Everyone needs a new years resolution or an aim to conquer during the year, whether or not you reach it is irrelevant it is a fun thing to set yourself goals. Well for one man, he took a challenge and dedicated himself to it for a few years. Ziggy of the sketch group The Scribbling Ape made it his mission to listen to all 500 albums on the Rolling Stone Greatest Albums list. I had to catch up with him to find out how he managed to conquer a really big mission!
Hey Ziggy, firstly congratulations – it sounds like you have had an epic music journey in the last few years?
Thanks! I actually can’t believe it’s over. It’s been an epic journey and a big part of my life for the last 3 years, so it’s quite strange to wake up and not have an album to listen to.
What made you decide to set yourself the challenge?
The idea started when I was in Germany a few years back, and I listened to the Rolling Stones properly for the first time. That kind of gave me the impetus to look into what other bands I might of missed out on. Then I found the 500 greatest list online, and I’ve always been into challenges so I decided I was going to listen to them all, and make the greatest playlist of all time.
Explain how your motivation was kept throughout because that is a lot of albums?
Motivation was tricky at times, especially around the mid-point. I did have days when I really just wanted to listen to other stuff and not have my daily music dictated to me. Felt like a little bit of a slave to it, if you get me? But I’m quite a completionist, so once I’d started, the urge was consistently there to make progress with it. I’ve found a forum online with a few people talking about doing it, and then you follow the chat and slowly see enthusiasm wain, it seemed like no one got any further than a couple of hundred.
What about if you came to a band you didn’t like?
I did definitely come across bands that I didn’t like. One that sticks out to me was ‘Suicide’ by Suicide. Just complete discord to my ears, I found it really jarring. But nonetheless I listened to it all the way through. Infact, I was so dedicated to the task that if i thought i hadn’t listened to each tune properly – say it had been on in the background or something – then I would go back and listen to it again.
What were some of the best new music you found on the list?
Where do I start? So many. I discovered Nick Drake, his album ‘Pink Moon’ is a sombre masterpiece, and that led me to reading all about him and his tragic early death. A tortured genius. Tracey Chapman was a big discovery for me also and her self-titled album is one that really sticks out. D’Angelo’s ‘Voodoo’ is insanely good.
The Talking Heads, B-52s, B.B King, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin, Paul Simon, Van Morrison – to name but a few. It was also good to explore in depth people I was already familiar with like The Stones, Jimmy Hendrix, and Otis Redding. I always thought The Beatles were overrated, but having done this challenge and listened to them properly, I realise how wrong I was, their consistency and creativity is almost unparalleled.
What were some that were not your own personal taste that you didn’t get on with?
I’m gonna say this, I don’t really understand Bruce Springsteen’s huge popularity. With the exception of a couple of stand out songs, I found his music on the whole to be quite bland. A controversial opinion I’m sure, but it’s just a question of taste I guess.
How did you push through the albums you were not enjoying?
Like I said before, challenges do become something of an addiction to me. So the idea of completing it was enough to keep me going. One thing I will say that was frustrating though, there were quite a few greatest hits albums, I don’t think they should have a place on a list like this – plus some of the anthologies were as long as 50 tracks!!
Has it allowed you to discover any new bands that you will listen to from now on?
Yeah for sure. Most of the guys I mentioned above I will carry on listening to. I’m always listening to the playlist and refining it, so anyone that is on there really.
If people want to set themselves a task that’s similar, what would you reccomend?
There will be times when you want to give up, but stay the course, the glory of self-satisfaction and wealth of learning will always be worth it in the end.
What’s your next big challenge you are going to set yourself?
There’s an imdb top 250 films list, I’ve always fancied having a crack at that, so now might be the time. Christmas is a great time lay around watching movies.
What did this challenge teach you about yourself?
The challenge really highlighted my drive to complete things, I think a lot of people would have given up. Also, that I should be careful of forming opinions on things that I don’t know well enough. Like my aforementioned experience with The Beatles, I thought I had the measure of them, but I’d never actually taken the time to listen to them properly. I think that is something that permeates other aspects of my life as well, so it’s a good lesson to take note of.
Anyone reading this who wants to discover new music but doesn’t fancy spending 3 years on a ludicrous challenge can follow Ziggys playlist on Spotify, with top picks from the 500 albums, it’s 1823 songs, equating to 116 hrs 49 minutes.
Search for Ziggy Ross, the playlist is called 500 greatest.