Posted in Of Musicals

My Top Fifteen Autobiographical Albums

I am not too sure about this. Pop music lovers have an insatiable need to gorge on lists and make their own, only to start massive, almost intergalactic fights about them. I recently watched a definitive top ten artists of the 1970s list, which did not include David Bowie. These same list-makers did not include Roy Orbison in top male vocalists, and placed Bob Dylan at number 5 in the definitive artists list of the 1960s. I sensed the angry, dormant troll in me, but managed to close tab soon enough. On the other hand, I recently listened to Q magazine’s “worst album of all time” – Duran Duran’s Thank You – and liked it. The rapping was ill-advised on that one, but I dare you to listen to their cover of Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day” and tell me it was a waste of your time.

Having said that, I came across this post by Sour Girl Ohio on her personal top 15 albums, in no particular order, that was in participation with an event hosted by 1001 albums in 10 years. Now, that was a list that seemed doable and argument-free! I could include the most disposable pop, the most pretentious avant garde album, and get away with it. The exercise reminds me of a scene from High Fidelity, one of my top five films ever, where the main character, Rob Gordon, arranges his record collection autobiographically. Thus, I felt the need to make an autobiographical list myself, though to make things easier for you and for me, I’ve retained the most representative albums of my favourite artists. In no particular order, here it goes:

1. Tapestry by Carole King.


Without this album and this singer-songwriter, all the pop music reality shows of the last 15 years would not exist. You may have heard one too many bad, self-indulgent covers of Carole King songs (including Celine Dion having an open singing fight with Aretha Franklin over “A Natural Woman”), but you need to listen to the Writer, to get the mood and essence of these done-to-death songs. I love it from the opening upbeat “I feel the earth move” and also adore less-massacred songs like “Home Again”. It also contains my favourite song across British and American pop music, in the version I prefer, “Will you still love me tomorrow?”

2. Actually by Pet Shop Boys.


Earlier this year, I realised I was living under a rock. I knew the name Pet Shop Boys, I knew a million songs that sound like “Domino Dancing” (not on this album) but never put the two together. When I had the epiphany, I constantly asked myself, “What have I done to deserve this?” (on this album, a duet with Dusty Springfield) at being denied this pure brilliance for so long. Now, I firmly believe they are the Mozart of electronic dance music, always leaving you in the conflicting position of wanting to dance, and rack your brains at all the intellectualism going on at the same time. “Rent” (on this album) is, in my opinion, one of the greatest love songs of all time. Sample this, “Look at the two of us in sympathy, and sometimes ecstasy/ Words mean so little, money less, when you’re lying next to me.”

3. Plastic Letters by Blondie.


I can’t believe I got to Blondie this early. But, if I made a top-five list of artists, they’ll surely be in it. I can always safely put on a Blondie album, knowing I will have a very enjoyable half-hour. I deliberately avoided the debut “authentic” Blondie album, the breakthrough “popular” one, and the later, more varied and self-assured ones. Plastic Letters is my number one album to do household chores to, because it brightens up everything mundane, and is just effortlessly cool. It won’t change your life, but it will make the one you have right now much more livable for the half-hour it is on. I recommend you carry it with you when you go to get a root canal done.

4. Rocket to Russia by Ramones.


Besides a pair of jeans, my Ramones t-shirt is the one clothing item I’ve worn the most in my life. However, I’ve listened to their music much, much more than that. They may have had the coolest t-shirts ever, but it was never nearly as cool as their music, and from what I gather through archival footage, their live performances. The Ramones are everything I want in music. The energy, specificity and impact of their artistry is unbeatable. I could have picked their eponymous début, as any list-maker wishing to be relevant would have done, but that one lacks the balance they have in their later albums of more mellow, sixties happy-pop that punk purists didn’t approve of. But, I am no punk, so keep the Joey Ramone ballads playing, thank you very much. Recommended: “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow”.

To be continued tomorrow. What can I say? I have too many opinions!


Writer, Blogger, Kate Bush Fanatic

16 thoughts on “My Top Fifteen Autobiographical Albums

  1. Not fair making us wait until tomorrow! I think your comment on Carole King’s Tapestry is spot on. It did not go unnoticed by me that you mention High Fidelity as one of your top 5 movies of all time. Delicious irony there in including that in a “list”!

