrics to “Green Submarine,” possibly because it rhymed? I dunno. Anyway, we would sing that song a lot, often by request from members of the class. As such, I eventually noticed the songwriter credit was listed as “Lennon/McCartney.” Those names seemed to ring a bell, so I remember asking my dad who Lennon and McCartney were.
After telling me that they were two of the Beatles, he asked why I was asking. I told him that our class was singing “Yellow Submarine.” His response: “That song is on one of the Beatles records I have downstairs.” So off I went to rifle through the vinyl collection once again.
I found Revolver, with its funny looking cover. I remember noticing little things, like John’s ear being shaded in (for whatever reason, that really struck me as odd). I flipped over the album cover and saw these four dudes, three in shades and the fourth in quirky regular glasses, looking quite happy with themselves. I also saw the track listing, which helpfully listed not only the composers (Lennon/McCartney most of the time, Harrison thrice) but also who sang lead vocals on each song. I saw that Ringo Starr was the singer on “Yellow Submarine”; it was his only vocal, so I figured it must be a very important song if they saved it for the guy named Ringo.
So yeah, I listened to “Yellow Submarine” a dozen times or so; they did an OK job with it, almost as good as the St. Pat’s kids. Then I figured I’d check out the rest of the album. Being 10 years old at the time, I must say that the album was a “grower” for me. I do remember thinking “Taxman” was kinda cool, and I liked “Good Day Sunshine.” The rest of it didn’t hold my attention, though, so it was back to “The Reflex” and the like.
But as I got older, I found myself digging the Revolver tunes more and more. “Eleanor Rigby” became one of my favorite songs of all time. “I’m Only Sleeping” had that nice dreamy vocal from John and “Love You To” was one of those mystical George songs that I found appealing with time, much like “Within You Without You” from Sgt. Pepper’s. (By the way, George’s mentor in this aspect of music, Ravi Shankar, just died at age 92.) We got one good “Paul song” (“Here, There, and Everywhere”) and one brassy “Paul song” (“Got to Get You Into My Life”) and the epitome of a “Paul song” (“For No One”).
And then those two John songs, the ones that closed each side of the record (remember, that is indeed how I experienced this album), “She Said She Said” and “Tomorrow Never Knows.” Holy shit, dude. “She Said” has that jarring guitar work that cuts through the haze, created both by the murky bass, somewhat muted drumming, and John’s vocals about “knowing what it was like to be dead” and “making me feel like I’ve never been born” and shit like that. Listening to it with headphones on, which I often did as a kid (which is why I can’t hear worth a shit, no doubt), was pretty trippy, with the drums isolated to my left ear and the guitar squall hitting my right ear.
And “Tomorrow Never Knows” ups the ante. John’s double-tracked vocal, ever so slightly out of unison, inviting you to “turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream” and imploring you to listen to the color of your dreams,” to this day I find myself awed by this song. The swirls of guitar, the non-stop cymbal sounds, the insistent bass-and-snare drum pattern that propels the song beyond its amorphous nature, the backward sound, the bass rumbling below, the manic piano notes striking every so often toward the end…while “A Day in the Life” is my favorite Beatles song of all time (favorite regardless of band, really), then this is a close second. (And what Mad Men did with this song last season was fucking bad-ass, and made me love Megan Draper all the more.)
This is the Beatles at their zenith. They were still existing as a band, their decision to stop touring before this album paid off big-time, they were introducing more elements to their music without losing their edge. When the worst song on the album is the one that we sang all the time in music class, you know you’ve got a classic on your hands.
I’ll always love the Cure the most, but the Beatles are the best band ever. This will remain true always.
Todd’s #3: Prince, Purple Rain
(click play button below to sample this album)
I just got back from taking my daughter to a live performance of the musical Annie (Well done Iowa City Community Theatre). If I learned one thing from that experience, it was that the overall performance of the actors in a show is not that important as long as the material and songs are top notch. That’s what you get with Purple Rain, pretty shitty acting performances in between some of the greatest music ever made.
