I understand your desire to put together an “ultimate” classic rock list, but in the end, it seems like it will be just another list. I mean, it’s nearly impossible to objectively quantify such a beast.
From your blog last Friday:
>>>To have Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Town" finish in The Top 30 but not have "Purple Haze" even make The Top 100 has been enough to make me motivated to come up with our OWN list of Classic Rock Favorites. (kk)
First of all, the song is titled “Crazy Train” and I hear it A LOT on the classic rock stations that I listen to often. I’d put in easily in the Top 500, if not higher. Not sure what you have against Ozzy / Black Sabbath, but any such list without Sabbath’s “Iron Man” and “Paranoid” in the Top 500 would be unthinkable to me.
You also mentioned Rush. That’s another group that gets played A LOT on radio. Any list without “Tom Sawyer” or “Limelight” high on it would be suspect (while their biggest Hot 100 hit “New World Man” hardly ever gets played).
I’m sure there’s lots of regional influence on these stations as well. I never even heard the song “Lake Shore Drive” until I moved to Milwaukee in 1992 and I now consider it a minor classic. “Never Been Any Reason” by Head East is a song that I literally grew up with in Minnesota, but I doubt it’s very familiar to anybody outside the Midwest markets.
You also mention studio versions vs. live versions.
When I hear “Free Bird,” it’s almost always the studio version. When I hear “Maybe I’m Amazed” these days, it’s almost always the live version, just the opposite of what it was 10 years ago!
It’s also nearly impossible to put hard boundaries on what constitutes “classic rock.” You mention that there should be some classic Motown, but I NEVER hear such songs on today’s classic rock radio. I also NEVER hear Chuck Berry or Bo Diddley, let alone Bill Haley or ANY songs prior to 1964. Songs that you and I “think” should be played simply aren’t and vice-versa. I’m always surprised to hear “Low Rider” by War on a classic rock station. The stations that play it would never dream of playing anything else by them.
It seems to me a better way to put together such a list would be to look at the actual airplay stats as compiled by Nielsen or Mediabase (they track many classic rock stations). I’d also do a google search on the various classic rock radio station countdowns that have run over the years. Surely you’d see “Crazy Train” high up on just about every list.
Also, where do you draw the line, via time? I can see both sides of the argument that Nirvana and Pearl Jam should be considered.
You can’t even go by chart position as the album cut “Rock & Roll Band” by Boston gets way more airplay than their Top 5 smash “Don’t Look Back” does these days. Same goes for “Lights” by Journey, which gets tons of airplay while several of their actual Top 40 hits hardly get played at all! Ditto “Turn The Page” by Bob Seger, “Pink Cadillac” by Bruce Springsteen and on and on.
These are just a few of the issues I can think of off the top of my head.
All of that said, I do wish you luck. Your final list will be interesting to see, but surely not without debate of its own!
The reason “our list” won’t be "just another list” is because OUR list will be built by the votes of thousands and thousands and thousands of Classic Rock radio listeners and fans from all over the country … not something put together by three guys holed up in a room over the weekend trying to put together a play list for a special week-long countdown.
Will there be controversy? Of course there will … as it should be … but my hope is that by the time we do the big reveal of The Top 3333 Classic Rock Tracks, you’d be hard-pressed to find something missing that you legitimately felt should be there. (And I also believe you’ll find the ranking to be much closer to reality than say “Crazy Train” coming in at #29 ahead of “Touch Me” by The Doors, “Take It Easy” by The Eagles, “Maybe I’m Amazed” by McCartney, “Money For Nothing” by Dire Straits, “Dream On” by Aerosmith, “Go Your Own Way” by Fleetwood Mac, “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison, “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin, “Honky Tonk Women” by The Rolling Stones, “Rock And Roll” by Led Zeppelin, “Let It Be” by Paul McCartney, “La Grange” by ZZ Top and “We Will Rock You / We Are The Champions” by Queen … and that’s just in The Top 50 that Sirius / XM came up with.
And oh yeah, guess what … on the way to #50, we had to pass TWO MORE Ozzy songs: “Over The Mountain” at #38 and “War Pigs” at #48. (So Ozzy deserves THREE of The Top 50 Classic Rock Tracks of All-Time??? I don't think so! To put that in perspective, Pink Floyd, The Eagles, Queen, Tom Petty and Aerosmith each only had TWO tracks make The Top 50 ... and Bruce Springsteen and Fleetwood Mac only had one. Not exactly the same league, wouldn't you agree???)
Is my point a bit clearer now? Does “Crazy Train” belong? Sure it does … but NOT in the #29 position … and certainly not at the expense of so many other great tracks that truly DO deserve that honor.
It’s not a personal beef I have against Ozzy and Black Sabbath … I would agree that “Iron Man” and “Black Sabbath” and “Crazy Train” and even a few others absolutely belong on a list of Top 3333 Favorites … and I feel confident that several titles by these guys will make the final cut ... but probably nowhere near the 16 tracks that made Sirius / XM's Top 1000.
