May 10th | Posted by: NMJ
An unashamedly subjective review of the most extraordinary music tracks from each year since 1912. Posted one by one daily.
Over the last 30 years or so I’ve been compiling a collection of what I regard as the absolutely best music from each year since the start of commercial recording. This now amounts to around 4000 tracks dating from 1912 to the present. That’s an average of about 40 from each year. There are some years with far less depth – come on down 1962 and, lurking in the shadows, 1985. And there are some with so much it’s a little difficult to know exactly where to draw the line – 1977 of course and a little more surprisingly perhaps, 1928 and 1930 being prime examples.
Of course there is an almost infinite amount of recorded music now available and try as I might I haven’t listened to it all (yet) so the search for another elusive gem is never ending and no year’s selections will ever be complete. And anyway there are always beautiful tracks from the current year to be added to the list. So whilst this blog is a gradual reveal of the entire collection – posting one track every weekday and occasionally at weekends too – the collection itself keeps growing.
The tracks are posted in no particular order but once posted they are filed in the year vault of their release.
Every track is (in my opinion) a worthy contender to be included in the best of that year. However ‘best’ is a tricky concept. I believe that in music ‘best’ can only be defined in terms of totally subjective personal judgment and taste. The whole collection therefore is quite unashamedly based on my subjective personal taste. So from now on I will drop the ‘in my view’ and switch to highly opinionated personal comment.
While the tracks come from a very wide range of genres, musical traditions and countries there is a common link: each and every track, whether well known or obscure, relatively new or ancient is a wonderful piece of expression that not only stimulates the senses more than is fair to expect 3 minutes of sound to be able to do, but does so as well now as when first recorded.
Nevertheless the selections bear little relationship to the ‘Charts’ or what sold or what was or is fashionable now or at time of release. I’m not too worried about that because I seem to have Professor Stephen Hawking and a whole raft of very clever scientists on my side. One of the current theories about the structure of the universe is called string theory. Admittedly I’m no expert but if I understand it correctly the theory suggests something like…the universe is actually made up of an infinite array of strings, each string representing a sequence of events from Big Bang to now and beyond. Each string is different as it contains a different sequence of events. All of these strings exist – all at the same time – all marching forward in time in parallel. There are infinite numbers of strings and there are many you’s because you are an event on many strings. And you just didn’t occur on another infinite number. More ‘likely’ events, by definition, occur on more strings than less ‘likely’ events. But, and here’s the key point, according to the scientists it’s the less common strings that tell us most about the universe – the strings at the edge of the probability spectrum.
I’m not sure Professor Hawking intended it this way but string theory therefore seems to prove what I’ve always believed – that music that sells in large quantities tells you very little about what’s really going on. It’s the stuff that never got near the Charts, the stuff at the edge of the probability spectrum that really matters.
So I take great pleasure in inviting you to sit back and imagine you are another version of you enjoying life on another string, where the Charts never caught on, Captain Beefheart was elected President, John Peel is still alive and Prime Minister till 10pm when he still does 2 hours on the radio and Dave Lee Travis and Simon Bates had very successful careers as plumbers. Welcome to abarrelofnails.com
abarrelofnails is NigelMichaelJones
Some (fairly arbitrary) abarrelofnails guiding principles and rules of engagement:
1. There’s no classical music included – that’s another project I haven’t got around to yet. However the boundaries between classical and non classical are not distinct so forgive me if I stray a little.
2. I’ve only allowed an individual artist or particular group a maximum of 2 tracks in any one year. This is not always easy to enforce because: a. on the one hand some artists have produced masses of outstanding stuff in a single year (so I’ve been harsh here), b. on the other, particularly in the era of remixes it’s often quite difficult to determine who exactly should be given credit on some tracks (so here I’ve allowed multiple tracks if the credits are or should be significantly different), and on the…er…third hand, some artists crop up in a number of disguises and groups these days all at the same time (so here I’ve allowed multiple tracks when I’ve felt that the groups or collections of musicians were sufficiently distinct).
3. Tracks are usually filed in the Vault in the year they were released. There are exceptions: a. very old tracks tend to be filed in the year they were recorded and b. anything that has been released for the first time many years after it was recorded has been filed in the year of recording rather than release.
4. In addition to the yearly vaults there are other fairly random vaults, e.g. The Art Of The Cover Version. The criterion for entry into these is similar to the yearly vaults – the best tracks I’ve ever found that fit the definition of the Vault. When a track is filed in one of these vaults it will also be found in its year vault.
5. The site contains a built-in player so you can listen to the tracks. The player DOES NOT ALLOW download. I’ve included links to retail sites where you can purchase CDs or downloads of the tracks featured.
6. That’s enough rules for one day