Friday, April 26, 2019

Classic Rock Update #5

Thanks a lot for creating this countdown... I can’t wait for the results!
- Colin

Have been following your "Top 5000" thing, and thought I'd toss in my two cents.
I have been a listener to "Top 40" radio in Chicago since the very late 50s.  I'm pretty easy to please, and enjoy almost anything I've heard in the time frame of 1950s to early 1980s pop music.
I pretty much agree with almost everyone out there in music-land when it comes to what's "good" and what isn't.  I love the Beatles and much of the British Invasion stuff, and most 60s rock. I like 50s Roots Rock.  I couldn't choose a favorite band if
my life depended on it.
I will, however, make two comments: 
I think the best rock / pop vocalist of our era is Burton Cummings, who is the smoothest I've ever heard. Puts them all to shame, IMO. I've been to many Guess Who concerts, starting with the one at the SIU Arena on October 9th, 1970, and have never been disappointed.
Second, I would like to put in my two cents about a guy who did a lot for 60s and 70s music: Jack Nitzsche ... a brilliant guy who wrote, directed, and produced, and did tons of work with Phil Spector.  I want to give my vote to his tune "The Lonely Surfer," which still gives me gooseflesh when I hear it.  Should rank way up near the top of the greatest rock tunes.  Just my opinion.
Thanx for listening ...
Mike Wolstein
I’m happy to report that the race is really tightening up here at the top of the list.  
While “Hotel California” has had the most votes since Day Two (“Layla” topped the list during our very first day of voting), “Bohemian Rhapsody” has been clawing its way past The Eagles’ landmark hit and turned this into quite a slugfest!  (For the record, “Layla” still ranks at #3.)
We also received a nice batch of new first-time nominees this past week, bringing us closer to our ultimate goal of 5000 tracks to choose from before we narrow it down to the final Top 3333.
Keep those votes coming, folks!  This is getting very interesting!  (kk)

Billboard Magazine ran a piece this week on THEIR choices for The 50 Best Chicago Songs as selected by their staff of critics.  I will admit to finding this list somewhat surprising.  (The inspiration came from the fact that Chicago’s first album, released as “Chicago Transit Authority,” will be celebrating its 50th Anniversary this Sunday, April 28th.)

Keep in mind that this list is completely subjective and NOT based on any type of ranking regarding how these songs performed on their own Hot 100 Pop Singles Chart.  In fact, several of these tracks weren’t released as singles at all … they’re album tracks … and, as such, a #1 Hit like “Look Away” can be found way down at the bottom of the list at #46, a rather surprising showing.  (Chicago’s other two #1 Hits fare a little better with “If You Leave Me Now” coming in at #9 and “Hard To Say I’m Sorry” ranking all the way up at #2.)

Now I consider myself to be pretty knowledgeable when it comes to the music of Chicago … and Frannie is even more so … but we both found titles on this list that we were not immediately familiar with … to the point that even if I listened to some of these, I wasn’t sure that this would put me any closer to recognizing these tunes as “essential.”  (The low ranking of others that I consider classics is also disappointing … “Will You Still Love Me” came in at #36, “Take Me Back To Chicago” at #33, “Happy Man” at #31 and “Wishing You Were Here” at #30 … while one of our mutual all-time favorites, “Wake Up Sunshine,” didn’t make the list at all.)

As we’ve stated many times before, lists like these are designed to breed controversy … and I’m sure as you peruse their final rankings you will find a few that leave you scratching your head as well.

This is a key reason why OUR list of The Most Essential Classic Rock Songs will have a little more substance … because it won’t be based on what I think … or a dozen of our readers think … but rather on a general consensus of hundreds of thousands of votes gathered nationwide along with actual airplay statistics.

So after reading Billboard's rankings, I was curious to see what OUR Top 5 Chicago songs are so far, this early into the tabulation.  (For the record, 42 tracks by Chicago have been nominated as of right now.)

Well, you’ll find them to be the most obvious selections, four of which are ranked equally as high on Billboard’s compilation.

