Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The King's List: A Rebuttal


Well, it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted anything. So much for my tag line, “....by a guy with just enough time on his hands.” Lately, it’s been zero free time. I’ve been planning to respond to Stephen King’s recently posted list of the 25 greatest rock songs of all time, which is at least a month old, and has probably been criticized and analyzed to death by now. King is one of my favorite writers, and I enjoy the fact that’s he’s not too literate and self-conscious to write about pop culture in EW, one of the most mainstream magazines on the rack. List making is one of the lowest forms of publishing, one that countless British music mags resort to on a monthly basis. The ‘list’ is an easy way to satisfy our collective attention span that has slowly dwindled to nothing more that a two-sentence blurb per topic. The ‘list’ of course is also designed to incite disagreement, dissention and occasional violence (and some entertaining letters to the editor). I can’t help but think that King is baiting us, as some of his choices are puzzling. There are some glaring omissions here, and a least one positively insane entry. Of course, every song could be disputed, but I do agree with a few.

A list of this nature will be unique to each individual, and for me it would probably change depending on my mood. To make this list, the song must define the essence of rock music: Rebellion, angst, raw energy, and the celebration of youth and all its incarnations. These songs must offer something with repeated listening. Here’s King’s list, along with my commentary:

25. Psychotic Reaction – The Count Five
SK: “Garage rock as it was meant to be." WM: Ok, he’s off to a good start with this one. There are dozens of garage rock gems that could go here, but very few better. Louie, Louie is too predictable, and we’re all sick of it. Listen

24. In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida – Iron Butterfly
SK: "Only the long version counts."
WM: Maybe it makes the top 25 heavy riffs of all time, but this song gets dull, fast. Didya know the title is a drug induced slur of In the Garden of Eden?

23. Dead Flowers – Rolling Stones
SK – "Their best country-rock fusion."
WM – Ok….. but is it rock? I’d pick Jumpin’ Jack Flash. I can listen to that one over and over. Remember Michael Keaton in his pimpmobile in ‘Night Shift’? That rocks.

22. Needles And Pins – The Searchers
SK – "The epitome of folk-rock."
WM – By definition, folk-rock should not appear on this list. Anyway, the epitome of folk-rock is ‘So You Want to Be a Rock and Roll Star’, by the Byrds.

21. I Get Around – The Beach Boys
SK – "Has stood the test of time."
WM – I agree. Maybe the best upbeat song the Beach Boys did, and that’s saying a lot.

20. On The Dark Side – John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band
SK – "Still smokin’ after all these years. Simple and cool."
WM – Wha? Steve, you lost me with this one. Not even in the top 100.

19. You Can Never Tell – Chuck Berry
SK – "The whole story of love and marriage in 2:30."
WM – You’ve got to include Chuck Berry, but I’d pick Maybelline or The Promised Land.

18. I Want To Help You Ann – The Lyres
SK - "The best stalker rock song ever."
WM – Never heard it. King has a few local Boston bands in his list. I’ll have to reserve judgment until I find it.

17. Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress – The Hollies
SK – "Should get old but somehow never does."
WM – I agree. I loved this song the first time I heard it. Still do. The most basic of riffs, maybe that’s why it works.

16. Don’t Be Cruel – Elvis Presley
SK – "Total bebop testifying."
WM – A certifiable classic, but I prefer I Want You, I Need You, I Love You.

15. Ain’t No Fun (Waiting Round to Be A Millionaire) – AC/DC
SK – "The quintessential hook, played over and over."
WM – SK, you just described nearly every AC/DC song. Why not Shot Down In Flames, a timeless tale if there ever was one?

14. Sixty Minute Man – The Dominoes
SK – Basic dirty boogie boasting."
WM – "True, but I’m finding it hard to call this rock. This is the tune from the bedroom/bathtub scene in Bull Durham, for the doo-wop challenged.

13. Mass. Ave. – Willie Alexander
SK – "Boston punk at it’s best."
WM – Never heard it. Might be fantastic, but does it belong on a list with Chuck and Elvis?

12. The Girl Can’t Help It – Little Richard
SK – "Can you imagine this guy on American Idol?"
WM – Dylan said rock and roll died with Little Richard’s last hit in 1957. Any of his stuff belongs here.

11. She Loves You – The Beatles
SK – "The best Beatles song because it gets in, does its business and gets out."
WM – Hmmm. I Saw Here Standing There, for the same reason, but a better song, IMO.

Next post, the top ten, and boy are there some problems.

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