Saturday, April 30, 2011

Why don't more people know about the Thriller Groove Line connection?

I have no intention of ever making a list of the top 10 things I find most odd about Michael Jackson, but, if one did choose to make one, I think it should include the fact that his songwriters get so little credit.  Michael is like Elvis in the sense of being first and foremost a performer, but aren't some of his songs good enough, just as songs, that it's worth knowing who wrote them?

The same guy wrote Thriller, Rock With You, and Off The Wall, and that same guy was in a pretty popular disco band in the 70s.  I don't recall how I stumbled upon this fact, but I know nobody told me, and I know Wikipedia wasn't around yet then.  I was either looking at a Michael Jackson record or a Heatwave record and thinking that there probably weren't two different songwriters named Rod Temperton.

Heatwave's "The Groove Line" is one of my all-time favorite songs.  If you want to know where it ranks, you'll need to wait for one of my own lists, but it's fair to say that it's right up there with some of the great punk songs on my last post.  I was searching for a list of best disco songs for today's post and stumbled instead upon a list of the top 10 disco songs written by Rod Temperton.

This is a neat list, and I'll tell you why - that's why I'm here (go back and read the preamble if that sounds odd, even if it's not quite as odd as Michael Jackson).  There are several songs on this really short list that I absolutely love.  In addition to the Groove Line, there's Heatwave's other classic "Boogie Nights", Michael's "Rock With you", and the Brothers Johnson's "Stomp".  There are others that I only vaguely remember (e.g. George Benson's "Give Me the Night") and others that I've either completely forgotten or to which I never really gave a serious listen.  Now I will search out some of these songs.  I will regret hearing some of them and I will curse the listmaker, but others will being me newfound joy.  It's just a prediction, but I'm not new at this.  Also, I'm a professional statistician, so I usually do OK with the whole predicting thing.

I think I may have made a mistake coming out swinging with my first list post on the top 100 punk songs.  The list was too long and too loud for the broadbased quibble-friendly audience I'm trying to find.  I'll circle back to punk and to longer lists as these posts evolve.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

100 Greatest Punk Rock Songs

When I wrote the preamble, I hadn't yet settled on what I'd post as my first list.  With Poly Styrene's passing this week, I decided to look for a list of the best punk songs to see where her band the X-Ray Spex showed up.  The common wisdom from the obituaries is that "Oh Bondage, Up Yours" was the X-ray Spex best song, and it shows up at #36 on this list.

The list includes quite a few artists with more than one song (3 Clash songs in the top 20), and I'd argue the X-Ray Spex should have been one of those as well.  My choice would have been "Genetic Engineering" from "Germ Free Adolescents", but there's a lot to choose from on that record.  "Identity", "I Live Off You", and "Warrior in Woolworths" would all be contenders for me if I made a top 100 punk songs list.

It's interesting on this list to see where being one of the first is or isn't so important.  Putting the Ramones and Sex Pistols at #1 and #2 suggests to me more of a ranking of who should get credit for starting punk and less of a proper ranking of which songs are really the greatest.  With the Ramones, "Blitzkrieg Bop" is definitely a great song, but it's more like their earliest great song than their greatest song.  The MC5 at #4 makes a statement about respecting punk's elders, but there's such a thing as too much respect.  They don't belong that high on this list.

At #6, Fugazi shows up way ahead of Minor Threat.  I know Fugazi developed a huge following, but as a ranking of punk rock songs, I have a hard time putting Fugazi anywhere close to Minor Threat.  The Husker Du choices are a little odd too with "Celebrated Summer" coming in at #15.  That's got to be a personal favorite of the listmaker - no way it's even a top 5 best Husker Du song, and the choice of "Pink Turns to Blue" from Husker Du's "Zen Arcade" over songs that are much better punk songs (not necessarily much better songs, but much better punk songs) makes it seem more like a list of best songs by punk bands.

A few other nits to pick (that's the point here, just in case you missed the preamable):  Pere Ubu is way to low on the list, particularly for a list that puts so much stock in who came early.  "Final Solution" should be part of the top 5 by that criteria.  The list is missing The Avengers, The Dils, and Government Issue to name just a few, but it's really a pretty good list.  It's interesting that Green Day was thrown in at #71 when the post-Nirvana wave of punk rock was otherwise ignored.  I think Operation Ivy at #100 is the closest Ska Revival comes to cracking the list.  I get it that including first wave ska revival on a list like this is debatable, but I feel like at least The Specials belong here.

What do you think of the list?  What's too high?  What's too low?  What's screwy about the criteria.  Don't make me quibble alone.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


I make lists.  Mostly, I make "best of" music lists.  I am not alone.  People like lists.  VH1 knows this and so does the New York Times.  Some people make lists of bad things or "worst of" lists, but most lists are good things or "best of" lists.  There are lists of best bands, best records, best CDs, best performances, and best songs just to name of few of the most popular (best?) lists of music bests.

The simple list is a pure ranking, sometimes with no words (or few words) to justify the order.  There is always much with which one may wish to quibble.  I wish to quibble.  I wish for others who wish to quibble to have fresh fodder for quibbling.  The Nothing But Good Things blog will be dedicated to popular and unpopular music "best of" lists of all types.  Some lists will be critics' lists, while others will be chart lists or radio station lists, and some will be individual lists, including some of my own.

Most of my own lists are lists of the best CDs of the year and lists of the best songs of the decade.  I've posted some of these lists elsewhere, but never in a spot where public comments would be possible.  Time will tell if the public wishes to comment, and, in doing so, prove or disprove my theory of a pent up demand for quibbling.

Most list, inlcuding my own, are "best of" lists, but some are not.  Some of my lists are iTunes playlists, which become mix CDs.  Since 1998, I've been making a series of mix CDs called Nothing But Good Things.  As of the beginning of 2011, I was up to Nothing But Good Things #45.  The ordering of the tracks on these CDs follows free form radio conventions rather than the conventions of ranking a best of list.  Nonetheless, mix tapes and mix CDs are a unique form of music lists and will also get some attention here (probably not right away, but eventually).

As Casey Kasem would say "keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars."