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  1. #1
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    REACT: Top 500 Songs of All Time - Rolling Stone

    I took a quick look at Rolling Stone's new Top 500 songs list, and of course it will generate controversy because it's all subjective, but a few things really struck me about this list.

    First, this list is dominated by baby boomer staples. Sure there are a lot of songs that are important for their formative influence in how music's evolved the past few decades, but to have a whole list where fewer than 30 of the top 500 songs of "all time" were made since 1990? Not sure if it has more to do with merit than with generational bias, as evidenced by the lack of hip hop and alternative rock on the list.

    Most of the lists of the top "modern rock" songs I've seen since 1990 have The Smiths' "How Soon Is Now?" in the top 10 if not in the top spot. This list has that song down at #486, BELOW Foreigner's gag-inducing "I Want To Know What Love Is". To me, that says a lot about who was doing the voting.

    Next, I'm not sure what this list is supposed to represent. They call it the top 500 of all time, but then they also say that it represents "rock & roll" songs. If this is the case, then why are songs like Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" or Public Enemy's "Bring The Noise" or Elton John's "Candle In The Wind" on this list?

    If they really were trying to be inclusive with this list, then I see a LOT of holes. For example, alternative rock along with hip-hop came to dominate the music scene in the 1990s, yet the representation on this list is piss poor and illogical at best. I don't think that "Walk This Way" by Run DMC is at all representative of the best of hip hop, yet it's the highest ranked hip hop song. It's like we got a smattering of token songs here and there, chosen by people who are not experts or even fans of those genres. It's almost like someone feels obligated to put SOMETHING from hip-hop in there out of guilt. They know it's supposed to be an important part of contemporary music, but they don't get it.

    Lastly, there are some choices that IMO just don't belong on an "all time" list. Here are some of my examples --

    "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" - Rod Stewart
    "Love Shack" - B-52s
    "I Want To Know What Love Is" - Foreigner
    "We've Only Just Begun" - Carpenters
    "Push It" - Salt-n-Pepa
    "By The Time I Get To Phoenix" - Glen Campbell

    And there are plenty of others that I personally don't like very much, yet can see the merit for inclusion. However, I don't think they belong considering how much other music DOES merit inclusion. Nothing by Pearl Jam made the list, and only one song by Tom Petty made the list, yet they dominate other lists that I've seen. I don't know about any of you, but I think easily think of at least a few Petty or Pearl Jam songs that merit inclusion a LOT more than the songs listed above!

    Anyway, here's the link, look at it and react!

    http://www.rollingstone.com/news/sto...96661/500songs

  2. #2
    all around good guy Jim Clark's Avatar
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    I got sucked into working all day last Saturday and that issue was just lying around so I was able to at least thumb my way through it. I thought the individual lists were significantly more meaningful, with the exception of Brian Wilson's. It was interesting to see some of those picks along the way from some notable names in music, as well as a few uhh, lesser knowns. Sure wish there were more of those lists to look at. Back to Brian Wilson's list, what the L was that guy thinking? Like I said, I just looked through it briefly but he comes off looking like jack ass central. Maybe they asked him a different question?

    jc
    "Ahh, cartoons! America's only native art form. I don't count jazz 'cuz it sucks"- Bartholomew J. Simpson

  3. #3
    Forum Regular BarryL's Avatar
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    Great Rock Songs vs. Great Songs

    Quote Originally Posted by Woochifer


    Lastly, there are some choices that IMO just don't belong on an "all time" list.


    "By The Time I Get To Phoenix" - Glen Campbell
    Yeah, lists. The only one's I'm interested in are year-end best lists to see what great albums I might have missed, and best songs lists which pertain mostly to lyrics and song.

    Two of the all-time best songs (but definitely not Rock 'n Roll) are Jimmy Webb's By The Time I Get to Phoenix, and Marty Robbins' El Passo. These are great songs from a song writer's perspective, which includes the telling of the story and the choice of words to do so. A great song should stand by itself, without the musicians. What the musicians can bring is a great rendition of a song (or a bomb).

    The popularity of a song has nothing to do with how great it is. While this is how I would account for great songs, if you narrow the category to Rock 'n Roll songs, then you bring in much more than just the melody and lyrics. Nazareth knew how to rock, which could propel Joni Mitchell's This Flight Tonight to the top of the Rock 'n Roll list, where Joni could never be, although she is a great song writer (take a look at Coyote or Electricity as examples).
    "A spirit with a vision is a dream with a mission" - Rush

  4. #4
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    According to the mag, it's supposed to be Top 500 of "the rock era", so they're not getting too picky about genre.

    We should get a bunch of predictable replies to this post saying how awful the list is.

