Rolling Stone Top 500 Songs Goes Woke

“Without music, life would be a mistake.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols

Brave Combo

Ok, first, let me admit a few things:

  1. I’m an old man. Nobody cares what I think.
  2. I listen to mostly classical music (if I were to make a list of “Greatest Songs” it would have such things as Barber’s Adagio for Strings, Nessun Dorma!, and 9th Symphony 4th Movement Ode to Joy.
  3. I don’t consider Hip Hop to be music. I think it is primarily an invention of the Big Corporation Music Industry to construct a genre of popular music that is designed to maximize record company profits with minimal risk and effort. I know this is not a popular opinion, but it is one that I am sure is at least partially true.
  4. I am so, so sick of Autotune. My ears can pick up any excessive use of that evil technology and will switch away from it. I feel it removes all emotion and feeling from music – leaving behind boring noise. There are very few popular songs released in the last decade that aren’t ruined by Autotune.

With those points out of the way, I will rant about the release of the 2021 Rolling Stone top 500 songs.

Rolling Stone magazine released a new version of their 500 Greatest Songs list, the first in 17 years. The magazine, in an introduction to the list, notes, ‘a lot has changed since 2004; back then the iPod was relatively new, and Billie Eilish was three years old. So we’ve decided to give the list a total reboot . . . The result is a more expansive, inclusive vision of pop, music that keeps rewriting its history with every beat.’

Bullshit.

I enjoyed the old versions of the lists. I would look through the list and see if I could find something that I had forgotten about or maybe underrated… it was a good source of musical education and ideas. There were, of course, disagreements between me and the lists… but all in all there was mutual respect.

But the new list… There are 254 songs that weren’t in the 2004 list… that means that more than half of the greatest songs of 2004 are no longer great. Let’s see…

Starting at the top… a new #1 – Respect by Aretha Franklin. I have absolutely no problem with that. It’s up there with maybe five others that could be rotated in and out. Personally, I would put Layla in at #1 – which in 2004 was 27, between A Day in the LIfe and (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay. OK, good stuff all. This year, Layla drops all the way to 224… WTF?

But in the 2021 list, problems start with #2 – instead of Satisfaction (by the Stones) we have Fight the Power by Public Enemy. Ok, not that bad of a song… but #2… over Satisfaction, which drops all the way to #31, right below Royals by Lorde. Really?

You might like Lorde… but is she better than The Rolling Stones? I don’t think so. Royals is catchy… but it doesn’t belong on any all-time list. If anybody, and I mean anybody is still listening to that in twenty years (or even five years) I will be shocked. Satisfaction was released fifty-six years ago, more than half a century, and has held up – it’s as spine-tingling today as the day it was released.

So, let’s talk about age. I know I’m old… but…. I downloaded the 2021 list into a spreadsheet and sorted them by year released. There are nineteen songs released the year I was born, 1957 (I told you I was old) or older. Here they are:

242Great Balls of FireJerry Lee Lewis1957
216Jailhouse RockElvis1957
124That’ll Be the DayBuddy Holly1957
80What’d I SayRay Charles1957
347Heartbreak HotelElvis1956
299I Put a Spell on YouJay Hawkins1956
170In the Still of the NiteFive Satins1956
147Blueberry HillFats Domino1956
76I Walk the LineJohnny Cash1956
425Mannish BoyMuddy Waters1955
277Bo DiddleyBo Diddley1955
102MaybellineChuck Berry1955
35Tutti FruttiLittle Richard1955
318Hound DogBig Mama Thornton1953
237Your Cheatin’ HeartHank Williams1953
229This Land is Your LandWoody Guthrie1951
165I’m So Lonesome I Could CryHank Williams1949
21Strange FruitBillie Holiday1939
481Cross Road BluesRobert Johnson1937

That is a hell of a selection. They are older than I am and I have heard them all a thousand times and they are all great. The highest rated is Strange Fruit and the lowest is Mannish Boy.

So here are the nineteen newest songs on the list:

438Savage (Remix)Megan Thee Stallion featuring Beyonce2020
346DynamiteBTS2020
329SafaeraBad Bunny2020
490Old Town RoadLil Nas X2019
178Bad GuyBillie Eilish2019
137Thank U, NextArianna Grande2019
384I Like ItCardi B2018
497Truth HurtsLizzo2017
428Sign of the TimesHarry Styles2017
487Cranes in the SkySolange2016
451Bad and BoujeeMigos2016
383RedboneChildish Gambino2016
73FormationBeyonce2016
417Uptown FunkMark Ronson2015
373Hotline BlingDrake2015
45AlrightKendrick Lamar2015
357Blank SpaceTaylor Swift2014
465Get LuckyDaft Punk2013
362Merry Go RoundKacey Musgraves2013

Do you want to know how many of these I am familiar with – how many I recognize… none. Absolutely none. I’m sure if you played these for me a few would catch my ear… a hook that I remember as I reached for the radio dial, maybe. But do I think I regret not knowing any of these…? I don’t think so.

