Mar 10

The Friday Fun Canon Discussion And Monster Poll

FT///231 comments • 14,088 views

People in the Popular comments boxes are talking about “the canon”. I’m always quite curious as to which bits of the canon have ‘taken’ with a broadly pop-positive audience such as we have here. So here’s a poll, very easy to fill in, just say which of the Top 50 albums OF ALL TIME EVER you love. You can interpret how strong an attachment you want “love” to be, of course.

The list of albums is from Acclaimed Music, a kind of ‘metacanon’ which lists the top 3000 albums.

To make it more interesting, answer these questions in the comments box:

1. What’s the WORST record on this list?
2. Which of the records you ticked did you love first?
3. Which of them did you start to love most recently?

Poll below the cut.

Which Of These 'Canonical' Albums Do You Love?

View Results

Poll closes: No Expiry

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  1. 176

    Matt, there’s a distinction to be drawn between “this canon^^^: classic or dud” (which is well chewed over) and “canons: classic or dud,

    arguably at least, one of the problems the “why aren’ty more people reading us?” brigade are having is (arguably) that they eschew the deployment of canons — ie they disdain the establishment everywhere of THEIR canon, as a tool of education, persuasion, enticement and (bottom line) proffered comfort. Hence can only gather vanguard admirers, not the generalised mainstream attention they insist is their right.

    Obviously this is all something chewed over ten million years ago in a tiny way at The Wire — and right about now (1987-88) is the time I was deserting NME with its single canon for The Wire with its pagan pantheon of rival canons; I was totally THEN of the opinion that polycanonicity was the future and the that future would consist of the various canons bellowing mournfully or heatedly or affectionately at one another across sloughs of despond, establishing the metaconversation of the utopia to come. This utopia has not materialised: as the rival worlds took themselves off into their own media patches, the rock canon was able comfortably (and smugly) to consolidate, not as the preferred list of those who fought of it at the time,. but as the inherited list of those who didn’t know they were born (*waves arms about, snorts about national service and bring back the psychedelic birch*)

  2. 177

    Did I point out that this opinion was arguable?

  3. 178
    Matt DC on 17 Mar 2010 #

    Yes but then the Lex isn’t eschewing the deployment of canons really – he has very little problem with the (real and obvious) canons that exist in rnb, rap and dance music, for example. His particular problem seems to be this particular canon which is full of music he doesn’t like – that it’s the biggest and most prominent canon only exacerbates this.

    I’d argue that of the four canons up there the hip-hop canon is the one that most consistently reinforces itself through its new music, mostly through lyrical references.

  4. 179

    the (real and obvious) canons that exist in rnb, rap and dance music

    I am unconvinced. Where are these established and graven? Obvious to insiders or to outsiders? What’s struck me here, chewing over this thread, is that you can reach to a handy processed and hand-me-down version of the “rock canon” 30 years later, not even worrying about provenance, and it has remained surprisingly unshaken since Gambaccini (or whoever) established it; little varied at all stages, in fact, excepot the (quite brief) punk-rock interregnum, Obviously rap and dance aren’t so old, so the comparison doesn’t quite work — but I think what you’d get if you just googled “rap canon” is lots of rival claims. (Nothing wrong with this either: this may in itself be part of what’s valued — that the internal values are still being argued out…). And even if hiphop does have its own basically agreed-on Cultural Centre, it doesn’t function as the centre-of-centres, the canonic canon. It’s still — in effect — a rival or an alternative, even in its own estimation.

    (OK I’m bullshittting a bit towards the end; speculating to provoke, if you like — but canons require institutions to nurture them, and I don’t see that there aren’t as many of these in media as there are “(real and obvious) canons”…)

  5. 180
    Tom on 17 Mar 2010 #

    One interesting thing this thread has teased out is that the canon above is made up of a lot of 60s (and some later) artefacts but is itself a 1970s artefact, born out of the same kind of crisis of rock self-consciousness that produced punk, which was related to a wider crisis I guess. Maybe once we move on from ‘the 70s’ we’ll move on from the canon?

    A canon is a mechanism for regulating a music’s relationship to its past. Or rather, it’s rock’s mechanism: other musics have different ones. “Retro”, as lots of people have pointed out, works in rather different ways in dance music where nothing seems really to vanish. Hip-hop and pop have quite similar ways of relating to the past: can it be sampled? can it be covered? (One way to look at reality TV pop shows is as a battle for ‘canon formation’). Jazz, it seems to me, has a pantheon more than a canon – individuals rather than works. And so on.

