With half the country isolated and in lockdown, and nothing on TV except news about Covid or Trump, we have taken to social media to try and alleviate the boredom.
My Facebook feed is full of ‘challenges’ – books, photos of the day and the most popular which is to post the covers of ten records you love or were inspired by or whatever.
There is something about music and lists. Popular music was born of the Top 40 hit parade and that natural competition is in the DNA: the Beatles vs the Stones, Oasis vs Blur that kind of thing.
I think we can all agree. That there’s a lot more to a record than just the music.
The resurgence of vinyl is in large part because vinyl looks better – the cover has more impact.
It was common in the mid-70s for music geeks to wander the streets carrying LPs under their arms as signposts; the music that you liked was a pillar of your social identity.
It didn’t do much for them (me) having an impact with girls, but other music nerds could be impressed.
Music is totally part of the expression of your identity. You don’t go to an AC/DC concert in anything other than a black t-shirt. That’s all as it should be. So how do you respond when challenged to post the 10 albums that affected your taste in music? How do you construct that identity?
Of course. You could just post 10 LPs that you like but that’s kinds a boring and no challenge. The ideal list will spark conversation. The more heated the better. So, these are some tips to quirk up your digital identity.
By and large these challenges evoke a trip down memory lane. We revisit the records that were big when you were a teenager and into your early 20s.
There are obvious artists that probably need to be here – the Stones, Beatles, Dylan, the Who, Kinks, Jimi Hendrix, Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell, the Clash.
This is the canon and it’s safe to choose about 5 of these. It’s a good idea to go for one or two of the lesser known works say Planet Waves rather than Dylan’s Highway 61.
Stay away from the obvious. Everyone loves Rumours or the Beatles’ White Album so keep clear. You don’t want to admit to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and announce to everyone that you wasted your teens smoking weed.
The quirky childhood mistakes. Something by Rolf Harris perhaps or Roger Miller or perhaps Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. This is a way of announcing one’s coolness by pretending to not care about it. Very important.
This is critical for men. You can’t just have a conga line of phallic guitar bands. You’ve got to get a Joni Mitchell in there or maybe Cat Power or the girl of the moment, Fiona Apple.
Diversify your genres so put in a little Chic or some reggae, some soul or funk so it looks like you can dance if you need to.
It’s a good idea so you don’t seem like you’re ready for the pension to put in something more recent. Something from the 21st century would be really good. It looks like you haven’t moved the dial from Triple J to RN and it’s also a bold call to pick a record that hasn’t been proved over time,
- And finally you need the cherry on top: a very obscure album that has sentimental value for you but is preferably out of print=
So, this is a draft list in no order:
- Blue by Joni Mitchell – inarguably one of the greatest records ever made.
- Planet Waves by Bob Dylan – recorded with the Band in three days, his first #1 but mostly neglected.
- The Return of Roger Miller by Roger Miller – country novelty songs including You Can’t Roller-skate in A Buffalo Herd
- Risqué by Chic – the core of disco
- Nevermind by Nirvana – unquestionably classic
- Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen – another cool way of signalling that you once weren’t cool but your taking ownership of your old persona
- A Kind of Blue, the obligatory jazz album (or Coltrane’s A Love Supreme)
- Hunky Dory, by David Bowie – it’s an early album and much rougher around the edges but again there’s the blueprint of genius.
- Spinning Away by Brian Eno and John Cale – a small and quirky project by two of the seminal figures in contemporary music.
- Post by Paul Kelly – you need an Australian and this 1986 LP is one of Kelly’s least played but may still be one of his very best.
So next time you’re challenged, think about the choices and what they say about you.
Toby Creswell is a music journalist and pop-culture writer, as well as a former editor of Rolling Stone (Australia) and founding editor of Juice.