[Marc Caputo joins us as a new guest blogger -- though you all know him as a commenter. I agree with Marc that there is something truly great about a list. I think it has to do with the fact that these kinds of lists are always arguable, and always about quality -- and arguing about quality is always one of my favorite things to do, because I always find something to read, or watch, or listen to. It also seems like every time I join a new thing -- Facebook, Myspace, Hulu -- I am asked to make a series of personal "best of" lists. I actually like the idea that my taste in films and so on is how I create my online identity. I plan to do a blog series of personal best of lists around here, just so I can cut and paste them into various profiles as I need them, with people making their own in the comments (and then cutting or pasting them wherever). Anyway, here is Marc.]
Rolling Stone magazine’s latest cover story is “The 100 Greatest Guitar Songs”. The time is right for such an assessment, as slowly but surely, rock (or its latest iteration) is on the upswing. Again. I never get behind proclaiming the death of things; rather, I just bide my time until the worm turns. Remember, while grunge was all the rage, Hanson couldn’t get arrested with their brand of pop. Eventually, when grunge waned, record companies started looking for something sunnier and catchier. And now “MMM-Bop”, God bless its perfectly concocted heart, is chemically bonded to our ears.
Anyway, you can check out the list here – there’s more content on the site than in the magazine. I just spent 2 days going over it and had some points to make.
Right off the bat, I am a list guy. I have stacks upon stacks of top-this, best-that lists of comics, movies, shows, albums, you name it going on 25 years now. Don DeLillo called list-making a “sign of cultural neurosis” – I’m certifiable.
I don’t care for editorial lists, though, lists that are conjured up with no apparent science to them; the lack of accountability makes me think that agendas are being pushed.
First thing I did, was to break the list down by decade. I went with the year that the song was released and not the year(s) that the band/artist was formed – the 60s Rolling Stones and the 1970s Rolling Stones are quite different.
1950s – The Progenitors – 4
1960s – The Legends – 32
1970s – The Inheritors – 29
1980s – Kill Your Idols – 18
1990s – The Struggle to Keep It Fresh, Honest and Alive – 10
2000s – The Kids Will Keep the Flame Alive – It’s Gonna Be Alright – 7
That’s pretty much what I expected. And for the most part, what’s here is good stuff; it belongs on such a list. But, to be sure, some songs – hell, some artists, don’t.
I. The “What are YOU doing here?” Section
92. “Memo From Turner”, Mick Jagger (1970) – They couldn’t come up with another good Stones song? How about something from Keef’s first solo album, Talk is Cheap (1988)? Plenty of good stuff there, and he’s actually a guitarist.
84. “Gravity”, John Mayer (2006) – Good grief! I just don’t get this guy at all. Better they had used Dave Matthew Band’s “Proudest Monkey” (1996, from Crash.)
71. “Take It or Leave It”, The Strokes (2001) – I was down with the boys from the get-go, but I lost them around the second album. How about another local band, Interpol, that started out strong and has actually improved over time?
II. The “Where the hell are they?” Section (examples furnished upon request)
The Velvet Underground
Sly and the Family Stone
Gang of Four
New York Dolls
Something representative of Tamla/Motown
Paul Weller/The Jam
and last, but not least – where in the fuck was reggae during all of this?
III. The “Hey, that artist is poorly represented!” Section
Prince – “Kiss” (from Parade, 1986) should have been there. Not necessarily instead of “Purple Rain”, but with it to show more than one side of a many-faceted artist.
Stevie Ray Vaughan – “Riviera Paradise” from 1989’s In Step instead of a cover of “Little Wing”. The last track on his last studio album showcased his playing AND his writing better than anything else I’ve ever heard. Easily music’s biggest tragedy since Lennon was killed.
Sonic Youth – “Teen Age Riot” - 1988’s Daydream Nation lead-off instead of the following track. Right album, boys – wrong track. “Riot” is the gateway to this album; if you don’t get that, forget the rest. All that is wonderful and scary about this great album is summed up in those 7 minutes.
IV. BIGGEST MISTAKE – hands down – The Smiths, and with “How Soon is Now?” at number 90? But to be fair, Rolling Stone never knew what to do with these guys; I personally hold them responsible for the lads from Manchester never breaking out in this country.
V. The “Hey, did they get anything RIGHT?” section
Yes. Happily, they did.
and, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Born on the Bayou”, my favorite solo of all time.