  6. 181
    Gavin Wright on 17 Mar 2010 #

    “One way to look at reality TV pop shows is as a battle for ‘canon formation’”

    Absolutely – one of the most revealing (and often dispiriting) things about X Factor is that you get The History of Pop as seen through the eyes of Simon Cowell.

    The hip-hop canon may be less visible but it definitely exists – MattDC is correct to point to lyrical references, think of all those ‘Juicy’-type songs where a rapper lists their formative influences. Dance and r’n’b canons would be trickier to pin down I think.

  7. 182
    Matt DC on 17 Mar 2010 #

    I would totally accept the existence of a pantheon over a canon in hip-hop as well, but to answer Mark’s point about a centre for canon establishment, or a media space, or whatever, I’d say it’s the one music I can think of where the exercise/debate/battle is acted out within the verses of the music itself. In other words a much wider audience than any rock music writing.

  8. 183
    Tim on 17 Mar 2010 #

    Country music did (and does) that too, Matt.

  9. 184
    Mark M on 17 Mar 2010 #

    Re 174: So essentially what we have here is a case of mistaken identification – instead of this being about a amiable bunch of folks sitting around in various boozers making a gentle, reasoned and often funny stand for their right to listen to Britney without being look down upon, Lex thought the whole Freaky Trigger/Poptimism thing was the opening salvo of the pop revolution. Whereas, while I’m always happy to spend some time drinking with Tom and Pete and Sinker and co, I’m not sure I’d follow them onto the barricades…

  10. 185
    Tom on 17 Mar 2010 #

    Let the record show that on the one demonstration I have attended with fellow FT writers, our participation ended after the marching route made a foolishly close pass to a Sam Smiths pub.

  11. 186

    I have been on many marches and was not draw into the pub with ^^^this political lightweight on this one!

    (I was drawn into a coffeeshop with Dr V!ck’s family.)

  12. 187
    Tom on 17 Mar 2010 #

    Time to listen to a Doors album.

  13. 188
    Mark M on 17 Mar 2010 #

    My very belated responses to the original questions:

    1) Dark Side of the Moon, although in some ways What’s Going On annoys me more, because Gaye could be terrific on his day.

    2) Remain In Light – an obsession when I was 13.

    3) Highway 61 Revisited, as an actual album, I guess.

    My main reaction to the list was surprise at how much of this stuff I really like – I would never describe myself as some who likes Classic Rock (admittedly Last.fm does tell me that I do). My argument would be along the lines of guitar pop being at its consistent best in the 1960s, from when the bulk of the stuff I like on the list dates. I have little (Nevermind) or no (Joshua Tree, OK Computer) time for the post 1980 rock albums.

  14. 189
    Pete on 17 Mar 2010 #

    I have been on plenty of marches, almost being whisked down river by a banner from Waterloo Bridge, and resent being lumped in the same category as those political flibberty-gibbets Sinker and Ewing. Though I will not be manning the barricades for a pop revolution any time soon, I am happy to protest till I am blue in the face for the abolition of 3D films (or at least until they manage to invent a 3D world).

  15. 190
    Lex on 17 Mar 2010 #

    I have never been on a march, though I might consider attending one if people volunteer to carry me on a litter and feed me grapes. And champagne.

  16. 191
    Steve Mannion on 17 Mar 2010 #

    “I am happy to protest till I am blue in the face for the abolition of 3D films”

    *golf clap*

  17. 192
    rosie on 17 Mar 2010 #

    The last march I was on was the 15 Feb 2003 Iraq demo. I bailed out at Piccadilly Circus with an urgent need to find a loo, which I eventually found inside Hamleys (the loos in the Merciless McDonwalds being heavily oversubscribed)

    I will happily march against 3D films but as London is now a long way for me to come can I march up and down Walney beach instead?

  18. 193
    lord darlington on 18 Mar 2010 #

    I’m wondering what people make of the three Big Star albums. If we’re talking about ‘personal canons’ Sister Lovers figures very prominently in mine. RIP.

  19. 194
    Tom on 18 Mar 2010 #

    My one-liner summary of them was that #1 Record is the great party, Radio City is the boozy 4am intense conversation and Third is the hangover and the tender feeling of recovery after it. This is obviously glib but it pretty much reflects the mood(s) I’d listen to each in. Just paid my respects to Alex Chilton on my Tumblr in fact. RIP.

