500 albums essential to a happy life,
March 9, 2001 11:34 AM   Subscribe

500 albums essential to a happy life, says Elvis Costello. And he oughta know. (For extra credit, compare and contrast this with the RIAA top songs of the century list announced earlier this week.)
posted by jhiggy (30 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
U2: The Unforgettable Fire (1984),
"Pride (In the Name of Love),"
"Bad"; Achtung Baby (1991),
"One"; Pop (1997), "Please."

Pop? Over War, October, Zooropa? What?
Down (1990), "Nobody."

Go Elvis. Although this is the Replacements album you're not supposed to like, it's one of my faves.
Hey, that was fun. Thanks, jhiggy.
posted by lbergstr at 12:03 PM on March 9, 2001

My attention span is way to short for something like this...

posted by Jeremy at 12:10 PM on March 9, 2001

At least, judging from Declan's career, you know that this list's eclectic for a reason. Ahem. But wouldn't it be great if all your favourite artists did this -- say, in a weblog, that quaint digital genre?

I'm with him on Pop, which it's fashionable to pan, since "Do You Feel Loved" outshines anything on the new album. Though he picked the wrong Blur LP -- surely Blur should get the nod, for "Death of A Party" as much as "Song 2".

Anyone want to burn all these albums in MP3 format onto a DVD? (Um. I didn't say that. But still: that's what the format would be good for.)

Great link.
posted by holgate at 12:42 PM on March 9, 2001

Can you imagine? Elvis Costello's 500 greatest albums on DVD, yours for only $1.9 million. Hurry, act now!

It was a fantastic read. Great to see what one of my fave artists likes; even greater to see that some of it is what I like as well.
posted by hijinx at 12:43 PM on March 9, 2001

Nice to see that Elvis gave Tom Waits 5 of the 500.

And gave his wife a mention with "I'm a Man You Don't Meet Every Day" from the Pogues' Rum, Sodomy and The Lash. I would have added another Johnny Cash with either American Recordings I or Solitary Man. Just me.

Bit surprised not see Nick Cave on there....also kind of wonder about the band that did an album called "Declan" Wonder if that was a tribute to EC.

No Giant Sand...No Stereolab. Oh well. Guess we have to make room for Eminem, eh EC?

posted by Kafkaesque at 12:51 PM on March 9, 2001

In my haste in writing the original post, I neglected to thank Scripting News for leading me to the Elvis list. Thanks Dave.
posted by jhiggy at 1:23 PM on March 9, 2001

Declan is digging on the Destiny's Child. I no longer feel as guilty for being suckered into their sweet, fluffy pop confections. Say my name, say my name. . .
posted by Dreama at 1:27 PM on March 9, 2001

It's very odd to read Elvis Costello comparing Eminem to The Simpsons. Not because I disagree with the comparison, but just to think of the fella who spat out such brilliant music in the late '70s, early '80s as a living, breathing, interested contemporary. I tend to think of the artists I've loved for a long time as condemned to sit in space without time, contemplating records of their youth. (I can't picture Elvis the First digging the Ramones right before he died).

And it's a good list. But, Elvis -- David effin' Crosby?!
posted by argybarg at 1:49 PM on March 9, 2001

when in doubt, play Track 4-it is usually the one you want

Anybody else notice that the good tracks on albums are commonly the same track number? In addition to four, seven springs to mind. Do artists do this on purpose? Is it some sort of c-o-n-spiricy? Hidden messages from the Illuminati?
posted by OneBallJay at 2:03 PM on March 9, 2001

Elvis C is one of my favorites, and it is so great to see the songs he likes that are also my absolute favorites (like David Bowie's "Life on Mars). I'm bummed that there's no Peter Gabriel, and I would love to see a similar list from him.
posted by girlhacker at 2:04 PM on March 9, 2001

And I've got to admit while I love most of his stuff, Kojak Variety (covers of his favorite songs) only got a couple of listens. The best one was the cover of the Kinks' Days, covered wonderfully too by the late Kirsty MacColl. Some of his tastes just aren't mine, which it must be said is for the best. But then his Almost Blue country covers were great.

