Last month we put the WCBS-FM all-time Top 1001 songs up as a tribute to that great station that went down the tubes because some radio "genius" decided that the so-called Jack format would do better than the greatest oldies in the history of rock and roll. Their reasoning goes something like this: The youth are into iPods. This format is like having your iPod on the radio. Question: If someone has an iPod why would they want to listen to the radio? Answer: They don't and its idiotic programming moves like this one that has killed radio. I didn't say moves like this are killing radio, I said KILLED it because it's over, Jack. Yeah, Jack is just another oldies format without calling it that. They play a bunch of old records from the last 20 years. There are some great tunes in the batch, but why eliminate all the great stuff that came before it?
Satellite and your own collections (iPod, CD's, whatever) are the only places to hear the history of rock and roll.
After we ran the list, our staff musical guru Leon Tsilis suggested we run a similar one covering the great rock album cuts. They were played mostly first progressive, then on AOR FM stations from the late 60's through the late 70's. After that, a lot of these cuts became staples in the so-called Classic Rock format. Like Jack, Classic Rock is just another name for oldies. This time in the form of old rock album cuts. Classic Rock stations generally don't go deep and pretty much stick to the more popular tunes.
Since our hit singles list came from New York station WCBS-FM, we decided to run the WNEW-FM Classic 500 that was broadcast on Memorial Day Weekend 1997. The list was sent to the staff here at the site and then the stuff hit the fan. Based on all the discussion and input, we came up with our own definition of classic rock and our very own Top 500, but first some of the discussion that took place during the creation of the list:
Number 500 on WNEW's list was Fun, Fun, Fun by The Beach Boys. Trouble right from the start? A hit single to be sure, but not classic rock. If you are going to include The Beach Boys on the list (which we do) you have to go to their mid-to-late 70's album period. Off to a bad start? Just to give you an overview, we skip all the way to the top ten on their list:
Right off the bat, Leon eliminated over 230 songs saying they were hit singles not classic rock. We all agreed that a song like Fun, Fun, Fun was a hit single and didn't belong on the list, but there were several others such as Hey Jude that fit both categories. So most of his changes stuck, but there were several that stayed on the list.
Leon, Dr. Music, Professor Brian "Bondito" McAlley, Ray and Mike D'Ariano, along with Dr. Philip Lombard, Dean of Advanced Popular Culture Studies at E.F.U., and former FM rock DJ "Lady" Jane Rushmore participated in the creation of our list and the discussion surrounding it. Here are some highlights from the areuonsomething.com staff comments:
Dr. Lombard: What do you think of WNEW's Top Ten?
Lady Jane: How can you have an all-time classic rock top ten without mentioning Bob Dylan? Ridiculous. Springsteen's in there, great bar band, probably the best, but when he went solo he was just the poor man's Dylan. Layla, ok, Derek and The Dominos were sort of a one-hit wonder, unless you count Bell Bottom Blues which was kind of Tiny Dancer sideways, nice work from Dwayne Allman there, but Clapton, with the long career that he's had, never topped Cream, you know?
Mike D: Fuck Eric Clapton, fuck The Who, fuck Bruce Springsteen and fuck The Eagles.
Dr. Lombard: A bit harsh, but I don't feel The Eagles belong in the Top Ten. Although their music was part of the soundtrack of the 70's, along with Springsteen, it doesn't hold up well in the 2000s. Clapton and The Who deserve to be there, but at least (laughs) you didn't rip into The Stones' Satisfaction.
Mike D: You old timers are gonna love this: fuck Satisfaction!
Ray D: (laughing): Satisfaction may not be the best thing they ever did, but it was the best rock record released by anybody at that time. There was a big difference between It's My Party by Leslie Gore, or even I Want To Hold Your Hand and Satisfaction. It was and still is a great, great record.
Professor Bondito: The Stones did it all. You could say The Beatles and The Who did also, but the Stones covered so much musical territory that it is astonishing.
