Saturday, June 30, 2007

Problems with the King's list, part 2

Picking up where I left off in the last post, I’m here to skewer Stephen King’s top 10 of his 25 greatest rock songs. We are talking about the top 10 of all time, and folks, there’s some pretty obscure stuff here:

10. A Big Hunk O Love – Elvis Presley
SK - Almost eclipsed by Elvis' screaming vocal is the rock era's best barrelhouse piano.
WM –Totally absent from SK’s top 25 is anything by the Killer, Jerry Lee Lewis. It’s easy to put Elvis in this list, but if you’re talking about piano, let’s get serious.

9. Bip Bop Boom – Mickey Hawks
SK – Under two minutes and still the greatest rockabilly record ever made.
WM – Couldn't find this one, so I reserve judgement.

8. Let’s Have A Party – Wanda Jackson
SK - That raspy, frantic vocal has never been equaled. Ms. Jackson makes Beyoncé look like Britney.
WM – A good song, but not all-time great material.

7. New Orleans – Gary U.S. Bonds
SK - Terrific recorded-in-a-bathroom reverb, insanely danceable backbeat.
WM – Again, one of the all-time greatest? I think not. You want to talk about reverb and timelessness, the answer is Bully Holly.

6. Ramrod – Bruce Springsteen
SK - His cleanest, coolest, purest track. To quote Mr. Berry, his guitar rings like a bell.
WM – It’s got that simplicity that seems to be a consistent theme in this list, but for my money, I’d pick Candy’s Room.

5. C’mon Everybody – Eddie Cochran
SK- The apocalyptic call of the teenage male: Dude, let's party. And screw the consequences.
WM – I approve. This is great rock and roll song.

4. Stupid Cupid – Connie Francis
SK - Don't argue; the vocal is hotter than a pistol, and it's the best clap track ever.
WM – I am losing my patience.

3. Mystery Dance – Elvis Costello

SK - It's 1:35, but how much angry, frustrated sex can you take?
WM – I love the idea that a British computer nerd can transform himself into a rock star (Elvis once said that he listened to the first Clash album for 12 hours straight, then wrote Watching the Detectives), but we are down to the nitty gritty here, and I don’t think EC rates nearly this high.

2. Burning Love – Elvis Presley
SK - He saved the best for last.
WM – This song doesn't have the raw urgency to rate number 2. A little over-produced, and over-rated since it’s the King’s last single. How could you pick this over Hound Dog or Jailhouse Rock?

1. Anarchy in the U.K. – The Sex Pistols
SK - This song still sums up what I love about rock & roll: anger and joy and urgency, all compressed into three and a half minutes of drums and buzz-saw guitar.
WM – This song belongs on this list, but number 1? I always thought the Pistols were a little over-rated.

As you can see I’ve got some issues with this list, and I imagine you do to. The omissions are upsetting, to say the least. It’s almost as if SK deliberately ignored ‘classic rock.’ I’m tired of a lot of it too, like Stairway To Heaven and Hotel California, but there’ so many essential songs he’s ignored. Off the top of my head, here are few songs that must be included (certainly over Connie Francis):

My Generation – The Who. “Hope I die before I get old.” A two chord riff, insolent lyrics and a timeless bass guitar break. What more can you say? Still sounds great today.

All Day and All of the Night – The Kinks. The birth of the power chord. Where would we be without it?

Good Times Bad Times – Led Zeppelin. The stop-start, syncopated heaviness that defined Zep is fully realized in one of their earliest and best tracks.

London Calling – The Clash. Omitting the Clash from this list is just plain wrong. This may be their best song.

Rumble – Link Wray. Snarling surf guitar from the master, circa 1958. So influential. When he died a few years ago, Dylan opened his sets with this song. Dylan!

White Rabbit – Jefferson Airplane. I love this way this song builds to its climax. The key song for the Summer of Love. Feed Your Head!

Paranoid – Black Sabbath. Heavy metal perfection.

Cretin Hop – The Ramones. Nobody has done three-chord rock better.

Hush – Deep Purple. I think this might be a cover, but the power of this band and Ian Lord's Hammond organ is thrilling. Listen



We're An American Band - Grand Funk Railroad. The best of 70's rock. A celebration of groupies, strippers, gambling and hotel trashing.

Light My Fire – The Doors – I have a bootleg of some early Doors demo tapes circa 1965 where they sound like a bad Animals cover band. Somehow they completely transformed by 1967, with the addition of the carousel keyboards and Morrison’s mystic poetry. It's sheer magic. This song will sound great 100 years from now.

That’s enough; I could go on and on. As always, your comments (that includes you too, Steve) are welcome.

Enjoy some audio and video of Steve’s list

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