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Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, here they are: the last set of brackets in the first round. Enjoy.
Ballots are due by midnight, September 29.
38. The Beatles, “Hey Jude” (1968)
91. The Temptations, “My Girl” (1964)
166. Ramones, “Blitzkrieg Bop” (1976)
219. Blondie, “Heart of Glass” (1978)
27. Michael Jackson, “Billie Jean” (1982)
102. The Specials, “Ghost Town” (1981)
155. Michael Jackson, “Beat It” (1982)
230. Eminem, “My Name Is” (1999)
59. Beck, “Loser” (1993)
70. Elvis Presley, “Suspicious Minds” (1969)
187. Billie Holiday, “Strange Fruit” (1939)
198. Elvis Presley, “Jailhouse Rock” (1957)
6. Otis Redding, “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” (1968)
123. The Byrds, “Eight Miles High” (1966)
134. Ritchie Valens, “La Bamba” (1958)
251. The Undertones, “Teenage Kicks” (1978)
(Yeah, Michael and Elvis got a bit of a raw deal this week.)
ANNOUNCEMENT: The first four brackets of the round of 64 will go up on Friday, October 5. This round will be much shorter than the first…it’ll take only four weeks, so we’ll be down to 16 songs a few days after Halloween.
You’re reading that date correctly; bracketology will be taking a week off. But don’t fret about the delay—for those of you who need a regular bracketology fix, I’ve been preparing some goodies for the break…a kind of second round pregame show (which I hope will be interactive, this being a forum and all). We’ll look at the 64 surviving songs…plus, I’ll break down how individual voters did in the first round (not too well, in my case). It seems like an appropriate moment to step back to admire the edifice we’re building (and, to be honest, I could use a week off from squinting at spreadsheets, myself). Watch for it after this week’s results are posted on September 30.
1. The Beatles, “Hey Jude” (1968): Another nostalgic favorite. Not one of the Beatles best; not even one of McCartney’s best, but still a slowburner of a piano ballad like none other, and the best of this bracket.
2. The Temptations, “My Girl” (1964): A great Motown song, although suffers slightly from overuse.
3. Ramones, “Blitzkrieg Bop” (1976): Please see imcleod’s Week 8 commentary on the Ramones
4. Blondie, “Heart of Glass” (197 : For the longest time I thought this was an ABBA song, then I discovered it was from some band called “Blondie”. Didn’t change my opinion of it.
1. Michael Jackson, “Billie Jean” (1982): A “guilt and fear-streaked paternity drama”; “a five-minute-long nervous breakdown, set to a beat”; “the real thriller on his landmark album.” Call it what you want. With an immortal baseline and instantly recognizable intro, Jackson smashed the color barrier on MTV and launched the most commercial album in pop music history with this song. His best tune without question, and just might be the greatest song from the 80s.
2. Eminem, “My Name Is” (1999): Let’s give credit where it’s due and admit that what this guy does, he does well. His successful (and controversial) career basically started with this song, and for most of us it was our first glimpse into the life of a young, white Detroit rapper named Marshall Mathers. I remember when I first heard it - by way of the music video - of course I had raised eyebrows… who didn’t?! Even after the song was over, I figured he’d be just another flash in the pan. But… he stuck around, went on to release an album in 2000 that was nothing short of brilliant, and made me a fan of rap and hip-hop in the process (and for a white, indie-rock snob from Canada, that’s something!) Now I proudly own records by Jay-Z, Kanye, Dre, and Biggie, and it was all because of this song I heard when I was 17.
3. Michael Jackson, “Beat It” (1982): From an album so popular, it showed maybe sometimes you can please everybody. Not my favorite track from the record, but still undeniably great.
4. The Specials, “Ghost Town” (1981): I’ve never heard ska this depressing before.
1. Billie Holiday, “Strange Fruit” (1939): Have to give this a top spot, just for sheer power alone. One of the most eerie metaphors in music, and goddamn what a voice!
2. Elvis Presley, “Suspicious Minds” (1969): The only Elvis song in this tournament that I can get on board with. Not saying the others are terrible (or undeserving of their acclaim), but this one delivers melodically.
3. Elvis Presley, “Jailhouse Rock” (1957): It’s fun and catchy, but not my thing.
4. Beck, “Loser” (1993): The title is quite fitting here. Even though I don’t celebrate his catalogue, I respect Beck as an artist and can appreciate what he does. Not a song that I would choose to listen to though.
1. Ritchie Valens, “La Bamba” (195 : With a guitar and amp, Valens single-handedly revived a 300 year-old traditional Mexican song and in the process took the Chicano-rock sound to the top of the charts. His original songs might be better, but this one is still great.
2. Otis Redding, “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” (196 : For the most part, I concur with schleuse’s Week 14 comment that certain songs in the AM top 10 aren’t quite deserving of their rank; I hasten to say that this song – the last from the top 10 to appear in this tourney - is one of those songs. While “Dock of the Bay” isn’t terrible, it’s a far cry from amazing. Musically, the recording is quite innocuous; much too tame for a song that’s been praised as highly as it has. The rhythm section is unexciting, if not completely lifeless; the only standout instrument is Cropper’s guitar (and even then, his fretboard antics aren’t anything to write home about.) Then there’s Redding’s voice, which as effortlessly powerful as it is, sounds rather dispassionate compared to his earlier work. The wave sound effects are gawdy (does the song really need a Solitudes sample?), and the whistling… oh god, the whistling. Too much; the song certainly doesn’t need it.
All in all, the song is good, but definitely not amazing enough to deserve its rank. And unfortunately, this bracket is a bit weak, so while I'd love to rank it last, 2nd is the lowest I can place it. If I had my druthers, a song like Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” (ranked #84, and which sadly lost its bracket in Week 5) would be awarded the top 10 spot, with Redding’s “Dock” placing somewhere inside the top 50. Considering the RS 500 Greatest Songs list had “Change” at #12 and “Dock” at #28, I’m just saying if any soul legend’s swan song should be lauded, it should be the one that at least had something profound to say.
3. The Byrds, “Eight Miles High” (1966): Points for McGuinn’s guitar work, but nothing else.
4. The Undertones, “Teenage Kicks” (197 : Unimpressive on all levels.
1. Blondie, “Heart of Glass” (1978)- I can't remember where I read it but Sean Lennon said his dad used to love this song and played it all the time. That would have been some cover.
2. The Beatles, “Hey Jude” (1968)- Way too long especially since it's just the coda for 4 minutes. But I can turn it off somewhere around the four minute mark because the first three and a half minutes are amazing
3. Ramones, “Blitzkrieg Bop” (1976)- Tough bracket but this is not in my top five for Ramones songs. But it's still the Ramones.
4. The Temptations, “My Girl” (1964)- Does this song have any Beatles connections? I don't think so but it would have been fitting considering the first three. Good song.
1. Michael Jackson, “Billie Jean” (1982)- This could very well be my #1. Perfect.
2. Eminem, “My Name Is” (1999)- Default #2. It's ok. Just a nostalgia piece for me.
3. The Specials, “Ghost Town” (1981)- I just bought this album so I haven't heard it much to place it higher. I've deprived myself of ska for too long. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
4. Michael Jackson, “Beat It” (1982)- Kind of on the opposite end of Billie Jean. He's so hit and miss for me. Greatest hits collections don't even do it because they have way too much stuff I don't like and a lot of stuff is missing that I love.
1. Beck, “Loser” (1993)- This wins in a weak bracket. I love love love Beck but I've never really loved this song.
2. Elvis Presley, “Suspicious Minds” (1969)- I'll just go with the default order for the rest of these. I don't like em, I don't hate em. To tell you the truth I haven't heard Strange Fruit more than a couple times, but it's better than Jailhouse Rock.
3. Billie Holiday, “Strange Fruit” (1939)
4. Elvis Presley, “Jailhouse Rock” (1957)
1. The Undertones, “Teenage Kicks” (1978)- SO tough. One of the best punk songs ever or one of the best psych rock songs ever. I'll choose punk.
2. The Byrds, “Eight Miles High” (1966)- Jefferson Airplane might have captured the actual scene better than anyone but this takes me right there even though I was never there. Maybe it's a false reality but I like it.
3. Otis Redding, “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” (1968)- Too good to be sitting at #3 but so it goes.
134. Ritchie Valens, “La Bamba” (1958)- Blown away by the competition.
BRACKET 61 (Killer bracket!)
1. The Beatles, “Hey Jude” (1968) - One of the longest songs in the Beatles catalogue and it holds together so well. Those seven minutes fly right by! It also has the outro to end all outros.
2. Ramones, “Blitzkrieg Bop” (1976) - From long, excessive and epic to short, minimal and rushed. I was wondering when we would get this one. Too bad I have to slight Heart of Glass and My Girl now that it's here.
3. Blondie, “Heart of Glass” (1978) - Infectious melody. One of my favourites of the CBGB scene. The drumming is also really cool.
