Well, I am flabbergasted! As you probably know I’m an avid collector of lists, and the lists that I collect more than any other are lists of the top 100 albums of all time. The first list I ever acquired covering this, was in the NME dated February 1974, and ever since then I’ve had a fascination with lists covering this subject. I have about 25 different lists of top 100 albums, from such diverse origins as NME, Melody Maker, Q Magazine, Radio 1, Channel 4 and latterly Radio 2. On top of this I have a number of published books which list the top 1000 albums of all time. I definitely regard myself as something of an expert when it comes to these type of lists. There are certain things that always manifest themselves in these lists. Firstly the following artists are always in the top 20. Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones (plus generally The Beach Boys “Pet Sounds”). Sometimes the Stone Roses and Oasis would also occupy one of the top 20 positions. “Rumours” would always be in the top 20. The Sex Pistols would generally have a place in the top 20. This is true of all the lists. Occasionally there are aberrations, which are only to be expected in lists of this type, as younger voters tend to be influenced by so-so albums that were released only a year or two before the list was published. So, for example, in Q’s top 100 album list issued in January 2003, as well as all the usual suspects in the top 20, we have, bizarrely Radiohead’s “OK Computer” in at number 2. A strange choice but there only because it had been released only 5 years earlier and was still popular with the youngsters. Of course by the time the next list was published (Channel 4, 2006) it was nowhere to be seen. There were many things that remained a constant throughout all of these lists. Firstly they were always “rock oriented” that is to say that rock albums dominated the top 100. There would be the occasional soul albums (Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Al Green) and the occasional reggae album (Bob Marley) and a sprinkling of pop (Madonna, Pet Shop Boys, Michael Jackson) but generally the list would be composed of rock albums. Secondly “the Greats” would always dominate the prime positions ( currently in front of me I have Colin Larkin’s list, published in 2000, in which, of the top ten albums, five slots were occupied by the Beatles.)
So, I know my top 100. I know what to expect in the top 100. I know what not to expect in the top 100. But this brings me to Easter Monday, when Radio 2 played a new Top 100, as voted by 100,000 R2 listeners voting online in February 2013. This list contained a few rules – unusual for a top 100 list. One rule was that no artist could be featured more than once – a strange rule, as this meant that, say if 10,000 people had voted for “Dark Side of The Moon” and 9,000 people voted for “The Wall” that the 9,000 votes would be totally discounted, which seemed rather harsh to me. It also meant that no group or artist could dominate any section of the top 100. Another rule was that no compilation or soundtrack or “best of” album would qualify for a position. Fair enough.
Well I started listening at around 7.30am. Tracks from the top 100 were being played in descending order every 15 minutes. And it was obvious by around 9.30am that this was going to be like no other list. At around 11.30 am they played “China Girl” from David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” album. This meant that David Bowie was at number 61! Impossible! Firstly, everyone knows that David’s two greatest albums are “Hunky Dory” and “Ziggy Stardust” so how could “Let’s Dance” possibly make it to the chart? Secondly what the hell was the most significant pop star of the 20th century doing at number 61! Strange, weird things continued to be revealed during the afternoon, and it was with a quiet sense of foreboding that I downloaded the full list from the Radio 2 webpage on Tuesday morning. Holy Shit! What kind of a top 100 was this!
Coldplay’s “A Rush of Blood To The Head” was at number one! Never before seen in any top 10! Ever!
Keane (who the fuck are Keane?) were at number two with “Hopes & Fears”! Never heard of it!
Duran Duran were at number 3 with “Rio”! Well I have Rio and it’s not a bad album, but never before had I ever seen it feature in any top 10.
Pink Floyd’s Dark Side was at no 4 (thank god!) but then Dido’s “No Angel” was at no 5!
The Stones were at 6 and the Beatles were at 8, but nevertheless this was the weirdest top 100 chart I had ever seen in my whole life! Shania Twain was in it! Yes, you heard me right - Shania Twain! Kylie Minogue was in it! Can you imagine that – Kylie Minogue in a top 100 album list! Incredible! Chic were in the list. Chic! I would rather die than listen to a Chic album.
It was then that it dawned on me. I had lost touch. I had lost touch with the music that younger people are listening to. I’d imagined that the typical Radio 2 listener was like me – 54 and a dyed-in-the-wool rock aficionado. But looking at this list I can see that this isn’t the case. The average R2 listener must be between 35 and 40 and listening to piles of shit! James Blunt was in this chart! Who the hell is James Blunt? Sade was in this chart! Who?
So that’s it. Collecting of top 100 album lists is over for me. When I don’t know, or don’t even want to know half of the artists who are featured in the list, then it’s not really a list for me. My eyes have been opened. I have become “old”. Shit!