Thursday, April 04, 2013

All aboard the handbasket - next stop: Hell

As if a jittery world needed any further disquiet – what with a fat kid in North Korea threatening to throw his new toys around  – the BBC has this week delivered the somewhat grim news that Coldplay’s A Rush Of Blood To The Head is the all-time favourite album of listeners to the UK's Radio 2.

I have nothing against the album myself. I even own a copy. What depresses me, somewhat, is that it should be regarded as the album patrons of Radio 2 admire more than any other, along with Keane's Hopes & Fears (at 2), Duran Duran's Rio (3) and Dido's No Angel (5)..

I accept that Radio 2 has never been known for its edginess: in the era when Radio 1 was staffed by groovy youngsters Lee Travis and Simon Bates, Radio 2 was the broadcasting equivalent of your grandad's slippers - DJs like ageing 1950s crooner Jimmy Young and dashing former Jukebox Jury panelist Pete Murray, easing you into the afternoon with the Norrie Paramour Orchestra and the Mike Sammes Singers.

But today, the station represents a sizeable chunk of the British listening public. In January it announced record audience figure of 15.1 million listeners, ranks swollen in recent years by importing presenters like Jo Whiley (who presented the Top 100) and Stuart Maconie, and including Nirvana and Green Day on its playlists.

Being 45 years old and from London's middle class suburbs, I'm probably smack-bang in the middle of Radio 2's desired demographic (if I still lived in the UK, of course). But it pains me to think that my peers would prefer James Blunt's Back To Bedlam, Dire Straits' Brothers In Arms, and ABBA's Arrival over albums lower down the chart like Elton John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and Marvin Gaye's What's Going On, or albums which don't even appear on the list, like London's Calling, New Boots and Panties, Never Mind The Bollocks and Exile On Main Street.

Is British mainstream music taste so unadventurous? It doesn't surprise me to see Coldplay topping this chart. Theirs is a brand of safe, predictable stadium rock, with clever little hooks to go 'woah-oh' to, a social conscience and enough aversion to shaving within the band to get the duster up of older folk who believe The Beatles lost it when they grew their hair.

A Rush Of Blood To The Head, released after 9/11 and influenced by the terror attacks and their aftermath, is actually quite a good album, don't get me wrong. ClocksThe Scientist and God Put A Smile Upon Your Face are perfectly decent songs. Live they are very competent (I last saw them in Arnhem on the day of the July 7 bombings in London, which provided an odd atmosphere to the show).

But, coming back to the central argument here, responsible for the best album? And should it come higher in the Top 10 (well, let's make it the Top 12 so I can include Led Zeppelin IV) than Dark Side Of The Moon and U2's The Joshua Tree and even Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band? And should Pepper have been chosen over Abbey Road or The White Album as the pick of The Beatles albums?

OK, so it's a matter of taste. But, then, the question is begged as to how Celine Dion and Shania Twain ended up on a list of the Top 100 albums released over the last 50 or 60 years. What was the application of taste there?

This chart is, obviously, a representative sample of listeners to one radio station, and was probably created to spark just such discourse as I've engaged in here ("The range of eras and genres exhibited by the chart is typical of the breadth of Radio 2 and its distinctive music policy," said Radio 2 head of music Jeff Smith), but I do worry for the musical health of a country that has lead the world - and continues to do so - in cutting edge music should be spending so much time listening to Adele's 21 or James Blunt's Back To Bedlam.