4. The Temptations, “My Girl” (1964) - Solid soul-pop tune.
BRACKET 62 (Man, Jackson got screwed!)
1. Michael Jackson, “Billie Jean” (1982) - This was the song that convinced me it was alright to like Michael Jackson. And thank goodness because otherwise I would have never found Off the Wall! The prechorus is one of the most liberating moments in music.
2. Michael Jackson, “Beat It” (1982) - Jackson could've had an easy two songs heading to the next round if they hadn't ended up against each other! Eddie Van Halen's cameo was used for name and image rather than appropriateness, like when C3PO and R2D2 go on Sesame Street. Still, Jackson uses his presence to deliver a solid pop-rocker.
3. Eminem, “My Name Is” (1999) - I DO like violence! This was Eminem at his wittiest, before the pressures of stardom silenced his muse.
4. The Specials, “Ghost Town” (1981) - Ska brats try to be spooky but end up cartoony.
BRACKET 63 (I'm not so sympathetic towards Elvis, whose catalogue has already lowered the bar on 5 previous brackets)
1. Beck, “Loser” (1993) - Stoner rap over slide guitar. This song took over rock for a year and laid the groundwork for all the stoner rock hits of the late 90's. It's pretty much the only good track on Mellow Gold but it's good enough to win this bracket.
2. Billie Holiday, “Strange Fruit” (1939) - Dark and twisted. Everything was strange about this song.
3. Elvis Presley, “Jailhouse Rock” (1957) - To kids in the 50's this probably sounded like canned fun. Now it's little more than an often-stolen riff.
4. Elvis Presley, “Suspicious Minds” (1969) - Elvis' comeback hit as a bloated Vegas crooner.
1. Otis Redding, “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” (1968) - Redding's epitaph was meant to lead him in a new creative direction. Instead it only made us wonder what might have been.
2. The Byrds, “Eight Miles High” (1966) - Pretty standard folk-rock from the 60's. I never found anything terribly notable about this song. Is it about drugs? Who knows? (who cares?!)
3. Ritchie Valens, “La Bamba” (1958) - Think of Ritchie Valens as the 50's Ricky Martin. At least there wasn't any shaking of bon-bon's.
4. The Undertones, “Teenage Kicks” (1978) - Hadn't heard of these guys before now. Seems like pretty typical UK punk (even if they're not from the UK (not sure)).
I’m suffering from can’t-shut-up-itis this week. Be warned.
1. RAMONES, “BLITZKRIEG BOP”: I was stunned by the comments about the Ramones when “Sheena” was up a couple of months ago. If I could distill rock and roll into one song, this would be it…I’m glad that it’s getting some exposure on American TV now, even if it is the best thing about “The Bronx Is Burning.”
2. BLONDIE, “HEART OF GLASS”: Great disco. It’ll surprise nobody to see that I’m picking the two CBGB acts first and second in this bracket, although Blondie is playing against type here. They were a great band, but did you realize Debbie Harry was 33 years old when this came out? That’s just amazing…
3. THE BEATLES, “HEY JUDE”: I have several things to say about this song:
a. It’s Paul McCartney’s second-best song (after “Yesterday”).
b. Matching this against “Blitzkrieg Bop” is like a fight between Chris Farley and Evander Holyfield.
c. This had an absolutely horrible effect on music for the next decade.
d. I can’t listen to it without thinking of the Monty Python song, “The Ronettes Sing Medieval Agrarian History.”
4. THE TEMPTATIONS, “MY GIRL”: Sweet, but it’s just gotten old.
Bracket 62: OK, this bracket really confused me. I have never been more surprised by my own choices.
1. MICHAEL JACKSON, “BEAT IT”: So confused was I that I couldn’t figure out what to pick first until I decided to treat this as an Eddie Van Halen song. On that basis, I can vote for it with a clear conscience.
2. MICHAEL JACKSON, “BILLIE JEAN”: Finally, I’m stumped. I have no idea what to say about this song…even 25 years after Thriller came out, I still probably hear it in a restaurant or bar or store once a month. It’s not bad, but it feels as ubiquitous as air.
3. THE SPECIALS, “GHOST TOWN”: I was sure I was gonna pick the Specials #1—in my head, the Specials ARE the soundtrack of the 1980s—but, unusually for them, this is just too lugubrious, and on this side of the Atlantic, the Thatcher-era topicality falls as flat as anything could. Putting it here breaks my heart, but what are you gonna do?
4. EMINEM, “MY NAME IS”: Answering the burning question of what would happen if you crossed Charlie Manson with the Three Stooges…
1. BILLIE HOLIDAY, “STRANGE FRUIT”: With all due respect to the lady in satin, this is the ballsiest song in the tournament. Not just because it’s an amazingly poetic anti-lynching song about 20 years before the civil rights movement, but also because of her soul-rending vocal. Like “Cross Road Blues,” this is what Harold Wexler called a legacy song, but it’s so clearly out in front of this bracket that it has to be first.
2. BECK, “LOSER”: Beck is sometimes a little too far up his own bum, but this one’s infectious and fun—and lines from it spontaneously pop into my head on a regular basis: “spray-paint the vegetables,” “baby’s in Reno with the Vitamin D,” and, of course, “get crazy with the cheese whiz.”
3. ELVIS PRESLEY: “JAILHOUSE ROCK”: Yeah, I’m taking the goofy novelty dance number over “Suspicious Minds”—I’d just rather hear this one.
4. ELVIS PRESLEY, “SUSPICIOUS MINDS”: It’s another big surprise to me that I picked Jacko #1 and #2 in the above bracket and Elvis #3 and #4 in this one—despite the fact that I think Elvis is about 100 times better, AND despite the real possibility (depending on what happens in Bracket 59) that if neither of these songs wins, the King might very well go 0-for-7.
That’s just wrong, by the way. I know many of y’all are not enamored of Elvis (hi, jonmarck!)—and I’d take about ten other 50s rockers ahead of him, myself—but a complete shutout? That seems like cultural amnesia, somehow…I’m guessing that part of the problem is that none of us (I assume) is old enough to remember him before he became a caricature of himself (a fate, come to think of it, which also seems to have befallen Michael Jackson, although EP became bloated and MJ became skeletal).
1. THE UNDERTONES, “TEENAGE KICKS”: I have no idea how this snuck into the tournament, but it’s exactly the kind of thing I like—short, fast, poppy, satisfying. The only potential drawback is that the lead singer sounds too much like Geddy Lee.
2. RITCHIE VALENS, “LA BAMBA”: Counted as “world music” at the time. Perhaps I’m ranking it a little too high here; consider this my parting shot in support of the 1950s…
3. OTIS REDDING, “DOCK OF THE BAY”: iirc, jonmarck noted that this is a “what could’ve been” song. That’s true, and I’m sure it accounts for its too-high ranking. Which is too bad—I would take almost any song on Otis Blue over this one. (Yes, Anthony, this is one of the AM Top 10 I had in mind when I said about half of them were too high…along with “Satisfaction,” “Grapevine,” and “Stairway.” And maybe “Anarchy,” with the proviso that “God Save the Queen” should replace it.)
4. THE BYRDS, “EIGHT MILES HIGH”: Final surprise of the week (and the first round)—I really thought I was gonna pick this one higher. I suspect this is the Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle of sixties songs…boring unless you actually are high.
1. The Temptations, “My Girl” (1964) - 2 of my other #1's this week both covered this song. That has to say something. The Temptations at their very best.
2. Ramones, “Blitzkrieg Bop” (1976) - I can't stand the fact that every song on the selftitled album sounds like this song. No, they don't sound the same, they sound like this song, and they're all poor rip-offs of their own masterpiece. Seems to me like the Ramones figured: "What the hell, we can't make another song like this, lets just make a lot of songs that sound pretty much the same". This is undoubtedly the best song on a good (yes, even though I can't stand it, I have to hand it to them, it's good) album.
3. The Beatles, “Hey Jude” (1968) - They should have ended this at minute 3 and I would have placed it above Blitzkrieg pop. Not bad Paul, now you just have to learn when to stop.
4. Blondie, “Heart of Glass” (1978) - Not a bad song, but it has nothing on the 3 songs it's parring with.
1. Michael Jackson, “Billie Jean” (1982) - He still looked human, he did his moonwalk and he sang.. brilliantly. Nothing else this week, not even his own 'Beat It' comes remotely close.
2. Michael Jackson, “Beat It” (1982) - Another masterpiece off Thriller, what a fantastic album is that. I just knocked it up 2 spots in my top 100.
3. Eminem, “My Name Is” (1999) - The song that made him famous is not nearly his best work, although it's not bad.
4. The Specials, “Ghost Town” (1981) - I had never heard of this song until now, but when I listened to it on youtube I immediately recognized its use in Snatch. Decent tune, but nothing really special.
1. Elvis Presley, “Jailhouse Rock” (1957) - I remember seeing The Blues Brothers when I was a little boy, marvelled by the car chases and brilliant songs, thinking they made them for the movie. Of course I was horribly mistaken, and after listening to Elvis perform this song I realised I was right. Brilliance.
