The Top 25

Pretty self-explanatory
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Jeremy Dylan
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The Top 25

Postby Jeremy Dylan » Thu Jan 07, 2010 10:19 pm

Create your own Best of EC! Pick 25 recordings from across his career. Please list in chronological order.

My picks:

1. Radio Sweetheart (from My Aim Is True sessions)
2. I'm Not Angry (from My Aim Is True)
3. Watching The Detectives (from the US pressing of My Aim Is True)
5. Wave A White Flag (unreleased, circa My Aim Is True)
6. No Action (from This Year's Model)
7. Pump It Up (from This Year's Model)
8. You Belong To Me (from This Year's Model)
9. I Don't Want To Go To Chelsea (from This Year's Model)
10. Lip Service (from This Year's Model)
11. Senior Service (from Armed Forces)
12. Oliver's Army (from Armed Forces)
13. (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding (from the US pressing of Armed Forces)
14. High Fidelity (from Get Happy!!)
15. Clubland (from Trust)
16. Almost Blue (from Imperial Bedroom)
17. I Want You (from Blood and Chocolate)
18. Brilliant Disguise (from Light Of Day: A Tribute To Bruce Springsteen)
19. Button My Lip (from The Delivery Man)
20. Bedlam (from The Delivery Man)
21. Monkey to Man (from The Delivery Man)
22. Six Fingered Man (from The River In Reverse)
23. Complicated Shadows (from Secret, Profane and Sugarcane)
24. Sulphur to Sugarcane (from Secret, Profane and Sugarcane)
25. Femme Fatale (from Secret, Profane and Sugarcane)

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Ypsilanti
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Re: The Top 25

Postby Ypsilanti » Sat Jan 09, 2010 12:40 pm

I'm sure the more seasoned "veterans" on this board have made lists like this a million times, but I haven't...and anyway, lists are fun. So here are my picks. Of course, It was almost impossible to narrow it down to a mere 25.

1. Motel Matches
2. Clowntime Is Over #2
3. Ghost Train
4. Turning The Town Red
5. American Without Tears
6. Poisoned Rose
7. I Hope You're Happy Now
8. Tokyo Storm Warning
9. God's Comic
10. The Other Side Of Summer
11. Lost In The Stars
12. Rocking Horse Road
13. Little Atoms
14. Poor Fractured Atlas
15. Toledo
16. When I Was Cruel #2
17. Dissolve
18. You Turned To Me
19. Still
20. I'm In The Mood Again
21. In Another Room
22. Harry Worth
23. My Three Sons
24. Down Among The Wines & Spirits
25. Red Cotton
So I keep this fancy to myself
I keep my lipstick twisted tight

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Re: The Top 25

Postby Jeremy Dylan » Sun Jan 10, 2010 3:50 pm

Very interesting. I don't think we share a single title across our lists.

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Re: The Top 25

Postby pophead2k » Sun Jan 10, 2010 5:26 pm

Old timers have done this, but I think it is always great to revisit as it changes a lot. I can't put them in order, but here are my faves:

You Tripped at Every Step
I Want You
Suit of Lights
Still
My Dark Life
Red Cotton
In the Darkest Place
Deportee (solo acoustic version)
St. Stephen's Day Murders
You'll Never Be a Man
Motel Matches
Oliver's Army
Town Cryer
Kid About It
The Sharpest Thorn
God's Comic
Charm School
Spooky Girlfriend
Either Side of the Same Town
Couldn't Call it Unexpected #4
Ascension Day
Men Called Uncle
Alison
The Birds Will Still Be Singing
God Give Me Strength

These are all originals. I love many of EC's covers as well, especially Psycho and I Threw it All Away.

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Re: The Top 25

Postby Jack of All Parades » Mon Jan 11, 2010 6:46 pm

As Pophead says it is fun to revisit once and awhile, and I have never done one of these for this artist, but I too caution that any such list from me is fluid except for the first five which are always fixed as favorites:

1- Almost Blue
2- Town Cryer
3- Fallen
4- God Give Me Strength
5- New Lace Sleeves
6- Alison
7- King Horse
8- You Little Fool
9- Shipbuilding
10- Indoor Fireworks
11- Baby Plays Around
12- You Tripped At Every Step
13- The Birds Will Still Be Singing
14- The Other End Of the Telescope
15- Toledo
16- This House is Empty Now
17- For the Stars
18- You Turned to Me
19- Still
20- I'm In The Mood Again
21- My Little Blue Window
22- Heart Shaped Bruise
23- Harry Worth
24- Flutter & Wow
25- My Three Sons

As to covers at least two:
I Threw It All Away for the sheer pain and [What's So Funny 'Bout] Peace, Love and Understanding? for the sheer joy.
"....there's a merry song that starts in 'I' and ends in 'You', as many famous pop songs do....'

