Saturday, November 19, 2005

Top Lists

I notice that top 10 and 100 lists always seem to pop up, and it makes me wonder who really has the authority to create such lists. The lists are really just a matter of opinion of a few people that I may or may not disagree with. But as long as everyone agrees that those lists are just a matter of opinion, then they can be kind of fun.

I've always had a dislike for Rolling Stone magazine (they're obviously biased towards most major artists--how can they justify giving five stars to the vastly subpar Pink Floyd "The Final Cut" and to every Rolling Stones album in the '90s, while consistenly panning every Led Zeppelin album ever?) But I've noticed that in efforts to boost sales they will periodically come up with a Top 100 of this or that. I recall the frenzy when they came out with the Top 100 albums of all time back in the late 1980's. Though I agree with their No. 1 choice of The Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper," I lost all respect for the list with their inclusion of The Sex Pistols' "Never Mind The Bollocks" and Paul Simon's "Graceland" in the top 10. I've always been a fan of the Pistols, and especially their lone classic album, but seriously--the No. 2 album of all time? And while Simon's "Graceland" was great for what it did in spreading awareness about Apartheid, I find it difficult to swallow as one of the 10 greatest EVER.

Time recently published their Top 100 books (narrowing the field to English language since the magazine's inception in 1923). I felt quite the erudite in seeing I had read 19 of their top 100, but also a bit dismayed in their exclusion of some others I love.

I've always been serious about my Top 10 lists of favorites, even going so far as ending relationships if the girl didn't fully feel the emotion of my favorite all-time films. One thick-headed girl actually walked out on "The Graduate," claiming it was by far Dustin Hoffman's worst film (her fav was the "timeless" classic "The Legend of Billie Jean"). There are times when I fantasize about finding her just to proudly show how "The Graduate" came in at No. 7 in AFI's Top 100 greatest films of all time. But common sense and reason always prevail with the reality that she's probably no smarter today than she was all those years ago, and probably wouldn't give a damn.

But I figure for what it's worth (probably very little in my opinion) I'd list my top 5 favorites in select categories. I feel a bit like Rob in "High Fidelity."

Top 5 favorite books:

2.The Catcher in the Rye
4.One Hundred Years of Solitude
5.The Beach

Top 5 favorite films:

1.The Graduate--fell in love with it when I saw it at age 13 and have never looked back.

2.Midnight Cowboy--one of the most vivid depictions of New York, and now serves as a trip back in time into the sleaze of Times Square back in the '60s/'70s.

3.Taxi Driver--also incredibly vivid depiction of NY in the '70s, but also incredible to watch Travis Bickle slowly go from confused to outright insane.

4.Risky Business--many are stunned when I mention this as a top five. But I've also seen it written up as a modern day version of "The Graduate." It really is a film as opposed to a "movie." Watch it some time late at night with all the lights out and no distractions. It's incredible.

5.Cinema Paradiso--the most beautiful film I've ever seen.

Top 5 Albums:

1. The Beatles "Sgt. Pepper": there had never been anything like this at the time it came out, and it changed the music scene. From the opening theatrics of the title song to the haunting close of "A Day in the Life."

2. The Doors first album: Has there ever been another debut album that created such a rippling effect on the world? The band ventured to go beyond the three minute ditties that bombarded airwaves at the time and literally broke on through and dared the listener to do the same with songs like "Light My Fire," and the disturbing finale "The End."

3. Pink Floyd "The Wall": a remarkable biographical double album morphing the lives of Roger Waters and ill-fated Syd Barrett. Not only is the story itself fascinating, but Waters managed to put it all to brilliant lyrics and music.

4. The Rolling Stones "Sticky Fingers": this is like no other Stones album. Many fans and critics always point to "Exile On Main Street," but I've always preferred this one. "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" is simply brilliant with the raunchy guitar and chorus in the first half, followed by the jazzy horns in the second half, all building in crescendo to its explosive finale. "Dead Flowers" is a nice twangy sing-along, plus the timeless "Brown Sugar," and "Bitch."

5. Led Zeppelin 4: I thought about not including this one because it's so overplayed on the radio, but is that really the band's fault? It's really just a testament to its brilliance. Everyone's favorite song in high school in the '70s and '80s was "Stairway to Heaven." You just weren't cool if you didn't say it. It must be the most overplayed song never released as a single--overplayed to the point where I find myself turning stations when I hear it (was very thankful they didn't play it on the Page/Plant tour 10 years ago). But I can never get sick of "Rock and Roll" and "The Battle of Evermore."

Top 5 songs:

1. The Doors: Riders on the Storm
2. Bob Dylan: Knockin' on Heaven's Door
3. Don Henley: Boys of Summer: This song has haunted me since I first heard it back in 1984.
4. The Rolling Stones: Midnight Rambler(live version): some songs are better live, and this is possibly the best of them. Especially love the fan yelling out "God damn!" in the middle.
5. The Eagles: Hotel California: just a work of genius from start to finish.