2. Elvis Presley, “Suspicious Minds” (1969) - 12 years later he created 2 more brilliant songs, in my opinion this isn't the best, but quite an accomplishment nontheless.
3. Billie Holiday, “Strange Fruit” (1939) - I have no real love for this song, it just sounds too friggin' dated.
4. Beck, “Loser” (1993) - Definitely a loser, there's only 1 Beck song I like and that's the The Korgis cover of 'Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometimes'. Soundtrack to a stunning movie too. But to get back to 'Loser'.. well, let's not.
1. Otis Redding, “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” (1968) - I was waiting for the week this song came along, to give it a good beating and place it 4th. However, the competition is so weak it's taking the first place. Oh well.
2. Ritchie Valens, “La Bamba” (1958) - I was gonna say something a long the lines of "Listening to this, it doesn't seem like Feb 3rd 1959 was the day the music died.." but that's a little too harsh. It's actually a fun song.
3. The Undertones, “Teenage Kicks” (1978) - Pretty good song, yet nothing special.
4. The Byrds, “Eight Miles High” (1966) - Decent song, but the Byrds have done much better.
I understand what you’re saying schleuse; even reading that Elvis could go 0-7 seems a bit wrong, but I’m not so sure the “cultural amnesia” effect is entirely accurate here.
I think it’s fairly reasonable to assume that none of us lived back in the 50s to see “the pelvis” in his glory years. (I might be wrong though; after all, demographic information hasn’t been very forthcoming on this forum.) I’m just wondering how much of an effect this has. Just looking at the 56 songs that are advancing to the next round – as a collective group, we’ve been pretty good at remembering the past (so to speak). It appears that we’re able to appreciate pop music from all years.
Is Elvis the victim of circumstance (ie. if the order of the AM top 256 was altered slightly, and as such, the brackets would be different, would any Elvis songs have advanced then?) I would say, probably not.
I’d like to give all the voters the benefit of the doubt here, and think that everyone has listened to their fair share of Elvis, and everyone knows the Elvis story (and just how much impact he had on music and culture), but in the end, as a general group, we just don’t like his songs that much.
You're right, Anthony, that "cultural amnesia" was too harsh...it was bad form on my part. And I, especially, should shut up, since, looking back over the ballots, I've ranked only one Presley song in first place, myself.
Sorry about dat, everybody.
1. The Beatles, “Hey Jude” (1968) – A simple (melodically), natural pop classic that sounds like it has always existed. Arguably, the Beatles signature song. Easy winner here (if you are a Beatles fan).
2. Ramones, “Blitzkrieg Bop” (1976) – Hard to differentiate one Ramones song from the next, but their contribution as a group is worth acclaim.
3. Blondie, “Heart of Glass” (1978) – Great vocal. Fun song.
4. The Temptations, “My Girl” (1964) – I prefer Mary Wells’ “My Guy.”
1. Michael Jackson, “Billie Jean” (1982) – The production on this song is amazing. Listen to it on headphones. The sound and mix is perfect.
2. The Specials, “Ghost Town” (1981) – This is a very original song. Interesting tones. Good lyrics.
3. Michael Jackson, “Beat It” (1982) – I can’t hear this one without thinking of Weird Al. Less interesting to me than “Billie Jean.”
4. Eminem, “My Name Is” (1999) – Can’t believe that “Lose Yourself” is not in the top 256. That one probably would have finished won this bracket for me.
BRACKET 63 – Real tough bracket.
1. Beck, “Loser” (1993) – I think this one is just genius. Love the sound. Love the quirky and funny lyrics. Love the attitude. “In the time of chimpanzees I was a monkey…”
2. Elvis Presley, “Suspicious Minds” (1969) – I can see this one sneaking through to the next round and it wouldn’t bother me a bit. Great song and performance. In general, I think the musical output of the seventies (and late-sixties) Elvis is underrated. Other great tunes from era: Kentucky Rain, In The Ghetto, Clean Up Your Own Backyard, If You Talk In Your Sleep, and Moody Blue.
3. Billie Holiday, “Strange Fruit” (1939) – Gutsy performance from one of my all-time favorite artists, but I prefer the jazzy sides – especially the Columbia material with Lester Young on sax.
4. Elvis Presley, “Jailhouse Rock” (1957) – Always seemed to campy to me. Realized full potential when performed in the Joliet Prison by Jake and Elwood. Still, a good no. 4.
1. Otis Redding, “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” (1968) – Nothing special to me personally, but I can’t deny that it is the strongest track in this group.
2. Ritchie Valens, “La Bamba” (1958) – Infectious pop. Great guitar line.
3. The Undertones, “Teenage Kicks” (1978) – John Peel’s favorite song of all time. Very catchy.
4. The Byrds, “Eight Miles High” (1966) – Good song, but I would much rather hear “Hey Mr. Spaceman” or anything from “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” (An aside: I’m sorry to see Gram Parsons shut out from the tourney. Let’s hear it for “Sin City,” “Return of The Grievous Angel” or “Hickory Wind”).
I was hoping Teenage Kicks would make it to the next round so I could write a little homage to John Peel. Not looking good.
I don't think Elvis tracks win for the same reason I don't think Robbie Williams or Enrique Iglasias should win. I don't care how novel it was at the time. Cheesy pop is cheesy pop.
I'd write that homage this round, John. As you noted, it doesn't look like too many people here share our enthusiasm for TK. It was Peel's favourite recording with very good reason; I just can't imagine a more thrilling, exciting and perfect song, not in my world anyway. It's my favourite pop record of all time.
jonmarck, don't you think you're going a little too far comparing Elvis (espacially 50's Elvis) with R Williams ?
without Elvis : no Beatles
OK it may look very hip to stomp an icon
It's a pity Elvis tracks don't make it to the 2nd round, but I've understood now that defending the 50's here is as useful as pissing in a violin (as we say in FRench)
OK I've been a little agressive, but I had a rough week
What shocked me is when you say that Elvis or at least RCA Elvis) is cheesy pop, which is historically pure nonsense.
What pains me is that a lot of you guys don't seem to have a sense of history, judging every record as if it had been made in 2007 and not in its own context..
In 1956 when Elvis did jailhouse rock, cheesy pop (as you say, but come to France and taste cheese and you'll never use that word again) was everywhere with people like Perry Como, Billy Vaughn etc
Elvis at that time was like the Clash in 1977
Well you may argue that it's the feeling you get when you hear the songs, but for me 3chords rockn roll like this is the chore of everything; and it pains me to realize I got old to the point that nobody ever remember this
The punk movement that you revere, in the mid-seventies, was nothing but an attempt to go back to the raw, amateur and wild sound of the very first rockers.
But all this is fashion anyway : now that rock is in its decline, people always look 20 years behind them.
When I was 20, in 1990 it was the seventies.
Now it's the punk era and the early 80s.
Who will be next ?
I try not to look at that kind of stuff at all. Caricature of himself? MJ a monkey? Who friggin' cares! They made marvelous music, and the fact that they did it 60 years ago makes it, if anything, even more impressive. For me Elvis remains the king, whatever he did in his personal life.
I understand that at the time Elvis was the Sex Pistols...but the Sex Pistols aren't that great either! If Elvis ever cared enough about his music to release a London Calling then I might care about him, but he didn't! He was just a truck driver who stumbled onto fame when he jammed with some guys in Sun Studios. He hadn't even performed live before! He is everything wrong with the industry: a "musician" better at being a celebrity than making music.
As for no Elvis=no Beatles that's quite a stretch. John Lennon and Paul McCartney were so full of talent that they would have been successful musicians regardless of when they started (as opposed to Elvis who just happened to be in the right place at the right time). Don't forget, the music died on Feb. 3, 1959. Five years later the Beatles were basically starting from scratch. Elvis wasn't THAT much of a cultural forager.
I respect his place in history (that's why I've got two of his albums) but he is no musical hero.
How can you compare Elvis to the Sex Pistols? The Sex Pistols released 1 good album, 1 great song and 1 good song and are fairly overrated. Elvis has the most #1 hits ever along with the Beatles iirc, he's got dozens of great songs, a couple of fairly good albums (not an album-artist imo, but that's fine), a 20-year career and even had a #1 hit 5 years ago. With some help of my fellow Dutchie Junkie XL, but hey.
I meant in terms of controversy. Nicolas said I shouldn't compare him to Robbie Williams because he was so dangerous (for the time). I couldn't care less about how dangerous someone seems. Marilyn Manson seems dangerous to some people. It's all just an act.
38. The Beatles, “Hey Jude” (1968) Seven minutes may be stretching it for a pop single, but I’ll be arsed if I can detect an ounce of flab here. It’s touching, melodic and indelibly stamped in your memory from the first listen – all their best qualities. Perhaps a touch of Lennon-style cynicism might have made this more popular with the hipsters, but it’s not always bad to be pleasantly sappy and sentimental.