    Without expressing a grand opinion about this list, I will say the following: Not focusing on the songs that were excluded, I only see the barest handful of the songs that were included that I don't like or think are worthy. I'm a music lover, and I love most of these songs. If a young, would-be music lover just starting to get into the history of the music that we love checked out a bunch of these songs that he or she otherwise wouldn't, that young music lover would be hearing a whole lot of reallly really good music and this list will have done some service.

    Otherwise, I don't know; the list is kinda boring and safe but it's not actively offensive to me.

  5. #5
    Close 'n PlayŽ user Troy's Avatar
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    No time today to look at a list of 500 songs and make any sort of judgement, but I gotta say:

    "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" - Rod Stewart NOOOOOOOO!
    "Love Shack" - B-52s I hope Rock Lobster made the list ahead of this one.
    "I Want To Know What Love Is" - Foreigner Godawful!
    "We've Only Just Begun" - Carpenters Pretty melody, best 500 of all time tho?
    "Push It" - Salt-n-Pepa No Comment
    "By The Time I Get To Phoenix" - Glen Campbell Again, beautiful melody, great lyric, but terribly dated in the original GC arrangement.

    And I'm DYING to see Brian Wilson's list thanks to Jimmy's post. Is it online someplace?

  6. #6
    all around good guy Jim Clark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Troy

    And I'm DYING to see Brian Wilson's list thanks to Jimmy's post. Is it online someplace?
    I'd type them all out if I had the magazine in front of me and a google search turned up nada. Basically it seemed to me that an inordinate amount of his faves were his songs. Nobody else seemed to pick their own work for their list so it kind of stood out as being a bit odd.

    jc
    "Ahh, cartoons! America's only native art form. I don't count jazz 'cuz it sucks"- Bartholomew J. Simpson

  7. #7
    Close 'n PlayŽ user Troy's Avatar
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    He picked his own songs? What a jagoff!

  8. #8
    Forum Regular nobody's Avatar
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    What?!

    No love for the fantastic Come a Little Bit Closer by Jay and the Americans!

    Oddly enough, I'm only slightly kidding. That one would absolutely make my top 500.

    Same ol thing as any other Rolling Stone list. 60s rule. Hip hop gets shafted. No chances taken at all. Nothing that doesn't sell a billion copies gets a nod. Typical.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Troy
    He picked his own songs? What a jagoff!
    I don't know; part of me agrees with you, but he is one of the greats. I mean, what if you asked John Lennon, say -- would you want him to shy away from listing Strawberry Fields? Although most people, even greats, probably would shy away from listing their own songs -- or would at least only list one of their own songs. Listen, if I were some legend like BW, I wouldn't list my own songs but I can't muster any hostility towards him for doing so.

    Specifically, BW's brain seems kind of fried, and when you hear him in interviews he sounds very childlike and innocent and, well, unstudied. And so listing his own songs is kind of in character. In concert he says stuff like "listen to the lyrics in this next song because they're really beautiful"; it's kind of fun how unashamed he is. I haven't seen his list for this magazine but I've seen one of his best-of's before, and it had some of his stuff listed. But he makes sure to put Be My Baby by The Ronnettes at the top and sprinkles in a couple other Phil Spector productions and other cool sixties songs, so you could do worse.

    But yeah, we clearly need to see BW's list, now that Jim has posted about it.

  10. #10
    all around good guy Jim Clark's Avatar
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    Well, if J was still around it'd be up by now. Purty sad, but I think he will come around. I can see him being obstinate, but he seems pretty level headed too. time will tell.
    "Ahh, cartoons! America's only native art form. I don't count jazz 'cuz it sucks"- Bartholomew J. Simpson

  11. #11
    Close 'n PlayŽ user Troy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DariusNYC
    I don't know; part of me agrees with you, but he is one of the greats. I mean, what if you asked John Lennon, say -- would you want him to shy away from listing Strawberry Fields? Although most people, even greats, probably would shy away from listing their own songs -- or would at least only list one of their own songs. Listen, if I were some legend like BW, I wouldn't list my own songs but I can't muster any hostility towards him for doing so.
    Nah, I disagree. He should be listing the things that he admires in other artists rather than blowing his own horn. It's just egomania. I feel this way about any artist in any medium. If you asked Picasso to pick his 10 favorite paintings and he picked all his own, wouldn't you think "What a shmuck!"?

    Quote Originally Posted by DariusNYC
    Specifically, BW's brain seems kind of fried, and when you hear him in interviews he sounds very childlike and innocent and, well, unstudied. And so listing his own songs is kind of in character.
    Isn't he being disingenuous? You're right, it IS Brian Wilson, afterall. I'm such a cynic . . .