Mike D: I love The Rolling Stones more than the average Joe. I'll be seeing them five times in four states on their upcoming tour, but Satisfaction is the most overrated pop/rock song in the history of the genre!
Lady Jane: What about Stairway To Heaven?
Dr. Music: I just have to tell you how sickening it is to see yet another list with Stairway To Heaven at the top. Nobody's a bigger Zep fan than myself, but my sweet lord.
Ray D: George Harrison! Just kidding, but familiarity breeds contempt. Stairway is a masterpiece, but radio wore it out. They ruined the song by playing it once an hour for the last 30 years. As much as I love The Beatles, and I do, I don't have to ever hear them again. The first four million times was enough. Same with Satisfaction and a lot of other stuff
Mike D: Satisfaction shouldn't even be on a Top Ten list of Rolling Stones songs. Calling it one of the best rock songs of all time is absurd.
Professor Bondito: The Stones could rock just as hard or harder than any other band, they could mesmerize your soul with their incredibly soulful ballads, and of course, they have been together longer than any other band and continue to tour and record quality material. Looking back at their recording catalog, one has to marvel at the vast array of styles that were covered, from R&B to rock to psychedelic to disco and so on and so on. The Stones definitely deserve to be called the greatest rock and roll band of all time.
Dr. Lombard: If you could pick only one, who would you pick as the all-time classic rock artist?
Dr. Music: Here's my take on the thing, Classic Rock is a product of something that came before it. If you say that Zeppelin are classic rock giants, then you might say that Willie Dixon and Howlin' Wolf, among many others, are The Fathers of Classic Rock. But, many people won't see, or admit to that. If you say The Beatles, you must ask where Pop ends, and Classic Rock begins, or even if there is a difference. Are the Beatles a rock band, or a pop band? I see them as the greatest pop band to ever exist.
Lady Jane: Helter Skelter, Revolution, the fast version, all the early stuff Twist & Shout. They could rock out with the best of them.
Dr. Lombard: Classic rock, like Top 40 rock before it takes in many styles and forms of musical creative expression. Crosby, Stills and Nash for example are light years away from Zeppelin and yet they both absolutely fit into the classic rock bag. Both their debut albums came out at the same time by the way.
Lady Jane: And I played them both on my show, but you didn't play them together. You'd do a Jeff Beck, Yardbirds, Zep set and then maybe something countryish from Dylan, and Canned Heat and Crosby, Stills and Nash. The thing of it is all those artists were played during one show. We were a progressive rock format. All this so-called classic rock stuff is just those old tunes.
Dr. Music: So, without being ridiculous here, I think that the band we hear the most on classic rock radio and that has the most original style, should be considered the all-time classic rock artist. For me that band is Pink Floyd. If you're talking about classic rock, I think you have to call Zeppelin, classic blues rock. The Beatles, classic pop rock. Dylan and CSN and sometimes Y, classic folk rock, but Pink Floyd, they were something that no one ever heard before, but were still accepted in rock and roll circles. Hit after hit, and never once did they sound like anyone else. That's rare. It's classic because it's been played consistently for a good number of years, and it is definitely, without question rock.
Ray D: I get your point, but I really think The Beatles are the act and here's why. It was their daring that changed everything. Those guys and their producer George Martin had the balls to go for it. They showed Floyd, ELO, Queen, and everybody else that all bets were off. You could do whatever you could think of. They opened the floodgates.
Mike D: Personally, I always think of fairly well known tunes from 1964 to 1974 when I hear the term classic rock. Since the WNEW list contained songs by U2, R.E.M. and other 80s bands, it's obvious that they use some other criteria. That said, for this list I define classic rock simply as any song, more than a decade old, that still sounds great.