166. Ramones, “Blitzkrieg Bop” (1976) Perfect bubblegum punk.
91. The Temptations, “My Girl” (1964) I far prefer the Four Tops singles, and a million listens in so many different contexts (films, tv, oldies radio) has certainly dulled my appreciation for this particular song. Still, credit where credit is due – it’s a good song given a good performance.
219. Blondie, “Heart of Glass” (1978) Playing this song back to back with any of the true disco classics from this era (Chic’s Good Times or the Tramps Disco Inferno are two that immediately spring to mind) shows how anemic and feeble it is. It does have a nice touch of melody, but it’s so much less than the greater songs of the style it imitated.
27. Michael Jackson, “Billie Jean” (1982) Probably the greatest song of this superhumanly talented performers career, though I really love Human Nature as well. I’ve probably subjected this term to over-use. but I have to pull out “iconic” again, because this song did change so many things. It didn’t just break down colour barriers in music, it stomped all over them. It redefined what it meant to be a superstar with a blockbuster album, and it opened markets to places western pop hadn’t looked before. Perhaps not all positive developments for the health and quality of pop music, but I don’t that should be allowed to detract from Jackson’s accomplishments and acknowledgement of his greatness. I think that you could probably make a pretty strong case that this era (’82-’84, let’s say) was the last genuinely great period for pop music – Prince, Springsteen and Jackson were all at their commercial and (perhaps) artistic peaks, and there were many other lesser performers who peaked around the same time as well.
155. Michael Jackson, “Beat It” (1982) Not quite as great as Billie Jean I think, probably because it tries to rock, and that’s something that Jackson can’t quite do convincingly. He can groove and he can put across a ballad, but the guy’s not tough, needless to say. I still think it’s a great song, of course – I’d probably rank it as the third best track on Thriller.
102. The Specials, “Ghost Town” (1981) Perhaps this is one of those tracks that don’t register with you if you weren’t there at the time because I like quite a few Specials songs, but this one doesn’t lift my skirt at all. Actually, I prefer and really love Terry Hall’s Fun Boy Three and Colourfield albums, and would take the releases he made under those names over most songs the Specials recorded.
230. Eminem, “My Name Is” (1999) no comments, really, other than to say that music in this style is not for me.
70. Elvis Presley, “Suspicious Minds” (1969) This probably isn’t the greatest song from his comeback album (Only the Strong Survive is a personal favourite), but it is probably the most instantly loveable one. I do wish the arrangement swung a little harder, but when Elvis was given a great song he always rose to the occasion.
198. Elvis Presley, “Jailhouse Rock” (1957) It still out-rocks almost everything that’s followed in its wake.
187. Billie Holiday, “Strange Fruit” (1939) I can’t deny that I feel like a bit of a brute – almost culturally insensitive, really – ranking this here, because this is a special song and performance on so many levels, but there are two fairly immortal Elvis songs that cannot be denied above.
59. Beck, “Loser” (1993) I thought it was great fun at the time of its release, but this song now irritates me for a few reasons – the throw-away lyrics about cheez-wiz, the laconic vocals, the slacker persona – thought that last point doesn’t trouble me much when it comes to Pavement or Lou Barlow, so perhaps I’m reaching there.
251. The Undertones, “Teenage Kicks” (1978) Eh, I could rhapsodize endlessly over this one I suppose, but I’ll try to keep it short. As I’ve said above, this is my favourite song across all genres. There’s no better example of how pop music, a medium that by its nature will produce throwaway music, aural sand castles that will be swept away once your three minutes are up, can produce a little miracle. It’s perfect in every way. From the handclaps and the goofy instrumental break to the shout-along chorus and Fergal’s dorky, adolescent vocals, no song has ever captured teenage exuberance with so much energy and charisma. It’s just so fucking exciting – I still get swept up in it every time it plays, even after twenty years. I think it’s the most perfect pop song of all time. John Pell got this one dead right.
6. Otis Redding, “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” (1968) Lord knows I have my own idiosyncrasies, and I would never for one minute think that my opinions and tastes deserve to be slated above anyone else’s. I don’t mind if nobody likes Teenage Kicks besides me. I don’t care that lots of people here seem to love the joyless and unimaginative Oasis. It doesn’t trouble me that there are a few Prince haters chiming in on this competition. Nothing in bracketology has bothered me in the least…until now: Dock of the Bay is one of soul music’s greatest moments. From the first time I heard it (knowing nothing about Otis Redding and the timing of the song and his death), I knew I was hearing something very special. Certainly it doesn’t scream in your face – it whispers in your ear, and it does so beautifully. It’s one of the most haunting, lovely, touching songs of our age, and it deserves it rank as a classic.
134. Ritchie Valens, “La Bamba” (1958) Exciting, energetic fifties rock.
123. The Byrds, “Eight Miles High” (1966) I love the Byrds, but I don’t love them when they sound like this.
Johnmarck, of course it's your right not to like Elvis, and I don't blame you for that.
But I really think he can't be compraed to R Williams or Marylin Manson (Manson is just marketing)
Elvis was the first white guy to sing and dance like a Black man on a national scale. He scared a lot of people, willingly or not.Yes he jammed with friends in Memphis, but those jams, the Sun sessions, are terrific.
they just brought to light a kind of music that was dispised by a lot of people (blues, rhythm and blues, western swing)and helped rock and roll to reach the popularity we know now.
Was he aware of that ? Of course not
But that's the beauty of rock n roll. It's not Art with a big A. Thank God.
Of course he never wrote a line of song. But what a performer he was..
I don't think I put a lot of Elvis tracks at nb 1 on bracketology (I remember at least 2, that's all right, my favorite with
but I have a sort of respect for the man, the exemplarity of his history, and the influence he had on a lot of people.
1)Beatles - Hey Jude:The easy #1 here - like Free Bird,probably carries on a bit long after the actual song though but still class
2)Temptations - My Girl:A solid Motown song - some of my favourite vocals ever
3)Blondie - Heart Of Glass:Didn't realize till I played it it is almost 6 minutes! Too long - I'm a bit sick of it now
4)Ramones - Blitzkrieg Bop:OK,but no masterpiece
1)Michael Jackson - Billie Jean:Undeniably great - a masterpiece of a pop track
2)Specials - Ghost Town:Fantastic,eerie track - nothing like most of their stuff. One of my favourite music moments at 1:30 - "do you remember the good old days before the ghost town..."
3)Michael Jackson - Beat It:Another strong song from Thriller - other songs as good on the album...
4)Eminem - My Name Is:Not a standout track from this artist or from 1999
1)Elvis Presley - Suspicious Minds:The king's best song - a pop masterpiece.
2)Billie Holiday - Strange Fruit:Hard to judge because I only downloaded it a few weeks ago but it's fantastic
3)Beck - Loser:Summed up the mind of a generation
4)Elvis Presley - Jailhouse Rock:One of the standouts from his 50s output but hardly something I listen to regularly...
1)Undertones - Teenage Kicks:Love it to pieces,maybe it isn't as 'great' as the other songs here - but I'd certainly play it more
2)Byrds - Eight Miles High:Exciting,60s freak out - deserve better than the battering they've been given here
3)Otis Redding - Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay:A great song to listen to - but hardly exciting or anything too special
4)Ritchie Valens - La Bamba:hadn't heard this version before(just Los Lobos) - but nothing exceptional
Well Elvis was just marketing too. They all play the image game. Good for them, but it's not music.
Sure Elvis was the first white guy to sing and dance like a Black man. That's why I think he's a hack! He pilfered a culture! I give him the same respect that I give Edison for robbing Tesla of his brilliant inventions. I say the same thing about Bill Haley and the Comets who were equally as substance-free and equally as exploitative.
And those jams aren't that great. They're worth studying for historical reasons but other than that it's just sloppy R&B/country. For crying out loud, my church band is better than them!
Historically he has an important place. That can't be denied. However it's a spot that anyone could have filled. It was a catalyst for greater things, there was nothing special about it itself. I think he proved that himself in the way his career plummeted the second the fad had passed.
Art with a capitol A stands for Arthur. But I wish it was "art" and entertainment at the same time. Elvis only knew how to do one of those. It's the true heroes: the Beatles, David Bowie, Bob Dylan, The White Stripes, Radiohead, Neil Young, Elvis Costello, Stevie Wonder, etc. who can manage both.
As a historical figure he's definitely worth the study but in a music competition he belongs right at the bottom, next to Beyonce and Justin Timberlake and whatever new millenium crap we already quashed.
Come on, jonmarck, how can you say Elvis pilfered a culture ?
That's the mere essence of rock'n roll : being a fusion of styles, accomplishing that blending of country and blues, of doo wop gospel and pop on a boogie rhythm
Before rock n roll there was a musical apartheid; very few black songs could make it to the pop charts, and white bands made these bad covers of doo wop tunes to please the institution.
