Podcasts: Top 5 Records

Podcasts: Top 5 Records

November 2022

I wanted to start the series thinking, talking about top 5 records because it feels like such an evergreen topic. Maybe it's a High Fidelity leftover - the one endearing part of that film - maybe it's our affinity to make lists and rankings more generally.

For instance, right now on the main page of Rolling Stone they're promoting both the 100 best songs of 1982 and the 100 greatest TV shows of all time. The music main page also offers "15 Insanely Great PJ Harvey Songs Only Hardcore Fans Know (And Everyone Else Should Too)" - side note, find a better word than "insanely"...

Anyway, we like lists, and they tend to stir discussion. So let's discuss!

Number 1: I've often felt like if I can get a definitive list of my top 5 records, it'll be a sort of shorthand to who I am. Obviously records are so, so important to who I am anyway, but does anyone else feel like that? Saying that, I'm not sure if my top 5 records are the same as the records I think are the best. For example, the record on my number one spot - the undisputed champion - would never change, but I'm not even sure I think it's the best record of that band's discography.

What that said, first place goes to Rubber Soul by the Beatles. Rubber Soul was released in December 1965, and I always feel like it's the forgotten starting point of psychedelia. Even though it's overall a relatively 'normal' pop record - it's not too much of a leap from Help or other pop/rock records released in the mid-1960s - there's also so much weird stuff happening. The lyrics are more experimental, some of the sounds are strange, the distorted, mysterious album cover. Revolver is usually given more credit as one of, if not the first, psychedelic record, and there's definitely more weird and strange stuff happening there, but you don't get to Revolver without Rubber Soul.

However, as important as all that is, for me, Rubber Soul is the record that changed everything. If you've read some of my previous stuff you might already know this, but I was hardly interested in music before Rubber Soul. I was drawn in by the cover, it is still one of the coolest covers I've ever seen. Hearing the music changed the course of my life: I found a popular music degree in Liverpool and moved to a country with weird electrical plugs that I'd never been to before. Since then I've formed my entire career around falling in love with one record, so you might see why it's my number 1.

Number 2: My second top 5 record is Rumours. One of the best selling albums ever, Rumours by Fleetwood Mac was released in 1977, and often seen as the band's masterpiece as they chronicle the personal romantic relationships - with each other - falling apart. Big shout out to Stevie Nicks for making her ex, Lindsey Buckingham, play on a track while she sang "players only love you when they're playing" at him.

I didn't find Rumours as much as Rumours found me. It keeps appearing at certain points in my life, and I've learnt to trust it when I hear it now. During my PhD I worked as a cleaner in a major hospital in the city, and we weren't allowed to listen to music while we worked in case someone needed to call our attention. On my last day there, I could hear Rumours streaming out of open windows and it felt like such freedom. I also remember having 'Never Coming Back Again' playing on shuffle the moment my train left the platform on the last day of my 7 hour commute from another job. Now I kind of just know... I'll walk into a record shop and look for a copy of Rumours. I'll hold it and know if I need to buy another copy or not.

Number 3 top 5 record, and this is where things get complicated for me. I've played around with several records in this spot, which probably sounds very strange, but most often it's been a variation of a Led Zeppelin record. The reason why I haven't been able to pick one is probably because my introduction to Led Zeppelin wasn't through one of the original releases... so forgive me, but this is a CD. Number 3 goes to Remasters, a compilation album released in 1990. It was released on vinyl (and cassette) as well, but the 90s were the era of CDs and so the CD is what I think of.

Listening to Remasters is also when I decided that if I was going to get married it was going to be to Led Zeppelin. And it was. In retrospect I can highly recommend a Led Zeppelin wedding.

Number 4 on my top 5 records has to go to Deja Vu by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. It was the album where I learned about 180g vinyl. It took me a while to warm to it, but I certainly have. There's something so joyous about 'Carry On'. I saw CSN in Stockholm in the mid-2000s, and they opened with 'Carry On' and it felt like a whirlwind. David Crosby has since become one of my favourite guitarists. I was trying to explain why to my husband, and said I loved it because he was a disruptive, jingly-jangly, stoned, folksy kind of guitarist and that spoke to my soul. They are all great musicians, though, and are known as one of the first supergroups. The name says it as well: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. More reminiscent of a law firm than a rock band, but such was their reach. All sorts of conflicts have plagued them as well, and I recently saw someone trying to insult Crosby by saying he wrote 'Our House' - he didn't, Graham Nash did - but can you imagine trying to insult someone by accusing them of having written another great track by another great musician. If you, like me, enjoy some CSN&Y, Twitter is an option. Croz is particularly active, and once even liked one of my Tweets.

Finally, number 5 of 5 of my top 5 records. I'm less certain of this one, still feeling it out, but it goes to Meddle by Pink Floyd. The 1971 album is often forgotten about, or rarely discussed at least. The cover is surprisingly unassuming. But have you heard 'Fearless'? On that track alone, Meddle would surely end up in the top of Pink Floyd records, but then they've included tracks like 'Echos' as well. I don't understand why more people don't want to talk about Meddle.

To be fair, Pink Floyd have an extensive discography. If you include both studio and live albums, then maybe a couple of solo albums - it's a lot. There's also a lot of variation. Piper at the Gates of Dawn is arguably not the same genre as The Division Bell. Maybe there's just so much choice - what do you think? And does anyone remember the blinking light on Pulse? I spent my childhood obsessing over that light - how long will it keep going, what happens when it goes out, what's the plan, Pink Floyd? I don't remember when ours went out, but I remember it wasn't blinking anymore by 2003 at least. Maybe I'll look into changing the batteries one of these days.

So there we have it, my 2022 top 5 records:

1. Rubber Soul (1965)

2. Rumours (1977)

3. Remasters (1995)

4. Deja Vu (1970)

5. Meddle (1971)

Lots of stuff from the 1970s, it seems - something I hadn't thought about before now. I wonder what THAT might say about me ...

What are your top 5 records? Is there one decade that dominates? Would you pick your favourite records, or ones that influenced you?

That's it for today's episode, I hope you've enjoyed it.

Peace & love, and keep your LPs out of direct sunlight.