Lady Jane: I like that, but I think we should take our cue from the Beatles and not be confined to any regulations. Maybe there's some great tunes from two years ago that should be on our list. Didn't Dave Matthews or Coldplay or somebody else record something incredible? (laughs) Maybe not, but does something have to wait 10 years to be classic? Maybe, I don't know. (laughs) But like, WNEW's list ignores a lot of great stuff. I mean, you can go back 20-25 years. Isn't punk classic rock now? I mean Television and The Ramones and that whole scene down at CBGB's was like a hundred years ago. It's classic stuff! What about jam bands? Isn't Warren Haynes classic rock? I'll be damned if he isn't. The guy's in the Allmans, The Dead, Phil Lesh and Friends, and his own band Mule! (laughs) He may be the ultimate classic rock artist. (laughs) My point is we should be wide open in our choices.
Dr. Lombard: Well said, and I think everyone should take that into consideration when you hand in your choices for the list. So who do you feel is the classic rock artist of all time?
Mike D: Well, The Ramones, who saved rock and roll from itself, are an option, but I'm going to go with Guns N' Roses. I've loved this band since the first time I heard them in 1987 when I was eight years old. I was surprisingly into music at that age. I had a collection of albums and cassettes from bands that I still love today, like Kiss, AC/DC, Alice Cooper, Mötley Crüe, and others, but Guns N' Roses were the first band that came along and just blew me away. They just changed everything for me as far as my perception of what a great rock and roll band should be. It was just pure, no bullshit rock with more attitude to it than anything before it, and anything since. Plus, they were dangerous. From the riots that broke out during the screenings of Blackboard Jungle in the late 50's to the violence at Altamont in the late 60's as ugly as it is, most of the great moments in rock and roll are dangerous ones. Guns N' Roses as a band were as out of control as it ever got. Everything from showing up at The Grammy's drunk and cursing on live TV to overdosing, dying, and being brought back to life, they did it. Riots, backstage brawls with other bands, lawsuits, assaults, they did it. There was never a time when that family, bring the kids, attitude that surrounds The Rolling Stones and Aerosmith today, ever seeped into The Guns N' Roses legacy. I mean, Jesus, as out of control as Aerosmith were, when they toured with Guns N' Roses they had to hire private security just to keep the GNR party away from them!
Finally, just to address the obvious, I know there would be no Guns N' Roses without The Rolling Stones and Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin, but those bands wouldn't exist without Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson. So what difference does it make? All rock music is derivative. Guns N' Roses were just the last great act in a long line of incredible rock bands. It's just my opinion that they did it best.
Dr. Lombard: Leon, you've been quiet, who do you feel is the all-time best?
Leon: Classic rock artist of all time? My vote would have to go to Jimi Hendrix considering he's the most proficient dead artist of all time.
Dr. Lombard: How about all-time best classic rock album?
Dr. Music: This is a tough one. I will go with my heart on this one and say Who's Next from The Who. I could go with something like Dark Side Of The Moon, which is probably the right choice, but Who's Next was such a thorough and thought out record of rock and roll. It's not one of the earliest originators of the classic rock genre, but probably the first, complete record of the genre. Complete meaning concept, production quality, band talent, etc.
Professor Bondito: Exile On Main Street is my choice. It's the Stones at their peak, and it all comes together on this amazing double LP consisting of rock, soul, blues, and reggae. Brilliantly produced by Jimmy Miller, the album is a culmination of what The Stones are all about and what rock is all about. Every song stands on its own as a classic, and there's 18 in all.
Ray D: Pepper. The record changed the way records were made forever. Right down to the cover. A Day In The Life? Doesn't get any more classic than that.
Mike D: Use Your Illusion 1 & 2 by Guns N' Roses. Most people would argue that the band's debut album Appetite For Destruction was their best. I disagree. I think that hands down, Appetite is the greatest debut album in the history of rock and roll. I mean, The Beatles, Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones first albums were almost entirely cover songs. Guns N' Roses on the other hand were playing probably their three most loved songs, Paradise City, Welcome To The Jungle, and Sweet Child O' Mine. There's no doubt that it's an incredible record, but they topped it.
