Some of you who go way back in the archives and read the post that served as the introduction to the list, you will recall that I had put my foot down about two certain artists. I have to admit, in reality, it was five artists that I decided could not end up on the list. Two of them were clear- the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. When you are the two greatest rock bands in the history of music, you cannot be considered for best of lists. You will top them. And let’s face it- they would have.
But I then expanded it to include Led Zeppelin, the Who, and the Beach Boys.
All five of the bands have albums widely considered to be among the greatest ever recorded. So any inclusion of their records meant that what I ultimately wanted to achieve, writing brief blurbs about records important to me that other people never heard of or never considered before, would be defeated by my love of music.
So I have put together a brief supplement to the list, seeing as we are reaching the half way point. My favorite Beatles, stones, Who, Zeppelin, and Beach Boys records under the cut. Warning: some of the choices are not as obvious as you might think.
The Beatles, The Beatles, aka The White Album
It is a mess of a record, which is why I love it. The early Beatles albums ( also known as pre Rubber Soul) were such manicured affairs. The so-called great Beatles records are all incredible, but there is something about the complete incoherence of The White Album that sings. I admit it holds a special fondness as two of my must have Beatles tracks, the punk rock granddaddy “Helter Skelter” and the folk hymn “Blackbird”, are on this record ( and its also home to their greatest WTF hideous mistake “Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da”). It is one of my desert island records, and it remains one of my most listened to records.
The Rolling Stones, Let It Bleed
Let It Bleed is an unusual record as it has both blistering rock and roll (“Gimme Shelter”), a Robert Johnson cover ( “Love in Vain”), and the greatest last song on a side two ever ( “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”). As these three songs are among my top 1000 songs of all time, it’s clear that this album as my fave Stones album makes complete sense ( I think that’s the next list, I’m still deciding).
Meanwhile, Exile on Main Street is a hateful, misogynistic view of sex and love and partying that is vastly overpraised.
Suck on that.
The Who, Quadrophenia
I’m not even a big fan of the Who as a band. Individual songs strike me as awesome- “My Generation” and “Baba O’Reilly” come to mind immediately.
But rarely has a song off a rock album sounded as pure, operatic, and perfect as “Love, Reign O’er Me”, one of my top 100 songs of all time. Yes, the album is pretentious balderdash. It is also Pete Townshend’s shining moment as a songwriter, with majestic melodies and vibrant images.
I’m pretty sure you all thought I’d pick Who’s Next.
(I remember watching this when I was seven or eight and being blown away by this song. Then I heard the recorded version. That did it. It all starts somewhere…)
Led Zeppelin, Physical Graffiti
This is always the really tough one. But ultimately, “Kashmir”, with that amazing guitar riff, and “In My Time of Dying”, which is bluesy perfection, wins me over.
It is a near perfect record. It sometimes really is that simple.
Led Zeppelin IV was really close behind, though.
The Beach Boys, Pet Sounds
Obvious. But it is the correct choice. If I hadn’t had the rule, and if my number one record didn’t exist, this would have been my number one. It is simply impossible to dislike it. I’m a sucker for songs with sweet harmonies and soaring falsettos. And Brian Wilson is one of my Gods. ( Smile was #11 on my best of the Oughties album list).
But let me explain it like this:
“God Only Knows”.
“I Just Wasn’t Made For these Times”.
“Wouldn’t It Be Nice”.
“Sloop John B.”.
“You Still Believe In Me”.
So, make your argument that I’m wrong. Go ahead.
Let me reiterate:
“GOD ONLY KNOWS”.