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Re: The Top 25

Postby migdd » Mon Jan 11, 2010 7:08 pm

Christopher Sjoholm wrote:
As to covers at least two:
I Threw It All Away for the sheer pain and [What's So Funny 'Bout] Peace, Love and Understanding? for the sheer joy.


Nice call.

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Re: The Top 25

Postby Butts » Mon Jan 11, 2010 8:22 pm

Ok, I love a list

You Bowed Down
In Another Room
I'll Wear It Proudly
Suit Of Lights
Jack Of All Parades
Deep Dark Truthful Mirror
All This Useless Beauty
You Tripped At Every Step
Sweet Pear
Poor Fractured Atlas
All Grown Up
Satellite
Red Shoes
Less Than Zero
Radio Radio
Tiny Steps
I Want You
King Horse
Man Out Of Time
Taking My Life In Your Hands
Radio Sweetheart
Home Is Anywhere You Hang Your Head
My Three Sons
Alison
The Birds Will Still Be Singing

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Re: The Top 25

Postby alexv » Tue Jan 12, 2010 1:02 am

Okay, Christopher, now that Bambooneedle is gone "for an indefinite period of time" (notice the quotation marks, they are in his "honor"), it's my turn. It's new posters like you, pretentious twits like you and that Alexv guy who's not new but who's also a leisure time pleasure distorting machine (oh, wait that's me) that have now deprived the Board "for an idefinite period of time" of the wit and wisdom, the inimitable stylings of BN. You see, Christopher, now you've come up with a List I can't conceive any self-respecting EC lover could accept. How the hell can you have a best of list and have Alison, only trite old Alison, as a best of pick prior to IB? Ever hear of TYM, GH, and AF? Heh? Heh? Also are you familiar with that record where he's on the cover, he's a kid and he's there with his african american friend or is african english the acceptable nomenclature, dude (I have incipient Altzheimer, sorry, so the title escapes me but I think it's a two worder)? I LOVE that record, and you don't? And you don't think Distorted Angel is a fricking great melody and an astonishing recording (oh, wait, now I remember that I don't like that song, never mind, it's the caveman in me). And what's with all the ballads, ChristopherSjoholm? Is it middle age? Or is that what EC means to you, EC Lite?

Just kidding. So, how long do you think needleman will be gone? I'm betting he's back before the week's over.

But seriously, CS, that is one interesting list. What's with all the ballads, and how come no love for TYM, AF, GH and that other record, with EC and his little pal with the cowboy hats on the cover? And KOA merits only IF? You see, that's what I love about this Board, diversity.

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Re: The Top 25

Postby TX_Fan » Tue Jan 12, 2010 11:30 am

Damn..that was difficult. I suppose this would be my top 25 "all-time best of" EC. This list changes rapidly for me. For instance, watching Spectacle the other day & Town Cryer has prompted me to get IB back out and rediscover it's excellence. I enjoy his new & other assorted stuff and as well...the songs just haven't cracked the "all-time best of" list for me. I could certainly do a Top 25 of recent times list, but I can't justify replacing the older classics with the newer stuff on this list.

1. Alison
2. Watching the Detectives
3. Pump It Up
4. Chelsea
5. Lipstick Vogue
6. Accidents Will Happen
7. New Amsterdam
8. Riot Act
9. Sleep of the Just
10. Indoor Fireworks
11. I Want You
12. Man Out of Time
13. Veronica
14. Tramp the Dirt Down
15. Beyond Belief
16. Shipbuilding
17. God Give Me Strength
18. Almost Blue
19. All This Useless Beauty
20. It's Time
21. Almost Ideal Eyes
22. The Birds Will Still Be Singing
23. Rocking Horse Road
24. You'll Never be a Man
25. Couldn't Call It Unexpected No. 4

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Re: The Top 25

Postby Jack of All Parades » Tue Jan 12, 2010 5:44 pm

Alexv, it is difficult to contain my laughter. As regards the one who will not be named perhaps time bends strangely as one crosses into the Southern Hemisphere. Certainly a strange period of 'indeterminant time'. Did not realize you or I held such power as the ability to block 'wit and wisdom'- I feel like Stewie on The Family Guy. As another poster on another thread has said I am still waiting for it to be produced. Probably never gone and just outside this site lurking in the ethernet[now I am developing some Pynchonian paranoia-spending too much time with the "Chums of Chance"].