I think it really is a progress that somebody (Elvis rather than Bill Haley, who was more of a classic country singer but who played rnr before the others, see his excellent AMG bio) broke that.
And about the Sun sessions, i'm not gonna argue about their value (this would really turn to a deafs conversation if it hasn't yet), but when you say that it's nothing but some sloppy country & r&b , I suspect you don't put country very high anyway, like most of the people in this forum. Well i don't blame anybody for that, because I think country musn'tbe appreciated the same way on both sides of the Atlantic.
I mean as an European, i just have to listen to the music, it sounds exotic to me, and I don't know the cultural context. I don't know what sort of guy a classic country fan is
If you don't like country, you can't like the most of Elvis and Bill Haley, that's for sure.
1. The Beatles, “Hey Jude” (1968)
2. Ramones, “Blitzkrieg Bop” (1976)
3. Blondie, “Heart of Glass” (1978)
4. The Temptations, “My Girl” (1964)
1. The Specials, “Ghost Town” (1981)
2. Michael Jackson, “Beat It” (1982)
3. Michael Jackson, “Billie Jean” (1982)
4. Eminem, “My Name Is” (1999)
1. Billie Holiday, “Strange Fruit” (1939)
2. Elvis Presley, “Suspicious Minds” (1969)
3. Elvis Presley, “Jailhouse Rock” (1957)
4. Beck, “Loser” (1993)
1. Otis Redding, “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” (1968)
2. The Byrds, “Eight Miles High” (1966)
3. The Undertones, “Teenage Kicks” (1978)
4. Ritchie Valens, “La Bamba” (1958)
I've been pre-listening the songs before synch them to my MP3 player (and listen to them monday morning on my way to my f**** job)
It's a hell of a wek, terrific songs, contrast with the 2 previous that were rather week to my mind
By the way, Schleuse, do you accept Giuseppe's choices (for once there's a guy that thinks like me)
Giuseppe, per favore, scrivi gli commenti ! Write comments, even short ones, so we can score a few points !
1. The Temptations, “My Girl” (1964): a terrific composition from “poet” Smokey Robinson, a great vocal deliverance from early Temptations and a wise and delicate musical performance from the Funk Brothers made one of the Motown most memorable numbers.
2. The Beatles, “Hey Jude” (1968): sorry, Paul, but I relegate again a song from yours to #2 (I did it previously with “Yesterday” and “Penny Lane”). And this one is the best song ever about friendship (IMO #2 would be King’s –or Taylor’s - “You’ve Got a Friend”, #3 S&G “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, #4 The Clash’ “Stay Free” and #5 Springsteen’s “Bobbie Jean”).
3. Blondie, “Heart of Glass” (1978): new wave diva becoming disco diva and not losing the edge in the way.
4. Ramones, “Blitzkrieg Bop” (1976): mold-breaking, funny, pure cretin hop from the very first Ramones, sad to put it last.
1. Michael Jackson, “Billie Jean” (1982): little to add to what all of you said, I would only point to the polite and detailed production of Quincy Jones. Every note, every sigh, every cry, every element of the song is perfectly executed and exactly placed.
2. The Specials, “Ghost Town” (1981): terrific song with an astonishing use of keyboards and horns and a fresh Jamaican tone.
3. Michael Jackson, “Beat It” (1982): not better that “Billie Jean” but it includes the best ever guitar solo courtesy of Eddie Van Halen, with every trick that can be done with an electric guitar: bending, taping, unisone bending, repeated patterns, harmonics with guitar plectrum, etc.
4. Eminem, “My Name Is” (1999): good one, it’s impossible to think of a more provocative way to rush into the pop scene. But, if “Stan” didn’t win its bracket, this one won’t do it too.
1. Billie Holiday, “Strange Fruit” (1939): a superb protest song. When I’ve done my all-time list I’ve changed this one at the last moment for another sublime Holiday one, “You’ve Changed”. I regret this decision immediately cause this change prevented the Sonfosamiam ever favourite song for reaching the main list (fortunately I didn’t change Satie’s “Gymnopedies”, allowing Henrik #1 to reach the main list).
2. Elvis Presley, “Suspicious Minds” (1969): wonderful Vegas Elvis. And I will seize the opportunity to have my say about Elvis controversy. I’m puzzled for previous forum comments trying to dismiss Elvis importance, although I can share some of them to a certain degree. Maybe Elvis wasn’t the King of Rock’n’Roll, but undoubtedly he was the Icebreaker of R&R. And it isn’t fair at all to consider that he merely stole its style from black people. Just give a listen to “The Sun Collection” and how he shifted from the black & white roots (it’s an almost folk album!) to build a completely new style. And he wasn’t only important for his pioneer condition, he has tons of wonderful songs. But I can see two major drawbacks that can justify that controversy:
a) He wasn’t able to write his own material (well, only the forgettable “You’ll Be Gone”). And while he sang the songs of Leiber-Stoller or Little Richard during the 50s or the Jerry Reed or Mark James ones during the last 60s or first 70s he recorded great songs. But during the main part of the 60s he was forced to record tons of crappy songs.
b) He wasn’t able to confront the most dreadful person in rock history, Colonel Tom Parker. Sadly Elvis was a puppet in hands that ruined his career absolutely.
3. Beck, “Loser” (1993): only Beck has talent enough to mix so easily traditional blues and hip hop.
4. Elvis Presley, “Jailhouse Rock” (1957): well, no much more to say about Elvis. Nice Leiber-Stoller song-writing, powerful performance, but #4 of this bracket.
1. Otis Redding, “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” (1968): masterpiece. When I hear this one I always get a peaceful and calmed feeling, even maybe it’s only resignation. “Nothing’s gonna change / everything still remains the same”.
2. The Undertones, “Teenage Kicks” (1978): it seems that it always appears “Teenage Kicks” and John Peel within the same phrase. Anyway, immortal power pop.
3. The Byrds, “Eight Miles High” (1966): imaginative psychedelic one, with probably the most bizarre guitar solo in Billboard Top 15 ever.
4. Ritchie Valens, “La Bamba” (1958): ethnic music assaulting US charts, if only for this it has its importance, even it’s undeniable silly.
Wow. I haven't checked out the thread all weekend, and I come back to the first-ever bracketology mentions of both Robbie Williams and Nikola Tesla!
I don't think I'll weigh in on the Elvis controversy, except to say that I think the claim that Elvis "pilfered" African-American music doesn't hold much water; by that standard, the Beastie Boys and Young Americans-era Bowie are equally culpable. But, to be fair, I'm much more distressed by the elimination of Buddy Holly and Little Richard than the (still only potential!) elimination of the man from Tupelo.
Giuseppe, I'll reiterate nicolas' plea: comments would be very welcome. You've posted rankings consistently, and I'd love to count your ballots in the second round (if you want to post in Italian, I can get my wife to translate!).
1- Ramones, “Blitzkrieg Bop”
2- Blondie, “Heart of Glass
3- The Beatles, “Hey Jude”
4- The Temptations, “My Girl”
1- Michael Jackson, “Billie Jean”
2- The Specials, “Ghost Town”
3- Michael Jackson, “Beat It”
4- Eminem, “My Name Is”
1- Beck, “Loser”
2- Elvis Presley, “Jailhouse Rock”
3- Elvis Presley, “Suspicious Minds”
4- Billie Holiday, “Strange Fruit”
1- Otis Redding, “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay”
2- Ritchie Valens, “La Bamba”
3- The Byrds, “Eight Miles High”
4- The Undertones, “Teenage Kicks”
Don't get me started on the Beastie Boys....
But at least they were some of the originators and had a reasonable amount of creativity (especially for rap). Elvis just took what everyone else was doing (sometimes literally, like in Hound Dog or Shake, Rattle and Roll) and released watered-down, "pop" versions for an audience too squeamish to handle the real thing. It's like what Green Day did to the Ramones, and then what Simple Plan did to Green Day.
Geez you're making it sound like the king of rock n'roll,a cultural icon,maybe the most recognizable name of the 20th century - is nothing more than a footnote in music history...
That's all hype, celebrity and image. That was Elvis' meal ticket. Try to see him for who he really was.
I like Elvis but he is no better or worse than say someone like Eminem who took black music and made it there own. Thank God the Beatles came along most likely the first rock act that did not need black music to make it big though they were influenced by Chuck Berry and Little Richard.
Um....although the Beatles did write a lot of their early material a good chunk of their early songs was "black music".
It was but it also stood on its own. They had talent from day 1. See, my complaint about Elvis is he simply took from other performers, and not only did he not add to the style, he watered it down! The Beatles, on the other hand, took something and made it their own. Then threw it out and took on a whole new style. Then threw that out and took a new style. Then got mad at each other and went into their own separate studios to create 3 new styles.