    1. Ha ha! It is frightening making such a list. I really liked Sour Girl Ohio’s post on it, and so I felt the compulsion to make my own. It came to about 2300 words, so I had to break it down!
      I love High Fidelity! Very influential in my life, and I like the film better than the book. I haven’t included its soundtrack in my list, though Jack Black’s cover of “Let’s get it on” is totally, to use modern terminology, “eargasmic”!

      1. Must watch it again. I have yet to find my ideal method of CD/album categorization. I hate alphabetical because it separates solo albums from people in a band. Having such a large collection I want access to something like that so I keep them together. I actually liked the book better than the movie. Not to say I didn’t like it but I think I appreciated the music referenced in the book slightly more. To each their own!

      2. I just felt like it stretched the concept a bit too much. The crispness of the movie helped the themes explored. Hornby put it best when he said the movie felt like Rob Gordon (Fleming in the book) was reading Hornby’s book. Which would be totally apt!

        Good luck with your album organization! My computer miraculously organises my pathetic lot! If I did have a physical collection like vinyl or CD, I would have organised it genre-wise. I don’t like chronological, and alphabetical is the most nonsensical of all. Music organisation should depend on mood, shouldn’t it?

      3. I do by genre, and chronological after that. So in my country section for example I have Johnny Cash in order from newest album to oldest. That is what works best for me. Despite that, I always think there must be a better way! I have heard that quote before about the movie. Understand I don’t dislike the movie, I just identified with the characters more as British.

      4. That is true! They did go a little mellow in the American version, but the cast did such a brilliant job! Doesn’t always happen in such culture “translations”. For example, there is a book called One Day by a Hornby like writer called David Nicholls. It was such a fantastic funny, crisp, moving book that was totally sugarified in the film, despite retaining the English setting. I think such interpretations insult both American audiences, and obviously, people who love the book. High Fidelity is rare in having escaped that.

      5. I will have to look for both that book and movie. No matter which interpretation you liked, one thing is clear of both, High Fidelity is without a doubt one of the best music related books/films ever made.

  2. Pet Shop Boys “Actually” – My Father introduced me to that album and you know I have been listening to it since I was 6 or 7 years old. The album stayed with me though I may not have known all the words then. But “One More Chance”, “Rent” and “King’s Cross” the first track, 4th trach and last track respectively are so BEAUTIFUL they are hauntingly crawling on your senses and skin. Pet Shop Boys “Actually” they don’t really make ’em like that anymore.

    1. Aren’t they just absolutely brilliant! For all those who look down on electronic music, I’d blindly give them any PSB album, just to see the look on their faces. Just classic songs, set to very characteristic arrangements. You know an artist is special when they make an Elvis Presley song better than the real thing, and that too in a synthpop version!
      You are very lucky to have grown up with it. I wish I had too. The child in me would have loved the “Heart” video!

  3. Reblogged this on Iconography ♠ Incomplete and commented:
    Pet Shop Boys “Actually” – My Abbu (Father) introduced me to that album and you know I have been listening to it since I was 6 or 7 years old. The album stayed with me though I may not have known all the words then. But “One More Chance”, “Rent” and “King’s Cross” the first track, 4th trach and last track respectively are so BEAUTIFUL they are hauntingly crawling on your senses and skin. Pet Shop Boys “Actually” they don’t really make ’em like that anymore.

  4. Awesome! I’m so glad you decided to make a list and thank you so much for tagging me!

    I unfortunately was not able to squeeze Blondie or the Ramones into my list, so I’m glad to see they are seeing some love on yours. I LOVE High Fidelity and your lovely tie-in there. Do we have a top five favorite music movies??

    I love your detailed descriptions, and I do look forward to reading the rest of the list when you post it.

    1. Favourite music movies is a great idea! I will have two albums on the rest of the list that also qualify as movie soundtracks, which is also another idea!
      It was great to come up with this list. Your post stayed in my head when I was sick, and so I did have a lot of time to come up with the albums and write them down! That is why the whole post became 2300 words!
      I can’t imagine making a list without the Ramones or Blondie. They are easily among my top five artists. In fact, it was hard to select only one album!

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