Sunday, April 15, 2012

Best Songwriters of the 1960s

In David Marsh and James Bernard's The New Book of Rock Lists (Simon & Schuster 1994), there is a list of the 100 Best Songwriters.  The rankings are divided up by decade.  Here's the top 12 for the 1960s.

12. Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson
11. Brian Wilson
10. Pete Townsend
9. Gerry Goffin and Carole King
8. Isaac Hayes and David Porter
7. Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich
6. Curtis Mayfield
5. Smokey Robinson
4. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards
3. John Lennon and Paul McCartney
2. Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Eddie Holland
1. Bob Dylan

Lower down on the list, we can find Sly Stone (#14). Paul Simon (#16), Ray Davies (#22), and James Brown (#25).

It's interesting how many collaborators there are on the list.  Neither the 50s list nor the 70s list has so many collaborations, though the 50s has 2 in the top 5 (Lieber & Stoller and Pomus & Shuman).  The 70s list has no collaborations in the top 5 and the 80s/90s list has one (RUN DMC).

Was there something special about the 60s that fostered great collaborations?  Alternatively, were collaborations part of what made the 60s arguably the best decade for music in the 20th century?  Should all of the lists be ignored in their entirety because Sir Mix-a-lot is at #15 on the 80s/90s list?  Did Boy George and Jon Moss benefit from a pro-collaboration bias to make the list (#23 for the 80s/90s)?  Does the list have a bias against bands for whom the main songwriters chose not to list themselves as collaborators (e.g. Bob Mould and Grant Hart aren't on the list)?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Top 10 Rolling Stones Song of All Time

I previously commented on a list of the top 10 Beatles songs of all time.  I thought I'd search out some Stones lists.  Here's one that puts two of their 70s hits in the top spots.  This list, which is based on what fans wanted them to play live, also puts Angie on top.  This one is a static list which may change as more votes come in, but as of April 2012 it's an appropriately 60s-centric list.  Angie is the first song from the 70s, at #5.  Finally, from the blogosphere, an Angie-free list.

When I made my list of the 500 best songs of the 70s (all songs, not just Stones songs), I included 6 Stones songs and I was mildly surprised, checking just now, that Angie ranked the highest at #92.  Miss You (#105) and Tumbling Dice (#130) weren't too far behind, but if I redid the list today I think they might leapfrog "Angie".  It really is a great song, but seeing it ahead of the Stones 60s classics on some of these lists is pushing me towards a personal backlash.

I'm still not up to the task of making a list of the best songs of the 1960s, but I might as well try making a Stones list, as a trial heat of sorts.

10) Time Is On My Side
9) You Can't Always Get What You Want
8) 19th Nervous Breakdown
7) Ruby Tuesday
6) Play With Fire
5) Get Off Of My Could
4) Dandelion
3) Sittin' on a Fence
2) Sympathy for the Devil
1) Satisfaction

Honorable mentions go to Paint It Black, As Tears Go By, Under My Thumb, Mother's Little Helper, Have You Seen Your Mother, Let's Spend the Night Together, Jumpin' Jack Flash, The Last Time, Citadel, We Love You, and You Better Move On.

I like all 10 of these songs and a number of the honorable mentions better than anything they did after the 60s, but if I were making myself a Stones mix, my preference for variety could lead to the inclusion of at least a couple of the following post-60s songs: Miss You, Tumbling Dice, Angie, Emotional Rescue, and Start Me Up.

Because they're the obviously idiosyncratic picks, I've provided links to the YouTube videos for Dandelion and Sittin' on a Fence.  Who knows if I'd like these songs more than Jumpin' Jack Flash if I'd hear them as many times, or if Whoopi Goldberg had starred in a movie with one of those names.  Speaking of Jumpin' Jack Flash, it was really close to making my list based on the first 15 seconds of the song alone, but I think it deteriorates after that.

Maybe I haven't spent enough time pondering this (cue derisive laughter), but I find myself very unsettled on the ordering of this list after the first 2.  The rankings could change considerably as I begin to think about the rest of the 60s, which I plan to do some time before the 2020s.  Whew.  I've got a deadline now.  I needed that.  Keep your eyes out for that 60s list sometime in the next 7 years or so.