1. The Beatles, “Hey Jude” (1968) - The beatles easily win this bracket. I find the song a bit too long.
2. Ramones, “Blitzkrieg Bop” (1976) - Good punk. One of the Ramones songs which is not a copy of other Ramones song.
3. Blondie, “Heart of Glass” (1978) - Nice disco. To the point.
4. The Temptations, “My Girl” (1964) - Nice song. Like Camembert :P
1. Michael Jackson, “Billie Jean” (1982) - This is perfect disco.
2. The Specials, “Ghost Town” (1981) - Nice, full of athmosphere.
3. Michael Jackson, “Beat It” (1982) - Very good disco.
4. Eminem, “My Name Is” (1999) - I like some Eminem songs a lot, but not this one.
1. Beck, “Loser” (1993) - Original Beck song, I like it.
2. Elvis Presley, “Suspicious Minds” (1969) - One of the Elvis songs I like. A bit too long though.
3. Billie Holiday, “Strange Fruit” (1939) - Beautiful old song.
4. Elvis Presley, “Jailhouse Rock” (1957) - Lesser Elvis, please leave the building.
1. The Undertones, “Teenage Kicks” (1978) - This rocking song wins easily for me.
2. Otis Redding, “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” (1968) - What can you say? It's beautiful.
3. The Byrds, “Eight Miles High” (1966) - Nice guitar sound. Nice song.
4. Ritchie Valens, “La Bamba” (1958) - This really swings. Fun song, no more, no less.
A very good week
1 The Beatles, “Hey Jude” (1968) **** : I would like to say how much I love Paul’s songs in the Beatles’ catalogue; how they seem to flow effortlessly, obviously. For me he is equal to John and George (I know serious critics always say the contrary)
2.Blondie, “Heart of Glass” (1978) *** : wow, what a flashback ! This was the music I heard on the radio when I was a small kid. I like it also because Robert Wyatt stole a musical phrase of the chorus for his Heap Of Sheeps, the opening track of his 1997 album.
3. The Temptations, “My Girl” (1964) *** : a good piece of pop-soul with wonderful arrangements
4 Ramones, “Blitzkrieg Bop” (1976) *** : fun, it’s bubblegum rock meeting punk, fun of the early rock era with punk energy
1. Michael Jackson, “Billie Jean” (1982) ***** : Hands down. If there was one popular song to pick in the 80’s… Tremendous intro.
2. The Specials, “Ghost Town” (1981) **** : Memory Lane again : I was 11 and a schoolmate lent me this record, a 45 RPM, but the French teacher confiscated it, and the guy (he was big) beat the hell out of me.. I remember that when I heard it I had not understood a thing; now, 26 years later, I realize what a hell of a song it is, very typical of the London of that era, when black music (through the West Indies and Africa) came to influence British rock and renew British music. This song and this multiethnic group mix all sorts of Jamaican music : ska, reggae, calypso, dub.. and also real horns with synth horns which is very funny.
For those looking for excellent old jamaican material, check the Trojan boxsets, they’re all excellent ! You’ll find all the music that influenced the Specials, the Clash, Madness...
3. Michael Jackson, “Beat It” (1982) *** : pop meeting funk meeting metal; and as Honorio pointed out, Eddie’s demo of every effect you can put in a hard rock solo..
4. Eminem, “My Name Is” (1999) * : a pile of homophobic and violent rubbish, empty provocation. The music is not so bad, but the lyrics make me want to throw up. Does he mean to be funny ? Come on, let’s stop pretending it’s fun and cool… is that what he had to do to start selling records ? I have a lot of respect and admiration for the USA (or I wouldn’t like all these musics), but omnipresent and trivialized violence in that country just scares the shit out of me.
1. Billie Holiday, “Strange Fruit” (1939) ***** : if a song from the 30’s could make it to the 2nd round, I’d be comforted . And what a song... beautiful piano overture by Sonny White, and then the voice, the words Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh, Then the sudden smell of burning flesh ... Billie Holiday, like every popular female singer (Piaf) sings without emphasizing grief nor defeat but with contempt and self-assurance, she doesn’t turn the song into a melodramatic opera (like Barbara Streisand would surely do). And then there is this ending, abrupt, and then silence. Every time she sang it on stage, there was a big embarrassed silence after that final note.
There’s this book called Strange Fruit by a fellow named David Margolick. Let me quote you a few excerpts (translated from French from English):
Billie Holiday didn’t write Strange Fruit, like she claims in her autobiography. But she made the song hers, she became that song (… We keep in mind her way of performing it, but we don’t remember Mr Meeropol, who signed the lyrics. (… Would we be interested in Strange Fruit if Billie Holiday didn’t sing it at a certain time, in New York City ?
Billie Holiday never forgot that even in the Café Society (a place known to be very liberal, where Blacks and White were admitted) she was afraid to sing this new song, a song that made a frontal attack on racial hatred at a time when protest music was almost unknown.
This is very true : before the Civil rights, there were very few protest songs about segregation, and they were all written by white liberals. Blues songs were based on double-entendre (sexual and political) but never raised the subject out loud. The singers were too much afraid of retaliation against themselves or their families.
When we think about the South and segregation, it is Strange Fruit and not We Shall Overcome that comes to our minds (…
The song was out in 1939, at a time when A-Tisket, A-Tasket by Ella Fitzgerald was more what people expected of “little black female singers”.
It was released by Commodore Records, a small left-wing company (because no major would take the risk), and was completely clashing with the rest of Holiday’s production (mainly very good entertaining songs).
I personally think that it is much more than just music. It is probably the most beautiful protest song because it wasn’t sung by some young awkward white folky boyscout, but by a figure of entertainment music, somebody who was asked to sing it, reluctantly accepted but then became like haunted by this song. And somebody who could sing it because she wasn’t from the South, so there was a distance.
And, last but not least, it is a song about violence, but not the usual gangsta rap shit like the Eminem song above. What we are seeing is the result, the consequences of violence, not the action and adrenaline; this is what the movies and TV serials and news report never show, and what makes violence really unbearable : the outcome, the bodies, the shock. The way she sings, we are standing under that tree. And that was probably even stronger to hear her sing the song live after a bluette like Fine and Mellow.
2. Elvis Presley, “Suspicious Minds” (1969) **** : Elvis doing a unique sort of music : rock-pop from Vegas. I love the guitar intro. Anybody remembers Fine Young Cannibals’cover ?
3. Beck, “Loser” (1993) **** : I love Beck when he mixes folk/blues with modernity, this Delta blues bottleneck guitar riff with rap. Good song, a bit repetitive maybe
4. Elvis Presley, “Jailhouse Rock” (1957) ***: Elvis doing one of his rockers from 1956-57, not the best i think.
1. Otis Redding, “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” (196 ***** : my favorite Otis song (I’m not an absolute fan, I think he eggagerates with his voice sometimes), and one of my favorite songs ever. Why ? The voice doesn’t do too much, it’s cool, and I love that bridge. I think it’s the bridge that makes this song so great, as often.
2. Ritchie Valens, “La Bamba” (195 ****: I love Ritchie Valens, who is known for this song and a sugary ballad called Donna..But the rest is worth a listen… I love the guitar solo.
3. The Undertones, “Teenage Kicks” (197 **** : at last a punk band with a singer who can sing
4. The Byrds, “Eight Miles High” (1966) ***: The Byrds at the middle of their career are the Byrds I like the less.
Hey nicolas I forgot to mention that I'm actually a big country fan. I don't know as much as I want to about country but those I've heard (Shelby Lynne, Lucinda Williams, Ryan Adams, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash) I admire quite a bit. Of course, I hate pop country, but anyone with half a soul would!
You hate pop country? But Tim McGraw is great! (and I'm not kidding either, I secretly love pretty much every one of his songs)
/me prepares to be lynched.
I honestly haven't heard any of his stuff. However I'll still join in on a lynching if anyone else wants to start one! (I'm ignorant like that)
So we'll have to throw a thread about country/folk/blues like John did with classical and jazz.
I'll try to make my selections as concise as possible (promised)
1. Blondie, “Heart of Glass” (1978) - A great disco beat always makes the top of my brackets.
2. The Beatles, “Hey Jude” (1968) - Undeniably a great song, but I have to say I'm not often in the mood for this.
3. The Temptations, “My Girl” (1964) - I prefer later Temptations, this sounds too much like children's music.
4. Ramones, “Blitzkrieg Bop” (1976) - More children's music. Nothing wrong with that, but both Hanna and I prefer James & Karin's "Djurens brevlåda" ("The Animals' Mailbox").
1. Michael Jackson, “Billie Jean” (1982) - Best beat ever. If it just kept going with the intro it would still be a winner.
2. The Specials, “Ghost Town” (1981) - Another of my huge favorites. It hurts to put it at #2! Love the mood and most of all the trumpet solo.
3. Michael Jackson, “Beat It” (1982) - Beats many songs but not the two above.
4. Eminem, “My Name Is” (1999) - I've thought about this one as a funny gem, but after reading Nicolas' review it was an easy choice to put this at #4.
1. Billie Holiday, “Strange Fruit” (1939) - How great would it be if we had a 30s song in the next round! Again, read Nicolas' review for more info.