And that's exactly the point I’m objecting to. The list that Sirius / XM put together gives Ozzy SIXTEEN of the Top 1000 spots … that’s more than The Eagles, Elton John, AC/DC, David Bowie, Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac, Paul McCartney, The Cars, The Police, Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp, Eric Clapton, Journey, Genesis, Aerosmith, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Crosby, Stills, Nash And Young, U2, Jimi Hendrix, Pat Benatar, Boston, Steve Miller, Foreigner, Queen, ZZ Top, Billy Joel, Steely Dan, Doobie Brothers, Heart, ELO, Santana, Styx, The Moody Blues, The Kinks, Eddie Money, Supertramp, Chicago, Yes and REO Speedwagon … to name but a few.
You cannot tell me that even for a millisecond … in ANY universe … you could possibly believe that this should be the case.
THAT’S why we need to come up with this list.
And sure, I could go to any variety of Classic Rock Station Countdowns online … but that also defeats the purpose of our Reality Poll of actual Classic Rock Music Fans. All THOSE lists will prove is what we have maintained all along throughout the entire existence of Forgotten Hits … radio plays the SAME 500 songs EVERYWHERE you go because these are the songs that the consultants have determined to be the ONLY songs listeners want to hear … and we aim to prove them wrong once again.
By appealing to the only people who matter, we’re polling THE LISTENERS. I believe we will all see these lists from a totally new perspective once the people who really matter weigh in on the subject. (And let's face it ... where else can they really do so?)
Now I promise you … every single one of those 500 cookie-cutter songs will make our list … and rank very HIGH on it as well … as they should … both because they’re great songs and because we’ve all been programmed to believe these are the tracks we’re supposed to associate with Classic Rock.
We want more.
We want each and every one of you to dig deep and tell us the tracks YOU believe belong on a list such as this … with no restrictions.
Yeah, there’ll be some oddballs here … you won’t believe some of the suggestions we’ve received so far … but MY opinion will have absolutely NO influence here … because this is YOUR list … which is why it will NEVER be “just another list.”
And, for the record, to date … as I type this … Ozzy and Black Sabbath have exactly five votes TOTAL between them. Meanwhile we’ve already got eleven songs with over 500 votes each … so if things keep up at this rate, there’s a good chance that Ozzy WON’T make the final Top 500. Not MY choosing ... but as determined by Classic Rock America and the votes that THEY have cast.
But it’s early … this is gonna take months … if things somehow turn around between now and the end of our poll, I’ll be the first one to admit that I’ve misjudged the significance of Ozzy's role in Classic Rock history, throw a party, invite the whole list and serve bat-head hors d'oeuvres! (kk)
As I type this, “Hotel California” has a significant lead on our list. (It came in at #8 on theirs.) The Sirius / XM chart-topper, “Stairway To Heaven,” is also doing well, as are many of the most expected candidates: “Honky Tonk Women,” “Layla,” “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “More Than A Feeling” and “Dream On,” all of which are currently fixed in The Top Ten.
In nearly every case, this reflects a FAR better showing than the Sirius / XM list where “Sweet Home Alabama” came in at #13, “Bohemian Rhapsody” at #16, “Dream On” at #36 and “Honky Tonk Women” at #50. (This also means that our readers aren’t quite as enamored with the tracks “You Really Got Me” by Van Halen, “Won’t Get Fooled Again” by The Who, “Sympathy For The Devil” by The Rolling Stones and “Knocking On Heaven’s Door” by Bob Dylan as Sirius / XM would have you believe … all of these finished in their Top Ten … yet currently rank at numbers #125, #24, #101 and #200 respectively on our list.)
We’re also finding The Eagles FAR AND AWAY the #1 Vote-Getter thus far. They placed 15 titles on the Sirius list, but already have 26 titles nominated in our tally.
However, we’re going to use a different methodology to determine the most popular artists when we compute our final list. They can’t be ranked solely by the numbers of titles selected … as this leaves “limited run” acts like Blind Faith and Derek and the Dominos at a distinct disadvantage, despite the fact that “Layla” currently sits at #3 on our list and “Can’t Find My Way Home” is already closing in on 300 votes. We’re currently investigating other ways to more accurately portray an artist’s significance on our chart recap.
Regarding the live vs. studio tracks, I firmly believe the McCartney solo version of “Maybe I’m Amazed” is the DEFINITIVE version ... and should be acknowledged as such. I agree with you that we hear the live version more often these days … and think that this is because the live version was released as a single seven years after the McCartney album came out … but that doesn’t make it right … and this list wants to get it right.
I hear the live version of “Free Bird” FAR more often than the studio version … and it’s a FAR more exciting version. (Honestly, I’d prefer to leave ALL live versions out of the mix but it just isn’t practical. How many people out there REALLY had ever heard the studio versions of “Show Me The Way,” “Baby, I Love Your Way” or “Do You Feel Like I Do” on the radio before the Frampton Comes Alive album came out? Same with Cheap Trick’s “I Want You To Want Me.” I’m just trying to avoid having duplicates on the list.
