What are we doing here?

You are about to enter The 143.

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Some history. In the first half of 2013, I decided to build a playlist for my iPod consisting of only the very best songs ever committed to vinyl, disc, tape or the ether. According to me. I made some rules first, because without rules, you have anarchy, and because I err towards the caricature of the male gender (with no disrespect to any of the other genders or combinations thereof). Rule #1: no artist would be allowed more than one song, unless they recorded under another name, or with another artist (thus, the Supremes and solo Diana Ross are counted as two artists; likewise, Carter USM and the solo Jim Bob; and so on). This way, I would be forced to subjectively, personally select only the very pinnacle of any chosen artist’s repertoire before entering into the hallowed halls of The 143.

I originally intended to create a playlist of 50. Bearing in mind I only had the 11,988 songs already uploaded to and stored in my digital library to choose from at that moment (it’s 17,697 today, inconveniently), I was still amazed how quickly I flew past the 50 mark, and then the 75 mark, and then the 100 mark. I stopped when I had gathered every vital song by every vital artist in my library, and I found that I had 143. These were The 143. But it didn’t end there. I have been honing 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, or falls behind in afore-judged vitality, it is removed, and replaced. The 143 was fluid. Or at least, it was until I hit “publish” on an individual blog entry. Then it was gospel.

This blog, then, has been my quest ever since, and it ended when I reached 143 yesterday, with Rattlesnakes by Lloyd Cole and the Commotions. The playlist is thus complete in word and deed. Each entry is logged here, and to varying degrees of obsessiveness, described. I am a writer. I’ve been writing about music since the electric typewriter, sometimes for money, sometimes – as here – for pure pleasure.

In a perfect world, each of the 143 entries will inspire rapture or enmity, and a dialogue will begin below the line, or on Twitter. These choices are by their nature personal. (In one of the more surreal passages of my life, Richard Fairbrass of Right Said Fred blocked me on Twitter because he felt it arrogant of me to choose my 143 favourite songs.) These choices are mine. I’m hoping our tastes will cross over more than once. There is no chiselling into tablets of stone here. If The 143 generates a few happy memories, and a couple of trips to Spotify or Deezer, then none of the time and effort and love will have been wasted.

That’s what we’re doing here.

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

The more logical soul will also find The 143 divided up into alphabetical and chronological order.

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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

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  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?

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  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.

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    • I have started one 🙂 Here is the link.

      I am really loving this blog & looking forward to seeing what else there is .It has made me go back & listen to some songs again through new eyes (notably the EBTG track!) & I have also discovered the delights of Jim Bob! A Humpty Dumpty Thing is one hell of an album that I don’t think I would have heard otherwise!

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    • 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.

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  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.

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    • 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.)

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    • 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.

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    • 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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