Tuesday, August 9, 2011

North American top 20: Donna weighs in

My friend Donna offered her top 20 via the magic of FB and asked for feedback. I love me some feedback. Here's her list, abridged:

1. Elvis. I had him ranked lower, but I can see how some might start him at 1. He didn't invent rock, but he might have been the first American to focus its power and chart the course for what was to come.

2. Johnny Cash. Whoa! My friend Johnson will like this one. It's an inspired pick, and while I think the ranking might be too high, I like the thinking here. The Man in Black certainly had the rock n roll attitude... he was a true original, spoke his mind, did his thing and broke the rules. And, with his late recordings with Rick Rubin, also had late-career work that kept his star shiny. Great, great pick... just not at 2.

3. The Doors.
4. Neil Young.
5. Bob Dylan. These last three are in the wrong order, but otherwise, yeah, I'm obviously down.

6. Joni Mitchell. Hmmm... well, I'll give this pick this much credit: Joni Mitchell had a lot more impact on women in music than a lot of others. And she wrote "Woodstock." Interesting choice, but I think that since she's pretty much been retired from the scene for 30+ years it hurts her.

7. Nine Inch Nails. Too high. I like Reznor's work and was surprised how well he did scoring "The Social Network." But 7th overall? (Actually, Donna couldn't resist breaking some rules herself and co-ranked Elvis and Cash at 1. I adjusted...) Can't put them at 7. Can't put them in the top 20.

8. Nirvana. Yeah, honestly based on their music alone, this band is probably top 5. So I guess I'm the bad dude for penalizing the dead guy.

9. Iggy and the Stooges. Another enticing pick. And I actually like some of Iggy's work post-Stooges. ("Squarehead" is a great song no one's ever heard.) Iggy's the father of punk in a lot of ways. But I just think his work is a little narrow.

10. George Clinton/Parliament-Funkadelic. Man, do I love this pick. Love, love, love this pick.

11. Prince.

12. The Pixies. Like them, but too obscure and not enough catalog with only four albums. To include them would mean I would have to include Sublime, who I like even better but who also didn't have enough of a portfolio. There I go punishing the dead guy again. OK I admit it: I'm anti-dead.

13. Todd Rundgren. This is an interesting pick also. Rundgren wrote some good stuff, but he also has had a hand in shaping the work of Grand Funk, Janis Joplin, the Band, Badfinger, Patti Smith and others. I guess he's kind of the American Alan Parsons.

14. Zappa.

15. Snoop. I love Snoop. But he's not top 20. Public Enemy, The Beasties, Eminem, NWA, Dre and Jay-Z (and probably RUN-DMC), to me, all rank higher. Tupac, too.

16. Butthole Surfers. And with this pick, Donna solidifies herself as being a little off-center! Interesting band from Texas, but top 20? Of all time?

17. Janes Addiction. Another interesting pick, just not top 20. Perry Farrell did create Lollapalooza, so bonus points.

18. Velvet Underground/Lou Reed/John Cale. A good pick. I considered these guys, especially Lou Reed, in the original list.

19. Madonna. I get it, I really do. She's influential and very successful. I just wish she did more than what she does.

20. Diana Ross and the Supremes. They were something, but for me, the short sample excludes them.

21. The Grateful Dead.

Donna also mentioned Aerosmith, Husker Du, Wall of Voodoo (heh!), Ministry, Thrill Kill Cult, Patsy Cline, Talking Heads, Devo and the B52s. I included Aerosmith and the Heads on my list. I like Devo and the B52s a lot. Patsy Cline is dead, so since I am anti-dead...

Donna also addressed two notable exclusions: Hendrix and the Beach Boys. Hendrix just didn't resonate with her. The Beach Boys she found a little dated. I agree with that. But the Hendrix thing... even though I am anti-dead, you have to give this man his due. So many artists held him up (and still do) that to discount his impact is impossible. I think of Hendrix playing "The Star-Spangled Banner" at sunup on Monday when Woodstock was supposed to be over... a few straggling hippies remaining to be greeted by this distorted, demented song that really summed up the disarray and disillusionment that was the American Dream, circa 1969... that moment said and says a lot about where we are as a country.

So, if we were voting, here's the score with two precincts reporting. Keep in mind that I'm only giving points to the top 20 with 20 points for first, 19 for second and so on. Also-rans get nada.
1. (tie) Bob Dylan (1) 36 pts
1. Neil Young 36
3. The Doors 34
4. Elvis Presley (1) 32
5. Prince 23
6. Johnny Cash 19
7. My Morning Jacket 18
8. Jimi Hendrix 17
9. (tie) Public Enemy 15
9. Joni Mitchell 15
11. (tie) Talking Heads 14
11. Nine Inch Nails 14
13. Nirvana 13 (ooo... 13 at 13!)
14. Iggy Pop/The Stooges 12
15. (tie) The Eagles 11
15. George Clinton/Parliament/Funkadelic 11
17. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band 10
18. (tie) James Brown 9
18. The Pixies 9
20. (tie) Stevie Wonder 8
20. Todd Rundgren 8
22. (tie) Alice Cooper 7
22. Frank Zappa 7
24. (tie) The Beastie Boys 6
24. Snoop Dogg 6
26. (tie) Beck 5
26. The Butthole Surfers 5
28. (tie) Stevie Ray Vaughan 4
28. Butthole Surfers 4
30. (tie) Steely Dan 3
30. Velvet Underground 3
32. (tie) Madonna 2
32. Ryan Adams 2
34. (tie) Aerosmith 1
34. Diana Ross and the Supremes 1.

Alright, the gauntlet's thrown. Get into it, people.

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