I’ve written a guest post for the spiffing “Review 2005” series over at Feeling Listless, which has been running all month. Like all the other contributors, my brief was to pick a moment from the year when I finally did something I had always wanted to do.
Some have used this as an opportunity to talk, movingly, about parenthood, personal development, or the achievement of a long-held professional ambition.
As for me, I’ve just blathered on about making lists. On a site called, um, Feeling Listless. How marvellously conceptually dissonant.
Ever since that doleful Christmas Day in my mid-teens when I found that I could carry all of my presents up to my room in one armful, the highlight of the holiday season has been the production, distribution and exchange of the hallowed Best Of The Year lists.
Although these vary in number and length from year to year according to whim, two lists are always compiled without fail: Singles Of The Year (minimum of 40) and Albums Of The Year (minimum of 20). Other supplementary lists might include gigs, films, books, cultural events, memorable experiences – and even, for a few giddy “You ARE a swan!” years in the late 1980s and early 1990s, best shags. Basic rule of thumb: if you can play it, look at it or (ahem) interact with it in other more personally specific ways, then it’s ripe for ranking.
More balanced minds than mine might well deplore this strange urge to reduce every precious experience in life into a numbered item on a sheet of A4, or word processing document, or spreadsheet, or web page, or blog entry. To which I say: where is the fun in merely enjoying things as you go along, without the additional thrill of trying to compare them with other?
More importantly – and laying all ironic self-deprecation to one side for a moment – if, by cataloguing these experiences, we ensure that they are committed to our long-term memories, then doesn’t that have more value than merely letting them wash over you, each fresh wave obliterating the traces of the one before?
Thus it is that, every morning of the working week, I pack my vintage Filofax into my satchel, containing hand-written lists of my favourite singles and albums from 1986 to 1999. Just in case I need to check something out during the day. (The rest are safely on the web, hence the cut-off date.) Sorry, doesn’t everybody do this?
However, in all of these years of happy cataloguing – not to mention the ritual “countdown evening” which my mate Dave and I have been celebrating for the past 20 years, in which jealously guarded scraps of paper are brandished and read out, in reverse order, alternating with each successive chart position, while our respective partners cringe in the corner – no-one has ever invited me to submit any of these lists for inclusion into an official, legitimate, published Critics’ Poll.
This year, that dream has come true. The ultimate validation. The cherry on top of the cake. The icing sugar on the mince pie. The brandy butter on the plum pudding. The cinnamon stick in the mulled wine. The sixpence at the bottom of the stocking. The descant variation on the final chorus of “The First Noel”. The “Gawd bless you sir!” on the lips of the wassailing urchin. The complementary glass of Asti Spu at the office party. The half-day skive after lunchtime on Christmas Eve. The extra half hour on the end of Top Of The Pops. The tense little smile at the end of the Queen’s speech, which almost makes you love her.
(Please feel free to re-arrange the above according to preference, awarding ten points to your favourite, nine points to your second favourite, etc. I know I shall.)
Having been charged with this solemn duty by the good people at Stylus magazine, I found myself having to deal with an altogether different set of operational guidelines. When making lists primarily for my own amusement, my only considerations are subjective. If this daft little piece of transitory disco froth has brought me greater personal pleasure than that groundbreaking milestone in the history of contemporary music, then so be it. But if I’m contributing to an official critics’ poll, to be scrutinised and evaluated by a whole bunch of readers whom I have never met, and held up as some sort of definitive guide to the year’s most important musical moments, then other considerations demand to be brought into play.
Also, there are tactical issues to consider. It’s all very well to put that obscure Belgian dance track in your Top 10 – but if the chances of its picking up votes from any other participants are virtually zero, then why squander a perfectly good chart position? Also, why put that much loved international smash inside your top three, when it’s a dead cert for the final cut anyway, and you could be promoting something a little more worthy instead?
As you might imagine, I deliberated on all of this for many, many hours, the weight of my responsibilities sitting heavily on my shoulders. But now, with the combined chart currently being revealed to the readers of Stylus magazine in daily instalments, I can smile with satisfaction at a job well done.
And then go away again, rip the first list up, and compile a completely different second list of my real favourites. Double the pleasure! What could be better!
Don’t shake your heads at me like that. I am happy in my madness. Merry Christmas, everybody. And happy list-making.