    Quote Originally Posted by DariusNYC
    I haven't seen his list for this magazine but I've seen one of his best-of's before, and it had some of his stuff listed. But he makes sure to put Be My Baby by The Ronnettes at the top and sprinkles in a couple other Phil Spector productions and other cool sixties songs, so you could do worse.
    I see (remember that I haven't seen the list). Yeah, I can definitely see the connection. THAT'S the kind of stuff I would want to see- the things that INSPIRE HIM.

  12. #12
    Close 'n PlayŽ user Troy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Clark
    Well, if J was still around it'd be up by now. Purty sad, but I think he will come around. I can see him being obstinate, but he seems pretty level headed too. time will tell.
    That whole thing was just completely ridiculous. If J is in fact staying away because of that Incredibles mess . . . well, then he was looking for an excuse to leave. The whole thing was SO overblown.

    It's his loss as well as ours. Kind of insulting, frankly.

  13. #13
    Forum Regular Ex Lion Tamer's Avatar
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    I only skimmed the list and sorted it by artist just to get an overview and see what songs by some of my faves made it or didn't. I found a few surprises, like "William, It was Really Nothing" by The Smiths, especially the blurb that a guy from OutKast is a "big" Smiths fan and that "William" is his absolute favorite. Is that why this particular song was chosen (as well as "How Soon is Now"), as opposed to more obvious coices like "What Difference Does It Make" or "The Queen Is Dead" or "This Charming Man"? Other surprises to me...A Jam song, 5, count 'em 5 Clash songs...more than Elvis Costello, a Pavement song, 2 Radiohead songs and neither of them is "Creep". I'll just mention one oversight, that I think is pretty agregious, no song from Violent Femmes 1st album, I think Blister in the Sun, probably should have been included.
    "I don't know. A proof is a proof. What kind of a proof? It's a proof. A proof is a proof, and when you have a good proof, it's because it's proven." The Right Honourable JC.

  14. #14
    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    Gotta agree...how did "Bring the Noise" by Public Enemy, and "Loser" by Beck make it, but nothing from Pearl Jam cracked the list?

    There seems to be some generation bias here...Oh well...pick any 10 people alive, and you'd probably get 50% variance among the lists...

    And I won't harp on Foreigner, but "I Want To Know What Love Is?" what mullet-headed wussy picked that one?

  15. #15
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    these kids today..

    No alternative or hiphop for me but even so I so wouldn't even bother looking for my selections in Rolling Stone. How about pre- Beatles production values like "I Was Framed" by Richie Valens and "Love You So" by Ron Hinton with the lead and rhythm saxophones. Also the original "I'm Into Something Good" by Earl Jean McCrea and the first #1 ska hit "My Boy Lollipop" by Millie Small.

  16. #16
    Forum Regular nobody's Avatar
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    Excellent point. I don't think the problem with these lists is that they neglect newer music, but that they neglect anything that's not from a fairly specific time and style. Anything pre say 1965 or so gets shafted pretty regularly too.

    Then again, for a magazine like Rolling Stone. That 60s/70s rock was really what made them in the first place. So, I figure it's to be expected that they still look back upon that era with rose colored glasses.

  17. #17
    In perfect harmony DarrenH's Avatar
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    I normally don't pay any attention to these lists but I thought I'd go through it anyway just to see how many of these songs I own on legitimate CD releases in either greatest hits compilations or studio albums. Here's what I found.

    01 - 50......28 songs
    51 - 100....17 songs
    101 - 150...15 songs
    151 - 200...18 songs
    201 - 250....7 songs
    251 - 300....14 songs
    301 - 350....16 songs
    351 - 400....25 songs
    401 - 450....18 songs
    451 - 500....16 songs.

    That's only 164 out of 500. And I suppose that's pretty good, maybe average but I did recognize some holes in my collection that I need to fill.

    I have nothing from Bob Dylan. Never was a big fan I guess. A greatest hits comp will suffice.
    I have nothing from Joni Mitchell. Like Dylan, never was a fan. Another greatest hits comp probably will do.
    I have very, very little Motown and Soul. I really need to fill in the blanks here.
    I have nothing from the old bluesmen. Again, I really need to fill in some blanks.
    I have no 50's era rock 'n' Roll. Never cared for this era of R 'n' R.

    They sure liked the Beatles and the Stones and Dylan don't ya think. And as far as picking 500 "greatest" songs of all time and then ranking them, well, that just seems like an impossible task to me.