While I don’t consider the Purple Rain album a typical movie soundtrack (Obviously, or it would not have been eligible for the list), I can’t listen to the album without also thinking of the movie and the sub-par acting performances. Like the “What’s the password” scene featuring Morris Day and Jerome from The Time.
Pretty bad but no one cared because the Time had two amazing song performances in the movie “Jungle Love” and “The Bird.”
Apollonia gave quite possibly the worst performance in the history of movies but who cares? She wore tight leather cat suits and lingerie throughout the entire movie. Also, much to the delight of this impressionable young boy’s eyes, she exposed her wonderful rack in the scene where she jumps in the lake to prove herself to Prince’s character “The Kid.”
“…That ain’t Lake Minnetonka.”
Looking back, that scene is probably solely responsible for my preference for brunettes. Blondes never had a chance after Apollonia unleashed the hounds. And, besides adding the sexy factor, Apollonia “Bettie Booped” her way through the songs, ”Sex Shooter” and the kick ass duet with Prince, “Take Me With You.”
Not all of the performances in the movie disappoint. Actually, all of the musical performances are top notch. I suppose that should be expected of musicians trying to be actors. When you are already a charismatic rock star, how hard could it be to play a charismatic rock star on stage in a movie?
My favorite song performance in the movie is “The Beautiful Ones.” Prince is memorizing and the Apollonia character actually sheds what may have been real tears. Acting!
“The Beautiful Ones” is one of those epic songs that slow builds. Prince starts off innocently declaring his love and asking the object of his affection to please choose him over another man.
Baby, baby, baby
Can’t U stay with me 2night?
Oh Baby, baby, baby
Don’t my kisses please U right?
Eventually, the tone changes to a frantic lust filled plea. This is the scene in which my wife will tell you, “That man is sex on a stick.” I find it hard to disagree with her. He certainly gets his point across. I would have liked to share a video clip of that performance but Prince is being a prick about people using his stuff on the internet now. The lyrics will have to do.
Baby, baby, baby
I may not know where I’m going baby
I may not know what I need
But one thing
One thing for certain baby
I know what I want
And it’s to please you baby
Please you baby
I’m begging down on my knees
I want you
I know I’ve mentioned this in previous posts, but how can people think the dude is gay? I guess they are just looking at the clothes he wears.
If they were paying attention they would see he surrounds himself with hot chicks and so many of his songs are sexual in nature. Like the song “Darling Nikki.” That had some of the most overtly hetero lyrics of all time.
I knew a girl named Nikki
I guess u could say she was a sex fiend
I met her in a hotel lobby
Masturbating with a magazine
She said how’d u like 2 waste some time
And I could not resist when I saw little Nikki grind
I was very young when this album was out and my older brother scored a dubbed* copy from a friend. When he played “Darling Nikki” I was pretty confused about the lyrics. My brother was more than happy to explain. I didn’t know what the word masturbation was and when it was revealed to me, I still didn’t get how she did it with a magazine like the lyrics said. How do you do that with a magazine?… How does she fit it in there? …Does she just roll it up?… Oh, she just looks at it?… Why?… Oh!…cooooool!
[*His dubbed tape of Purple Rain had a bad spot in it and when Prince was supposed to say the word, “funky”, it just cut out. Every time he played “Darling Nikki” when I was around, he would make a point to tell me, “he says funky there.” Since then, I don’t think I’ve heard that part without thinking “he says funky there.”]
Woke up the next morning
Nikki wasn’t there
I looked all over and all I found
Was a phone number on the stairs
It said thank u 4 a funky time
Call me up whenever u want 2 grind
The word “grind” confused me too. When my mother heard the song I remember she was especially shocked by the use of that word. It sounded like something painful to me but, based on her reaction I guessed it was probably amazing. Again, my brother explained it to me. She gets on top?…Why?…Oh…Then what?…And people like that?…Neato!
I was lucky to have an older brother who would share such knowledge. Most people needed a health class or a zoo keeper to get first class sex education like that.
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