Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. For a man dead since 1970, he has an astonishing ability to continue to release product. On my DMDB web page for Hendrix, I spotlight nine collections of studio material released after his death and six live albums. These are just the most significant official releases.
I’ve long joked that the true sign of a great musician is an ability to make music from beyond the grave. The best dead stars all have this talent – Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, and Tupac Shakur. The late rap titan has even landed three posthumous #1 albums, a feat which, to my knowledge, has yet to be matched by any other performer six feet under.
Of course, the bigger commentary here concerns recording companies’ crass efforts to turn the deceased’s every grunt, croak, or belch captured on tape into gold. Perhaps nowhere is this greed better on display than via the handlers of Hendrix’s catalog through the ‘70s and well into the ‘90s, before the Hendrix estate wrestled control back. The three studio albums made during Jimi’s life are staples on best-of-all-time album lists; you won’t see anything after he died showing up on these lists.
Still, record companies don’t shovel out the product in steady streams if no one’s dropping cash. Fortunately for them, there will always be lunatics and freaks willing to shell out the bucks for that never-before-released thirteenth take of “Insert Title of Obscure Album Track Here” because, after all, this is the one that included the producer barking out a couple orders to the formerly-living-and-breathing music maker before recording commenced.
It is here that I will attempt to both awkwardly distance myself from such behavior while simultaneously embracing it. In the aforementioned Facebook post, I confessed to having 21 versions of “Purple Haze.” I don’t mean covers of the song – I mean 21 versions all done by Hendrix. I didn’t intentionally seek out that many; I just slowly accumulated them from picking up a live collection here, a box set of studio outtakes there. This is, by my own admission, behavior worthy of serious psychological evaluation. What can one possibly need with that many versions of a song?
Well, my friends, this is the distinction between the casual music fan and the gone-round-the-bend fanatic. Frankly, my completist tendencies rear their ugly head once an act crosses from the “yeah, I like them” to the “oh, I love them” threshold. My sanity goes out the window and I gobble up every scrap I can find like a vampire craving a blood smoothie. I have 33 CDs of Kevin Gilbert music; only ten are official releases and even those are obscure.
For some, such behavior is all about bragging rights. Maybe it’s a Deadhead who can boast to possessing a rare bootleg of a long ago show or a Beatlemaniac who claims to have tape of the long-lost “Carnival of Lights” track. Sometimes it is just about “having it all.” Once you have the thirty-something studio albums by Dylan, why stop?
For others, it genuinely is a musical journey in which they legitimately pick out the distinctions in 21 different versions of “Purple Haze.” Maybe they can trace how the song first developed in the studio to how it transformed on the stage. Maybe they become enthralled with how Hendrix changes the guitar solo here and there.
Personally, I lack the musicianship to notice that the third take of some long forgotten album cut included a snare drum absent from the version released on the B-side of an obscure Scottish single. As for impressing others with individual acts in my collection, most people are in awe enough of the sheer total size to dig deep enough to notice that I have over six hundred Bob Dylan songs.
So why do I have 600+ Dylan songs and 33 Kevin Gilbert CDs and 21 versions of “Purple Haze”? Dunno. Just do. Stay tuned – numbers destined to change as quickly as the miles roll by on an odometer.
For daily doses of my musical obsession, check out Dave’s Music Database Facebook page.
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Cashmere if You Can
Released: September 19, 2010 (see notes)
Sales (in millions): --
Genre: adult alternative
Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks)
3.445 out of 5.00 (average of 9 ratings)
Awards: (Click on award to learn more).
