I have some thoughts about Rolling Stone magazine’s recently updated “500 Greatest Albums of All Time.”
But I should acknowledge the dubiousness of the entire project. It doesn’t matter. Any attempt to create a canon of rock ‘n’ roll is itself an anti-democratic and therefore un-rock ‘n’ roll thing to do. Caring about anyone’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time is like caring about who is or isn’t in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: It’s a very square and nerdy thing to do.
That said, it’s often fun to argue about things that mean nothing. That’s why we like sports. There are pleasures available to the nerd that normal, well-adjusted people will never know. Our only purpose here is to have a little fun. That is the spirit in which this exploration is intended. And that’s rock ‘n’ roll to me.
Music isn’t a competition. The desire to rank, to organize art into some sort of hierarchical structure, better serves the interests of marketers than it does anyone pursuing pleasure or edification through music. Because music exists apart from language, because, like love and God, it works on us in visceral and irrational ways, no verbal vocabulary is sufficient to describe it.
While that doesn’t mean — as some have suggested — that writing about music is futile, it does mean that anyone who means to write about music honestly must take notice of its surrounding mysteries. Why does the air shudder in a certain way for