As to my penchant for a more reflective EC, it probably does have something to do with age and familiarity. I cut my musical teeth on those early recordings so many years ago when they were fresh product in the music store bins[now that dates me as there are no more music stores]. I have played them to death and they no longer resonate with the middle aged man I have become[ I also suspect they no longer resonate the same way for EC. as well]. After all what do aging rock and pop stars do at a certain point in their careers- do they not sign with Clive Davis and produce interminable takes on the Great American Songbook? Like the shibboleth attributed to the one who will not be named[Bruce Springsteen and his early efforts which I now find mostly bombastic], I find myself these days drawn to the songs produced by a middle aged EC-as we are equal in age and may share some of the same interests that aging male adults share-growing old, watching our families change, experiencing the vicitudes of love and death. I simply find myself attracted to his more sophisticated efforts as found in my list. The young man of those early records no longer connects with me on a regular basis. I am most engaged, these days, with the EC who demostrates harmonic and melodic sophistication combined with a classic, simple[but heartfelt]lyric which expresses an emotion I can feel as well. I do think I give homage to at least GH with the inclusion of King Horse. Brutal Youth did get a song from me with You Tripped at Every Step. I would have added at least Just About Glad were we not restricted to 25 selections.

You gently poked me in another thread re: a reference to Auden and EC. Truthfully, old Wystan has been instrumental in leading me to some of these later EC efforts. I love the shared beauty I find in both Auden's serious light verse and EC's lyrical efforts as he has progressed as a lyricist. Alexv you state the one true word and that is 'diversity-- I love in reading through this thread the plethora of ways that listeners have been able to connect with EC's songs. I celebrate his diverse song book and its many listeners, young and old. [By the way you make a more than adequate substitute for he who will not be named-you actually make sense.] Caught the "Lebowski" reference- nice touch 'dude'!
"....there's a merry song that starts in 'I' and ends in 'You', as many famous pop songs do....'

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Re: The Top 25

Postby Jeremy Dylan » Tue Jan 12, 2010 11:55 pm

Fascinating look over everyone's lists. As someone who came to Mr Costello as a 17 year old (just under three years ago) and whose only 'new' EC records have been Momofuku and Secret, Profane and Sugarcane, I've approached all the records fresh. Except for 'Pump It Up' and 'Alison', every EC song is new to me. I heard The Delivery Man before I heard Armed Forces, Blood and Chocolate before Get Happy!!, etc. Not really knowing which were 'the classics' and not starting with a best-of, I was interested to see which of the songs I gravitated towards had been hits (Peace Love & Understanding, Watching the Detectives, High Fidelity) and which were just album tracks (You Belong to Me, Senior Service, Six Fingered Man, etc.) and also, which beloved songs or album's I didn't care for at all - I can't stand 'Everyday I Write the Book' and Painted From Memory does nothing for me. I also didn't have the whole 'What's the new wave guy doing making a country record' as I didn't hear the records in chronological order. SP&S seems just as valid an Elvis Costello record as Imperial Bedroom, and frankly I like it a lot more.
The 80s seem to be well regarded based on these lists, which surprised me as that's the period of Costello's I like the least. First three albums - glorious. The last ten years - fantastic (The Delivery Man is one of my favourite EC albums). But King of America, Imperial Bedroom, Spike!, etc. do very little for me, aside from the occasional song - largely due to the '80s' sound, which is particularly noticable with an artist who features his keyboardist so prominently.
Also, I love the hats.

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Re: The Top 25

Postby pophead2k » Wed Jan 13, 2010 7:22 am

I totally get where you're coming from Jeremy. My entry was with 'Spike' and I think I heard 'King of America' and 'Blood and Chocolate' next, so my perception of who EC was wasn't stuck on the early model. I think it was liberating in a way. As you continue your journey into super fandom I think you'll eventually hear Imperial Bedroom in a different way, regardless of any dated production. Welcome aboard!