About the Album:
One-time Squeeze singer and songwriter “Chris Difford has cemented his position as one of Britain’s premier songwriters with his eye for detail, turning even the grittiest observations into pithy vignettes with his dexterous and witty wordplay.” PT “On his new album Cashmere If You Can – his third as a solo artist – Chris frequently turns his ever-watchful eye on himself for an album that is uncharacteristically autobiographical, but typically frank.” PT It “features songs about adulthood, coming of (middle or later) age, and a man coming to terms with just how at odds he can be with the world around him.” JB
“First offered as downloads via the artist’s official website, the 12 numbers here find one of Britain’s greatest treasures in typically fine form.” JB “Although Chris is often noted for his lyrics – having won two Ivor Novello Awards – his baritone voice has rarely sounded so rich as it does here. As well as regular collaborator Boo Hewerdine, Chris has enlisted the services of Leo Abrahams, who has produced or written with Brian Eno, David Byrne, Brett Anderson, David Holmes & Carl Barat. The results have energised his music and given the whole album a rock-pop sheen reminiscent not just of Squeeze at their best or The Kinks but also shows the contemporary likes of Brendan Benson, Supergrass and Razorlight – all of whom owe a debt to Chris – how it’s done.” PT
Opening song 1975 “sets the tone, with a polished glam-rockabilly riff over propulsive drums,” PT “a nod to the golden age of glam.” JB The lyrics “detail the protagonist’s misspent youth” JB via “the story of a young man forming a band in South London – seemingly to great success.” PT However, “the track is less celebratory than cautionary.” JB “As has been Chris’ way right from Squeeze’s earliest days, [there’s] a devastating sting in the tail – ‘I threw away a family, a fortune and a wife’.” PT “We hear details of multiple trips to rehab and a person who’s convinced that his best days are long behind him.” JB “Would he trade it all in for the chance to be young and naïve again? ‘Sounds like I’m complaining, but I’m happy to be here.’” PT Regardless of the song’s message, “we can’t help but bob our heads in recognition of realism as those sublime four-plus minutes tick away.” JB
“Although the album isn’t nostalgic, much of it is focused on Chris’ maturation – where once he wrote he ‘never thought it would happen with … the girl from Clapham’, now he’s almost proud as he watches his children run around making the exact same mistakes (Like I Did).” PT It “offers one of the more refreshing takes on parenting in recent memory, as our hero sings about children who are remarkably like their parents – whether stoned, sleeping, or slow to change. And if it, like ‘1975’, isn’t a complete celebration, it’s not resignation either.” JB
“Back in the Day remembers the Chris whose cockney affectations in ‘Cool for Cats’ made living for the weekend seem so attractive.” PT
“Throughout the album Chris imbues his songs with some heartbreaking truths, yet his deftness of touch, along with some instantly memorable melodies and choruses, prevents them becoming maudlin. Goldfish – a duet with Kathryn Williams – describes a relationship breaking down by focusing not on vague emotions but on the petty trivialities and modern-day pitfalls that will be recognisable to anyone, while the ‘Girl From Ipanema’-esque strains of Upgrade Me confront preparing for death and the afterlife by comparing it to the mundane requests of an air traveller.” PT
“Written with unflinching candour, Sidney Street is a heartfelt, piano-led paean to his grandfather going off to war, a chilling reminder of just how different his life could have been if he’d been born in a different generation.” PT
There’s also “a strange kind of love song (The Still & the Sparkling), multiple references to pissed mattresses, observations about the evil that men do and how it lives on and on after them, stories of a less than sparkling and prolonged morning after (Wrecked), and the acknowledgment that an old lover is better off without us (Happy Once Again).” JB The latter “sees Chris accepting a long-term relationship end with good grace – perhaps addressing himself. Having posed a lot of questions and contradictions throughout the album, this song seems to be the final resolution.” PT
“This is all fitting fodder for Difford, a man who reminds us that life is complicated, filled with gradations of light and dark, quelled hopes and quieted dreams, and expansive orchards of trees richly blooming with varieties of words and emotions one can choose from to express all these diverse and sometimes devilish experiences and exorcisms.” JB “Throughout, the musical mood is light even when the lyrical matter isn’t; the whole affair feeling like a revue celebrating human foibles and failings with an uncharacteristically strong sense of accomplishment.” JB
“This is music, unsurprisingly, for the thinking man, the aging man, the man aware that there are no easy answers.” JB “Chris has always had a smart social conscience; these songs see him coming to terms with himself and his past, laying ghosts to rest.” PT “Difford is, of course, not the only artist of his kind, but he may be the best at what he does and perhaps the most unflinchingly honest…This is an album filled with undeniable truths that are delivered with an uncommon caring, gentleness, and intelligence that few artists fully inhabit. It is, in a word, brilliant.” JB
Notes: Release date above reflects the release of the full album (according to iTunes), but it had been released a song at a time over several months. Difford released a new song each week through the Saturday Morning Music Club. SM Each week, several rarities, which often included acoustic versions of Squeeze songs, were also released. The releases started on June 4, 2010, with the song 1975. The album finally saw an official UK release on 5/2/11 and 6/7/11 in the U.S.
