Without music life would be a mistake.
(Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche)
The last couple of weeks I have been busy compiling the list of top 50 albums, which I have been publishing over the last couple of days. The occasion was my 50th birthday. In conclusion this post, which is to be followed by the 50 concerts which were the most memorable/good/fantastic. I really enjoyed the process of preparing and writing. The reactions to my posts were a lot of fun, so a big thank you to the readers of these posts; it makes it even more fun.
Was it hard? Yes and no. The first selection went fairly smooth. Approximately 90% of my collection was thereby discarded. To make a selection out of the 200/250 remaining albums to 100, 90, 80 is also doable, but after that it is hard. Why select The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway and not select The Velvet Undergound & Nico? Adding up (possible) sentiment and the number of times playing an album, may become factors. A lot of albums were excluded during the selection process. A lot of them are still worth mentioning, but I will limit myself to 50 (the magical number). That list can be found at the bottom of this post.
Making this kind of reports and-or lists is a man’s thing (that is what I´m told anyway). Compiling-manuals exist, some even with serious intentions. It’s something mainly linked to music-nerds, for it is “thé way to show the world how exquisitely refined you are! You want to shine with your eclectic musical taste and your passion for new music, so the world can adapt its opinion from you” .
Coupled to that, psychologists who studied the subject, think that “people think that certain kind of music is linked to certain values and personalities”. The music-nerd comes to life when selecting music that is as obscure as possible, for that lends prestige. So I must do the same, here goes a list of albums I own, unbeknownst to a lot of people, or well known within a niche, like 24-Carat Black, A1 People, Bronx Style Bob, Chuck Brown & The Soul Searchers, Country Gazette, Greazy Meal, The Original 7ven, Plant Life, Prince Charles & The City Beat Band and Stress. Big artists are allowed, but just the first three albums, before they were recognized by wider audiences; Springsteen’s Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. in stead of Born To Run and Miles Davis’ The Complete Birth Of The Cool in stead of Kind Of Blue. To be wholly complete you have to include ‘difficult’ albums like Bitches Brew and have each style of music accounted for, so preferably include opera, classical (Satie works every time), jazz, etc. Adapting your music taste to the, often self-proclaimed, good-taste sites like Pitchfork is a fine strategy. At times I buy something, which the ‘specialists’ claim is indispensible, and at times I just don’t understand or get it, like My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless (in my humble opinion contrived soulless racket).
When compiling my list, I didn’t do any of those things. I won’t deny that being a snob isn’t something that is completely foreign to me, but while compiling my list, it hasn’t been a factor.
Even though every music-lover feels they’re 100% original, according to scientists that’s not the case. “Between the ages of 15 and 25 your taste is solidified. Music you love in this time-frame you will love for the rest of your life”. Various studies show that an average person stops searching for new music around the age of 33.
Also, based on a person´s musical taste even personality traits can de identified:
“Friendly and sociable people tend to have a preference for hiphop and soulmusic”. People who love the more mellow musical styles like jazz, R&B and singer/songwriter tend to spend more attention to the feelings and needs of others. People who like more intense music like hardrock, punk and heavy metal think and act more from firm patterns and rules.
It also appears that musical taste is something that can be acquired or even learned. If a person gets exposed to certain kinds of music, they will start to appreciate it. Just as it is with food, offer something regularly. Maybe it will never become a favorite, but it can induce appreciation and understanding.
Based on my top 50 and the exclusion list (shown as ‘Afvallers‘ in the included graphs), which is enclosed within this post, I will find out if the science part is true. The theory behind it states that musical taste is defined by a number of elements, like age, class, emotion and identity. Going through these elements I will find out where I and my lists stand and, in particular, their uniqueness.
I have studied the thesis that the blueprint for musical taste is developed between ages 15 and 25.
As is clearly shown most albums included in my top 50 are from the 1980’s, my ‘formative’ years, so the age thesis seems to be right. Although I think that lately some great albums are released and ‘new’ artists pop up (Kamasi Washington, Anderson .Paak, Frank Ocean, Kendrick Lamar), so far it hasn´t been a particularly great decade for music. I can not detemine yet how ‘classic’ the latest batches are.
As the graph above shows, the main period seems to stem from ages 10 to 15, just before the clearly identified period 15 to 25. Striking, but understandable. From a very young age music has been my preoccupation. My father’s record collection was irresistibly attractive to me. Watching the covers time and again, reading, smelling. To this day still buy physical media if I really like the music. Of all named albums, in my top 50, the exclusion list, or even in this post, I own a physical copy. If I don’t have a physical copy it’s not worth my time. I’m curious as to how long I can keep this up, for the latest Kanye album will not become available on a physical format…
Research shows that the higher education levels someone has, the more a person prefers blues, jazz, pop-music, rock, world-music and reggae. The lower the levels the preference shifts mote to country, easy listening, disco, heavy metal and rap.
I consider myself to be highly educated; the numbers support it too.