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Re: The Top 25

Postby Jeremy Dylan » Wed Jan 13, 2010 8:03 am

Thanks for the welcome! And I hope I do. I take no pleasure in my dislike of EC's 80s output, I'd love for it to suddenly click one day - which is always a possibility. Oliver's Army did nothing for me for ages - I couldn't work out why it was considered such a classic. Then one day *BAM* - 'This is the most perfect pop song ever recorded'.

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Re: The Top 25

Postby Jack of All Parades » Wed Jan 13, 2010 5:38 pm

A belated welcome. Envious of your exploration of earlier EC[or to paraphrase a title "Listening in Reverse"]. Once again would echo Pophead in the thought that your opinion of Imperial Bedroom and other 80's albums might change. I had wanted to put "Everyday I Write The Book" on my list. Chickened out. For me the perfect "pop" song in his catalogue- it has all you could want- catchy melody, a dexterious lyric, strong form and a cheesey video complete with a bickering royal couple and the image of fractured tablets. Still remember fondly listening to it live in Forest Hills, Queens many years ago. With such an expansive catalogue, I am confident you will find numerous personal gems. Happy listening and exploring!

As a way to re-engage with earlier EC I have been spending time listening to the stripped down versions of earlier material from the 80's found on the Costello/Nieve box from their solo tour in 1996. It might help you connect with those songs without the annoying over production that bothers you.
"....there's a merry song that starts in 'I' and ends in 'You', as many famous pop songs do....'

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Re: The Top 25

Postby Jeremy Dylan » Wed Jan 13, 2010 7:37 pm

Christopher Sjoholm wrote:A belated welcome. Envious of your exploration of earlier EC[or to paraphrase a title "Listening in Reverse"]. Once again would echo Pophead in the thought that your opinion of Imperial Bedroom and other 80's albums might change. I had wanted to put "Everyday I Write The Book" on my list. Chickened out. For me the perfect "pop" song in his catalogue- it has all you could want- catchy melody, a dexterious lyric, strong form and a cheesey video complete with a bickering royal couple and the image of fractured tablets. Still remember fondly listening to it live in Forest Hills, Queens many years ago. With such an expansive catalogue, I am confident you will find numerous personal gems. Happy listening and exploring!

As a way to re-engage with earlier EC I have been spending time listening to the stripped down versions of earlier material from the 80's found on the Costello/Nieve box from their solo tour in 1996. It might help you connect with those songs without the annoying over production that bothers you.

You see, my main problem with 'Book' is that it sounds to me like someone trying to write a 'Elvis Costello' type song, and doesn't quite get there. It's probably the worst offender in the '80s production' category, but even stripped down and done ala Sexsmith it does nothing for me.

And yes, I'll definitely track down that EC/SN box set.

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Re: The Top 25

Postby Ypsilanti » Thu Jan 14, 2010 8:00 am

Jeremy--
I totally get what you're saying--I'm another one, like you and Pophead, who haven't heard the records in the correct order or in the year they were issued. It really does seem to change my experience with them. I also have trouble loving some of the things from the '80's--and it gives me a certain amount of sadness and distress, because I really want to love Imperial Bedroom & Trust. I hope someday (like you say) BAM! it will all just click.

I think like Christopher suggested, the stripped down versions of the songs are a good way to see them clearly, without all that production frou-frou. That's why I love those Rhino re-issues with the bonus disks--they give you the song as it appeared on the album, but then another (or sometimes a few) other versions--demo, live, different tempo, different lyrics, different instrumentation. It really lets you see a bit about Elvis' songwriting process and illustrates what he always says about how a recording is just a snapshot of how a song sounded on the particular day it happened to be recorded. Plus, he explains much more in those wonderful liner notes that accompany each disk.

