All Time 100

November 28, 2006

Time magazine has just published their All-Time100 list of albums, an exercise always bound to provoke discussion about what should and shouldn’t be included. They have hedged their bets by calling it the ‘All-time 100’ rather than using words like ‘best albums’ or ‘favourite albums’ or even most ‘influential albums’. They give no indication of their selection criteria though interestingly the list is not a bad one. Perhaps they chose the name for the list simply to get the name of their publication in the title.

Naturally there are some personal favourites that are not there, which got me thinking about my own criteria for my all-time 100. I can come up with several factors that would get a record onto the list – those which are unquestionably great contributions to the world of music recording; those which hit the personal nostalgia button but may not have stood the test of time; and those which influenced my own musical development as a young musician. These are not mutually exclusive and any record that hits all three buttons should be first on my list. Interestingly several of those are on Time’s list.

I won’t try to construct a full list here, but here are some thoughts a few on albums from the 60’s and 70’s on the Time magazine list – and a few that are not.

I never owned a Beach Boys record and never sang a Beach Boys song in public, but I would probably now note Pet Sounds in my list, simply for its place in history and the generally held view that it was a musical milestone. Although Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is regarded as being heavily influence by the earlier Pet Sounds, it rates more highly for me as I owned it, sang it and have many splendid memories of listening to it.

The Velvet Underground And Nico would be there (as would Freak Out and The Fugs, although unsurprisingly no The Mothers of Invention or Fugs LP makes the list) as I have such strong memories of huddling around a portable record player in the 6th form common room listening to them and being blown away by the raw sexual power of modern music combined with the references to the newly intriguing drugs. Sure I had already had my mind opened by both The Who and the Rolling Stones (both on Time’s list), but they were obviously tame because they were played on the radio. Listening to Velvet Underground or the Mothers or the Fugs now is not a great pleasure but the memory of where they stand in musical history is.

I can remember where I was when I first heard Blonde on Blonde and Abbey Road, both for me have also stood the test of time and both have provided songs for my own repertoire.

The main contributors to my list though, are those that either provided songs for me to sing or which influenced my musical style.





Simon and Garfunkle’s Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme – the bridge over which I travelled from folk music to rock.

From The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan to Nashville Skyline – great songs, great teenage memories

Songs of Leonard Cohen and Songs from a Room – folk music that was personal and sophisticated.

 Song to a Seagull, Clouds, Ladies of the Canyon and onwards to the best of all, Blue – Joni Mitchell’s beautiful songs, intriguing stories, and challenging chords for the young guitarist.


I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You and Lady Soul – Aretha Franklin introduced Soul to this white man.(though Otis Redding singing Try a Little Tenderness must share some credit too)

My Generation and A Quick One from the Who and Jimi Hendrix’s Are You Experienced – gave our band courage to believe that all you needed was one guitar, bass and drums to play truly great rock.


Getz/Gilberto – led me to a lifelong love of Brazilian music and of jazz, though it wasn’t too cool for a teenager to admit to being able to play Girl From Ipanema.

Similarly with Time Out and Time Further Out – not too cool to admit at the time but Dave Brubeck’s experiments with odd time signatures captured the mathematician in me.

The Broadway Cast Recording of Hair – they don’t write musicals where every song is memorable any more.

It wouldn’t be hard to make it to 100. I haven’t mentioned Fred Neil and Bert Jansch, Joe Cocker and The Band, Blood Sweat and Tears and The Doors, Luis Bonfa and Baden Powell – an eclectic mix which forms part of my personal story and all of whom had albums which would need to be considered for my list. And I haven’t left the 70’s yet. I’d want Graceland and Songs in the Key of Life on the list for a start. Maybe I need to be allowed more than 100!

Looking at these albums I realise how individual each of them are. The songs on Freewheelin’ are so different from those on Nashville Skyline that each record has a clear personality. The LP was a natural extension of the musical suite. Styles, motifs, moods all linked together. What happens when all music consists of individual tracks gleamed from various places and stuck together on an MP3 player or a burned CD? I can’t believe that is not a lesser experience. Surly the great album is greater than it’s parts?


2 Responses to “All Time 100”

  1. […] selection raises similar questions to those posed by the 100 greatest songs of all time (see my earlier post on the subject). Although you’d be hard pressed to question the inclusion of any of the pictures […]

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