Emotion while listening to music brings back (old) memories and vice versa. While recognizable, has it been an influence during the compilation of the lists? I have quite a few memories directly linked to music, the most important being (because they pop up in my head while writing):
- As I was reading the book Christiane F. I listened to Fischer Z’s Red Skies Over Paradise all the time (not a part of my lists);
- John Denver’s Rhymes And Reasons was thé song at my mother’s funeral. I am always emotional whenever I hear it (not a part of my lists);
- Genesis’ The Carpet Crawl is a direct link to my (early) childhood. I have the image of my father standing next to his record player, the sun comes shining into the room, during winter, edged into my brain. It’s a very vivid, sweet memory (is a part of my lists);
- Prince’s Power Fantastic was the song of Zühâl and me when we weren’t together yet, but ought to be (not a part of my lists);
- I also have a vivid memory to (Dutch band) Urban Heroes. The first anti nuclear weapons demonstration (November 21st 1981) took place in Amsterdam. I wasn’t there; I remember clearly buying Urban Heroes’ Live on that day. Loved the album (not a part of my lists);
- In the summer of 1981 I was working out in the fields. At the beginning of that summer U2’s Pinkop show was aired on the radio. I recorded it with my father’s tape-recorder, because I was very curious. I thought it was fantastic! On my working days (6 days a week), I got up at 04:30 AM, so I could listen to the complete show before I went to work on my bike an hour later. Some commitment! (not a part of my lists);
- My first vacation with Zühâl in Turkey: The Waterboys’ The Live Adventures Of The Waterboys. Every morning in the big garden with my headphones on. I remember exactly where I sat and can sometimes feel the sun burning on my skin (not a part of my lists).
In conclusion, when I go through the lists, I get the distinct impression it’s all about the music itself, which in itself induces emotion, but is not the deciding factor.
Identity is about groups, positive and negative (group-pressure). As a 15 year old boy I was into Crass and anarcho-punk in general. Lyrics were thoroughly inspected and a number of slogans were my leitmotif (There is no authority but yourself and Who’s your leader?). I was very independent, or so I thought. But I wasn’t alone on this. A whole group of friends, my friends, did and thought the same. To be fair: if I had surrounded myself with other people, things would have evolved differently. On the other hand: you choose your friends well, don’t you? 50/50.
On October 29th 1983 the Komitee Kernwapens Nee (Committee Nuclear-weapons No) organized the largest demonstation ever held in Holland (500,000 people), at The Hague. One of the things I remember very well (and dearly) was the wave of John Lennon’s Imagine and Give Peace A Chance, going around the city a couple of times. It was really impressive and enhanced the feeling of comradery, which was truly moving. Despite the memory, John Lennon isn´t a part of my lists (although he did play some part in The Beatles).
Also linked to identity is the connection one feels with an artist. This can be influenced by, for example, the death of an artist. Examples abound nowadays (Lemmy, Bowie, Vanity). By the way, would it be the same vice versa? I love Kanye West’s music, but some doubts can be had about his mental health. His behavior has no negative influence on my experiencing his music. I am not convinced that connection to an artist has been a factor.
Some more data. Music lists strictly for men? How about the man/woman ratio in my lists?
I definitely prefer men’s music. Despite my preference for some female voices (Kate Bush, Maria McKee and Amy Winehouse), the vast majority is male. The highest female quotation comes in at number 16 and even then it’s a combination of men and women (Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours).
In closing, black versus white music. At the moment of writing there is a poll in Holland called the black list. This list consists of the most popular black music. According to the organizers: Black music contains soul, jazz, funk, R&B, reggae, hiphop, etc., but the skin-color of the artists is not a criterium. Based on this ‘rule’, it has the following impact on my lists:
In general it means that 1/3 of my preferred music goes out to black music. Going more and more to the top of the top, the percentage black music increases. It equals the amount of playtime of my music. The majority has been black for a very long time.
Based on the data shown above this paragraph, the following element-complies-to-percentages come to life:
- Age: 75%
- Class: 100%
- Emotion: 0%
- Identity: 17%
That amounts to 48% on average. This means that my findings comply with the researchers’ expectations and scientific result for 48%. I’d like to turn this the other way round: I am 52% completely unique in my choices and preferences. I have known this forever; it’s nice that this has been confirmed.
The Exception List
As promised before, hereby the exception list:
- 2 Many DJ’s – As Heard On Radio Soulwax Pt.2
- AC/DC – Let There Be Rock
- Bauhaus – Press The Eject And Give Me The Tape
- Beck – Midnite Vultures
- Mary J. Blige – Mary
- Jeff Buckley – Grace
- Kate Bush – Aerial
- Cheap Trick – At Budokan: The Complete Concert
- Imani Coppola – Chupacabra
- The Cult – Love
- Devo – Freedom Of Choice
- Doe Maar – Skunk
- The Doors – L.A. Woman
- Eels – Royal Albert Hall
- Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid
- Eric B & Rakim – Paid In Full
- The Family Stand – Moon In Scorpio
- Peter Gabriel – Plays Live
- The Gun Club – The Las Vegas Story
- Guns N’ Roses – Appetite For Destruction
- Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill
- Michael Jackson – Off The Wall
- Killing Joke – Revelations
- Kiss – Alive!
- Fela Kuti – The Best Of Fela Kuti – The Black President
- Madonna – Ray Of Light
- Massive Attack – Mezzanine
- Maxwell – Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite
- Nirvana – In Utero
- O.S.T. – Music From Twin Peaks
- Frank Ocean – channel ORANGE
- Pavement – Brighten The Corners
- Iggy Pop – Lust For Life
- Elvis Presley – Memories: The ’68 Comeback Special
- The Prodigy – Music For The Jilted Generation
- Queens Of The Stone Age – Songs For The Deaf
- R.E.M. – Green
- Radiohead – Kid A
- The Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet
- Simon And Garfunkel – The Concert In Central Park
- Frank Sinatra – Watertown
- Spoon – They Want My Soul
- Steel Pulse – Handsworth Revolution
- Stereo MC’s – Connected
- Sugar – Copper Blue
- Donna Summer – Bad Girls
- U2 – Pop
- The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground & Nico
- Kanye West – Late Registration
- Zapp – Zapp II
There’s an error in my top 50 list, in the sense that it doesn’t comply to the rules I laid down. Tell me if you can spot it.
When Doves Cry cover: discogs.com