What are we doing here?

You are about to enter The 143.


In the first half of 2013, I decided to make a playlist for my proprietory MP3 player consisting only of the very best songs ever committed to vinyl, disc, tape or the ether. I made some rules for myself, because without rules, you have anarchy, and because I am a man. No artist would be allowed more than one song, unless they recorded under another name, or with another artist (thus, the Wu Tang Clan are allowed one, and Ghostface Killah is allowed one; the Supremes, and Diana Ross; Blur, and The Good, The Bad & The Queen; and so on). This way, I would be forced to select only the very pinnacle of any chosen artist’s repertoire to enter the hallowed halls of The 143.

I intended to create a playlist of 50. Bearing in mind I only had the 11,988 songs already uploaded to and stored in my proprietory digital library to choose from, I was still amazed how quickly I flew by the 50 mark, and then the 100 mark. I stopped when I had gathered every vital song in my library, and I had 143. These were The 143. I have been playing this playlist in my ears ever since, shuffling it randomly, and constantly updating it, so that if a song fails to match my memory or it, it is removed, and replaced. The 143 is fluid.

This blog is an attempt to cement that playlist. Each entry will be logged here, and to varying degrees, described. I am a writer. I’ve been writing about music since the electric typewriter, sometimes for money, so it should not be beyond my descriptive powers. (That said, writing about music is like dancing about architecture, so we’re all on a hiding to nothing before we start.)

In a perfect world, each entry will inspire rapture or enmity, and a dialogue will begin. These choices are by their nature personal. They are mine. I’m hoping our tastes will cross over more than once. There is no carving into tablets of stone here. If it generates a few happy memories, then none of it will be wasted.

Come on, as those cartoon hippos on the early 21st century yogurt advert used to implore, dive in.

You will find an ever-growing list of entries, with clickable links, right here.

You will also find The 143 divided up into alphabetical and chronological order.

22 thoughts on “What are we doing here?

  1. Hi. Looking forward to seeing the 143 uncovered – the best track by around 143 artists in your mp3 collection. An excellent opportunity to reminisce (see my own Things In My Room).

    Other than the obvious hyperbole of the title, as a bloke I question the one track per artist policy (while agreeing it makes the whole process possible). It is too leveling – the whole Bowie output becomes equivalent to a (perhaps) one or two album wonder who puts together a great track – as a for instance Pavlov’s Dog or Fischer Z (a couple that come to mind).

    Anyway – I will follow with interest especially to see what the decade + difference in age draws out

  2. Actually, a better example would be Propaganda – definitely would include something from them, yet they really only have one album (plus remix and anniversary edition) then it was really downhill and later albums weren’t by them. But is there album equal to Bowie’s whole output?

  3. Looking forward to the list, Andrew – as only you know how.
    So far I only own 2 of your selection. Can’t wait to see which Rush track you include (!)
    Loving the slab-serif font style of these pages too.

    • Much appreciated. I’ve had almost 3,000 visits to the blog today, which is most unusual. Thanks for the post.

    • Although I’m not registered so I can’t comment on MetaFilter, I’ve found most of those commenting thus far to have totally understood the spirit of the project – chiefly, that’s it’s subjective, personal, never intended to prescribe or influence or score points. But you have to love this one, from Kirth Gerson:

      “There’s no way Wild Horses or Marrakesh Express or Tell Me That it Isn’t True were unheard or not paid attention to, let alone being ‘very best songs ever.’ None of them are even the best song by those artists in that period, or even close to it. I honestly think this list’s failure goes beyond being different from my tastes and lurches way over into no discernible taste at all.”

      Eek, my list is a “failure”. I thought it was a bit of fun. It’s incredible to me that anyone could be so certain of their own taste as to accuse someone else of having “no discernible taste”, or to state with such conviction, “none of them are the best song by those artists in that period”. I had no idea the appreciation of music had a right and wrong.

  4. Hey Andrew,

    I also discovered your blog via the recent Metafilter thread. I’ve only scratched the surface but I’ve enjoyed reading it immensely! You’ve inspired me to rediscover some of my “forgotten” music this weekend, so thanks for that.

    By the way, I was somewhat surprised to see you choose “One Hundred Years” from Pornography. Didn’t you mean to choose “Siamese Twins”? Or indeed any other track? Haha.

    • Thanks for visiting, Alan. The Metafilter effect was astounding. I had almost 4,000 hits yesterday as a result, although you’re the first to comment. I like the irony of your Pornography remark! (It didn’t take long on the Metafilter comment for someone to moan that it can’t be the best 143 songs “of all time” because it only takes in 65 years of English-speaking music! Way to miss the point. There’s some Kraftwerk coming, by the way.)

    • Thanks. What I love about it is that it wasn’t even really “a plug”, as I get no money for doing the blog, or if 1,000 new people read it today as a result. But every visitor pleases me.

    • I like your rules, and the way one song leads to the next is organic. (I am often inspired to write about a song after writing about another one, although of course it has to already be on the list!)

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