#1 thus far is “25 or 6 to 4,” which is the #1 song on BOTH charts
#2 thus far is “Saturday In The Park”  (#3 on Billboard’s list)
#3 is “Beginnings”  (#5 on Billboard’s list)
#4 is “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is”  (also #4 on Billboard’s list) 
#5 is “Make Me Smile” (#15 on Billboard’s list, a little disappointing in that this is the track that broke the band.) 

You can check out the complete list here:

Thanks for sending the Chicago list, Kent !  My only surprise is the songs they left off.  This list could have easily been a Top 100. Although these two writers did a respectable job on the Billboard analysis of the tunes, I think you, because of the depth of your knowledge and your natural gift for writing, could have delivered an even more compelling essay.
Tom Cuddy

Thanks, Tom … but my comments above are all I have time for right now!  (lol)  This Classic Rock Essentials list is kicking my butt as it is!!!

Truth be told, it has almost become unmanageable … and I have yet to reach out to the leading Classic Rock Radio Stations across the country to help expand the research data base because I can barely keep up with the number of votes that are already coming in just thru our own efforts.

For example … as I type this, we already have 38 songs with over 1000 points so far … and another 13 others that are poised to hit that level, perhaps as early as this weekend!

We’ve got just over 3700 titles to choose from when it comes time to compile the final ballot (and this tally, too, is expected to increase as votes and nominations continue to come in.)

So why not just evaluate the data we’ve got so far and come up with a general consensus?  (Let’s face it … The Top 500 to 1000 songs are ALL going to be the tracks you would expect to see on such a list … in fact, if you really put your mind to it … and sat down and took the time to do it … you could probably come up with a list of the most obvious Top 500 all on your own.)

So why continue to devote this much time to a project that has such a predictable end?

Because we want to push Classic Rock Radio to expand their horizon and look BEYOND those obvious hits … dig a little deeper and feature some surprises and “Wow!” tracks now and again.  (Jeez, haven’t I already given this exact same speech 300 times in regards to oldies music?!?!)

I didn’t think it would be as necessary on the Classic Rock level but I am continuously being proven wrong.  In some cases, it’s actually worse!!!
I monitored 95.9 The River the other day and found that in a continuous 18-hour time period they played SIXTEEN of the same songs twice … and ONE song (“Don’t’ Stop Believin’” by Journey) THREE TIMES!!!

Now why would ANY radio station have to play that many repeats in such a short time frame when we have proven … with virtually NO effort at all … that there are literally THOUSANDS of great Classic Rock tracks to choose from that would greatly enhance the listening experience.

And I know … the argument’s the same … people don’t listen to the radio for eighteen straight hours … we have to play what they want to hear.
Well, I've got news for you ... I didn’t listen for eighteen straight hours either ... but I DID listen for ten straight hours … and gathered the rest of the information from their play list logs ... and our research proves that there are a WHOLE lot more than the same 200 songs that people want to hear out there ... THOUSANDS more!

As for your defense "People don't listen to the radio for more than an hour or two at a time," I will repeat the exact same answer I have given for the past twenty years ... “Maybe if you give them a reason to, people WILL listen longer.”

The River (and believe me, they’re not the only ones … I have found the same instances of unnecessary daily repeating on virtually every classic rock station I’ve encountered while spot checking online in preparation for this list) NEEDS a list like this to have ANY hope of ever witnessing reality.
And that’s what keeps egging me on …

Classic Rock Radio NEEDS this list!!!

They need to see what listeners REALLY want to hear … and then expand their programming accordingly.

We’re here to help … but you’ve got to pay attention … because the end result is a better listening experience for EVERYBODY!!!

So get your votes and nominations in NOW!!!

Go ahead … continue to bury me … we are currently on track to top half a million votes before this thing is over … so don’t stop now!!!

Watch for another major announcement in this regard next week … 

Meanwhile, continue to send your votes to

We’re standing by reading to take your order!  (kk)