Looking down the list in order of dates, the newest one I recognize is Summertime Sadness by Lana del Rey. I’m actually a fan of her. But do I think Summertime Sadness is one of the 500 greatest songs of all time? Hell no.

Next to Summertime Sadness is Call me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen. That is certainly a catchy little tune… but is it Great? Is in one of the Best? No, no, no.

At one time Rolling Stone represented Rock and Roll, which represented rebellion and innovation. It does not represent that anymore. It represents Wokeness and Diversity… which is Rebellion and Innovation run through the filter of Corporate Profits and Elitism until it is an evil mutation.

And that is all I’m going to say today. I have to go outside and yell at some kids to get off my lawn.

Pink Moon

Saw it written and I saw it say
Pink moon is on its way
And none of you stand so tall
Pink moon gonna get ye all

—-Nick Drake Pink Moon

The moon rising over the Dallas skyline and the pond at Trammell Crow Park. From the October Full Moon Ride.

I was driving in to work, the morning sun still a burning ball stuck to the horizon, listening to the local eclectic FM radio station. I wasn’t paying much attention until a song I don’t think I had heard before came on – the speakers let loose with some amazing excellent guitar finger picking. For a second, I though maybe Trace Bundy or Nils Lofgren… but then the singing started. The voice was delicate and unique – the lyrics mysterious and elegiac. The arrangement was simple – guitar, bass, congas. Perfect. An amazing song.

That’s why I listed to that station in the car (or Radio Paradise at home) – to discover something that I had missed before… a new rabbit hole to fall down. At the next red light I grabbed my phone and checked the station’s playlist. It was a song called Three Hours, by Nick Drake.

That evening I sat down and listened to all of Nick Drake’s discography (only three albums). I read all I could find about his heartbreaking story – he struggled with depression and died at 26 of an overdose of anti-depressants (maybe suicide, maybe not).

As his depression worsened he moved back in with his parents. He could not perform live (he was always shy and remote on stage – even at his best). There are no films or live recordings, no nothing other than the three strange and wonderful albums he cranked out – plus a few outtakes and oddities.

His last album, Pink Moon, spoke to me particularly. He was the only performer on the album, singing and playing acoustic guitar with a single piano overdub on the title track.

Nick Drake was almost completely unknown during his life. His music was liked by those in the know but it didn’t fit any category (too jazzy for folk, too folky for jazz, too unique for anything else). But after his death, his popularity began to slowly grow. He gained a bit of posthumous fame when Volkswagen used Pink Moon in one of their commercials for the Cabriolet. Sales in the U.S. of the album grew from a measly 6,000 copies, to 74,000 copies in 2000. As of 2004 it had sold 329,000 copies in the United States.

The music sounds familiar to me, though I don’t remember the commercial:

I’ve been listening to this song over and over.

Homeward Bound

I’m sittin’ in the railway station
Got a ticket to my destination
On a tour of one-night stands
My suitcase and guitar in hand
And every stop is neatly planned
For a poet and a one-man band

—-Paul Simon, Homeward Bound

The view from the parking lot as I go home from work. Dallas, Texas

I was driving in to work – I often listen to podcasts in my car, but today I had KXT 91.7 (listen here) on the radio. I always love that station – no commercials, no stupid DJ yakking yet DJ curated, and a wide variety of tunes. As I pulled into my parking spot and began to put my mask on the Simon and Garfunkel chestnut Homeward Bound came on. A great song. I sat there and listened to it before trudging across the parking lot.

Afterward they said, “Homeward Bound, an early Simon and Garfunkel tune, from 1966.”

1966. I was nine years old. I remember 1966. I wasn’t listening to very much music then and don’t remember Homeward Bound when it came out. But I was starting. I do remember a television documentary on the burgeoning folk scene featuring interviews with Simon and Garfunkel. I didn’t know who they were and wondered if I’d ever hear anything from them. Four years later Bridge Over Troubled Water was released and I remember the exact spot where my father’s car was when I first heard it on the radio.

Sitting down and looking through the hit songs from each year – I started listening in 1967. My family was not musical and I had to pick it up on my own, mostly from friends. By 1968 I was listening to the radio a lot and by 1969 I eagerly awaited every Friday and that week’s top forty announcement on WHB (the wet hamburger station) out of Kansas City.

So I guess I can say I started listening to popular music in 1966 or so. That was fifty five years ago.

It doesn’t seem like that long. Things have changed (especially the digital revolution) but 1966 wasn’t that much different. One way to look at it was they were playing a song from 1966 on the radio on my way to work and nobody thought much about it.

