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Any Major Top 75 Acts (35-56)

February 18th, 2021 1 comment

 

Here’s the second instalment of our countdown of pop’s Top 75 acts. The first lot brought us down to #57; here we tumble up the charts to #35.

I described the method of rankings in the first part. To jog your memory, it’s a combination of Rolling Stone magazine’s Top 100, my own Top 75, plus bonus points for the level of influence an act has had on pop history or their genre, and more bonus points for how many albums of each at I own (because the list should skew in some way to my taste).

Each act on the list is represented by my nominal favourite song of their output. Choosing songs is sometimes very easy, and other times a question of changing and substituting original choices. So there is no question that of all the Al Green songs, I love none as much as the obvious one: Let’s Stay Together. Other acts I agonised over: for Warren Zevon, John Prine and Bill Withers I must have selected and then replaced about five songs each. It reveals the futile nature of the concept of a “favourite song”, even as my Al Green example confirms the possibility of having absolute favourites.

By an act of serendipity, Muddy Waters and Led Zeppelin ended up in the same group. It so happens that the Muddy Waters track I like best is the one which Led Zep plagiarised for A Whole Lotta Love.As I made the home-hyped cover, I noticed that I had previously written about the artwork of a number of albums featured on this mix: Carole King’s Tapestry, the Clash’s London Calling, the Mama’s and The Papa’s bathroom extravaganza. The first of these I reposted last week.

The mix, timed to fit on a standard CD-R, runs in a more logical sequence than the rankings below. So, let’s count down from #56 to #35. Figures in brackets indicate the particular act’s standing in the Rolling Stone’s Top 100.

56 (28) The Clash (London Calling)
55 (25) Fats Domino (I’m Walking)
54 (24) Jerry Lee Lewis (Geat Balls Of Fire)
53 (—) Warren Zevon (Lawyers, Guns And Money)
52 (—) Bill Withers (Grandma’s Hands)
51 (20) Bo Diddley (Who Do You Love?)
50 (19) Velvet Underground (Sunday Morning)
49 (17) Muddy Waters (You Need Love)
48 (14) Led Zeppelin (Immigrant Song)
47 (26) Ramones (Rockaway Beach)
46 (—) The Mama’s and The Papa’s (Monday, Monday)
45 (84) James Taylor (Sweet Baby James)
44 (66) Al Green (Let’s Stay Together)
43 (—) Luther Vandross (A House Is Not A Home)
42 (51) Pink Floyd (Wish You Were Here)
41 (32) Smokey Robinson and The Miracles (Ooo Baby Baby)
40 (—) Crowded House (When You Come)
39 (—) Carole King (So Far Away)
38 (—) John Prine (All The Best)
37 (—) Carpenters (Goodbye To Love)
36 (75) Eagles (Take It Easy)
35 (68) The Temptations (I Wish It Would Rain)

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Any Major Top 75 Acts (57-75)

January 26th, 2021 2 comments

 

 

Notions about the greatest pop acts in history can be fun diversions, prompting the consumer of such lists to compare how these match up with their own. So what we have here is the first of four instalments of the Top 75 pop artists of the Rock & Roll era, as chosen by my good self and my trusty assistants at Rolling Stone magazine.

These four parts of the countdown are then accompanied by mixes featuring my notional “favourite” song of each of the listed acts. For the most part, there are no favourites. The chosen tracks will mostly be the favourite of the day I picked them, or songs I’ve always listed as my “favourites” of that particular artist. Take The Temptations: I picked the song I’ve always considered my “favourite” of theirs, but it might just as well have been My Girl, or Since I Lost My Baby, or Ball Of Confusion. Most chosen tracks will be unsurprising and probably quite obvious, not because I’m unfamiliar with the catalogue of most acts (though some are a bit of a foreign country to me), but because most acts’ best tracks tend to be famous. No pretentiousness here in picking tunes.

So, the method of listing the Top 75 acts… First I took the Rolling Stone list of the Top 100 greatest artists in popular music. Acts placed in the Top 10 got five points, Top 20 acts four, Top 40 three, Top 60 two, Top 100 one.

Then I compiled my own Top 100, allocating points by the same method. Obviously, acts not listed in the Rolling Stone list got zero points, as did acts on the RS list not on my list. Of this Top 75, there are 19 that did not make the RS Top 100.

Next I awarded points on as scale from four to one to reflect how influential an act was. So Nirvana or Chuck Berry would get the maximum four, because they shaped their respective genres. Billy Joel (not included in the RS list) shaped rather little, and received one point for his troubles.

Finally, I awarded points for how many albums of each act I own. A complete collection earned contenders three points; five albums or more two points, 3-4 albums one point.

The rankings were determined by total points. Only the winner scored the maximum 17 points (Spoiler alert: it’s Michael Bolton). The lowest points accumulation to merit inclusion on the list was six (four on the list, plus six bubbling under). I left the rankings by Rolling Stone in their original sequence, but inserted my nominated newcomers where I think they belong.

The final results produced surprising fluctuations. In my list, U2 actually rank higher than on the Rolling Stone list. I was quite startled by that. Half of my Top 10 resided outside the RS Top 20, but the Everly Brothers, whom I like well enough, dropped 41 places. If only I owed more of their albums…

Needless to say, several acts here would not come anywhere near my own Top 100. Their presence owes to their level of influence and the judgment of the editors of the Rolling Stone.

Finally, I did a little weeding on the RS list: I disqualified jazz acts, firstly because this is a pop list, and secondly, Rolling Stone included a few token jazz artists rather than giving the entire genre a fair shake. And I excluded the recently late Phil Spector, who rather stood out as the only producer in the lot. But if producers should qualify, where’s Quincy Jones (who’d merit consideration as a jazz artist as well)? Or Holland-Dozier-Holland?

For some inexplicable reason, Rolling Stone also excluded jazz singers and crooners — no Ella Fitzgerald or Dinah Washington or Frank Sinatra or Nat King Cole or Sarah Vaughn or Tony Bennett — so I couldn’t consider them myself. Maybe those are worth a list of their own.

Lastly, the RS list is fairly old. I suppose an updated list might include the likes of Beyoncé (her husband features, but not on mine) or Lady Gaga or Pharrell Williams or John Legend or Kings of Leon. Much as I like some of the more recent icons of pop, none of them would make my Top 75 anyway.

So, here are places 57 to 75 (Rolling Stone Top 100 ranking in brackets), with featured track:

75 (43) Sly & Family Stone (Family Affair)
74 (33) The Everly Brothers (All I Have To Do Is Dream)
73 (—) The Bee Gees (Marley Purt Drive)
72 (—) Neil Diamond (Brooklyn Roads)
71 (—) Little Feat (Willin’)
70 (—) Ben Folds (Trusted)
69 (98) Curtis Mayfield (No Thing On Me)
68 (90) Santana (Jin-Go-Lo-Ba)
67 (74) Hank Williams (Your Cheatin’ Heart)
66 (70) The Police (So Lonely)
65 (62) Joni Mitchell (Carey)
64 (60) The Sex Pistols (Pretty Vacant)
63 (57) Grateful Dead (Ripple)
62 (49) Elton John (Tiny Dancer)
61 (45) The Byrds (Eight Miles High)
60 (34) Neil Young (Harvest Moon)
59 (30) Nirvana (Smells Like Teen Spirit)
58 (—) Billy Joel (Summer, Highland Falls)
57 (29) The Who (Won’t Get Fooled Again)

The playlist follows a different sequence. The mix is timed to fit on as standard CD-R.  Home-hyped covers included. PW in comments

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