Resources and Related Links:
Other Related DMDB Pages:
First posted 7/13/2011; last updated 2/5/2022.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Pumped Up Kicks
Foster the People
Writer(s): Mark Foster (see lyrics here)
Released: September 14, 2010
First Charted: February 5, 2011
Peak: 3 US, 3 RR, 28 AC, 3 A40, 2 AA, 15 MR, 18 UK, 3 CN, 11 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)
Sales (in millions): 10.0 US, 1.8 UK, 13.82 world (includes US + UK)
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 1036.1 video, 1500.31 streaming
Click on award for more details.
About the Song:
Foster the People is an indie pop band which formed in 2009 in Los Angeles, California. The trio consists of singer Mark Foster, guitarist Sean Cimino, and keyboardist Isom Innis. The group released their debut single, “Pumped Up Kicks,” in 2010 as a free download. It garnered enough attention that Columbia Records signed them to a multi-album deal. The song then appeared on the group’s debut album, Torches, in 2011.
The song was picked up by Australian radio station Triple J in July 2010 and ranked as one of the station’s top 100 songs in their year-end countdown. After being released as part of an EP in January 2011, the song started getting played on alternative radio stations in America. After peaking at #1 on the alternative rock chart, the song crossed over to the Billboard Hot 100.
Mark Foster wrote the song in five hours while working as a jingle writer. He played all the instruments on the song and used the software Logic Pro to arrange and edit the song. He thought it would just be a demo, but it was the version of the song released by the group. WK
He explained that it is “about a kid…losing his mind and…plotting revenge. He’s an outcast.” SF Foster read about how teenage mental illness skyrocketed in the last decade and wanted to bring awareness to gun violence among youth. WK He wrote the song from the perspective of the homicidal teen rather than the victims because he wanted to “get inside the head of an isolated, psychotic kid.” SF Foster points out that there is no actual violence in the song because the threats are within the kid’s internal monologue. SF
The title refers to the Reebok Pump basketball shoe which was popular in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. In the song, the main character’s peers wear the shoes as a status symbol WK as the shoes were very expensive and “tended to be the privileged poseurs who annoyed the hell out of anyone wearing Converse or Keds.” SF
“Pumped Up Kicks” was nominated for a Grammy for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.
First posted 7/21/2023.
Band of Joy
Released: September 14, 2010
Peak: 5 US, 3 UK, 7 CN, 18 AU
Sales (in millions): 0.1 UK
Song Title (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.
Total Running Time: 47:32
3.477 out of 5.00 (average of 22 ratings)
About the Album:
“As long as Robert Plant is alive and murmuring, there will be those who take their Led Zeppelin worship so seriously that they’ll be satisfied with nothing less than a full-blown Zeppelin reunion tour.” PM “Zepheads got so tantalizingly close to that dream fulfillment back in 2007 when the band played the Ahmet Artegun tribute concert…but when it came time to a take it on the road…Plant balked.” PM “Not satisfied with his stature as one of the great innovators and heroes of pop music,” AZ he pursued “his unquenchable thirst for new songs and new sounds,” AZ letting “his curiosity guide him to unexplored territory.” AZ “Regardless of the inevitable disappointment among the Led Zep warriors, Plant’s decision…paid off.” PM He “was able to do a stylistic aboutface and rediscover his first love: American roots music” PM on “2007’s Raising Sand.” PM That “collaboration with Alison Krauss was a triumph on all levels, a critical and award-winning smash that found Plant more inspired as a vocalist than at any point in the last two decades.” PM
The Original Band of Joy and the New Band of Joy