2. Beck, “Loser” (1993) - The pinnacle of the weird side of Beck.
3. Elvis Presley, “Jailhouse Rock” (1957) - Maybe the first rock song I loved as a kid. Great rocker.
4. Elvis Presley, “Suspicious Minds” (1969) - Huh? Give me "In the Ghetto" any day.
1. The Undertones, “Teenage Kicks” (1978) - This teenage kick still works on the old man.
2. Ritchie Valens, “La Bamba” (1958) - Makes me happy. A song in Spanish!
3. The Byrds, “Eight Miles High” (1966) - Psychedelic milestone.
4. Otis Redding, “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” (1968) - A really nice tune, but not so much more.
nicolas, you remarked about the "omnipresent and trivialized violence in that country (i.e., USA)"
I think it is a bit of a stretch to say that violence is "omnipresent" in the USA - and I live in Detroit! (Eminem's hometown.) It's just not something we all deal with everyday.
Also, I don't hear Eminem as "trivializing" it. Maybe "sensationalizing" it would be more accurate? And that, in turn, might create the impression that violence is omnipresent.
Yes I understand, I've been a little excessive of course
about that and I'm sorry for that.
Of course "omnipresent" is very excessive, but I was just surprised that the lyrics of that song didn't raise any eyebrows;
I mean the guy is boasting about brutalizing his teacher because he's a gay and raping lesbians
ther's probably something in the cultural context that I have missed
Any way I really didn't want to judge anybody (I hate the anti-americanism of French intellectuals)
I've been very awkward
sorry for that cliché
but if somebody could explain to me why this song is not so chocking, I'd be glad
since I have kids I'm very sensitive on these subjects
I don’t think you’ve missed anything, Nicolas. The song is meant to be shocking; that’s exactly what Eminem intended. What distinguishes the song though (and the reason why it’s in the AM top 256) is the way in which the shock is presented. Each word (right down to the most crude curse and derogatory phrase) is carefully chosen; each lyric and rhyme crafted with a poet’s precision. I’m certainly not comparing Marshall Mathers to Keats or Whitman, but like I alluded to in my comments, he’s amazing at what he does. The performance is truly remarkable (and in my opinion, he got better on his subsequent LP.)
As a fan (albeit, not a huge one), I can say that if you can get past the shock and listen to the talent behind it, it might give you an appreciation for what he does.
Anthony is correct to say that Eminem, like any artist, should be judged primarily on how well he achieves his goal. In this case, I think his goal was not to glorify violence and homophobia (although those are there, and are troubling), but to establish the "Slim Shady" character.
I never found the Slim Shady character terribly appealing, but it's obvious that a lot of people (kids especially) did. And a lot of that has to do with the suggestion of violence.
Now, I'm American, and I don't particularly fear violence (although many poor Americans, unfortunately, don't have that luxury). However, it's absolutely the case that images of violent crime, both real and fictional, are unavoidable in the US (France too, I'm guessing). And, nicolas, you're right that kids being exposed to those images is a major concern.
BUT, while kids do need to be sheltered from violent images as much as possible, they also need an outlet to deal with their feelings about it, whether that's video games, gangsta rap, teen-slasher flicks, or whatever. Yes, this stuff tends to be outlandish and puerile, but that's the point. A kid listening to Eminem is acknowledging, and grappling with, powerful, confusing thoughts about violence in a relatively safe, cartoony way. I think that's preferable to denial.
Don't get me wrong; the first time my kid gets into a fight, I'm not going to hand him The Marshall Mathers LP. Parents still have an absolute responsibility to watch, and talk to, their kids to make sure they're not, say, taking Marilyn Manson seriously or playing Halo 3 all weekend.
(Halo 3 is one of the violent games, right?)
I've been reading Eminem's biography and I understand a little more the song's context.
And of course the violence depicted here is cartoonish, but maybe I don't have sufficient understanding of the language to plainly understand the distance put by Eminem.
And of course, I agree with you, schleuse, about parents' role in education. Violent video games, happy slapping and all that stuff also exist in France, but I think I'llbe able to keep my kids away from that.
And of course you can't keep them in a cocoon and hide them from the realities of the world
I just can't help imagining some people listening to the song and thinking 'that guy is right, let's kill all homosexuals and keep all women quiet"
It's funny because on the country thread we had the same discussion about Merle Haggard and Okie..
It makes me want to see the 8-Mile movie (and what about a thread about our favorite musical movies, but maybe somebody did it before...)
And I also think an artist hasn't to be judged for his personal ideas but for his works.
Céline, who's among the very the best french writers of the 20th century (equal to Camus or Sartre), was an
antisemit and was close to the collaboration government under the Nazi occupation. I'm not among those who reject him for that
Dali took position for Hitler and Franco but he's still an immense artist..
Halo is not that violent, you're pretty much always killing aliens and there's not a lot of gore/dead bodies. Ok, you are shooting guns and so forth but in general games that have the player kill aliens are considered less violent. I could name at least a hundred games more violent I bet.
I think the appeal of Eminem is not the subject matter but the delivery. Thousands of rappers (white and black) have tried to get by on the outlandish imagery. Most of them we've never heard of. What sets Eminem apart is his style. His music and rapping just SOUNDS good - especially the Marshall Mathers LP. It would be popular notwithstanding the subject matter. A great example is the song "Kill You." It's very violent, but you almost can't help tapping your feet and singing along as he riffs on "blood, guts, guns, cuts, knives, lives, wives, nuns, sluts." A lot of his music has the same sort of internal rhyming that you hear on Odelay or the great Dylan tracks.
Plus, I think he is hamming up the whole thing. He knows its all a big cartoon that he is getting paid well for. It's sung with tounge firmly in cheeck. That's why he says at the end of "Kill You" that "I'm just playin' ladies, you know I love you" - as if saying its all a big joke magically excuses the imagery. It's really kind of funny. Just like the Smiths are funny when Morrisey's wallows so deep in his own misery that you have to laugh.
Re-reading my last post I realized that I did not make the main point. Just like Merle Haggard, Eminem is making fun of the imagery. He doesn't really hate homosexuals. The cartoon character that is Slim Shady hates homosexuals. Eminem probaby thinks Slim Shady is kind of an idiot in many respects. In the environment in which Eminem grew up I am sure that there was a lot of homophobia. He is satirizing that environment, so naturally he goes for outlandishly homophobic imagery. Don't take it from me, ask Elton John.
Well said, Loophole.
In my comments above, when I said the performance was remarkable, what I was trying to get at is his delivery. You’re right – it really does sound good. And your point about how he’s satirizing his environment is an excellent observation. Eminem is smarter than most give him credit for.
One of my favorite verses of his (forgive the swear words):
I don't got that bad of a mouth, do I?
Fuck shit ass bitch cunt, shoo-biddy-doo-wop (what?)
Skibbedy-be-bop, a-Christopher Reeves
Sonny Bono, skis horses and hittin’ some trees (hey!)
Sorry for the multiple posts, but I think this stuff is pretty cool.
I never saw the connection between Eminem's Slim Shady and "Okie from Muskogee" before. (See "Country music" thread). But there are some interesting parallels. In both cases the singer is--at least to some degree--satizing his own community and background. We get both an identification-with and a distancing-from the subject.
Merle Haggard grew up as an "Okie" in California. And he also was a 1960's-musician who smoked marijuana. So, while he genuinely respected the simple "Okie" values, he also likely saw them as a bit too quaint. There is a nice conflict.
Eminem grew up around a lot of self-destructive working class people. He probably loathed the more narrow-minded and violent aspects of his community, but also respected the burdens they had to overcome just to get through a tough life. Again, there is an interesting conflict between both respect for and rejection of the subject matter
The complexity makes the stories heartfelt and interesting.
Satirizing - not satizing.... UGH!
1. Blondie, “Heart of Glass” (1978) - Earns the #1 spot by virtue of the “which one would I most like to hear right now?” test. The deserved breakthrough hit from one of the greatest albums of the ‘70s, a personal favorite. Driven, as all their best songs are, by Clem Burke, one of rock’s most underrated drummers.
2. The Beatles, “Hey Jude” (1968) - Maybe it didn’t deserve to be their biggest hit, but it’s beautifully written and performed, and it would merit a high ranking just for Paul’s sometimes startlingly over-the-top vocal interjections during the coda.
3. The Temptations, “My Girl” (1964) - Smokey’s simple, iconic lyrics given the full Motown treatment. A perfect record, slightly worn by 42 years of continuous airplay.
4. Ramones, “Blitzkrieg Bop” (1976) - The opening blast of one of the most influential albums of all time. A classic, but they’re all classics in this bracket and this one brings up the rear.
1. Michael Jackson, “Billie Jean” (1982) - Yes, there was a time when he really was the King of Pop and not the sad joke he’s become. Here’s the proof, a truly magnificent song about paranoia with some amazing - and unsettling - multitracked vocals.
