Nothing rouses the ire like somebody else’s list of the greatest rock-n-roll songs. “What’s that doing on there?” “He left off WHAT?”
In John Sandford’s mystery Broken Prey a character’s effort to pick the 100 best songs of the rock era for his iPod is a recurring motif. His complete list appears at the end of the book.
Lucas Davenport spends a scene explaining his some of his choices, like the deliberate decision to leave out anything by the Beatles. But he never notices there’s also not a single Michael Jackson song. And he idiocyncratically lists two versions of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” – a good place to get started with my red pencil, neither being anywhere near favorites of mine.
Most of the songs on his list are well-known – I can remember how they start or the chorus. I was sorry a few titles are unfamiliar — music I’ve missed that became popular after my hearing loss forced me to abandon in-car radio listening.
A long time has passed since I came up with my own ordered list of favorites – something people do in amateur press associations to keep the conversation rolling. On that old list I had Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street” in first place, with its magical sax solo and haunting portrait of a rootless musician. That clear-eyed understanding about a career that’s already gone as far as it can is a component of another favorite, Dire Straits’ “Sultans of Swing” – neither makes Davenport’s list, but surprisingly, a third song of that type, Billy Joel’s “Piano Man,” does. (I never visualized Davenport as a fan of piano lounges or Billy Joel in general — Sandford must, and he would know…)
I haven’t seen my old list lately. There were some songs on it that would be gone today. Did I really like “96 Tears” that much, or was I mainly amused that it was performed by a band named Question Mark and the Mysterions? The Jackson 5’s “Tears of a Clown” had a type of arrangement that hit the same spot as Left Bank’s “Pretty Ballerina” – now Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” does a lot more for me. Isaac Hayes’ “Theme from Shaft” still impresses but it’s been a long time since I’ve seen Mason Williams’ “Classical Gas” touted as one of the greats and I don’t think it would make my list anymore.
Anyway, it was intriguing to me to realize I responded to this fictional list as if I had a dog in the fight…