“Band of Joy will, without question, go down as a companion piece to Raising Sand, as the two are of a highly similar vintage.” PM “The original Band of Joy was unrecorded outside of a handful of demos, so there is no indication of whether this 2010 incarnation sounds anything at all like the ‘60s band but the communal vibe that pulsates throughout this album hearkens back to the age of hippies as much as it is an outgrowth of Raising Sand.” AMG This album “incorporates an edgier, resonant kind of ambience…[and] a greater ensemble attitude.” BB Plant has a new “more aggressive female vocal foil in Patty Griffin,” BB “but she is, unlike Krauss before her, truly in an auxiliary role. Her presence is definitely felt, but her pristine harmony singing is simply another of the band’s backing instruments.” PM
Buddy Miller As Producer
“Miller’s encyclopedic knowledge of blues, folk, and gospel – along with his impeccable taste – is key to Band of Joy’s almighty musicality. It’s a collection of covers and traditional songs that, for the most part, you’ve probably never heard, and if you have, Plant and Miller see to it that you’ve never heard them like this. Miller was wise to only invite a handful of people to the party – besides Buddy and Patty, the new ‘Band of Joy’ features only Marco Giovino on drums, bluegrass mainstay Byron House on bass, and multi-instrumentalist genius Darrell Scott on mandos, banjos, and steels.” PM
“Never as austere as the clean, tasteful impressionism of Raising Sand, Band of Joy is bold and messy, teeming with life to its very core.” AMG “The material is…fascinatingly diverse” BB and “it’s as a joyous a record as you’ll ever hear, a testament that the power of music lies not in its writing but in its performance.” AMG “Plant finds fiercely original music within other people’s songs… digging back to find forgotten songs from the heyday of honky tonk and traditional folk tunes not often sung. Some of these songs feel like they’ve been around forever and some feel fresh, but not in conventional ways.” AMG “Much of the wonder of Band of Joy lies in these inventive interpretations but the magic lies in the performances themselves.” AMG “Plant's song selection and incomparable vocals make Band of Joy a new triumph.” AZ “By both reaching back and by yearning for a decorous new future, [this] is an album that matters.” PM
“House of Cards”
“Silver Rider” and “Monkey”
“You Can’t Buy My Love”
“Falling in Love Again”
“Cindy I’ll Marry You Someday” and “Harm’s Swift Way”
“Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down”
“Even This Shall Pass Away”
Resources and Related Links:
Other Related DMDB Pages:
First posted 9/27/2010; last updated 8/17/2021.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Released: August 24, 2010
Released: August 27, 2010 (deluxe edition)
Released: March 23, 2012 (The Complete Confection)
Charted: September 11, 2010
Peak: 11 US, 11 UK, 11 CN, 12 AU
Sales (in millions): 9.0 US, 1.5 UK, 13.33 world (includes US and UK)
Song Title (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.
Tracks from the Deluxe Edition:
Tracks from The Complete Confection:
Total Running Time: 46:44
3.531 out of 5.00 (average of 38 ratings)
Awards: (Click on award to learn more).
About the Album:
Perry presents herself “as a curvy Teenage Dream” AMG for her sophomore outing. The image isn’t hard to cultivate considering that she is “blessed with a cheerleader’s body, the face of a second-chair clarinetist and a drama club queen’s lust for the spotlight.” AMG However, while she “is smart enough to know every rule in pop…she’s not inspired enough to ignore them” AMG so the album finds her “raising eyebrows a’la Alanis, strutting like Gwen Stefani and relying on Britney’s hitmaker Max Martin for her hooks.” AMG
Of course, critical acclaim and commercial success are often at odds with each other. Perry’s “not reinventing pop music or trying to change the world, but this album is an accurate barometer of where pop music is today.” CS The album was only the second in history, after Michael Jackson’s Bad, to land five songs at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart – six if you count Part of Me, which was released on the extended Teenage Dream: The Complete Confection.
