lessons from going through the 500 greatest albums of all time

by anna issacson

In 2012, Rolling Stones Magazine put out a list of the 500 Greatest Albums of all time according to producers, industry executives, journalists and music experts.  This year I got really gung ho about New Year’s Resolutions, google doc and everything, and I decided one of my top priorities is listening through this entire list.  It’s mid march of this new year and I’m currently on album 43; Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon.  

Everyone can stop yelling, I know I’m very behind, but I’ll catch up I swear it.  Like anything, you can choose to really dig into this process; learn the history behind the music, re-listen to everything, etc.  To each his own, but I highly recommend this path. The history behind everything is fascinating and I’ve left a piece of my heart in each album I’ve come across.  So far, the things I’ve learned through this journey are numerous, but I’ve highlighted a few important lessons that I’d like to pass along.


1. Sir James Paul McCartney is the coolest Beatle

source: sierra gentlemen on flickr

source: sierra gentlemen on flickr

    ...and anyone who says their favorite Beatle is Ringo Starr or George Harrison is most likely making an attempt to root for the underdog and in this situation shouldn’t be trusted.  Listen to “Why Don’t We Just Do It In The Road?” and tell me I’m wrong. Paul puts his heart and soul into every single note he sings. As Paul sings, you fall under the illusion that he’s talking directly to you, enticing you to fall in love with him and making you believe that he’s already there.  The relationship between his powerful voice and the lyrics he’s singing are mystifying. Each word he wrote in “Here, There, and Everywhere” tugs at an individual heartstring. His voice is such a natural extension of his spirit that when you think he can’t make your heart pound any harder, he strides into that effortless falsetto and before you know it your panties have dropped with such a force there’s a hole in the floor you’re standing on.  Queen Elizabeth the Second must also be a fellow victim to her feminine wiles, seeing as she knighted the man for his gift to music in 1997.


2. If you think you know a band based off one song, you probably don’t.

source: jazzinphoto.wordpress.com

source: jazzinphoto.wordpress.com

This principle became super apparent to me listening to to The Clash’s, London Calling.  I had heard the title track of this album in an Amanda Bynes classic What A Girl Wants.  The infamous “London Calling” track that has been used too many times by lazy movie makers who want to signal the geographic location of the film in the most obvious way, has been deemed in my head ever since as a cheesy European theme.  Because of this, I sort of wrote off the band altogether, thinking it was another Village People situation, a more aesthetically pleasing one-hit-wonder. But listening through the entirety of this record showed me how wrong I was. It’s not that the rest of the album sounds much differently than “London Calling”, it’s more so that it made me appreciate just how good that song truly is.  The Clash has a sound that is rough and deliberate but in the most comfortable and pleasing way possible. Specifically the song, “Rudie Can’t Fail” is what I’ve had on repeat ever since the first listen. Rudie is slang for “rude boy” which is late 60’s-70’s speak for urban kid. There’s a line in the song that says, “I went to the market to realize my soul cause what I need I just don’t have.  First they curse and they press me til I hurt [but] Rudie can’t fail.” This song is a stand to a traditional way of living monotonously. Get married, get a job, don’t drink brew for breakfast; and how robotic and mindless it can be. He’s onto something. If you haven’t done yourself the kindness of listening through the album yet, do yourself a favor and stop reading this, cancel any near future plans, remove yourself from any distraction, and listen.  Face melts or your money back.


3. David Bowie is worth all the hype and more.

source: Masayoshi Sukita

source: Masayoshi Sukita

I know we’ve all seen the legendary blue lightning bolt painted across faces for a myriad of reasons; costume, memoriam, good taste.  But that is but a tiny part of the magic of Bowie. David Bowie's album, “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars” opens with a song called, “Five Years”.  This song tells about how the earth is ending in five years and opens by giving a word picture of what it will look like. Bowie writes with absolute fearlessness. In this four minute song he nods to racism, police brutality, consumerism, discrimination against homosexuality and a general lack of awareness found in humanity.  The way that he sings the line “Five Years” at the end of the song is with such urgency. Bowie was not simply a musician, he was an activist. He is worth all the hype. And obviously if you haven’t heard, “Space Oddity” you need to do that immediately. This song will never be over-played or overrated.


Thank you for listening to me rant about the music that’s giving me heart palpitations.  I hope you all decide to dedicate some serious time to this life-altering endeavor and by doing so become better people, I know I have.



author, anna issacson

Anna was born and raised in Kansas City and has spent the last two years attending school in Santa Barbara, California. She recently moved to Fayetteville and is studying ceramics at the University of Arkansas. Anna really likes the idea of minimalism but has resolved that this principle will most likely not be a part of her life because of her love for unnecessary clothing. She is an avid listener of the classics, has an unrelenting crush on Paul McCartney (still), and likes to start off her day listening to Foxey Lady by Jimi Hendrix. Her role models include Leslie Feist, June Carter Cash, Brene Brown, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.


graphics, sallie stout

Sallie is from small-town Natchez, Mississippi. At 23 her spirit-monkey-self-moved to San Franciso to dabble in anything that challenged her creatively. She finished school with a major in Graphics and Journalism from The University of Mississippi. She's currently working with an interior designer aiding visual decision making on fabrics, textures, and values within a space. In Sallie's spare time, she enjoys loading up on caffeine, cranking up anything from Kings of Leon to Patty Griffin, and working on her fashion design portfolio.

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