Sunday, May 03, 2009

the worst book about rock n roll ever is..... some margin, this horrid book called The Worst Rock n Roll Records Of All Time by two incredibly cynical, music loathing, apparently jealous and rather misguided individuals called Jimmy Guterman and Owen O’Donnell. i believe the former has some sort of "reputation" for journalism; going on this book it must surely be a self-appointed one.

the big problem with this book is that they routinely stray away from the world of Rock n Roll to have a snide go at someone (anyone), apparently so they can showcase their vast, witty and (like the last two comments) sarcastic skills. the fact that they were dumb enough to name their book about "the worst rock and roll records" and then barely include records that set out as either being rock and roll or were ever thought as such says it all. let's have a look at some of their dumber moments, though, see how they like it.

OK, a few random selections (and dismissals) from their "50 worst rock and roll singles of all time"

9. McLean, Don – American Pie
Once you start listening to the words, you’re left wondering: “What is this guy talking about?”

well, if you can't work out what American Pie is about from the simplistic, straightforward lyrics, you shouldn't be trying to review anything, let alone publishing it. the only frustrating thing about this song is that so many people think that "the day the music died" is a reference to Buddy Holly's death. it isn't; the last chorus reveals that the music died the day that fans died going to see The Rolling Stones at Altamont. speaking of whom....

20. Rolling Stones – Emotional Rescue
They didn’t care; why should we?

they are kidding, yeah? the Stones pay attention to the "disco" sound prevalent at the time, work out a killer percussion rhythm and deliver a song that tends to be a firm fan favourite. there are a number of songs from The Stones that could have gone here (Harlem Shuffle for instance), but a song that features in the top 50 Stones songs really doesn't belong in the worst 50 rock and roll songs of all time. unless, of course, you are two writers apparently insanely jealous of Mick Jagger; more on that later.

24. McFerrin, Bobby – Don’t Worry Be Happy
It is embarrassing to watch a once-defiantly-non-mainstream performer try to accommodate himself to the demands of the mass audience; it is especially pathetic when that performer does so by appealing to the lowest common denominator.

up front, this song really grates me. that said, many people out there love this song. and not one of the many people who love it would ever refer to this song as being "rock and roll". how desperate were the writers of this book and how poor was there research that they decide this little ditty is rock and roll?

29. Art of Noise featuring Tom Jones – Kiss
Jones has received many accolades from many performers who should know better (from Elvis Presley to Van Morrison), but his unctuous baritone is completely inappropriate for the falsetto lust of Kiss, one of Prince’s greatest singles.

well, there you have it, in their dismissal they miss the whole point of the record. of course Tom Jones was inappropriate for the vocals. that's the whole point of this synth-pop gem (ie not rock and roll), done slightly tongue-in-cheek for The Last Resort With Jonathan Ross TV show, proving to be so popular that it was released as a successful single.

41. Jagger, Mick & David Bowie – Dancing in the Street
we question why these major rock figures bothered to turn the microphones on if they didn’t have anything to say. …why is Bowie yelling ‘South America!”?

nowhere near the best record ever made, but not bad for a "made on the spot" single when the proposed Bowie-Jagger duet via satellite wasn't possible for Live Aid. a charity record made for a bit of fun to do some good is all that this was. and in answer to the question to the two thick "writers" of this list, Bowie's shouting of "South America" is part of the list of places around the world that were receiving the Live Aid broadcast, the place where this song was intended for and thus made its debut.

43. Wham! – Freedom
Freedom is the transition between Michael’s unaffected trash and the affected kind.

44. George Michael – Freedom ‘90
The former Elton John wanna-be with no dance-floor credibility is now a frankly self-involved auteur with multilayered stubble.

two great summer pop songs nicely bundled together in this book as two bad rock and roll records. the lack of imagination or interest in rock and roll is perhaps best personified by the inclusion of these two singles.

if their choice of "worst" rock and roll singles is idiotic, wait until you get a load of their choices for "worst rock and roll albums" of all time. here we go.....

1. Presley, Elvis – Having Fun with Elvis on Stage
This 1974 monstrosity was subtitled “A Talking Album Only”, but it was packaged like a standard live album. There was only one minor problem: this live album had no songs on it, just the rote between-song patter, repetitious nonjokes, and flat-out stupid scarf disbursements that were epidemic at the King’s arena shows in the seventies.

yes, that's right folks, the record chosen as the worst rock and roll album of all time, by their own admission and as stated clearly on the record cover, does not have a single note of music on it. says it all, really, doesn't it? what a shame their jealousy of people with a record contract stopped them from doing proper evaluations. for the record, the albums of The King speaking to his audience stretched to 5 (five) volumes. they might not be rock and roll, they might not be music, but they were popular.

6. Milli Vanilli – the Remix Album
“Musically, we are more talented than any Bob Dylan. Musically, we are more talented than Paul McCartney”. Half the record is remixes ,with the expected random echo, scratches, and synthesizer slashes that are supposed to indicate remixing. The other half is made up of early tracks left off Girl, You Know It’s True (American Debut Album). Imagine, if you can, the existence of songs not good enough to make it onto a Milli Vanilli record.

a very funny rock and roll quote that gives a tedious link to rock and roll, certainly, but the fact remains that Milli Vanilli were a gimmick, a con or a ruse - they were categorically not rock and roll. considering the expose of the con job that this band was did get substantial coverage, it's hard to understand how they could ever feature in any serious piece of music journalism, unless it was a piece on music hoaxes and cons. it is probably a bad record, but a bad rock and roll record?

21. Dylan, Bob – Live at Budokan
Bob Dylan went to Japan and made the most preposterous live album by a major performer in the history of rock & roll.

if it's as preposterous as they claim, why are there 4 or 5 other live albums higher up their list? invariably live albums are issued by the record labels rather than at the insistence of the artist as a "cash in" or "contract filler". whether they are good or bad, including them in a rundown of the best or worst rock and roll albums of all time is just plain lazy since they are not new music and rarely feature anything but (surprise!) live versions of the better known songs. the same very much goes for the compilations that the two writers insist on including on their insipid lists.

26. Bon Jovi – Slippery When Wet
Who many clich├ęs can you squeeze into a single pop song? Probably not as many as Jon Bon Jovi can. The callous clinker “Remember when we lost the keys/And you lost more than that in my back seat” is Meat Head Jovi’s idea of evocative storytelling.

there's an irony for you - they get around to including an actual rock and roll record on their list and then decide to refer to it as being "pop". the album is full of songs which fill stadiums and songs that people like to listen to. that's pretty much the point of rock and roll, isn't it? "evocative storytelling" in a 3 minute song is tricky; perhaps it's something to be left to novelists rather than songwriters?

50. U2 – Unforgettable Fire
They think they are the most important band in the world, and sometimes they are. On The Unforgettable Fire, they don’t even come close.

had this observation been made about the bloated, self-indulgent Rattle & Hum, it would be hard to argue. to level this criticism against U2 for an album released when they weren't global stars yet, and an album that features Pride (In The Name Of Love) and Bad tells you that the writers were just desperate to have a go at every successful artist they could think of/were insanely jealous of rather than look and listen to any actual music.

not content with slamming records for no apparent reason, they also decide to produce a list of "the worst Rock and Rollers of all time". needless to say, this also delves into the world of just being plain bitter and jealous rather than an actual look at what or why someone would be considered one of the "worst" Rock and Rollers.

although Paul McCartney (?) and New Romantic, synth pop band Duran Duran are considered "runners up" for the title, these two seem to believe that none other than Billy Joel should be seen as the worst Rock and Roller of all time, with the "criticism" being that "no single performer has done more to encourage musicians without a shred of rock credibility to think that pretending to rock out is the same thing as rocking out than Billy Joel".

i don't know all that much about Mr Joel, but if memory serves correct, he unleashed himself on the world as "Piano Man" rather than "Rock and Roll Man". calling him, then, "the worst Rock and Roller of all time" is a bit like calling him "the worst tambourine player in the world" - meaningless. the choice here is all the more strange, since what i do know of Billy Joel suggests that he is capable of "evocative storytelling" in his songs; something that apparently all "rock and roll stars" should be able to do, going on the dismissal of Bon Jovi.

the rest of the book, and i don't blame you if you find this hard to believe, is full of even worse, invalid nonsense. these two come to the conclusion that The King, Elvis Presley, was "out of touch" with the entire decade of the 1960s for reasons along the lines of he happened to have the song Stay Away out as a single around the time that Martin Luther King was assassinated. so, according to Guterman and O'Donnel, Elvis should have had enough vision to foresee the assassination of a prominent political figure, and thus would have been expected to record and release a tribute record in advance? i think you will find that the intention of The King was/is to entertain with music, not make social commentary. i guess, then, that all those songs by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Beach Boys and anyone else you can name from the decade were all a bit rubbish according to these two, since i don't recall any startling socio-political commentary being at the core of their rather entertaining music.

this book is not "controversial", it is just plain old rubbish. the infamous article in The Times newspaper which claimed that Steve McQueen survived and was recaptured at the end of The Great Escape shows more obvious research than this, and is perhaps more relevant to Rock and Roll, good or bad, too.

it will be a dream come true if the clowns who produced the book read this and get all upset - let's see how they like it.

be excellent to each other, bar a couple of obvious exceptions!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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