Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Archives Project: STL #28

Title: Accounting for Taste
Description: Revisiting the "top" 50, part 1
Publication Date: 5 January 2004

Here begins a series of posts on the individual entries of STL #26. I don't know why I said "'top' 50" in the description, but I think the title is cute. Commentary at the end.

If asked to provide a justification for what I'm about to do, which is elaborate my top 50 songs with commentary, my answer would be twofold: 1) this blog-o-mine is beyond justification; it's for my own reflection and amusement; you don't have to read it anyway (and if my hit-counter is accurate, you don't) and 2.) despite the prevailing discourse, I'm in (or trying to get into) the taste business, so I want to explore my own in a field somewhat separated from critical tradition (there is as I've mentioned there is a canon of rock snobs, though a lot easier to resist). What exactly is about to happen, I don't know. Let's take it from the top.

50. "Patches" Clarence Carter (1973). Up from #96 last year, and one of the reasons I expanded the list was simply to accommodate this sentimental song about a poor farm boy who carries on in face of adversity to honor his father. See, Patches is a silly, melodramatic song, but unlike most songs of this sort, it touches me. (Which is code for 'it makes me cry.') Being a creature of disinterested critical discernment, Patches must touch some Deep Emotional Truth, and therefore must be on my list of 'best' songs, somewhere toward the bottom. As an alternate choice, one might consider "The Girl Stands Up to Me Now," by Jonathan Richman, as a song that makes me laugh.
49. Good Lovin' Gone Bad, Bad Company (1975). OK, pathos has been dealt with. Most Rock Snobs would sooner admit getting weepy over Patches than been seduced by the braggartly posturing of 70's stadium rock, but apparently I have no shame. This is a totally generic song, with insipid lyrics and a unimaginative arrangement, but a transcendent vocal performance by Paul Rodgers. For an alternate, you could pick any number of songs by a similarly-reviled but amazingly accomplished singer Bob Seger, like "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man."
48. Strychnine, The Sonics (1965). Although I hadn't listed it before, this proto-grunge rave-up has been in my interior soundtrack for year. Alternate: "Dirty Water" by the Standells, another song from the great Nuggets box, the great document of the original "punk rock."
47. Living for the City, Stevie Wonder (1973). Again, a song I've liked for a long time that I've just added this year. Although creating a canon of pop music is totally anti-pop, I see that different songs attract my attention as time goes by. Why listen to music written for the moment when that moment may be 30 years ago? I dunno. Alternate: "Thank You (for Talkin To Me Africa)" which only lost its place because my recording of it sounds like it was cut in a refrigerator. Probably not Sly Stone's fault, but I can't say at the moment.
46. Loretta, Townes Van Zandt (1973). What's up with 1973? R&B, hard rock, and folk all seemed to be booming, at least in my personal version of the universe. This song is sad in a much subtler way than Patches. It's an uptempo song about a woman who hides her sadness from the man telling us about it, which is a neat trick. Alternate: "Roll in My Sweet Baby's Arms" by Ramblin' Jack Elliot.

Well, that was fun. I'll be back next week for 5 more.


books: Banquet Years, Corpse Dream of Nikolai Petkov (T. McGonigle), Paradise Lost, Believer

movies: Cold Mountain, Big Fish, 21 Grams, Private Life of Sherlock Holmes

music: The Kills, Alasdair Roberts, Randy Newman Songbook

Running stats, in lieu of insight:
1970's 4
1960's 1

"The Rock" 2
"Rhythm and Blues" 2
"Country/Folk" 1