How close are we to having 3333 titles to choose from? About halfway there! (Not bad for only our second week of polling!!!) But again, it is going to take awhile in order to ensure the accuracy of such a poll by taking in the maximum number of votes possible in a reasonable amount of time.
And I may consult whatever sources are available online regarding actual airplay and play lists of Classic Rock Programming … but only as a barometer and check list to make sure we’ve accounted for everything that needs to be on there. I may also monitor airplay by what we actually hear being played thru a variety of sources. (Did I mention that Toto’s “Africa” did not make The Sirius / XM Top 1000 List?!?! Nor did, I just realized the other day, Led Zeppelin’s absolute classic “Heartbreaker / Livin’ Lovin’ Maid,” a built-in two-fer that has NEVER been off the radio since it was first released in 1970 … yet FAR lesser heard Zeppelin fare like “Gallows Pole,” “Ten Years Gone,” “Four Sticks” and “Thank You” made the cut. Also missing … Gerry Rafferty! Sure, “Stuck In The Middle With You” is on there (#266) … but what about “Baker Street” and “Right Down The Line,” two Classic Rock / FM staples!!! We don’t want to make ANY mistakes of that magnitude when we compile ours.
I agree with your assessment that the “starting point” for Classic Rock candidates seems to be 1964, the dawn of The British Invasion. We don’t see many early rockers on the list so far … not even Elvis (although radio today has a way of implying that The King really only had two hits … “Suspicious Minds” and “Burning Love” … unless, of course, you count the 2002 remix of "A Little Less Conversation! (Right!) Unfortunately, radio today would ALSO have you believe that the most important song The Rolling Stones ever did was “Miss You”!!! Seriously?!?! When this thing first came out, the rock and roll world shuddered … are you kidding me?!?! The Stones are doing DISCO?!?!
We have also received (to date) eight votes for Bo Diddley … an unlikely candidate perhaps (but still more votes than all of Ozzy Osbourne’s combined … so dig THAT perspective!!!)
To me it makes sense … again, Bo’s shuffle beat inspired SO many artists over the years … which is why you’ll see some very early Stones tracks here (as well as George Thorogood’s “Who Do You Love,” an FM-Rock staple.) It has always seemed odd to me that Classic Rock Radio will play Buddy Holly covers like “Not Fade Away” by The Stones, “Words Of Love” by The Beatles and any variety of Linda Ronstadt tracks … but wouldn’t dream of featuring any of Buddy’s originals. (To this point, you will hear an early track like “That’ll Be The Day” and/or “Peggy Sue” from time to time … as well as the odd Everly Brothers tracks.) Maybe this list will help to change that.
Fifteen years ago we regularly ran comments on radio’s “Overplayed List” … Bob Seger, Billy Joel, Steve Miller and John Mellencamp were always near the top of those lists … but we’re hearing a bit more variety from these artists now after radio caused us all to OD on heavily saturated tracks like “Only The Good Die Young,” “Jack And Diane,” “Old Time Rock And Roll” and “Take The Money And Run.” That’s why, as you mentioned, you’ll hear a whole lot more “Turn The Page” these days … perhaps radio has finally recognized the error of their ways, causing listener burn-out. I believe this is also the reason you don’t hear “Stairway To Heaven” nearly as much as you used to, too. (Let us enjoy and appreciate a good song rather than beating us over the head with it!!! LONG a Forgotten Hits credo!)
And, quite honestly, the criteria has shifted … without a doubt. In 1982, when John Cougar Mellencamp released his “American Fool” album, tracks like “Hurt So Good” and “Jack And Diane” rocked as hard as anything else on the radio at the time. You wouldn’t DREAM of programming these tracks on the soft rock / adult contemporary stations where they’re heard every day today! (Incredibly, both of these tracks were “after thoughts” … when the record company told Mellencamp they “didn’t hear a single,” John went back to the song-writing well and came up with these two off the cuff … the last tracks recorded for the album … and both went on to become monster, timeless hits!)
As for another comment, we have received a few votes for Pearl Jam tracks … only one for Nirvana so far. Way too early to tell if they'll make the final countdown. Do they belong? That’s up to you … this is YOUR list, people … and because of this, it will NEVER be “just another list.”
We just want to get it right ... which is why we are enlisting the help of ALL of the Classic Rock Fans out there to do so ... so please help us to spread the word. Tell your friends to cast their votes. Contact your local classic rock radio stations and ask them to get onboard by polling their listeners.
This is a nationwide poll, people ... let's maximize the voting pool to get the best results possible.
Meanwhile, KEEP THOSE VOTES COMIN’, FOLKS …
WE’VE GOT A LONG WAY TO GO!!! (kk)
email your votes now to: email@example.com
email your votes now to: firstname.lastname@example.org