Friday, March 18, 2011

Its March Madness--Round of 64

Rain and thunderstorms all this weekend--drowning out a good ride to the Pt. Reyes lighthouse while the narrow road out there is closed to cars (buses shuttle folks in for the whale watching season.)

So its Tournament Time--who will be the National Champion in our Round of 64 ALL TIME GREATEST ROCK SONGS. (Oh, there is another Round of 64 going on.)

That was what I was planning--a play off between the 64 best rock songs of all time--I figured it would be interesting to see who'd win after a bunch of one-on-one match ups. Horses v. Light My Fire--concert versions each--oh baby!

The selection of the top 64 was done by listening to my MP3 and quickly throwing any song I really like on a list with songs that I seemingly similarly liked. There would be structure to the judging in the tourney (music, vocals/ lyrics, significance, like factor) but for now I'd just thrown in 64 tunes (actually the bottom 16 had to have a match up against choices 65-80 on the list.)

It was apparent to me that some songs got jobbed by my rush to judgement; for example I think Jefferson Airplane's Grimly Forming (#90) and Gil Scott Heron's The Bottle (#97) are better than Louie Louie (any version, #67) and Cream's White Room (#79), but I must have been in a really good mood when I heard the latter and pissy when I heard the former and threw them low on the list.

Then my friends chirped in. As Dr. Dave pointed out "hey, you got ONE song written in the last 20 years" (#20--Smells Like Teen Spirit-Nirvana.) Maybe I should have had 4 brackets--something like classic rock, girl groups/ punk , soul/ disco and tunes written since 1990. California Mike had his own long list--he wanted something from Fleetwood Mac when they were a blues band before they all found god and ran off to be replaced by a pop singers.

This soon became clear that this was a bad idea. Music is so subjective. Growing up we had a friend forced to play dainty Chopin (we derisively called him CHOP-IN) when we obviously would have respected if he hammered away at the piano like Franz Liszt. Early in the last decade Whiny Mike, a big Dylanphile--knew every lyric to every song. I never know the lyrics or really care much--I just view someones voice as another instrument while I try to follow the bass guitar line, and I'd complain how Dylan ruined his early work by another strange makeover at the latest concert. The intense "Masters of War" if done syrupy Budokan style doesn't cut it.

In any event you like what you like even if there are rock snobs or resemble their classical music forefathers years ago (when the radio announcer would endlessly try to educate you about what you heard--"shut up and just play music.") The chicanery of Dave Marsh, THE ROLLING STONE "ROCK CRITIC!" proves this point.

Years ago, before the Internet when books were needed to get complete lists, I got the Rolling Stones Record Guide 2nd edition (1983). About two dozen rock writers each tackled reviewing different bands and their LP's. Dave Marsh, the editor of the book, wrote a mean spirited review of The Doors.

"Comparing the Doors to any of rocks' great Creedence Cleerwater Revival and the Clash is clearly absurd...the Doors take their place in pop history as the progenitors of a whole wave of tennybobber anti-icons, the genuine precursors of Alice Cooper and Kiss. The Doors (are) more shrewdly marketed than Tommy James and the Shondells and the Guess Who, but not necessarily better. In fact arguably not as good, since the band possessed a drummer too laid back to really kick out jams, and organist who sounded like he had been laid off from a cocktail lounge, and a singer whose notion of the best way to express passion was to belch and grunt."

Marsh's scathing review made me suspect of the review value of the book. Ironically, years later I came across the 1st edition (1979) of the Rolling Stone record guide. Same, editor, Dave Marsh. Almost the same two dozen reviewers in both editions, most carrying over their expertise and reviewing the SAME band from edition to edition. Hmmmm, the Doors were originally reviewed by someone who really liked them, the record review editor of Creem who had also founded Punk magazine..

"Brash courageous, intelligent, adventurous and exciting...The Doors were all this and more! Of all the groups to emerge from the West Coast in the late Sixties, only the Doors succeed in consistently getting their often disturbing messages across to the core of America. ..and the fact that they were able to do it without compromising their stance or their art makes the accomplishment that much more incredible.

The Doors played unique music...(each band member) weaving around in the specific needs of each song. The Doors were such an intriguing band: blues and rock forged together, poetry mingled with standard rock lyrics."

So, Book editor Marsh (founding editor of Creem) replaced the favorable reviewer from the 1st edition in the 2nd edition with himself to write a scathing review. Watergate. Watergate

Luckily in the 3rd edition of the Rolling Stone Record Guide (1992) Marsh is no longer the book editor, and a new reviewer of the Doors, who worked as a reviewer for Rolling Stone, gave the Doors almost as glowing a review as the one found in the 1st edition before Dave Marsh pulled rank:

"The Doors were originals--Robbie Krieger, a competent guitarist who sounded best when he kept things either elegant or bluesy; the steady John Densmore on drums: Ray Manzarak and organist and electric piano player whose semi-classical turns added a touch of the baroque. The Doors, ultimately, were Jim Morrison. Except for Jimi Hendrix, there hasn't been since Elvis an American rock start of such raw immediacy."

For the record the top 8 seed in my tourney

1. When The Musics Over--The Doors

2. Dancing Barefoot-Patti Smith

3. Gloria-Patti Smith

4. Horses (Land)-Patti Smith

5. Rock and Roll Nigger-Patti Smith

6. Light My Fire-The Doors

7. Frederick-Patti Smith

and first NON Doors/ Patti

8. Rock You Like A Hurricane-The Scorpions

but truth be told I like Super Freak (#14)-Rick James, the Beat (#15)-Elvis Costello, Gloria (#17)-Van Morrison better than Rock You Like A Hurricane. And if a ride is going good one of these tunes will usually pop into my head.

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