One song that comes to mind is "The Comedians". The official album version is totally insipid--just awful. But the demo version is great--haunting and melancholy. And then there's the version with the lyrics re-worked for Roy Orbison to sing--also very cool--Elvis very smartly (but subtly) tied the new lyrics to that whole "Candy-colored Clown"/"Blue Velvet" thing that caused sort of a resurgence for Roy Orbison at that time. And then you can actually see Roy sing it on "Black & White Night". I just love that! It really shows how the songs have a kind of organic life force--always growing and changing. And especially a song like that one--if I'd only ever heard the album version, I would have written it off as a crappy throw-away, but really it's much more than that.
So I keep this fancy to myself
I keep my lipstick twisted tight

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Re: The Top 25

Postby Jeremy Dylan » Thu Jan 14, 2010 3:53 pm

Ypsilanti wrote:Jeremy--
I totally get what you're saying--]I'm another one, like you and Pophead, who haven't heard the records in the correct order or in the year they were issued. It really does seem to change my experience with them.

For the better I think. People often say to me 'Don't you wish you were a kid in the 60s/70s, so you could experience The Beatles, The Who, Elvis, The Clash, etc. new?' and I used to say yes, but nowadays I don't think so. I think the great thing about getting into someone like Costello in the 21st century is the ability to listen to his records free of context. I'm sure if I had gotten into him in 1977, adored MY AIM IS TRUE and THIS YEARS MODEL, and been hanging out for the release of ARMED FORCES, I'm sure I would be terribly disappointed in it. But now, I can just appreciate it as part of his body of work and not have the 'Current album v. Previous album' thing that people invariably do with young artists. Same with The Stones - GOATS HEAD SOUP is obviously an inferior record to EXILE ON MAIN ST, but because I heard it as just another Stones record, rather than THE FOLLOWUP TO EXILE ON MAIN ST, I could appreciate it on its own merits.
Getting into EC while the reissues are in the market changes ones perception of the albums a whole lot too (as you said). 'Radio Sweetheart' and 'Stranger In The House' feel as much a part of MY AIM IS TRUE as 'Less Than Zero' or 'Alison' to me, because they've always been on my copy of the album. I appreciated 'Accidents Will Happen' a lot more after hearing the Hollywood High version on the ARMED FORCES reissue. I grew to love I CAN'T STAND UP FOR FALLING DOWN as a live version from the Allen Toussaint tour, rather than the version from GET HAPPY!!

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Re: The Top 25

Postby Jack of All Parades » Thu Jan 14, 2010 6:15 pm

Jeremy, I do not think you ever escape the context issue-you still listen within your own context- what feelings, issues, notions, ideas you possess, the very social fabric you bring to the music as you listen to it- you are not a "tabla rasa' when you listen. As one who was actively listening to many of the artists you have listed while they were in their prime, I can say I am glad I was alive then for the sole reason that I had the chance to see many of them perform in a live venue. That is a context I never want to forget. It is something I treasure about EC, having seen him perform regularly since 1978. I, just like you, will always have a context when I listen to him; it just for me, and I suspect will for you, shifts over time. Now I have to shut up as I fear I sound like some grandfather going on about the old days- I can almost see my daughters cringing.
"....there's a merry song that starts in 'I' and ends in 'You', as many famous pop songs do....'

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Re: The Top 25

Postby Jeremy Dylan » Thu Jan 14, 2010 7:12 pm

Christopher Sjoholm wrote:Jeremy, I do not think you ever escape the context issue-you still listen within your own context

Yes, sorry - poor choice of words. What I was getting at is that I can listen to EC's albums without having to think about the accompanying periphery that comes with being a current pop star. When I got into his records, I'd remained ignorant enough of Costello that I wasn't aware ARMED FORCES was considered a classic or that Everyday I Write The Book was a big hit. I didn't bring any of that baggage to them when I heard them. They were just records by a guy who was supposed be pretty good. Like most pop music I listen to, I got into him through The Beatles. I knew McCartney thought him good enough to write with, so he seemed worth a listen.
Actually, that's another good example of what I'm talking about. I got into The Beatles when I was eleven. I had only a vague notion of who they were - very famous British band of yesteryear. I didn't know SGT PEPPER was the inescapable classic, that 'Savoy Truffles' wasn't mean to be my favourite track on the white album, that McCartney had a reputation for being a soppy ballad singer (I was bemused when I discovered this, being a fan of his metal track 'Helter Skelter'), etc. It was all new music to me. I heard REVOLVER before PLEASE PLEASE ME, LET IT BE before A HARD DAY'S NIGHT. It was all tremendously exciting stuff, and far before it would have occurred to me that that wasn't what contemporary music sounded like - it was obviously the work of passionate young men, that they were now dead/in their late 50s never crossed my mind.
It bothers me that I can't have the same experience with newer artists I'm a fan of - Kaiser Chiefs, John Mayer, etc. but I trade that off with the opportunity to see them play in their prime, one I'll never have with The Stones, The Who, Dylan, etc.