Use Your Illusion 1 & 2 came out as two separate albums on the same day in September 1991. Combined, they check in over two and a half hours. That's longer than Exile On Main Street and Blonde on Blonde, classic double albums by The Stones and Dylan combined.
There are so many great tracks on the albums that it would take hours to cover them all. There's the acoustic stuff and the electronic stuff (okay that one song does kinda suck) but there's also heavy stuff, covers of Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan songs, and a slew of things with that sleazy trademark Slash sound and the soaring vocal of Axl Rose. But what makes the album incredible are the epics.
In order of appearance, November Rain, Coma, Civil War, Breakdown, and Estranged five of the greatest songs of all time. Imagine the artistry of Pink Floyd and the majestic bombast of Queen tied together. That's what Guns N' Roses were all about. Oh, and by the way, the shortest tune of that group clocks in at over seven minutes. All together they could have been one 45 minute album, which would have been great. Instead they are surrounded by 25 other songs and become part of the greatest rock album of all time.
Lady Jane: The White Album for its variety. I thought of it while listening to Mike describe Use Your Illusion 1 and 2. It reminded me of how I felt back in that November's rain when the Beatles double album came out. It is brilliant. Those four-color photos of the guys hung on the studio wall for years. It is a true classic rock album and was from the day it was released.
Dr. Lombard: Let's take a shot at the all-time classic rock tune.
Dr. Music: You know, the first band that come to mind when I think of classic rock is Zeppelin, and the first tune is Whole Lotta Love. But Zeppelin is more blues than anything else, and Whole Lotta Love is really an unaccredited, embellished cover of Willie Dixon's You Need Love, as Bring It On Home was also a steal for Zep, along with countless others. I guess I would have to go with something from early on that gave us a blueprint to work from. Vocals with some attitude, crunchy guitars instead of the jangling we were used to hearing, and a sort of teen angst that is totally representative of what the genre is all about. That tune for me is Satisfaction from The Stones. I don't really like the tune, but it was really the first of its kind, I think.
Lady Jane: Fire by The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown. (laughs) Kidding, oh how can you pick just one? I have to go for something that goes through a lot of changes and takes awhile. Mountain Jam by The Allman Brothers? I mean, we're talking classic, right?
Professor Bondito: The Stones' Brown Sugar. I always thought that if an alien came down from outer space and wanted to hear what rock and roll was all about, I would play him (or it) Brown Sugar. It has all the ingredients that make up the perfect rock and roll record; the infectious guitar lick, the irresistible dance beat, the pounding rhythm section, the scorching sax solo, and of course, the unmistakable vocal harmonies of The Glimmer Twins. Produced by Jimmy Miller, it's my choice of the greatest rock and roll tune ever recorded.
Mike D: On a hot summer day without a cloud in the sky the answer is Blue Sky by The Allman Brothers Band, particularly the live version with Dickie Betts and Warren Haynes on guitars. "You're my blue sky, you're my sunny day."
After hanging up on a friend you've just had an argument with the answer is Positively 4th Street by Bob Dylan: "You got a lotta nerve to say you are my friend." When you're 16, failing 2 classes in school, just got dumped by your first real girlfriend and don't really fit in even among your own friends, the answer is Salvation by Rancid: "When I got the music I got a place to go." When you're participating in exactly the kind of pretentious, self-serving, but kinda fun best-of list that you personally lambaste Rolling Stone magazine for putting together every single time they try, the answer is clearly It's Only Rock and Roll by The Stones. "I know it's only rock and roll, but I like it."
Ray D: I love Positively 4th Street. The lines "I wish that for just one time you could stand inside my shoes, and just for that one moment I could be you. Yes, I wish that for just one time you could stand inside my shoes. You'd know what a drag it is to see you" may be the most honest line ever written in a rock song, but my all-time favorite is Like A Rolling Stone. The lyrics are sensational, but forget the words. This is just one of the best sounding records of all time. I still turn it up whenever I hear it on the radio.
Ladies and gentlemen, it's all about to happen!