And, try as I might, I just cannot listen to the Burt Bacharach duets.
posted by Kafkaesque at 2:04 PM on March 9, 2001

This is a typical "look how eclectic I am" list, just like all us music geeks did in high school. He picks the cool names, but the off records, so no one will suspect him of being merely fashionable. The John Cale he picks is Music for a New Society, instead of Fear or Paris 1919? His Jefferson Airplane pick is "Greasy Heart"!? For REM he likes Reckoning and Green? If it wasn't for the things he gets right (Kinks, La's, Everyone Knows This is Nowhere, Matching Mole's "O Caroline", Brilliant Corners, the Dolls) I'd say he was being deliberately perverse.
posted by rodii at 4:11 PM on March 9, 2001

And, try as I might, I just cannot listen to the Burt Bacharach duets.

I'm quite the opposite. I loved them, despite myself. (And despite the fact that I had to hide them from my friends and family--I had been bashing Bacharach for so long, I couldn't own up to the errors of my ways.)
posted by jpoulos at 4:56 PM on March 9, 2001

"Bit surprised not see Nick Cave on there..."

Indeed. In my opinion, Cave was fundamental to the success of Elvis Costello, and obviously a huge influence.
posted by lucien at 5:46 PM on March 9, 2001

Nicest surprise: "Harry Hippie" by Bobby Womack. Best use of "sha la la la" ever in less than three or four minutes.
posted by raysmj at 6:39 PM on March 9, 2001

We can quibble about particular tracks and records, but what a great list! Other good lists: Pitchfork's 100 Best Albums of the 1990s and Freaky Trigger's 136 Or So Best Records Of The Decade.

I agree with Elvis about Pop too -- it is a brilliant record and has never gotten its due, and "If You Wear That Velvet Dress" is genius! My only quibble -- no "Kid A."
posted by josh at 7:45 PM on March 9, 2001

(classical response to a 'best of' list)

Wot...no David Mulcahy? No Bressa Creting Cake? No The Clean? Bah!

Kid Aphex Twin, more like.
posted by holloway at 8:24 PM on March 9, 2001

holloway, I agree, but be comforted: the Aphex Twin will receive his appropriate commendation in the millenia to come.
posted by lbergstr at 8:49 PM on March 9, 2001

I love Pop. I fell in love with that CD the day I bought it. In fact, it is one of the few CDs that is still growing on me, this long after buying it. It is the perfect summer CD for long moonlit drives alone.

I thought it was odd that no Peter Gabriel made it onto there. I would have thought Peter or at least Genesis w/Peter would have earned at least a mention from Elvis. Oh well.
posted by bargle at 10:25 PM on March 9, 2001

Anybody else notice that the good tracks on albums are commonly the same track number? In addition to four, seven springs to mind. Do artists do this on purpose?

Yes, actually, they do. Depending on the type of music, of course, often times tracks number 4 and 7 are prime for slower, more balladesque types of songs. Or, they're simply the 'money' songs -- aka the singles. It has to do with the ambience of playability and what the human mind tends to want to hear after a relative length of time.

Quite interesting, really.
posted by lizardboy at 5:23 AM on March 10, 2001

I'm off to Napster to fill in the evidently large gaps in my musical appreciation. I wonder if the RIAA's filter list (which currently seems to only consist of Roy Orbison) will include Henry Threadgill and Jeannie Robertson.
posted by johnny novak at 5:59 AM on March 10, 2001

Aaaaaaaah. I'd be a helluva lot happier in a octopuss's garden with Costello's list than the RIAA's or NPR's 300. To be eclectic Costello omits way too much good r'n'r. Partial forgiven, just for including "Lydia the Tatooed Lady".

And NO Mozart symphonies? Go try #35 Elvis. No Schubert symphonies? No Prokofiev symphonies? Oy! Still and all, he can DJ at my favorite station anytime.
posted by Twang at 8:10 AM on March 10, 2001

I don't understand the Nick Cave thing. The first Birthday Party record came out in 1980. "My Aim Is True" came out in 1977, and the major influences are clearly Graham Parker and other "pub rock"-type bands (Brinsley Schwarz, Ducks Deluxe). He'd been performing in clubs in a more folky vein for a few years before that. If anything, Nick Cave owes a lot to Elvis.