    Darren
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  18. #18
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    Lot of great responses here! These kinds of lists are just asking to be picked apart, and that's what a lot of us have done. I guess now I'll have to buy the issue (which is probably what Rolling Stone wants us to do anyway) and see about Brian Wilson's list, since that might explain how SEVEN Beach Boys songs made the list.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ex Lion Tamer
    I only skimmed the list and sorted it by artist just to get an overview and see what songs by some of my faves made it or didn't. I found a few surprises, like "William, It was Really Nothing" by The Smiths, especially the blurb that a guy from OutKast is a "big" Smiths fan and that "William" is his absolute favorite. Is that why this particular song was chosen (as well as "How Soon is Now"), as opposed to more obvious coices like "What Difference Does It Make" or "The Queen Is Dead" or "This Charming Man"? Other surprises to me...A Jam song, 5, count 'em 5 Clash songs...more than Elvis Costello, a Pavement song, 2 Radiohead songs and neither of them is "Creep". I'll just mention one oversight, that I think is pretty agregious, no song from Violent Femmes 1st album, I think Blister in the Sun, probably should have been included.
    Obviously, your focus is more on the "modern rock" genre, and that's where this list is pretty deficient. They have representation, but the examples are probably not what someone more steeped in modern rock artists would pick. In all fairness, The Smiths' "How Soon Is Now" is a perennial top 10 pick on the lists of the top modern rock songs that I've seen. Agreed that it's bizarre that two Radiohead songs made it, yet "Creep" did not make the list since that song so well encapsulated the irony prevalent in music of that period.

    Quote Originally Posted by kexodusc
    Gotta agree...how did "Bring the Noise" by Public Enemy, and "Loser" by Beck make it, but nothing from Pearl Jam cracked the list?

    There seems to be some generation bias here...Oh well...pick any 10 people alive, and you'd probably get 50% variance among the lists...

    And I won't harp on Foreigner, but "I Want To Know What Love Is?" what mullet-headed wussy picked that one?
    If the list is supposed to be all inclusive, then "Bring The Noise" is IMO a great example from hip hop. But, not a whole lot of other hip hop tunes made the list. I also thought that "Loser" was another great song that captured the mood of its time period. The generational bias is all too apparent.

    Very odd that nothing by Pearl Jam made the list even though they've become a staple on mainstream rock radio, and a lot of critics rated them among the best rock bands of the 90s. Ditto for Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, Van Halen, Megadeth, and other newer hard rock bands. The only song by Metallica to make the list was "Enter Sandman" yet IMO that's one of their weakest entries. Pretty much take your pick from "Ride The Lightning" or "Master of Puppets", two of the classics of that genre. Other exclusions that I noticed were The Cars, The Pretenders, and Peter Gabriel.

    "mullet-headed wussy" -- TOO FUNNY!

    Quote Originally Posted by nobody
    Excellent point. I don't think the problem with these lists is that they neglect newer music, but that they neglect anything that's not from a fairly specific time and style. Anything pre say 1965 or so gets shafted pretty regularly too.

    Then again, for a magazine like Rolling Stone. That 60s/70s rock was really what made them in the first place. So, I figure it's to be expected that they still look back upon that era with rose colored glasses.
    I think you nailed it, this list definitely reflects a bias towards the music that took hold in the 60s. But, it has so many bizarre inconsistencies. Bob Seger's "Night Moves" (or for that matter, any song by Seger) did not make the list, but Abba's "Dancing Queen" is in the top 200? They include some token examples of new wave (mostly Blondie), metal, alternative, and hip hop, and load the rest of the list down with staples from the 60s and 70s. Interesting that this list includes so much Motown and early R&B, because one of the criticisms of a lot of these "rock era" lists is that they generally exclude black artists.

    Quote Originally Posted by DarrenH
    They sure liked the Beatles and the Stones and Dylan don't ya think. And as far as picking 500 "greatest" songs of all time and then ranking them, well, that just seems like an impossible task to me.
    I think there's a tendency with a lot of baby boomers to put those artists on a pedestal because of what they represented to their particular time period, rather than take a step back and look exclusively at the merits of the music. You're right though, rank ordering a top 500 is a pretty tall task. It can be done, but any list that I put together today might not hold true for me next week. Moods and preferences can be fleeting at times.

  19. #19
    Global Village Idiot mad rhetorik's Avatar
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    Lightbulb

    Bottom line, if it doesn't acknowledge the existence of "Shadowplay" by Joy Division, then it ain't a Greatest Songs list.

    They seem to really like the 'Stones, Beatles, and Dylan huh? Typical RS. Can't argue much with the #1 of "Like A Rolling Stone," though it's not my personal fave by Dylan.
    "...and then at the end of the letter I like to write <i>'P.S. - this is what part of the alphabet would look like if Q and R were eliminated.'</i> "


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