2. Eminem, “My Name Is” (1999) - A brilliant introduction to one of the singular artists of the last ten years. I don’t know that you can separate Marshall from Slim as decisively as some here have tried to argue; it’s probably more accurate to say that Shady is the id that gives free rein to all the bad thoughts and dark impulses in Em’s head. In his best material, such as this song, the images are vivid, pungent, delivered with astonishingly fluid lyricism, and, oh yeah, fall-on-the-floor hilarious.
3. Michael Jackson, “Beat It” (1982) - Not quite as great as “Billie Jean”, but few records are. A more-than-worthy follow-up, but it wouldn’t be nearly as good without the masterstroke of enlisting Eddie Van Halen for the solo.
4. The Specials, “Ghost Town” (1981) - Ranks last only because I am really not familiar with the song at all - when I watched the video on YouTube this week, I believe it was actually the first time I’d heard it. A good song, and very much of a piece with everything else the group had done up to that point.
1. Elvis Presley, “Suspicious Minds” (1969) - A strategic vote; I’d love for at least one Elvis song to move on to the next round. And this may be his greatest single, so I feel fine about giving it the #1 slot.
2. Billie Holiday, “Strange Fruit” (1939) - Yes, this is one of those records that shouldn’t really be in a competition like this. A song and performance of staggering force. I can’t imagine what the impact of hearing it was like in 1939; it still packs a wallop today.
3. Beck, “Loser” (1993) - I confess: I thought he was a one-hit wonder. I loved the song when I first heard it, enjoyed hearing it on the radio every day, then got tired of it and didn’t pick up on MELLOW GOLD for months. Felt like an idiot once I realized how good he really was (and is). I still like the song, but it comes off as a calculated novelty now next to a lot of what followed.
4. Elvis Presley, “Jailhouse Rock” (1957) - Great music, silly lyrics; a prototypical Elvis record, for better and worse. A classic, of course, but out of its league among the rest of these songs.
1. Otis Redding, “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” (1968) - It gained added poignancy and status from Redding’s death, of course, but it would be a little low-key masterpiece regardless. Timeless and beautiful, with the whistling providing the perfect finishing touch.
2. The Undertones, “Teenage Kicks” (1978) - The poppy side of first-wave punk at its terse best. The entire debut album is exhilarating from start to finish, but this is the clear standout.
3. The Byrds, “Eight Miles High” (1966) - Psychedelia in a nearly pure state, with those soaring harmonies helping to ground an almost free-form arrangement.
4. Ritchie Valens, “La Bamba” (1958) - A great, unexpected hit, but I don’t care if I never hear it again.
Sorry it is the Eminem-entertwined-thread agzin...
I realize now that my appreciation of the song was "distorted" by alanguage factor : nothing is more difficult to get than humor when you're hearing a foreign language.
The guy I played with a few years ago was English, he had me listening to some American stand up comedian and i showed him a DVD of Coluche (very famous and hilarious French stand up)but none of us really laughed... and the guy speaks fluent French.
So of course I couldn't get the distance, but I think what Harold Wexler said about Eminem and his dark instincts is closer to the truth....
Just a reminder: normally, at about this time, I'd be posting another set of brackets. Not this week, however, but fret not: the first four brackets of the second round will appear one week from today, and, as promised, between now and then I'll provide some (I hope) interesting breakdowns of the first round results.
One other thing: the Week 16 results will appear a little late this week. The wife and I decided we needed some quality beach time, so we'll be down in Galveston this weekend, without computers. I'll post the results when I get back--late Sunday afternoon (US Central time) at the earliest.
And, of course, if you haven't voted yet, please try to post your ballot today or tomorrow!
I was wondering why I was feeling a bit aimless at work this morning... I had no songs to rank!
schleuse, you really deserve that quality beach time! Thanks for all the excellent and hard work so far!
Hello all. I'm coming off a crazy month at work. Sorry I haven't been around to add my 2 cents.
BRACKET 61 (All good -- and relatively even -- but nothing jumps out as outstanding)
1. The Temptations, “My Girl” (1964) (One of the sweeter melodies in pop music makes up for a slight deficit in the soul department.)
2. Ramones, “Blitzkrieg Bop” (1976) (Which opening track from a debut album was more of a sonic blast across the bow: "Good Times Bad Times" or "Blitzkrieg Bop." I used to think the former, but now I vote for the latter.)
3. The Beatles, “Hey Jude” (1968) (Gets knocked down because this is not one of Paul's best vocals.)
4. Blondie, “Heart of Glass” (1978) (They were derided as sell-outs for this disco song. But I like Harry's whispy vocals here.)
BRACKET 62 (Poor bracket)
1. Michael Jackson, “Billie Jean” (1982) (Slinky and sultry groove, and a better than usual vocal from (adult) Jackson.)
2. Eminem, “My Name Is” (1999) (Silly. Don't have much good or bad to say about this. He'd do much better later on.)
3. Michael Jackson, “Beat It” (1982) (The riff is gold. However, poor vocals from Jackson. Frenetic, screechy, and unintelligible.)
4. The Specials, “Ghost Town” (1981) (Slight.)
1. Beck, “Loser” (1993) (Pure genius. Lyrically, the collage catch-phrases here are good, but not his best. (My favorite of his is Hotwax -- "Karaoke weekend at the suicide shack. Community service and I'm still the mack" and my favorite lyric of all time: "Silver foxes looking for romance in their chain-smoke, Kansas, Flashdance, ass-pants.") But there's no denying he nailed it with the chorus. Musically and sonically, the collage effect becomes much more...er... effective.)
2. Billie Holiday, “Strange Fruit” (1939) (I feel bad putting Billie here, but I am a huge Beck fan.)
4. Elvis Presley, “Jailhouse Rock” (1957) (Among the best of Elvis. Great playing from the back-up band. And actually a good song.)
3. Elvis Presley, “Suspicious Minds” (1969) (Overrated Elvis. I see the appeal of late-Elvis, and of this song. But I'm sorry, his vocals are not that interesting here.)
BRACKET 64 (Tough top-3)
1. Otis Redding, “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” (1968) (No, it's not Otis' best song, by a long shot. But his vocals -- while not as passionate and moving as others -- retain the preciseness and the soul that he brings to most every track. That's enough to put it number 1. Few singers come close, and certainly not Valens.)
2. The Byrds, “Eight Miles High” (1966) (Lyrically the song is stupid. But musically, the marriage of jangle pop with nascent psychedelia is potent. Great vocals, great guitar.)
3. Ritchie Valens, “La Bamba” (1958) (Better song than "Sittin'..." and "Eight Miles High." And his performance is quite good, but not as good as the two above.)
4. The Undertones, “Teenage Kicks” (1978) (John Peel really should have calmed down about this song. It's not that special.)
61 - I love all these songs. That being said...
1)"My Girl" - This song is too pretty and perfect to pass up. From the opening guitar arpeggios to the closing string swirls, it is a wonderfully orchestrated song that perfectly complements the sweet vocals and lyrics.
2) "Hey Jude" - a classic, of course, but the end might be said to go on a bit too long. I'm nitpicking of course. The song's build up and inspirational lyrics do make it stand out as an all time great.
3) "Blitzkrieg Bop" - a song that has invaded even the most casual listener's musical lexicon, even if they don't know it. Great energy.
4) "Heart of Glass" - I love this song and in any other category, it may have had a shot.
1) "Billie Jean" - the greatest song of the 80s hands down. No one has produced a rhythm track quite like this one since then.
2) "My Name Is" - Eminem has said some pretty awful things, and some of them were in this song. But his delivery and wordplay are enough to overcome any disagreements I may have with his content. This song is still brilliant, even with all we know about Em.
3) "Ghost Town" - Yes, it is slow and depressing, but that is what it's supposed to be. Again, a wonderful marriage of words and music.
4) "Beat It" - I know about this song's historical importance, but it just gets tired and pedantic to me. I still enjoy listening to it once in a while, but not as much as I used to.
63 - another tough category for me
1) "Loser" - I know this almost seems like sacrilege, but I think Beck hit on something special with this song. It's incredibly original and daring, and his lyrical wordplay is inventive, if somewhat cryptic.
2) "Strange Fruit" - A bold song to put out at the time, but one that needed singing. It still sends shivers for me because of that gorgeous voice.
3) "Jailhouse Rock" - a rock and roll classic.
4) "Suspicious Minds" - this is a phenomenal song. Unfortunately, it's just not as original as the other three in this category. Still a great listen, though.
1) "Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay" - It's too good. I wouldn't mind having this as my swan song. So peaceful, I can't help smiling and taking a deep breath, even just thinking about it.
2) "Teenage Kicks" - great song, great energy, great hook.
3) "La Bamba" - Valens is an underrated performer, almost because of this song's ubiquity. An important track, but not one I ever rush to put on.
4) "Eight Miles High" - I've always thought this song was terrible. The Byrds have done better and deserve better representation on a list like this one.