Thanks for the replies, rick957 and Will! I'm pleased that you judged it interesting.
P.S. Say Spel, didn't mean to hijack your thread, I'll take my post down if you want, no biggie.
Quite the contrary -- I appreciate such thoughtful replies! Thank you, too, for the kind words directed toward me myself. I won't be able to offer much in the way of insight, I'm afraid, but I would like to say that you do bring up several good points. Many of the list's selections do give the impression that the list itself was compiled by an individual rather than by, say, a panel analyzing the results of a dozen focus groups. The inclusion of The Nightfly
and If I Could Only Remember My Name
and the exclusion of what most critics would consider more notable titles is odd. I mean, yeah, I do know who Donald Fagen and David Crosby are, but I don't think that I've ever listened to either album and I don't recall anybody ever putting either of them on a "best of" list before.
I suspect that it was indeed just a guy or a small group informally jotting down their preferences. L'Osservatore Romano
doesn't have a huge staff, if I'm not mistaken, and obviously it doesn't really have any cred in the music world to lose by making a Bizarro list. Someone probably just decided to write a list revolving around great albums and thought, Yeah, that's a good one! I'll put that one on there!
At the very least, I doubt that there was any contribution or interference from the Holy See -- I mean, I doubt that the College of Cardinals got together and cast their votes: "Let's see... eligo in summum album
... er... Abbey Road
, I guess."
(And one of the paper's dual mottoes is
.")Then again... well, at the risk of descending into cynicism, maybe that's what they wanted people to think: Maybe they wanted the appearance of idiosyncrasy to prevent the list from taking on the mechanical feel common to "best of" and "worst of" lists. Maybe they came up with a typical top-ten list and tweaked it, tweaked it, tweaked it until it seemed human rather than homogenized. "O.K., I think that we should throw out Pet Sounds and Highway 61 Revisited and brainstorm on a couple of lesser-known albums to replace them with. Oh, and let's swap Achtung Baby for The Joshua Tree for a twist. All in favor?"
(Actually, I imagine that most modern "best of" and "worst of" lists do incorporate a few controversial inclusions and omissions exactly to encourage debate and thus press.)
Oh, and I also found Thriller
to be a curious choice given the Church's ongoing ethical and legal troubles. On the other hand, Will's absolutely right: It is both a popular and a critically-acclaimed album. I mean, it shows up at #20 on Rolling Stone
's "500 Greatest Albums of All Time"
; on that list it beats Led Zeppelin
, Hotel California
, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
(*ahem*), The Joshua Tree
itself, and a bunch of other biggies. Maybe somebody suggested it and they just figured, "Well, not too many people are going to complain if we put it on, but if we leave it off, some people might see that as an insinuation of guilt." Or maybe it didn't even occur to them...
One question that struck me: Why
create the list in the first place? Like most "best of" lists, it's as likely to annoy people as it is to persuade them -- maybe even more so. Why risk alienating people over what seems pretty irrelevant to the Church? I mean, is any Catholic going to say, "Well, I was thinking of abandoning Catholicism, but man, that was a great
list!"? Is any non-Catholic going to say, "Wait -- I
-- the Vatican
-- lead me to the freakin' body and the blood!"? I think that it's more probable that some nutzoid would quit the Church because David Crosby helped Melissa Etheridge and Julie Cypher have kids.
The answer, I guess, is pretty straightforward. It's my understanding that on the orders of the pope himself* L'Osservatore Romano
has recently been extending an olive branch to the norms: They've favorably reviewed popular movies, including that suspicious Harry Potter
series; they've written positively of Barack Obama's administration; they've come up with this "top ten" list. I sense that they're just trying to engage with ordinary people on their own terms. Historically, of course, the Vatican's leaned toward I shall now condescend so that we may discourse!
instead of Hey, let's talk!
. When they produce a "semi-serious" list of the best rock albums, therefore, it seems to me that they're simply trying to demonstrate that, though they may be God's Earthly representatives, they're also human. And if it contains some weirdness, that's cool -- after all, actual people are
Maybe it's sincere; maybe it's pragmatic; most likely it's some of both. Can it hurt to put away the vinegar and take out the honey? Hey, the Vatican wouldn't be the only ones doing it.
Whether the above idea is right or not, the list was fairly well-received, with most people commending the selections in general. Heck, even The Guardian offered favorable words on it
; I'd call that a success. Opinions on the albums themselves seem the same.
With regard to whether the pope himself listens to any or all of these albums... oh, goodness, I don't know.He plays the piano
and he loves classical music, so it's strange (for me, anyhow) to imagine him groovin' to "She Said She Said." Then again, I love classical music, too, so whatever.As for whether God grooves to "She Said She Said"... well, somehow that isn't particularly strange for me to imagine.
Incidentally, I'm really sorry to hear that you feel dirty knowing that the pope might have heard two of your favorite albums. It sounds as though he might have listened to your albums liberally; he might even have strapped you into his Popemobile and cranked 'em WAY UP. I recommend Dr. Bronner's
.Seriously, I wouldn't worry too much if the pope does indeed like the albums mentioned -- hey, they are superb!
Oh, and I'm inclined to think that Pope John XXIII was more of a James Brown kind of guy.
Thanks again for everything, guys!Spel* According to the paper's present editor, Giovanni Maria Vian: "When I took over the paper, the pope wrote me a letter in which he said that L'Osservatore had to be present in the cultural debate."
Oh, and on Michael Jackson: "When we publish an article on Michael Jackson and say that he was an important phenomenon, that does not mean the pope is giving him his blessing."