The album’s lead single, California Gurls, was written as a response to Jay-Z’s #1 “Empire State of Mind.” The ode “to women and the beach lifestyle of California” WK “exemplifies contemporary pop songs: something you can dance along to with catchy lyrics and a hip-hop feature” CS – in this case, a guest appearance from rapper Snoop Dogg. The song generated controversy when the Beach Boys claimed the song appropriated the line “I wish they all could be California Girls” from their own song of the same name. WK
The song “best represents the album’s outlook, which is sunny with a chance of sex,” CS and “sets the tone for Teenage Dream.” RS Throughout, she “piles on the sun-drenched drama” RS with “SoCal ambience and disco beats” RS via “heavy Eighties beats, light on melody, taking a long dip into the Daft Punk filter-disco house sound.” RS The album is filled with “de rigeur lite club beats that easily transition from day to night or the chilly [and] stainless-steel ballads designed to lose none of their luster on repeat plays.” AMG
Following that song to #1 was the album’s title cut, a song with “pop friendly beats that showcase strong vocals comparable to Nicole Scherzinger.” CS It is “the perfect blend of what a pop song should sound like: poppy, danceable beats that complement the songstress’ simple, yet provocative message.” CS “If you’re a fan of songs with little depth, then Perry’s got you hooked.” CS
Third to the top was the song Firework, which was inspired by Jack Kerouac’s novel On the Road. WK The song “begins with a soft string section and builds into a full-fledged dance anthem” CS worthy of the “Jersey Shore crew fist-pumping all night long at a club near you.” CS Perry has said it is her favorite song on the album. CS
A remixed version of E.T. with a rap from Kanye West gave Perry her fourth #1 from the album. The song “replicates Ryan Tedder’s glassy robotic alienation…but tellingly avoids ripping off Lady Gaga, who is just too meta for the blunt Katy – but these are merely accents to her old One of the Boys palette.” AMG
She made it to the top a fifth time with ““the kegger romp” RS Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.) on which Perry “salutes fellow attention-whore Ke$ha.” AMG
The One That Got Away, “one of her best songs,” RS was released as the sixth single from the album. Perry embraces “mall romance” RS as she sings “I was June and you were Johnny Cash,” but “it’s understood that she’s thinking of the scrubbed-up Hollywood version of June and Johnny from Walk the Line. But that’s just part of what makes her such a true California girl.” RS
As for the non-singles, Circle the Drain, presumably written about her ex, singer Travie McCoy, is “a kiss-off to a rocker hooked on pills.” RS On Who Am I Living For “Perry riffs on the biblical story of Esther, the Jewish orphan who married the Persian king and uncovered a plot to exterminate the Jews. It’s dark and complelling, especially since she sings it like Rihanna.” RS Not Like the Movies finds Katy “sobbing on the floor over her tragic love life…a proud tradition of suburban girls who like their emotional meltdowns Hollywood-size.” RS
At times Perry can rely on “desperate vulgarity” AMG and “none of it actually arousing,” AMG “wooing a suitor with ‘you make me feel like I’m losing my virginity,’ extolling the virtues of blackouts and an accidental ménage a trois, melting popsicles, pleading for a boy to show her his Peacock (chanting ‘cock cock cock’ just in case we at home didn’t get the single entendre).” AMG “It’s tiring because, at her heart, Perry is old-fashioned” AMG she gave “her best post-One of the Boys song, ‘I Do Not Hook Up,’ to Kelly Clarkson; its pro-abstinence rally flies in the face of the masturbatory daydream she’s constructed.” AMG
“All this labor produces fetching magazine covers…and grabbing videos but it undoes her records, since we always hear her fighting to be frivolous. And all Perry wants to do is have fun: all she wants is to frolic in the spotlight.” AMG
Notes: See the track listings above for bonus tracks added to the deluxe edition and The Complete Confection.
Resources and Related Links:
First posted 4/22/2011; last updated 4/1/2022.
Friday, September 10, 2010
image from vh1.com
This was originally posted on the DMDB Facebook page the week of September 6-10, 2010, when VH1 originally presented this countdown. The five segments and my commentary have been stitched together here as one piece.
September 10, 2010:
The countdown is over. For all its flaws, at least they put the Beatles at #1. They had so many people throughout the countdown singing the praises of Michael Jackson that I was afraid the gloved one was going to trump the Fab Four. Of course, rankings on a list such as this become almost silly to debate, but that would have been a crime! I would agree that MJ has had more impact on the music industry in the last 30 years than any other recording act. However, when one looks beyond 30 years, the title quickly falls to the Beatles or Elvis (sadly rated way too low at #8). All in all, there are some definite head scratchers here (Cheap Trick? Sade?) and the list should be called the “100 Greatest Artists of the Rock Era” or the “100 Greatest Artists of the Last 60 Years”, but there are a lot of deserving artists here.