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Re: The Top 25

Postby Jack of All Parades » Thu Jan 14, 2010 7:32 pm

Jeremy, I think I get where you are coming from as you listen. Someday, I am sure, you will have great stories to tell new listeners about the artists you are passionate about now. Yes, it was somenthing to see The Who perfom Tommy Live, to see Dylan and the Band in 1974, to see Van Morrison in 1973 perform the music that became the "Too Late To Stop Now" album, to see the Clash on Broadway, to see The Stones at Madison Square Garden in 1969-hell my wife saw Hendrix walk off the stage in '69 at a New Year's Eve concert after just performing 3 songs exclaiming he could'nt dig it any more. But I am certain you will have equally strong memories to relate. Have fun listening.
"....there's a merry song that starts in 'I' and ends in 'You', as many famous pop songs do....'

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Re: The Top 25

Postby alexv » Fri Jan 15, 2010 12:50 pm

Jeremy, really interesting thoughts, which raise some issues that I've been thinking about. It is useful to come to EC or the Beatles without all the baggage. You get to listen to the songs with a fresh perspective and can decide, if that is your wont, that Yesterday, say, is not that good a song. It's a 1960s songs after all, and more than 40 years later it SHOULD be judged by different standards. And the opposite is also true when listening to current favorites.

What makes your generation different, and this is the point that i've been thinking about, is that you get to look back 40 years or so, in the case of the Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Who, just to name a few, and the music you are listening to is the same, in broad style, as the one you and your contemporaries listen to now: John Mayer works, broadly speaking, in the same musical arena. It's much easier for you to appreciate the past music.

I'm in my fifties, and when I started listening to the Beatles (1967) and the other bands of the era, the music I was listening to was completely different from what had been popular, or thought to be good music, forty years before. Imagine comparing the Stones or the Who to music from the 1920s. You could have looked back to the folk or soul music of the 40s and 50s and see the link, but starting with Elvis (the original one) the music had evolved from those roots into something completely different. Your situation is infinitely better, although I would urge you to look back before the 60s, so you can see those links.

But even though us middle age guys didn't have the same options in our 20s as the current 20somethings have, the cool thing is that because the music has not fundamentally changed (I'm leaving rap aside) in these last 40 years, we get to listen to the new generation, which is something our parents could not do, unless they were progressive. That progressive, forward-thinking gene doesn't come into play anymore: everybody, no matter how conservative, is listening to the same template.

Which brings me back to your issue, getting to know artists out of sequence, and without baggage. I'm of the view that the only drawbacks to that approach are the following:

(1) there is much to be gained from gleaming an artist's progress in real time. You better appreciate the Beatles if you first heard X song and then saw them evolve into Y, by way of Z etc. You get the full picture. In addition, particularly with acts from the 60s, a lot of what made the icons is outside the music. It had to do with the times, social issues, etc. Young people can't do anything about this, obviously, but it is a fact. You emphasize the benefit of not knowing that there is this canon that you are supposed to like, but it's beneficial to see how the canon became the canon. "Yesterday" or "A Day in the Life" are great examples of this: both these songs were revolutionary at the time and gained their fame, to some extent, as a result of the novelty, not just the inherent worthiness of the songs.

(2) pop acts typically make their best music when young. It is rare (Dylan comes to mind) that an artist who comes into prominence in his 20s is still making great music in his 50s or 60s. And when I say great music, I mean when compared to the music that artist made as a young man, the music that made his reputation. This doesn't mean that someone can't conclude that he or she, no matter what the established opinion says, prefers the later music to the earlier. It's all about personal taste, in the end. But the fact is that when you listen to an artist's later work you are getting only a piece of the puzzle, and often that piece is not the fresh, original piece.