  1. Coldplay - A Rush Of Blood To The Head
  2. Keane - Hopes & Fears
  3. Duran Duran - Rio
  4. Pink Floyd - The Dark Side Of The Moon
  5. Dido - No Angel
  6. The Rolling Stones - Sticky Fingers
  7. Pet Shop Boys - Actually
  8. The Beatles - Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
  9. U2 - The Joshua Tree
  10. Queen - A Night At The Opera
  11. Fleetwood Mac - Rumours
  12. Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin IV
  13. The Police - Synchronicity
  14. Madonna - True Blue
  15. James Blunt - Back To Bedlam
  16. Bruce Springsteen - Born To Run
  17. Adele - 21
  18. Oasis - Definitely Maybe
  19. Simon & Garfunkel - Bridge Over Troubled Water
  20. George Michael - Faith
  21. Dire Straits - Brothers In Arms
  22. Electric Light Orchestra - Out Of The Blue
  23. Meat Loaf - Bat Out Of Hell
  24. Kate Bush - The Kick Inside
  25. Kylie Minogue - Fever
  26. Bob Dylan - Blonde on Blonde
  27. Michael Jackson - Thriller
  28. Paul Simon - Graceland
  29. Billy Joel - An Innocent Man
  30. Kinks - The Kinks
  31. Guns N Roses - Appetite For Destruction
  32. Pulp - Different Class
  33. The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds
  34. Stevie Wonder - Songs In The Key of Life
  35. Take That - Beautiful World
  36. Blondie - Parallel Lines
  37. ABBA - Arrival
  38. Prince - Purple Rain
  39. The Eagles - Hotel California
  40. The Human League - Dare
  41. Supertramp - Breakfast In America
  42. R.E.M. - Automatic For The People
  43. Wings - Band On The Run
  44. Amy Winehouse - Back To Black
  45. Joni Mitchell - Blue
  46. Bon Jovi - Slippery When Wet
  47. Elton John - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
  48. Robbie Williams - I've Been Expecting You
  49. Marvin Gaye - What's Going On
  50. Neil Young - Harvest
  51. Carole King - Tapestry
  52. The Verve - Urban Hymns
  53. Celine Dion - Falling Into You
  54. The Who - Tommy
  55. Donna Summer - Bad Girls
  56. George Harrison - All Things Must Pass
  57. Maroon 5 - Songs About Jane
  58. Bob Marley & The Wailers - Exodus
  59. Donald Fagen - The Nightfly
  60. Gerry Rafferty - City To City
  61. David Bowie - Let's Dance
  62. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - Déjà Vu
  63. Elvis Costello - My Aim Is True
  64. Roxy Music - Flesh and Blood
  65. Steely Dan - Can't Buy A Thrill
  66. Culture Club - Colour By Numbers
  67. David Gray - White Ladder
  68. Bryan Adams - Reckless
  69. Neil Diamond - Beautiful Noise
  70. Phil Collins - Face Value
  71. Genesis - Invisible Touch
  72. Barbra Streisand - Guilty
  73. Frank Sinatra - Songs for Swingin' Lovers!
  74. Simply Red - Stars
  75. Van Morrison - Avalon Sunset
  76. Rod Stewart - Atlantic Crossing
  77. Sade - Diamond Life
  78. Buddy Holly & The Crickets - The Chirping Crickets
  79. Whitney Houston - Whitney Houston
  80. Michael Bublé - Crazy Love
  81. Shania Twain - Come On Over
  82. Emeli Sandé - Our Version Of Events
  83. Elvis Presley - Moody Blue
  84. Bee Gees - Spirits Having Flown
  85. Eric Clapton - Slowhand
  86. The Pretenders - The Pretenders
  87. Eurythmics - Be Yourself Tonight
  88. The Carpenters - A Song For You
  89. John Lennon - Double Fantasy
  90. Don McLean - American Pie
  91. Chic - C'est Chic
  92. Aretha Franklin - Lady Soul
  93. Daryl Hall & John Oates - Private Eyes
  94. Earth, Wind & Fire - I Am
  95. The Doobie Brothers - Minute by Minute
  96. Lionel Richie - Can't Slow Down
  97. Diana Ross - Diana
  98. Paul McCartney - Pipes Of Peace
  99. Dionne Warwick - Heartbreaker
  100. Cee Lo Green - The Lady Killer

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