I guess for me this is turning into The Year of The List! Earlier this year, inspired by a Writers Guild initiative, I catalogued a suggested collection of the Funniest Screenplays of All Time. Right around that time, inspired by the Fleetwood Mac reunion tour, I found myself thinking about musical recordings so beloved I had purchased them multiple times on replacement platforms. While the records stayed largely the same (yes, I will keep calling them records as long as I am listening to them), a series of innovations in consumer technology offered us relatively inexpensive access to personal libraries of vinyl, 8-track tape, cassette, reel-to-reel, DAT, CD, DVD, and MP3-like digital hard drive storage along the lines of iTunes. Here I am considering what I would call three-buy and above purchases for personal use, which of course live alongside AM & FM radio broadcast, satellite play, streaming services like Pandora and Spotify, and any number of less legitimate ways to file-share.
While I was pondering all that—and readying myself to attend Fleetwood Mac’s current reunion tour at the recently refurbished concert-only Fabulous Forum in Los Angeles (remembering I had attended in 1990 what I believed was the final performance of the farewell Fleetwood Mac Word Tour)—what should be playing in our living room but Rumours. Yep, at home in 5.1 Dolby Surround played an album so impossibly fantastic I had bought it at least five times with each subsequent technological improvement, including the remastered scratch tracks on the latest Expanded Edition, which chronicled the development of each song. I sat there listening again to this marvel, no regrets of any kind for the many dollars spent. I have extracted so much entertainment value from this record I would gladly purchase it again. And again.
Thus it occurred to me that Rumours was not alone, and that I was not alone in the three-buy, four-buy, and even five-buy serial record purchases. Rather than pencil out my own list, I went to my social network and asked friends where they had repeatedly dumped their dough buying the same thing over and over. Below you will see an unedited list of those records, some of which I also bought a bunch of times, others of which I have never heard but may sample now. Rather than allow this list to expire in the ephemeral Facebook news feed, I decided to recreate and share it here. I think it’s a cool list, one you should feel free to expand upon in broadening our spirit of sharing.
There is definitely a late Baby-Boomer Bias to these confessions of multiple repurchase, represented no doubt by my circle of social media friends, along with our age and taste. I think you will find the publishing dates stamped for the most part between the mid 1960s and the early 1980s, when the formative years of my contemporaries had disproportionate influence on our modest discretionary spending. Not surprisingly, in the “nifty fifty” albums reported here entirely unscientifically and in no particular order, multiple appearances are logged by the Beatles, Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones, and Elton John.
If you’re looking for any connective tissue in all these, I think you’ll need more than the music to draw a speculative conclusion. Here is my one linking observation to the extent that I recognize most of the titles: they are in one way or another albums, curated collections or song cycles of various sorts that weave into and around themselves. Much has been written about the demise of the album in this day of pop streaming shuffles. For a while when we were younger, there was a wild notion that a record album could be something of its own as a form of, dare I say it, art.
I’m not sure I have the intellectual fortitude to plow through the art manifesto, but let me just say that when I play Abbey Road I don’t skip tracks, I play it through beginning to end. Okay, on The White Album I do skip “Revolution 9” most of the time, you got me there. But Dark Side is beginning to end, Hotel California is beginning to end, and Rumours is beginning to end. Remember, when these were vinyl, that meant getting up and switching to the flip side—yes, getting up physically to hear the rest!
There is a “something of substance” in these picks that a lot of us find missing in contemporary LP equivalents that don’t even try to compose, let alone somehow unite, a dozen or more flowing songs. I think that’s why a lot of us miss the days of AOR—album oriented rock—and why we’re willing to spend anew when landmark records with recurring motifs and thematic resonance repeatedly make their way back to the virtual shelves. These albums age well, a bit like fine wine, and seldom seem dated. Absent historical and social context, most of these carefully crafted works could just as well have been recorded today and simultaneously sound modern and classic. They were expertly written, performed, and engineered with creative courage that resulted in textured, lasting impact. Good is good, great is great, and unforgettable is, well, just what the word says.
So here is a compilation of fifty records my friends found so remarkable they bought them on three, four, or even more platforms (not to mention extended or remastered versions), and will probably continue to play until their last days on the planet in whatever form they may become available:
1) Abbey Road by The Beatles
2) Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles
3) The Beatles (The White Album) by The Beatles
4) McCartney by Paul McCartney
5) Band on the Run by Paul McCartney & Wings
6) All Things Must Pass by George Harrison
7) Imagine by John Lennon
8) Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd
9) The Wall by Pink Floyd
10) Exile on Main Street by The Rolling Stones
11) Let It Bleed by The Rolling Stones
12) Madman Across the Water by Elton John
13) Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John
14) Hotel California by Eagles
15) Quadrophenia by The Who
16) Songs in the Key of Life by Stevie Wonder
17) Blonde on Blonde by Bob Dylan
18) Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen
19) What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye
20) London Calling by The Clash
21) The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars by David Bowie
22) The Joshua Tree by U2
23) Led Zeppelin II by Led Zeppelin
24) Lady Soul by Aretha Franklin
25) Songs of Love and Hate by Leonard Cohen
26) Silk Degrees by Boz Scaggs
27) The Point by Harry Nilsson
28) After the Gold Rush by Neil Young
29) John Barleycorn Must Die by Traffic
30) Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show by Dr. Hook
31) Running on Empty by Jackson Browne
32) Cheap Trick at Budokan by Cheap Trick
33) Black Sabbath by Black Sabbath
34) Candide by Leonard Bernstein
35) The Lady and the Unicorn by John Renbourn
36) Nights in the Gardens of Spain by Manuel de Falla
37) The Remains of Tom Lehrer by Tom Lehrer
38) The Doors by The Doors
39) Tapestry by Carole King
40) Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
41) Berlin by Lou Reed
42) Wheels of Fire by Cream
43) 21 by Adele
44) Crime of the Century by Supertramp
45) Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon & Garfunkel
46) Graceland by Paul Simon
47) Dreamboat Annie by Heart
48) Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys
49) Something/Anything? by Todd Rundgren
50) Rumours by Fleetwood Mac
Which “greatest albums of all time” did we miss? Probably a lot. Add your favorites in the comments below and if there is anything you discover new in the suggestions provided, let us know what it sounds like no matter the player you choose as a conduit.