1. The Beatles
2. Michael Jackson
3. Led Zeppelin
4. Rolling Stones
5. Bob Dylan
6. Jimi Hendrix
8. Elvis Presley
9. James Brown
10. Stevie Wonder
11. Bob Marley
12. David Bowie
13. The Who
15. The Beach Boys
18. Pink Floyd
20. Marvin Gaye
September 9, 2010:
Well, instead of continuing to whine about who isn’t on this list, I’ll celebrate my favorite moment of the countdown so far. The reason for making shows like this is to see someone like Run-D.M.C.’s Darryl McDaniel nearly in tears saying that Elton John saved his life. That’s the power of music.
21. Bruce Springsteen
22. The Clash
24. The Velvet Underground
25. Chuck Berry
26. Neil Young
27. Aretha Franklin
28. Elton John
31. John Lennon
32. Black Sabbath
33. Guns N' Roses
34. Tina Turner
35. Johnny Cash
36. Paul McCartney
37. Fleetwood Mac
38. Sly & The Family Stone
39. The Kinks
40. The Police
September 8, 2010:
Well, for all my bluster about this countdown’s inability to hear a note of music that occurred prior to 1950, they’ve gone and done it! They’ve humiliated me and proven how off I am by reaching WAAAAY back, all the way to…1949. That’s when Ray Charles (#43) first hit the R&B charts with the Maxine Trio and the song “Confession Blues.” My sincerest apologies to VH1 for assuming they couldn’t remember music from more than 60 years ago. Who knew they’d go so far back – to a whopping 61 years ago? What will they think of next? Ranking someone like, oh, I don’t know, Sade, ahead of Little Richard? No! They’d never do that, would they?
41. Van Halen
43. Ray Charles
44. Joni Mitchell
45. Al Green
48. Rage Against the Machine
51. Billy Joel
53. Little Richard
54. Public Enemy
55. Peter Gabriel
57. Iggy & the Stooges
58. Cheap Trick
59. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
60. Whitney Houston
September 7, 2010:
With another 20 artists counted down, there’s still no sign of anything prior to 1950. I’m sure that’s because Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, and Hank Williams are in the loftier rungs of the list, right?
63. The Notorious B.I.G.
64. Talking Heads
65. The Doors
66. Justin Timberlake
68. Otis Redding
69. Tupac Shakur
70. Def Leppard
72. Janis Joplin
73. Van Morrison
74. The Cure
77. Lynyrd Skynyrd
78. Judas Priest
80. Mary J. Blige
September 6, 2010:
Sigh. I love collecting lists – it is the reason for Dave’s Music Database – but VH1’s latest is the kind that leaves me shaking my head and rolling my eyes. VH1 started their countdown Monday night (9/6) that will go all week, one hour each night, revealing #1 on Friday. The list was created by compiling votes from more than 200 of today’s music stars. I intend to blog in what is likely to be excruciating detail over my pet peeves regarding this list, but let me just say for now that I’d just about bet my entire music collection against names like Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Beethoven actually making this list.
Here’s the list so far:
82. Steely Dan
83. Earth, Wind & Fire
84. Curtis Mayfield
85. The Band
87. George Michael
88. Bee Gees
89. Beastie Boys
90. Elvis Costello
91. Green Day
92. LL Cool J
93. Pearl Jam
94. Mariah Carey
98. Depeche Mode
99. Daryl Hall & John Oates
100. Alicia Keys
Without going into personal opinions about who is here so far, I can’t help but share the most shocking moment so far: John Oates no longer has a mustache. Suddenly, ‘80s pop music as I knew it has lost all meaning.
Resources and Related Links:
- DMDB Facebook post: VH1 – 100 Greatest Artists of All Time (September 6-10, 2010)
- DMDB blog post: The Greatest Artists of All Time…Or at Least Since 1950 (my commentary on the list)
- VH1: 100 Greatest Artists of All Time (Episode 214)
The reason I compile multiple lists and average them together is to weed out some of the idiosyncrasies of individual lists and offer up at least slightly more objective results. VH1’s list suffers from the most gargantuan of the “greatest” list flaws – the absurdly, over-the-top “greatest of all time” claim. Really? All time, huh? Apparently if you look up “all-time” in the VH1 office thesaurus, it lists “last 60 years” as a synonym.
