For die-hard music lovers, there’s nothing like compiling a Top 10 albums list to while away a few hours — or to get into heated debates with a few of your equally nerdy friends.
This popular pastime has taken on new heights — and maybe greater meaning — during the coronavirus quarantine. One version of it, in particular, has become increasingly popular as a welcome distraction in recent weeks, to the point where many of us aren’t seeing much else on our Facebook feeds:
“I have been nominated by [insert friend’s name here] and given the task to choose 10 albums that greatly influenced my taste in music,” goes the post. “One album per day for 10 consecutive days. No explanations, no reviews, just album covers.”
In what amounts to a Facebook version of a chain letter, participants then post one record every day and tag another of their friends each time to follow the same challenge. And so on.
The results have sometimes been surprising (i.e., “I didn’t know you were old enough to be a Leo Sayer fan”), aggravating (“How could you possibly think ‘The Black Album’ is one of Metallica’s better ones?!”), insightful (“That Danzig record maybe explains your anger management issues”) and touching (“I love you more for loving Anita Baker”).
Twin Cities music scenesters who’ve participated in Facebook’s “10 albums” challenge have found it to be just that: a genuine challenge.
“I was asked to do an ‘essential’ 10, and that’s extremely difficult,” said Christy Costello, local rock musician with Butcher’s Union and the Von Bondies, bar booker at Dusty’s and a gigging DJ.
“I’m thinking back at the different points in my life and what music was transforming me then, and if it still reaches me the same way now.”
With her list still coming together at this writing, Costello thinks she’s going to keep naming albums past the allotted 10, if only for the much-needed fun of it: “ ‘No parents, no rules’ when you’re enjoying something in a quarantine,” she quipped.
Asked why he participated, Mambo’s Combo and Greazy Meal singer Julius Collins admitted, “I never do the Facebook challenges. But I am indeed bored.”
Collins compiled one of the more surprising and varied lists out there, including everything from R&B pioneers Rufus’ “Rags to Rufus” to folk duo the Indigo Girls’ self-titled 1989 album and jazz-fusion band Weather Report’s “Heavy Weather.”
Some participants make a point of choosing less obvious picks to tell a little more about themselves, since naming “Thriller,” “Sgt. Pepper’s” and “Nevermind” doesn’t really reveal unique tastes.
Veteran record-store operator Ryan Cameron of Let It Be Records could have gone way more obscure than most participants with his picks, like the lesser-sung Ornette Coleman LP on his list (“Dancing in Your Head”). But he also chose “Meet the Beatles.”
“I pretty much had to,” said Cameron, who now operates primarily as an online seller. “Not only did I pick a Beatles name for my store, but my musical exploration as a kid pretty much started with the Beatles.”
Cameron’s idea to make his list more focused — and thus easier to compile — was to “mostly stick with albums that were big in my youth.”
“Otherwise, 10 is clearly way too few a number for folks like us to name our essential albums,” he said, pointing to his brother-in-law’s own list as one he was particularly interested in seeing.
“We’ve talked music a lot, but I didn’t really know a lot of his earlier influences. It’s a good way to get to know a little more about people.”
Costello joked that sometimes she has found out things about people she didn’t really want to know, based on their picks in the challenge: “Every once in a while I’m taken by surprise. You know: ‘I thought we were friends! Sheesh!’ ”
More often, though, the Facebook exercise has helped re-spark her passion for music while she’s sidelined from live gigs.
“It’s inspired me to look up records I haven’t for a while,” she said. “I’ve found some treasure along the way.”
Here are samples from Facebook’s “10 albums” lists from around the Twin Cities:
Christy Costello: Public Enemy, “Fear of a Black Planet”; Dr. John, “Gris Gris”; Chrome, “Alien Soundtracks”; Willie Nelson, “The Longhorn Jamboree Presents.”
Julius Collins: Peabo Bryson, “Reaching for the Sky”; Rufus, “Rags to Rufus”; Michael Franks, “The Art of Tea & Sleeping Gypsy”; Weather Report, “Heavy Weather”; the Indigo Girls, “The Indigo Girls.”
Ryan Cameron: The Stooges, “The Stooges”; Patti Smith, “Horses”; Ornette Coleman, “Dancing in Your Head”; Spacemen 3, “The Perfect Prescription”; Nick Drake, “Five Leaves Left”; Big Star, “#1 Record”; Beatles, “Meet the Beatles.”