Top 5 concerts I've been to:

1. John Mellencamp: Back in the '80s he outperformed them all. I used to have an old news clipping that the New York Post wrote about one of his shows. It proclaimed he was better live than the Stones, Pink Floyd or any other biggies. And it was true. He's slowed down since then, and still puts on a good show. But back then there was no one like him live. Two sets, great covers like "Like a Rolling Stone" and "Under the Boardwalk." Pulling someone out of the crowd to sing "Pink Houses" with him. He and his band had a great time on stage and the energy and enthusiasm rubbed off on the crowd. Mellencamp actually put on the two best concerts I've ever been to: Thanksgiving Night 1987 at Madison Square Garden(10th row) and then in June of 1988 at the Meadowlands (now Continental Airlines Arena)--had front row.

2.The Black Crowes at the Beacon Theater, March 1995: Waited five years to see this band after I got frustrated and walked off a line to see them at London's historic Marquee in 1990. I've seen them 5 times since, and though it's always a great time none have compared to this performance.

3. AC/DC, Nassau Coliseum, Sept. 1986: Had never seen such a show before, with cannons firing, a giant bell and just the fun of watching Angus Young. A band that really knows how to put on a show.

4. Bob Dylan/Sheryl Crow at Roseland, September, 1994: Had seen Dylan in the past and was somewhat disappointed (as many are by his terrible voice and lack of enthusiasm on stage these days). But I loved Sheryl Crow's debut album and mainly went for her. She put on a great show herself, but Dylan was on top of his act this night. The VIP section was full of stars: Bruce Springsteen and his wife, Allen Ginsberg, Steven Wright, GE Smith, Ric Ocasek and his wife, Paulina, Neil Young. Perhaps this is what led Dylan to go the extra mile at this show. Roseland is a tiny place, and the stars were literally 20 feet from me. It was as much fun to stargaze as it was to watch the iconesque Dylan perform. The crowd was into the entire show. Dylan was joined by Springsteen and Neil Young for the encore of "Rainy Day Women," and "Highway 61." I've seen Dylan several times since (always playing with the Dead), and this was the only time I ever saw him enjoying himself and smiling. You couldn't help but smile watching Springsteen fumble with the guitar during "Rainy Day Women" while Neil Young tried to show him the chords. And then having a thousand fans singing "Everybody Must Get Stoned" along with these stars was especially memorable.

5. The Rolling Stones, July 1990 in Turin, Italy: I had fulfilled a fantasy of finally seeing the Stones, twice, on their Steel Wheels tour at Shea Stadium in Oct. 1989. Though my seats were very far away, it didn't matter. It was the Rolling Stones and it was my dream to see them. But in the summer of 1990 I was backpacking through Europe when I happened to see a poster for the Stones in Italy. I took a French girl I was seeing to the show, and it turned out to be a lesson in cultural differences between the US and Italy. The concert was at a large soccer stadium with general admission seating. In the US a Stones show with general admission would surely result in a stampede with several deaths. We got to the arena early and I was surprised when we were able to casually walk up to the front and sit. There was no one else around us.
"Are we allowed to sit here?" I asked my g/f.
"Of course," she replied.
Others were at the concession stands buying food and drinks, or just milling about and chatting with one another.
"Back home people would kill for these seats."
"Well that's stupid," she said. "It's just a concert."
And she was obviously right.

The stage was half the size it had been in the US, allowing a more personalized show. And since I had seen them twice, I knew what songs were usually coming up. At one such point I yelled out, "let Keith sing!" The Italians in our area began yelling it out with me, and got excited when Mick Jagger then announced, "I'm going to let Keith sing now." I kept yelling for them to play "The Midnight Rambler," and when the finally did my fellow Italian friends erupted in a frenzy(I doubt they had ever heard of the song.) During the encore break the stadium chanted an Italian song, and Mick Jagger joined in when the band returned. It was one of the most memorable nights I've ever had.

6. Aerosmith/Deep Purple/Guns 'N Roses, Aug. 1988 at Giants Stadium: Sorry, I just had to make room for this show. Aerosmith was on their comeback tour for "Permanent Vacation." Guns 'N Roses had just exploded with "Appetite For Destruction," and Deep Purple was there just to make an already great concert even better. GNR filmed the "Paradise City" video at this show; this was pre-Axl whining like a baby days, and they put on a fantastic performance. Deep Purple shot colored lasers into the night sky while jamming for two hours. Aerosmith didn't even get on stage until 11:30, and played until the wee hours of the morning. It was over 7 hours of great music.


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