Anyway, Jeremy, I have a question for you. Now that you have been exposed to the Beatles, EC (and I assume other icons of past generations), what is your take on how your generation's artist's work, their youthful work, compares to the icons of the past? I was struck some time ago by how much the Fleet Foxes reminded me of the best work of the Beach Boys. And I think Timberlake is comparable to the great singer/showmen of the past, and there are others, but I'm always coming to these comparisons thinking of the old acts first. You are going the reverse direction. What are the comparisons that come to mind? Which old guys' work that you have come on to freseh evokes in your mind stuff that contemporary acts are doing?

By the way, I know Dylan is past his prime, but if you get a chance go see him. He's one of a kind, and should not be missed even if he's barely breathing.

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Re: The Top 25

Postby Jeremy Dylan » Fri Jan 15, 2010 6:52 pm

alexv wrote:What makes your generation different, and this is the point that i've been thinking about, is that you get to look back 40 years or so, in the case of the Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Who, just to name a few, and the music you are listening to is the same, in broad style, as the one you and your contemporaries listen to now: John Mayer works, broadly speaking, in the same musical arena. It's much easier for you to appreciate the past music.

The thing is - I didn't listen to pop music before I got into The Beatles. Stuff like Helter Skelter, A Day In The Life, A Hard Day's Night seemed completely fresh and new to me, being largely ignorant of the 30+ years of pop music they'd influenced. I essentially started with The Beatles and worked my way back and forwards from that - I went first to their contemporaries (The Stones, The Who, The Kinks, etc.), their influences (Dylan, Otis Redding, Chuck Berry) and then on from that. And for a long while, I never had the sense of it being 'old' music - I hadn't gone from listening to Coldplay and Alicia Keys to The Beatles, I'd gone from being largely disinterested in pop music (I was ten, had a vague interest in country music, and that was about it) to becoming a fully-fledged Beatles fanatic over the course of a year or two.

Your situation is infinitely better, although I would urge you to look back before the 60s, so you can see those links.

I'm a fan of pop music from all eras - I'm a devotee of 60s soul (Stax/Motown) ala Gaye, Redding, Franklin, Sam & Dave, etc., 50s rock'n'roll (Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, other Elvis), Delta (Robert Johnson) and electric (Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Willie Dixon, Buddy Guy) blues, and what is sometimes referred to as trad pop - standards singers like Sinatra (my second obsession after the Beatles, at around age 13), Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, etc. Hell, I've even got Al Jolson on my iPod.

(1) there is much to be gained from gleaming an artist's progress in real time. You better appreciate the Beatles if you first heard X song and then saw them evolve into Y, by way of Z etc. You get the full picture. In addition, particularly with acts from the 60s, a lot of what made the icons is outside the music. It had to do with the times, social issues, etc. Young people can't do anything about this, obviously, but it is a fact. You emphasize the benefit of not knowing that there is this canon that you are supposed to like, but it's beneficial to see how the canon became the canon. "Yesterday" or "A Day in the Life" are great examples of this: both these songs were revolutionary at the time and gained their fame, to some extent, as a result of the novelty, not just the inherent worthiness of the songs.

I didn't mean to suggest I was ignorant of all this, merely that I was unaware of it when I first came to the music. By the time I'd hit 14, I knew everything there was to know about The Beatles history - from who introduced Lennon and McCartney (McCartney's friend Ivan Vaughan), recording techniques (Lennon coined the term 'flanging', they recorded the vocals for Tomorrow Never Knows by using a Leslie speaker cabinet, etc.) and more. I know that when they spent 5 months in the studio recording Sgt Pepper, it was an extraordinarily long time to work on a record, and the press had begun to speculate they'd run out of ideas.

(2) pop acts typically make their best music when young. It is rare (Dylan comes to mind) that an artist who comes into prominence in his 20s is still making great music in his 50s or 60s. And when I say great music, I mean when compared to the music that artist made as a young man, the music that made his reputation.

As much as I like Dylan's recent output, I don't any of those records stack against Blonde on Blonde or Blood on the Tracks. Some songs (like Cold Irons Bound or Ain't Talkin) are as good as as his best stuff, but I'm not sure I'd say 'Love and Theft' is the equal of Bringing It All Back Home.

Anyway, Jeremy, I have a question for you. Now that you have been exposed to the Beatles, EC (and I assume other icons of past generations), what is your take on how your generation's artist's work, their youthful work, compares to the icons of the past?