And Gabriel/Genesis? If anything, that's what the punks were rebelling against. Elvis was never really a punk, but he definitely bought into major parts of the musical ethos that became new wave--short, emotionally direct, sixties-influenced three-chord pop songs. The antithesis of Genesis. And as Gabriel evolved toward world music, Elvis evolved toward Tin Pan Alley. I don't see any connection at all.

Nicest surprise: "Harry Hippie" by Bobby Womack. Best use of "sha la la la" ever in less than three or four minutes.

WRONG! :) That would be "Waterloo Sunset" by the Kinks (also on the list).

posted by rodii at 8:29 AM on March 10, 2001

I used to have to sample 10-second snippets of CDs for a (now defunct) website. I figured out you could go to 0:55 to 1:05 of track 2 and, 80% of the time, you'd get a fast chorus that had come around the first time. (Track 2, ignoring "skits" and intros). Talk about formula. Try it on your own CDs.
posted by argybarg at 9:35 AM on March 10, 2001

I think Lucien was kidding about Cave being a huge influence on Elvis, in an oblique and sarcastic way. I had merely said I was surprised not to see him on the list because IMHO he's one of the best.

Also the Track 4 and 7 phenomenon may be akin to the Hollywood formula of placing a car chase or sex scene 20 minutes into the film, when an audience's attention may start to wane.

posted by Kafkaesque at 11:24 AM on March 10, 2001

Out of Elvis' 500, I'd probably pick 100 of the same. Maybe more, but about a 150 or so I've never heard, or never heard all the way through. And I'd probably pick different albums of alot of the same artists he mentions. Great list from EC all around. Of course, my list would include the following EC albums: Imperial Bedroom, Armed Forces, The Juliet Letters, My Aim is True, and This Years Model.
posted by Trampas at 12:24 PM on March 10, 2001

Anybody else notice that the good tracks on albums are commonly the same track number? In addition to four, seven springs to mind.

I'm apparently a track 2 kinda guy. Track 1 is rarely all that great, although U2 and Radiohead's latest albums go against that trend.

RE Pop, while several of the songs on that album aren't up to U2's usual standards, the good ones on that album are awesome, "Do You Feel Loved," "Please," "Gone," and "Mofo" are among U2's greatest.
posted by daveadams at 2:07 PM on March 10, 2001


My apologies. No sarcasm intended, although I can see how it might well have seemed that way. I confused "Nick Cave" with "Nick Lowe" for a moment there (don't ask me how, but I hadn't finished reading the list in it's entirety)

Having sorted that out (hopefully) I totally agree with your comment.
posted by lucien at 10:28 AM on March 11, 2001

Nick Lowe, yeah, definitely. Brinsley Schwarz begat Graham Parker and Nick Lowe. And Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds and Graham Parker begat Elvis Costello. (Trivia: Elvis's backup band on "My Aim is True" was most of Huey Lewis and the News.)
posted by rodii at 11:17 AM on March 11, 2001

Official answer to Anybody else notice that the good tracks on albums are commonly the same track number? In addition to four, seven springs to mind. Do artists do this on purpose?

Yes. Not the artists, the labels. Back in the days of the LP, song sequence was engineered to make casual listeners check out the whole album.

The lead track was always strong, representing the band's typical output. Tracks two and three slowed the pace down a bit before track four, the album's lead single or best song. The idea was that Joe Fan would put the needle on the record and stick around until he heard the catchy song from the radio. The lead song on Side Two was always a hot number, too, to encourage listeners to flip the record over.

This practice has slowed down a bit in the CD age, but the fundamental theories are still in place. (I'm having trouble finding a web page dissecting this; please point one out if you know of one).
posted by werty at 7:30 AM on March 12, 2001

« Older The Ornery American   |   Popularity kills: nosepilot hit (almost) into... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments