Thursday, August 1, 2013

Rolling Stone's "Top Five Artists of All Time"

Continuing our countdown from yesterday, here are the top 5 individuals or groups voted into Rolling Stone's "Top 100 Artists of All Time," with appreciations by fellow musicians.
5. Chuck Berry
"It's not so much what he played — it's what he didn't play. His music is very economical. His guitar leads drove the rhythm, as opposed to laying over the top. The economy of his licks and his leads — they pushed the song along. And he would build his solos so there was a nice little statement taking the song to a new place, so you're ready for the next verse. As a songwriter, Chuck Berry is like the Ernest Hemingway of rock & roll…. People will always cover Chuck Berry songs. When bands go do their homework, they will have to listen to Chuck Berry. If you want to learn about rock & roll, if you want to play rock & roll, you have to start there."—Joe Perry
Delve deeper into Berry's legacy with the DVD Impact!—Songs that Changed the World: Chuck Berry—Maybellene

4. The Rolling Stones
"The hair was sloppier. The harmonies were a bit off. And I don't remember them smiling at all. They had the R&B traditionalist's attitude: 'We are not in show business. We are not pop music.' And the sex in Mick Jagger's voice was adult. This wasn't pop sex — holding hands, playing spin the bottle. This was the real thing. Jagger had that conversational quality that came from R&B singers and bluesmen, that sort of half-singing, not quite holding notes. The acceptance of Jagger's voice on pop radio was a turning point in rock & roll. He broke open the door for everyone else. Suddenly, Eric Burdon and Van Morrison weren't so weird — even Bob Dylan. It was completely unique: a white performer doing it in a black way. Elvis Presley did it. But the next guy was Jagger. There were no other white boys doing this. White singers stood there and sang, like the Beatles. The thing we associate with black performers goes back to the church — letting the spirit physically move you, letting go of social restraints, any form of embarrassment or humiliation. Not being in control: That's what Mick Jagger was communicating."—Steven Van Zandt ** The documentary Crossfire Hurricane has terrific, visceral footage of the band's evolution, while The Rolling Stones: The Illustrated Biography compresses all of that funky charisma into words and pictures. 

3. Elvis
"Out of Tupelo, Mississippi, out of Memphis, Tennessee, came this green, sharkskin-suited girl chaser, wearing eye shadow — a trucker-dandy white boy who must have risked his hide to act so black and dress so gay. This wasn't New York or even New Orleans; this was Memphis in the Fifties. This was punk rock. This was revolt. Elvis changed everything — musically, sexually, politically."—Bono
Elvis Thru the Years: Special Anniversary Edition DVD; Jailhouse Rock: Deluxe Edition

2. Dylan
"He is a powerful singer and a great musical actor, with many characters in his voice. I could hear the politics in the early songs. It's very exciting to hear somebody singing so powerfully, with something to say. But what struck me was how the street had had such a profound effect on him: coming from Minnesota, setting out on the road and coming into New York. There was a hardness, a toughness, in the way he approached his songs and the characters in them. That was a rebellion, in a certain way, against the purity of folk music. He wasn't pussyfooting around on 'Like a Rolling Stone' or 'Ballad of a Thin Man.' This was the rebel rebelling against the rebellion.
I learned early on with Bob that the people he hung around with were not musicians. They were poets, like Allen Ginsberg. When we were in Europe, there'd be poets coming out of the woodwork. His writing came directly out of a tremendous poetic influence, a license to write in images that weren't in the Tin Pan Alley tradition or typically rock & roll, either."—Robbie Robertson, The Band
Look for the latest in the Dylan 'bootleg' series (#10) which we'll be carrying this fall. It has unreleased tracks from Self-Portrait and New Morning, festival recordings, demos, and more.
Meanwhile, check out The Mammoth Book of Bob Dylan.

"Every record was a shock when it came out. Compared to rabid R&B evangelists like the Rolling Stones, the Beatles arrived sounding like nothing else. They had already absorbed Buddy Holly, the Everly Brothers and Chuck Berry, but they were also writing their own songs. They made writing your own material expected, rather than exceptional.
John Lennon and Paul McCartney were exceptional songwriters; McCartney was, and is, a truly virtuoso musician; George Harrison wasn't the kind of guitar player who tore off wild, unpredictable solos, but you can sing the melodies of nearly all of his breaks. Most important, they always fit right into the arrangement. Ringo Starr played the drums with an incredibly unique feel that nobody can really copy, although many fine drummers have tried and failed. Most of all, John and Paul were fantastic singers.
Lennon, McCartney and Harrison had stunningly high standards as writers. Imagine releasing a song like 'Ask Me Why' or 'Things We Said Today' as a B side. These records were events, and not just advance notice of an album release.
Then they started to really grow up. They went from simple love lyrics to adult stories like 'Norwegian Wood,' which spoke of the sour side of love, and on to bigger ideas than you would expect to find in catchy pop lyrics.
They were pretty much the first group to mess with the aural perspective of their recordings and have it be more than just a gimmick. Before the Beatles, you had guys in lab coats doing recording experiments in the Fifties, but you didn't have rockers deliberately putting things out of balance, like a quiet vocal in front of a loud track on 'Strawberry Fields Forever.' You can't exaggerate the license that this gave to everyone from Motown to Jimi Hendrix.
My absolute favorite albums are Rubber Soul and Revolver. When you picked up Revolver, you knew it was something different. Heck, they are wearing sunglasses indoors in the picture on the back of the cover and not even looking at the camera ... and the music was so strange and yet so vivid. If I had to pick a favorite song from those albums, it would be 'And Your Bird Can Sing' ... no, 'Girl' ... no, 'For No One' ... and so on, and so on…."—Elvis Costello



  1. Back to the future! Aren't we in August?
    I sometimes lose a day, but not when I'm not drinking.
    I wasn't drinking...I don't think.

    1. Ha ha. well, Blogger got balled up and put me back a day last week and I haven't caught up yet. Have to go in and see if I can fix it. Man I hate tech stuff!

  2. Elvis gets my vote for the greatest of all time. Gospel, country, blues, and rock-n-roll all converge here, and he did more than anyone to eliminate the barriers between these styles of music. You don’t need me to tell you that you must seek the younger or mid-career (1960’s) Elvis, because everyone knows that. But one must also get beyond the obvious hits, and try tracks like “Marie’s the Name,” “Trouble,” “King Creole,” “Little Egypt,” “One Night,” and “You’re the Devil in Disguise.” He also made several gospel albums, and they are arguably his most impressive performances. Honestly, go on YouTube and look up the 1969 “Comeback Special,” as he plays astonishingly fresh versions of “That’s Alright Mama” and “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” in what could be described as the first-ever “unplugged” TV performance. A lot of the people on this list owe something to Elvis; the Beatles and the Stones revered him, and Hendrix is truly cut from the same cloth. Everything that is good and bad about rock music can be found in the life and career of the man from Tupelo.

    1. Make that two votes. There is only one Elvis, while there were four Beatles and (what? 5? 6?) Stones. He was really something. Still is, actually.

    2. Even my mother enjoys Elvis's velvety baritone! That voice gave him the flexibility to sing the blues, and gospel, and anything else the marketers thought of to exploit, uh, display the God-given talent Elvis had.
      I will say it once--performers with irritating voices should shut up, unless they are spinning their own created verbal gold and cannot bear to hear a suitable voice interpret it.
      I am neutral in this interesting debate between Stones and Beatles. I only know that, as Bach came before Mozart, the latter could not do otherwise than build on another's legacy.

      Any hostess tempted to invite Mr. Breton and the "primal" Mr. Fink to dinner is advised to hide the sharp cutlery and give them spoons.

  3. The only truly important question in life is - - Beatles or The Rolling Stones? The right answer, of course, is The Stones. Haha, these lists are so fun and the debate is always fantastic. The Beatles were genius, but they were tame. All roll, no rock:)

  4. One of the many things to dislike about the Stones is that they practically invented the concept of “filler”; they made no secret of the fact that every album needs just one good song on it, and people will buy it regardless of the other contents. Consequently, all the decent songs they’ve written in the last 50 years would fit on a single CD. At this late date, songs like “Brown Sugar” and “Sympathy for the Devil” seem rather embarrassing, at least lyrically. Mick and Co. were content to stick to the formula laid down by Elvis, Howlin’ Wolf, and Muddy Waters, without moving the art form forward in any way. Basically, they’re AC/DC without the flashy guitar work. The Beatles also had a lot of sub-par songs, but they were experimenting with the possibilities of popular music. Rock is essentially dead because no one has picked up the gauntlet that the Beatles threw down nearly half a century ago. Contemporary bands can follow the Rolling Stones blueprint and make millions, which is a lot easier than trying to write “I am the Walrus,” “Eleanor Rigby,” or “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” And incidentally, the Stones never rocked as hard as the Beatles did with “Helter Skelter” and “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”!

    1. A Man of Wealth and TasteAugust 1, 2013 at 5:47 PM

      "Sympathy for the Devil," embarrassing? Compared to what? "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da?" While the boys from Liverpool were poncing about in pastel uniforms, Jagger and Keef were standing at the crossroads at midnight with yours truly.

      "Midnight Rambler"? "Gimme Shelter"? The Beatles never reached the sense of heavy, imminent doom that permeates those songs. Never mind the darkness that was Altamont...

    2. Yep. The Rolling Stones, aside from being forward thinking, distilled everything authentic, dangerous and exciting about rock and roll. Ultimately, that's what it's all about. Perhaps I'm a bit primal, but it's what draws me to music. Studio wankery was always a turnoff. That said, the Fab Four were a fun group for a time. That whole "not touring" thing, though? It's the antithesis of rock and roll. Your TRUE legacy is logged in the van, paying your dues and getting into scrapes.

  5. I love that Bob Dylan is in one of the top spots!!!