Well, on the whole, I believe pop music isn't as good as it was in the period roughly 65 - 75. That's the peak, and it's been up and down since then, never quite reaching the same height. The 80s was easily the nadir. As for the music of today, there's plenty of brilliant music being made and a lot that I love, but it's only the occasional album I hear that I really adore and explore like I do with, say, Who's Next. I'm not expecting another 1967 (Sgt Pepper, Magical Mystery Tour, Disraeli Gears, Velvet Underground and Nico, The Who Sell Out, Axis: Bold as Love, Are You Experienced?) any time soon.

I was struck some time ago by how much the Fleet Foxes reminded me of the best work of the Beach Boys. And I think Timberlake is comparable to the great singer/showmen of the past, and there are others, but I'm always coming to these comparisons thinking of the old acts first. You are going the reverse direction. What are the comparisons that come to mind? Which old guys' work that you have come on to freseh evokes in your mind stuff that contemporary acts are doing?

Well, I'm afraid it works the other way for me too. I started listening to contemporary pop music around '04/'05, after I was already a huge fan of The Stones, The Who, The Beatles, The Kinks, Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and The Clash. I hear echos of seminal pop acts of yesteryear throughout contemporary music - Rodney Crowell is obviously influenced by Dylan, Kaiser Chiefs and Franz Ferdinand have embraced elements of the sound of The Clash and EC & The Attractions, Gram Parsons and The Stones' country records bear a stamp on Jenny Lewis and Neil Young's influence on My Morning Jacket is palpable.

By the way, I know Dylan is past his prime, but if you get a chance go see him. He's one of a kind, and should not be missed even if he's barely breathing.

I saw him back in '07, actually, when he was touring Modern Times. Quite an experience. I would never turn down the chance to see one of my heroes - just because they're past their prime, doesn't mean they aren't still great. In the past two years, I've seen Roger Waters, Ray Davies, Mavis Staples, Jeff Beck, Elvis Costello, The Who, Eric Clapton, Booker T Jones, Buddy Guy, John Hiatt, Tim Finn, Crowded House and Neil Young. Now, I just need Springsteen and McCartney to tour down here so I can cross them off my list.

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Re: The Top 25

Postby bambooneedle » Sat Jan 16, 2010 4:17 am

Btw, Jeremy Dylan, don't do your head in paying too much attention to that old fart Alexv, he's just a fiftysomething year old who doesn't really know that much and just wants to be taken seriously.

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Re: The Top 25

Postby alexv » Sat Jan 16, 2010 10:29 am

Jeremy, if you started with the beatles and worked your way backwards and forward, and Sinatra is another fave, you've got it all covered, kid. Enjoy. Stick around this site, you'll find lots of stuff to interest you. Agreed that none of Dylan's newer stuff compares with his older, truly great records, but I think he has made some records over the last ten years, when he's way past his prime, that stack up favorably with his old stuff, and that is very unusual for such a veteran performer.

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Re: The Top 25

Postby Hawksmoor » Fri Mar 05, 2010 1:00 pm

Well, on the whole, I believe pop music isn't as good as it was in the period roughly 65 - 75. That's the peak, and it's been up and down since then, never quite reaching the same height. The 80s was easily the nadir.

Interesting. See, for me, it's the late 1970s and (very) early 1980s (OK, that's when I was a teenager and music always sounds better, and all that, but, y'know). 'Punk', or whatever you wanna call the change that happened in popular music around 1977, purported to be a Year-Zero new start, but in fact, like all half-decent revolutions, it was an amalgam of the best bits of what had preceded it.

So you had the 'DIY, guitar-bass-drums, make it in your Dad's garage' back-to-basics approach of skiffle (accompanied by the idea that nobody over 19 ought to make records, and no record ought to be longer than two-minutes-thirty), you had the best bits of glam-rock (sexually ambiguous dressing, great hair, ear-splitting guitar noise), and you had the 1960s beat-group sensitivity for melody.

Add to that the ghetto/outsider mentality and heavy bass feel of dub reggae and the deliberately difficult sounds of Krautrock and electronic music being produced on the continent. Throw in a seriously pissed-off attitude to your parents' generation, suddenly seen as having let 'our' generation down really badly, and on top of that, a renewed interest in ska/bluebeat, and what have you got?

The most fruitful melting-pot known (to date) for popular music. I believe the tidal wave of innovative, clever, thinking-outside-the-box music that poured out in the period c1978-1982 has never been equalled in this country.


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