  20. 195
    wichita lineman on 18 Mar 2010 #

    Going back to the list written by the forgotten US journalist in Tom Hibbert’s The Perfect Collection (on the Starship thread? I’ve lost track) he included Five Leaves Left, Pet Sounds, Forever Changes, Astral Weeks and 3rd/Sister Lovers (very much a favourite of mine). His one-line summary was that the list included “an awful lot of nervous breakdown albums”. I think this element of the clearly personal being communicated in a unique, unfaked* way is frequently what creates canonical work. Thus, Blackout was bound to end up as the critics’ Britney choice (it’s mine too). Doesn’t explain U2 or Doors, obv.

    As for 3rd/Sister Lovers, it’s the only record I can think of that documents a breakdown, with the earliest songs recorded for it aiming commercially high (Thank You Friends, Jesus Christ) before gloom descends and a few weeks later you end up with the devastating and very beautiful Kangaroo, Big Black Car and Holocaust. There’s nothing like it. I’m very sad. RIP Alex.

    *I’m no authenticity freak by any stretch, but I’m baffled when people can’t see a line between Sister Lovers and, say, Tom Waits or Nick Cave. Is it the method acting? But again I’m happy with the art school types. I can’t work out why it seems so black and white to me. Look at Shane Magowan – the vast majority of alcoholics attempt to hide their problem rather than flaunt their ‘problem’ by slurring all vocals and swearing as often as possible in every interview.

  21. 196
    Gavin Wright on 18 Mar 2010 #

    Re: #193, I like all three original Big Star albums but Radio City has a special place in my heart – it’d make my own Top Ten, no problem. I’m a fan of power pop anyway but there’s a fragility to that record which really works for me. RIP Alex.

  22. 197

    The Nick Cave method-acting arc has been a bit like the Michael Caine or Jack fkn Nicholson arc, though, hasn’t it — a once-startling bit of observation and originality trotted out ten billion times too often. (Waits I have more time for, since he introduced at least one significant swerve into his game…)

  23. 198
    wichita lineman on 18 Mar 2010 #

    Re 197: Yes, I’ve got so used to his schtick that I’d almost forgotten how much I used to play Release The Bats in 1981. Haven’t heard it in ages but I imagine it would still bring me to the verge of tears (something in the odd chords, can’t explain, feel all the better for not being able to explain).

  24. 199
    koganbot on 18 Mar 2010 #

    Mark – Lex is primarily a critic, not a journalist, even if his bread comes from the journalism. The journalist tries to sell you on the importance of what he’s covering; Lex wants to grab you ’cause it’s fascinating or awesome. Sometimes Lex will play the importance card – “why aren’t you discussing/voting for a towering figure and crucial influence like Mariah rather than this indie shit/old shit?” or some such – but that’s really because he has something to say about Mariah qua Mariah, not simply her importance, and he wants us to get it and be part of the conversation. (Obv journalism and criticism don’t have to be mutually exclusive, but they often are. And obv the critic should think about what makes things important, i.e., what makes them matter to people, but this isn’t the selling point it is in journalism, which, regarding cultural items, usually botches the mattering in favor “it’s important because it has an impact on important people, or important people are talking about it,” etc., the important people usually being someone other than the reader or writer.) I don’t see how you can possibly read what Lex has to say about Paris and Nicki and Trina and Electrik Red and think that he any less than you or I is digging into the why and the what of what we’re loving. I’d argue that he’d do it better if he delved more into the sort of history and sociology that you and I delve into, but then again I didn’t publish anything beyond the fanzine level until I was something like six years older than Lex is now, so he has time. (Nonetheless I’m offended that he’s never been drawn in by anything I’ve written about Dylan or the Stones. When Lex praised Paris for her shamelessness on one of Dave’s Paris threads, I immediately thought of Jagger singing “No excuses offered anyway” in “Let’s Spend The Night Together.”)

  25. 200
    koganbot on 18 Mar 2010 #

    As a writer I rise and flourish when I can get involved in a conversation, which often requires me to get people involved in my conversation. I need attention and I need prodding to help generate ideas and to find the words for the ideas I already think I have. But a brutal fact I have trouble adapting to is that sooner or later I’m always the only one in the room still talking, while to my mind the subject has been barely started. And, to mix my metaphors, alone in the room I’m left facing a desert, and I have to cross the desert alone if I’m to get anywhere; and then if the conversation is ever to resume, and not have to go back and reinvent its own wheels, it’ll be because people like me did solitary work. It’s not in my nature, but it’s necessary.

    So what I’m seeing in Lex is someone who is a genuine thinker and a genuine original who’s having trouble facing the fact that inevitably this throws him into isolation, from time to time.

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