I was born nine years earlier, in 1957. That does seem like a different age. The sixties were a real watershed – where things changed in a significant, permanent way. But still… there was rock and roll, at least the stirrings of rock and roll, in 1957 (Rock Around the Clock came out in 1954).

But go in the other direction – fifty five years before 1957 was 1902. That’s hard for me to comprehend. One year before the Wright brothers first flew. World War I was a decade away. The Roaring twenties two decades – the depression and dust bowl three decades away. WWII a nightmare far into the future. Now, I did look at the top songs of 1902 and was shocked that I was familiar with a few of them – and the #18 song won an Academy Award in 1974 and rose to #4 on the charts at that time….

But still, I can’t even imagine 1902. My grandfather wasn’t born yet. Yet it’s the same distance in time from my birth as Homeward Bound is from today. Years and years.

Every day’s an endless stream
Of cigarettes and magazines
And each town looks the same to me
The movies and the factories
And every stranger’s face I see
Reminds me that I long to be

Homeward bound

It’s Bad You Know

Woke up this morning, feel ’round for my shoes
You know ’bout that babe, had them old walkin’ blues
Woke up this morning, I feel ’round for my shoes

You know ’bout that babe
Lord, I had them old walkin’ blues

Leavin’ this morning, I had to go ride the blinds
I’ve been mistreated, don’t mind dying
This morning, I had to go ride the blinds

I’ve been mistreated
Lord, I don’t mind

People tell me walkin’ blues ain’t bad
Worst old feeling I most ever had
People tell me the old walkin’ blues ain’t bad

Well, it’s the worst old feeling
Lord, I most ever had

—- R.L. Burnside – Walkin’ Blues

Dan Colcer Deep Ellum Art Park Dallas, Texas

Sometimes, when I’m driving my car… and I’m driving more than I like, because of COVID changes it’s impossible for me to ride my bike to work… I listen to podcasts from my phone. That takes too much fiddling and setup though – and I’m late in the morning and lazy in the afternoon. So I listen to a local radio station – KXT91.7 (you can listen online no matter where you live) – it’s a great station: no commercials, the DJs pick their own music and don’t talk (I hate the cackling stupid jokes of regular radio) and they sometimes they play your favorite music. Sometimes, best of all, they play stuff you’ve never heard before.

On my way in to work yesterday I heard some music I had never heard before and thought it was great. At my desk I looked up their playlist and found what I had heard was a North Mississippi blues master R. L. Burnside. The song on the radio was It’s Bad You Know from the album Come On In.

In this album, released in 1998, Burnside’s classic acoustic blues is mixed with modern electronic beats into a sort of hybrid dance music. From the wikipedia notes:

The album was expected to alienate purist fans of blues, but sold strongly, and peaked at number 20 on the Core Radio Chart. In addition to significant airplay, an ensuing music clip was slotted in MTV’s 120 Minutes. By March 1999, it had become Epitaph’s best-selling record, despite the label being, at its core, an outlet for punk rock. Burnside said that fans loved the album, feeling that both it and Ass Pocket “brought more crowds to the blues. They love it.” He reckoned that this was due to “trying to make people dance to the blues again.”

I had never heard of this album or R. L. Burnside… which is not surprising – in 1998 I had a couple of young kids running around the house and was isolated from the real world. I did have at least one song of his – doing Dylan’s Everything is Broken from Tangled Up In Blues but had never really followed down that particular rabbit hole.

Thanks to Spotify I now have ready access to R. L. Burnside and his catalog. Great stuff.

From my comments – check this out – Livin’ the Blues

Flash Fiction of the day, Different Shades of Yellow by Teddy Kimathi

“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”

― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

Sunflower

A friend called me one Saturday morning to tell me there were fields of Sunflowers blooming, vast, beside the Interstate on the way to Austin. I drove down there to take photographs. It was amazingly beautiful, the miles of yellow faces looking into the sun.

Today’s story reminded me of that day and these photographs.

Different Shades of Yellow by Teddy Kimathi


Sunflower
Sunflower

Flash Fiction of the day, Invisible Ones by A. C. Spahn

“Home is a notion that only nations of the homeless fully appreciate and only the uprooted comprehend.”
― Wallace Stegner, Angle of Repose

Rest Area
The trail runs through some thick woods between the train line and the creek south of Forest Lane. There is a nice rest area built there. This homeless guy was sitting in the rest area, reading and writing in his notebook. We talked about the weather and I helped him find a lost sock.

Invisible Ones by A. C. Spahn

Flash Fiction of the day, Dump Refrigerator by Gabrielle Griffis

“I like work: it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.”

― Jerome K. Jerome

Employees/Artists from Orr-Reed Wrecking. Her T-Shirt says, “Show Us Your Junk,” which is their motto.

Years ago, I had a big chest-type deepfreeze freezer in the garage (I guess I still do). People from my background often have these – the generational memory of The Depression, dust bowl, and mass hunger leads to a deep desire to store enough food to get by for an unreasonable time.

