L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper of record, has apparently released a list of their Top Ten Rock Albums. We're saying apparently because most links to this story lead back to articles in the British press reporting this. The Osservatore's website--a bizarre Umberto-Eco-worthy labyrinth laid out, we kid you not, on pretend parchment--does not seem to have a link to the actual story.
Here's the alleged Top Ten:
10. Supernatural, Carlos Santana
9. (What's The Story) Morning Glory, Oasis
8. Achtung Baby, U2
7. Graceland, Paul Simon
6. Thriller, Michael Jackson
5. The Nightfly, Donald Fagen
4. Rumours, Fleetwood Mac
3. The Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd
2. If I Could Only Remember My Name, David Crosby
1. Revolver, The Beatles
(Note to lazy journalists: This is not "The Pope's Top 10" or Catholic doctrine of any kind--it's just a random list by some overworked, underpaid, MOJO-subscribing middle-aged Italian journalists for the Vatican mouthpiece newspaper. Be serious--can you really imagine Ratzinger chilling to the stoney jams of Crosby, half of the Jefferson Airplane and assorted Grateful Deads? We suspect the Pope's actual Top 10 includes "Lili Marlene," something macabre by Bach, the Imperial March from "Star Wars," and a little Heino for when he feels nostalgic for the heimat.)
From the Guardian's writeup of this "news" item:
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The paper justified itself thus: "A little handbook of musical resistance could be useful during this time of the year in which, in addition to having put up with the rigours of winter, we have to endure a rising tide of musical festivals." Ah, yes, how frustrating it must be for the pope to look at his diary and realise that Glastonbury's not too far around the corner. "Dear Lord and Father, show me the way - Latitude or Bestival?"
It turns out that Satan doesn't have all the best tunes after all, because it's actually rather a good list: nothing outrageously shit, nothing too fleeting and no ghastly attempts to be down with the kids.
I own all but one of the albums on the list. And strangely, that doesn't trouble me. Unlike when David Cameron revealed that The Queen is Dead is his favourite album, and I did a cry. I'm developing a fondness for L'Osservatore Romano on the back of this. They've overlooked some pretty frownonable stuff that the artists involved have done. Revolver is one of the Beatles' trippiest albums, there's all sorts of ungodly stuff on Thriller (though it's not a patch on Off the Wall), and if you made a family tree of intra-Fleetwood Mac dalliances Christine McVie would turn out to be her own grandmother.
But what makes me really happy is the presence on the list of If I Could Only Remember My Name by David Crosby. Apart from the fact that it's unexpected and a splendid album, Crosby has fathered children for a lesbian couple, written a song about being on an acid trip in Winchester Cathedral, and taken a heroic quantity of head-changey things (immortalised in one of the finest ever Simpsons jokes - Barney: David Crosby? You're my hero! David Crosby: Oh, you like my music? Barney: You're a musician?). Well done the Vatican, for being a bit liberal on something that doesn't really matter. I'm going to be optimistic and see it as a first step. As L'Osservatore Romano admitted, identifying the 10 best albums in the history of pop music was not "easy" and inevitably the choice might seem "partial". Next step, I feel, is making some other positive choices that might not seem easy - allowing people to use condoms, perhaps, or letting priests marry, or presenting a cosmology in which people aren't regarded as intrinsically evil. As anyone who's ever sat up late into the night deciding between Rocky Mountain High and Poems, Prayers and Promises over a bottle of whisky, compiling a top 10 albums list is significantly tougher than any of those choices.