We won’t even get into how most music lists are oblivious to artists who have recorded outside of the Western world and in any language other than English. Even my aggregate lists can’t correct that problem. Sorry, Wei Wei. Maybe you have sold 200 million records – which out-distances the likes of U2, David Bowie, and Prince – but since the non-Chinese speaking world pretty much has no idea who you are, you don’t exist.
Here’s another pet peeve – to me, “artist” implies an individual performer while the more appropriate “act” suggests either an individual or group. That may be more a personal quibble over language, though, so we’ll let it slide.
As long as I’m linguistically nitpicking, though, I’d also prefer a less inflammatory proclamation than “greatest.” The word immediately invites scorn, begging boorish morons to unleash potty mouths on blogs, shredding all those deemed unworthy of a “greatest” tag and crucify the list for overlooking their personal favorites. While a simple title change will not dissuade haters from loudly (and poorly) trumpeting their completely subjective opinions as facts, can we at least go with a title like “The Top 100”? At least that heading implies that the data was gathered in some objective manner and that the list is merely a presentation of those who were the top vote getters.
But let’s go back to that All Time = Last 60 Years point. The oldest act on the list is Ray Charles. His first chart hit goes back to 1951. If we include his work with the Maxine Trio, we can even go back as far as 1949. This means, roughly, that VH1 is unaware of the existence of music prior to the rock and roll era. At least a 1998 list also generated by the network acknowledged Robert Johnson, B.B. King, and Muddy Waters as well. The latter two date to the ‘40s while Johnson goes all the way to 1936. Still, that doesn’t mean that VH1 actually knew these artists made music before 1950. After all, these are generally considered influential acts in the development of rock ‘n’ roll, so maybe VH1 also considers them part of the rock era.
Of course, VH1 just tabulated the results of today’s current recording artists’ votes, so really shouldn’t be held responsible for the callous neglect by today’s musicians of music made before they were born. That being the case, let me offer up a gentle reminder for the next go-round that there is actual documented proof of recorded music prior to 1950. One doesn’t even need to dig through the vaults at the Library of Congress to find them. They are as close as one’s Internet-capable device of choice. Here’s a few acts to check out:
1900s: Billy Murray, Henry Burr, Byron G. Harlan, Arthur Collins
1910s: Al Jolson, Ben Selvin
1920s: Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Paul Whiteman, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, Guy Lombardo
1930s: Frank Sinatra, Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday
1940s: Nat “King” Cole, Hank Williams
These are just the most notable artists of the era of recorded music prior to the 1950s. Asking these musicians to explore the world before the existence of iPods, CDs, tapes, eight tracks, and phonographs would be roughly the equivalent of asking Sarah Palin to accept that creatures trolled this Earth more than 6000 years ago. Despite the evidence, we’ll continue living in the odd musical vacuum that selects Cheap Trick and LL Cool J as greatest artists of all time while blissfully wandering through life unaware that Beethoven and Mozart ever walked the planet.
Besides, a simple name change to the list can forgive these omissions. Taking into account my other suggestions, how about re-christening the list “The Top 100 Acts of the Rock Era”? That would fix everything, now wouldn’t it?
Well, not exactly. There are some significant acts from the last six decades who are overlooked. First off, back in 1998, even VH1 acknowledged Fats Domino, Buddy Holly, Miles Davis, Sam Cooke, Eric Clapton, the Byrds, Rod Stewart, the Supremes, and the Temptations. Now that a dozen years have passed, apparently these acts’ contributions pale in comparison to the legacies of Sade and the Notorious B.I.G.
I’m picking on VH1 for all this, but these are not unique problems. Listmakers tend to make bold proclamations. Hey, it generates interest and let’s face it, accurate titles like “VH1 Submits a Bunch of Ballots to People Who Make Music So That We Can Compile the Results and Present a Top 100 List of the Results Over Five Nights and Hopefully Make a Lot of Money Off Ad Revenues” just doesn’t roll off the tongue.
Oh, well. Enough whining for now. I’ve got to get to work on the latest DMDB list. Coming soon: “The Latest Top 100 of All Time List Presented by Dave’s Music Database in Hopes of Getting You to Become a Facebook Fan, Regular DMDB Reader, and Eventual Customer for the Slew of DMDB Books I Hope to Publish.” Enjoy!
For daily doses of my musical obsession, check out the Dave’s Music Database Facebook page.