At any rate, this freezer was full, mostly beef. I had stumbled across a good deal on half a steer and a lot of it was there, frozen, waiting on my hunger. I was out of town on a long trip and while I was gone someone accidentally unplugged the cord on the deep freeze. I’m not sure how long it thawed out, but it was summertime, and it was way, way too long. It was beyond disgusting.

I thought and thought about what to do. I ended up digging a big hole in my backyard, pulled the freezer out there and tipped the contents into the hole. I covered it up, and used a hazmat mask to clean out the inside of the freezer.

It actually worked. I’ll bet to this day the grass grows really green in one spot in that backyard.

Today’s story is about a man that does this sort of thing for a living, and for redemption.

Dump Refrigerator by Gabrielle Griffis

Flash Fiction of the day, In the Rain by Steven Barthelme

“I always like walking in the rain, so no one can see me crying.”

― Charlie Chaplin

The view from my son Lee’s apartment – New Orleans, Louisiana

Since I enjoyed yesterday’s story by Frederick Barthelme and the day before’s story by Donald Barthelme, I thought I’d link to one by the third brother, Steven.

It’s about a man that loses his wife, then his cat goes missing in a rain storm. One of them make it back.

In the Rain by Steven Barthelme

Flash Fiction of the day, Driver by Frederick Barthelme

“The car has become an article of dress without which we feel uncertain, unclad, and incomplete in the urban compound.”
― Marshall McLuhan

Invasion Car Show Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas (click to enlarge)

My son bought a car online, unseen. He filled out a form and a truck with a trailer drove up out front and dropped it off. I like that. I never liked dealing with car salesman.

I have never been a car person – to me a car is a box… I get in the box, manipulate some levers and a wheel, push some pedals… for a short time or a long time. Then I get out and I’m somewhere else – hopefully somewhere that I preferred to the place I used to be at when I got in the box.

That’s what a car is to me.

So I value reliability, gas mileage, and low cost. That’s pretty much it. It’s not surprising that I’m like that now, a spent old worn out man, but I was always like that. I always wanted a reliable, low cost, high mileage car.

One time when I was in my mid-twenties I went to buy a car. It was in a small city. The salesman kept taking me to hot souped-up crappy cars. There was a custom Mustang II Cobra, like the one Charlie’s Angels drove.  He couldn’t believe I didn’t like that car. I finally found one that I was halfway interested in. We sat in the car and turned the key and it wouldn’t start. It ground and groaned but wouldn’t turn over for more than a couple seconds.

“So do you like the car?” he asked.

“It won’t start.”

“Well, it’s been sitting here for a long time.”

“Do you really think I’m going to buy a car that won’t start?”

I left.

Since I enjoyed yesterday’s story by Donald Barthelme, I thought I’d link to one by his brother, Frederick. It has a skeptical car salesman in it.

Driver by Frederick Barthelme

Flash Fiction of the day, The School from Sixty Stories by Donald Barthelme

“He is mad about being small when you were big, but no, that’s not it, he is mad about being helpless when you were powerful, but no, not that either, he is mad about being contingent when you were necessary, not quite it… he is insane because when he loved you, you didn’t notice.”
― Donald Barthelme

The historic Renner School House, in Dallas Heritage Village, with the skyscrapers of downtown rearing up in the background.

Donald Barthelme is one of my favorite authors. He was a pioneer in the nontraditional school of short-short fiction – eschewing traditional plot structures and styles. I actually came to reading Donald Barthelme from reading about his brothers, Frederick and Steven – both also respected writers. I came across them by reading an article that they wrote about their gambling addiction. It was a fascinating and sad story –  two accomplished, intelligent writers caught in a disastrous downward spiral in the gambling barges of southern Mississippi. Really something. So there are three authors, all worth seeking out – both for fiction and non.

I remember when I was a kid growing up – moving from school to school (I went to twelve schools, more or less, in twelve years) sometimes we would have animals or plants in the classroom for the children’s edification. I don’t remember very many specifics except for a nice big bull snake in Mr. Clinkingbeard’s seventh grade class. I remember it because I had no fear of snakes and would handle it whenever I could. Once it bit me on the hand pretty good (nonpoisonous – though it hurt) and once it crawled past my neck and under my shirt. I grabbed the end of its tail and pulled it out. Unlike today’s story, though, it never died (well, as long as we were in the class).

The story has a really nice structure. The first paragraph reads like a memoir. It starts out small, pedestrian, ordinary, and begins to get bigger and stranger and more poignant as it goes along until it springs out of the form and becomes something completely different. I really like that – will make a note and add that structure to my list of writing hints – maybe do a story or two like that.

The School from Sixty Stories by Donald Barthelme

You’ll have to read the story to the end to figure out why this is related: