Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Rose By Any Other Name

The three of you that still bother to read this space on those rare occasions that I'm inspired to post something will have probably realized by now that I have what I like to call "opinions" when it comes to rock & roll music. I like to call them "opinions" because others tend to call them "boneheaded ideas about trivial things that you insist on talking about even though no one cares a bit about them but you."

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself alone at home on a Friday night. I immediately lapsed into a behavior that has been performed by bachelors since the dawn of time: I picked up the remote and started surfing channels. Friday night programming being what it is, my eye was caught by one of those interminable "list" shows that are the programming mainstay of VH1. This one was a repeat of "The Top 100 Hard Rock Songs of All Time."

[Self-Awareness Caveat #1: I do realize that I am not VH1's target demographic.]

I figured that at the very least I'd probably get to hear a few good songs and see how much I agreed or disagreed with their list.

[Self-Awareness Caveat #2: I do realize that my taste in music is quite different from the people who voted for the songs on this list (See SAC #1, above).]

I really have no right to complain about anything on the list, since A) due to SAC #1 I was not even aware that I would have needed to go to VH1.com and vote and B) my vote would probably have not made one whit of difference in the results. Still, I have to wonder about some of the songs that ended up on this list.

Now at this point, you're probably asking yourself, "How can he possibly be critical of others when he's watching something as brainless as VH1?" My answer to that is to cite the argument that is so frequently and eloquently stated by my friend Urban Bohemian:

"Shut up. "

I was actually sailing along through this show, amazed and horrified at times that songs such as Rob Zombie's More Human Than Human and Rollins Band's I'm A Liar were included, but somewhat mollified that songs like Deep Purple's Smoke On The Water (one of the talking heads said, "This song has an opening riff that even your grandmother knows"), Lynyrd Skynyrd's Free Bird ("For the rest of your life, whenever you go to a concert, some idiot's gonna stand up with a lighter and yell, 'FREE BIRD' somewhere in the audience"), The Kinks' You Really Got Me, Led Zeppelin's Kashmir, The Who's Don't Get Fooled Again and Iron Butterfly's In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida were on the list. You have to take the bad with the good.

So you know how this works. They cover 20 songs in an hour and they show 5 hours in a row to cover all 100 items on the list. I came in somewhere in the 80's, so I watched over 3 hours of this stuff waiting to see what the voters at VH1 thought was the greatest hard rock song of all time. Quite frankly, I'm not sure that I could come up with a single song that I think is "the greatest hard rock song of all time." I'm not sure that I would even try to pigeonhole certain of these songs into the category "hard rock."

But I do know this: No song by Guns & Roses qualifies as the greatest hard rock song of all time, and certainly not Welcome To The Jungle. Heck, that's not even the greatest Guns & Roses song of all time, and I don't know that many Guns & Roses songs.

I had some stuff in here about my personal opinions of Axl Rose, but I decided that they probably had nothing to do with the music. I'll just toss this out as trivia to any who may not know: Mr. Rose chose his stage name only partially because his real last name is "Rose." The main reason was because it's an anagram for the words "oral sex." Guess he didn't want to be known as Earl Sox or Ax Loser.

There must be tens if not hundreds of thousands of songs that could qualify as "hard rock." Look at some of the giants of the genre: The Rolling Stones, Deep Purple, Aerosmith, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd... the list goes on and on. Groundbreaking is what most of these artists were.

Guns & Roses? Really?


Sean said...

I guess I should preface this by writing that I am probably part of the VH1 demographic (watched MTV growing up; now too old for the new versions of Real World and the Sweet 16 shows). I did watch part of the countdown several months ago, but I don't remember what songs made the cut. While I don't disagree with your post about Welcome to the Jungle being #1, I think it deserves to be in the top 10 or 20. It's a great song that always gets crowds fired up. Just wondering: who would be your #1?

Gilahi said...

Sean - Yeah, I tried to get out of that in the blog by saying that I wasn't sure which song I'd pick or even if I'd try to categorize some of them, but I should've known somebody would call me on it. A couple of songs that never fail to get me "fired up", as you put it: The Who's Baba O'Riley, Deep Purple's Highway Star, AC/DC's Shook Me All Night Long. There are others, but these spring to mind.

restaurant refugee said...

I am hardly a connoisseur of hard rock or even more than a casual fan who appreciates certain songs when they are played on the bar's jukebox, and even I know that song couldn't have qualified.

Gilahi said...

RR - Thanks. I don't think I'd have a hard time coming up with 100 songs that I believe are superior that would have thus knocked that one off the list entirely, but as I mentioned, my taste ain't theirs.

Gilahi said...

Sean - Hope you're following this via e-mail because I just realized how rude I was. I answered your question without bothering to give you the same option. I'd be interested to hear the opinion of someone who I'd guess is about 20 years younger than I. So... What's the greatest hard rock song of all time?

Mike said...

The best song ever changes for me depending on what mood I'm in and how many times in row I've listened to it.

One of them is Def Leppards Armageddon It. I like to pull it up on Youtube and have it running in the background while surfing.


Sean said...

Gilahi - I knew that I shouldn't have asked for your answer when I don't really have one myself! Paint It Black and Gimme Shelter by the Rolling Stones would both get consideration (though are they really hard rock?). Same with Enter Sandman by Metallica as well as Led Zeppelin's Kashmir and Black Dog. It's a great question/conversation though.

RR - Welcome to the Jungle wouldn't crack the top 100 hard rock songs? Really?

Gilahi said...

Mike - You may or may not appreciate this, but I forgot all about Def Leppard. I remember that they made VH1's list, because every time I see/hear them I have a great deal of respect for the one-armed drummer for his persistence in the face of catastrophe and for the band for giving him a chance.

Gilahi said...

Sean/RR - Ooooh. Controversy. Differences of opinion. It's almost like having a real discussion. Enter Sandman and Kashmir were both on the list. The first because of the tension between the traditional sandman image and Metallica's, the second because of the Middle-Eastern influence that wasn't heard in rock music before. And yeah, I'd consider both of those Stones songs to be hard rock. My best friend down in Atlanta says that he believes that Sympathy For The Devil is the epitome of a rock & roll song. Can't say that I agree with him, but that's what it's all about, huh?

FoggyDew said...

I agree with the statement that Welcome to the Jungle isn't GnR's best song, but I hesitate to nominate one that is.

As for the best hard rock song of all time, it would probably have to come from the catalog of AC/DC, Zeppelin, early Rush or Metalica. Or Aerosmith, Van Halen, early Queen or...or...there are too many to choose from and it is a total subjective judgement.

Gilahi said...

Foggy - Thanks for weighing in. I'd just like to say how thankful I am that no one has mentioned Nickelback in this discussion.

LiLu said...

The very mention of Nickelback makes me want to throw myself out the nearest window. You're not suggesting Vh1 had them on the list... I think I'd have to stop watching "Rock of Love" in protest.

Gilahi said...

LiLu - No, I wasn't suggesting they were on the list (although (I only saw the top 70 or so). It's just that when people were volunteering their opinions, I was (and still am) pleased that that particular group has been omitted. I would appreciate it if that would continue, and I'm sorry if I caused you any undue stress. Feel free to tune back in to "Rock of Love" the next time it's on.

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