November 27, 2004

...Gathers Moss

OR, THE DEATH OF MUSIC JOURNALISM

It shouldn't surprise anyone that I, a musician and music lover with half the stock of your average Tower Records in my basement, love reading about music. Especially from writers who truly love music themselves. Now, there's a guy you might have heard of who's perhaps my favorite writer of all things musical - Nick Hornby. With High Fidelity he managed to write the treatise on the mix tape and, in his collection of essays entitled Songbook, he illustrated the powers of music as a filing system for memories. If you haven't read either, get thee to a bookstore posthaste. Seeing the movie version of High Fidelity just isn't good enough. And even if you don't know any of the songs he discusses in Songbook, you'll most likely find it enjoyable.

Hornby isn't the only competent writer who owns a stereo. No, there are actually plenty of those. The sad thing is that they don't seem to work for Rolling Stone any longer. And I'm kinda sad about that.

Over the past couple years, my issues of Rolling Stone have faithfully been delivered to me and in that time, I've noticed a disturbing trend. Lists. Its all about lists. The latest issue showcased the "500 Greatest Songs" in the history of man. Previous issues have listed the greatest albums, most influential bands, most stylish cover art, best production, biggest hair, etc... Here's the lesson - when you don't want to think up content, make lists. Its not that I don't enjoy lists. I'll get into arguments about why the Beatles made it onto the list 26 times and Nirvana only once...or Richard Thompson and Nick Drake never. Sure, Dylan's brilliant but where's Aimee Mann?

As for Rolling Stone, the enthusiasm doesn't seem to be there anymore. I'd like them (and everyone) to feel like Hornby does - "...when people ask me what music I like, I find it very difficult to reply, because they usually want names of people and I can only give them song titles. And mostly all I have to say about these songs is that I love them, and want to sing along to them, and force other people to listen to them, and get cross when these other people don't like them as much as I do..."

Posted by Chris at November 27, 2004 04:30 PM
Comments

I think the most apt part is where it says you get frustrated when others don't like the song as much. You just wanna say, but don't you GET IT!?

Posted by: Heather at November 27, 2004 04:45 PM

The part about these "lists" that I can't stand is that half of the songs on the lists I don't agree with. It's almost as though they've accepted a nominal fee for putting certain songs/artists/albums/writers on said lists and that pisses me off.

Posted by: Jade at November 27, 2004 04:49 PM

There are songs I adore and then JaB goes and tells me they are crap and that makes me want to hit him VERY HARD!!

Posted by: JustAgirl at November 27, 2004 05:05 PM

i love to fight with people over the lameness of their taste. i don't think they appreciate it though.

Posted by: laura at November 27, 2004 05:54 PM

Pardon my french, but Rolling Stone can go f*ck itself.

They went down the tubes of suckage about 6 years ago and haven't looked back since.

Posted by: sledge at November 27, 2004 06:38 PM

It's all too subjective. I think of music critics just like art critics. If you see a painting and it speaks to you, who the hell cares what anybody else says?

Any list of "The Greatest Songs" or "The Top 20 Rock Albums" is nothing but dung. I'm happy with Spin and audio links of snippets at Amazon :)

Posted by: Colby at November 27, 2004 07:27 PM

I actually don't mind reading the lists - even though I don't agree with three quarters of them. But that is only when I can actually FIND THEM... You have to dig through all of the political articles in order to get to the music lists.

Now don't get me wrong, politics are good. Politics need to be discussed. But in ROLLING STONE magazine? Rememeber when BANDS aspired to get the cover, not the presidential hopefuls?

{sigh}

They've become a huge disappointment.

Posted by: RockStar Mommy at November 27, 2004 07:53 PM

I went through the list because sometimes reading the list inspired me to think of other music that I loved and reminded me that I liked bands like Joy Division. Yet, I have a hard time believing that certain songs were lower than other songs. Personally, I can't imagine Elvis who started all rock and roll not belonging in the top 10. Bob Dylan who can't sing was number 1. I could have bought imagine (another song I hate) being number one because people can't handle dissing John Lennon.

Personally I hated the Beatles so I can't agree with their prevelence on the list. I also dislike the opinion that current music does not have the effect that old music has, it just hasn't had all the years to maintain the kind of life that the top 10 have had.

I also think too much influence was given to popularity of a song versus if the song was actually good. I think there were a lot of songs that made the list because they were the most popular song by a band but not because they were actually good songs. This is why I avoid dealing with mainstream media when it comes to making musical selections.

Posted by: goodsnake at November 27, 2004 10:32 PM

Hope you and yours had a great Thanksgiving!

Posted by: pie at November 28, 2004 06:43 AM

Actually, there was a good article in the Buffalo News about how this year's list was absolutely horrible and insane and pushed some people around the list randomly... Oh, just check it out.

Posted by: alektra at November 28, 2004 05:58 PM

Sure, Dylan's brilliant but where's Aimee Mann?

This is why I read your blog. ;) Rock on mr. man.

And just for my info, do you have anything recorded? I'd love to hear some of your music.

Posted by: tulip at November 28, 2004 10:47 PM

I blew away my RS subscription several years ago, for the very reasons you mention. The really good writers -- the one's with half a brain - and actually LISTEN to music have gone to SPIN and Vibe -- and a few other cool mags... When I was younger, I couldn't wait for Rolling Stone to come out -- I'd read Circus also - dunno if you remember that one... but as your friend Dylan likes to say, 'the times, they are a changin' -- or was it jimi who proclaimed, 'I think my mind is going through them changes'? (with his great friend Buddy Miles)...

Posted by: Bob at November 29, 2004 09:04 AM

i echo your sentiments about rollingstone. i have been a subscriber for many many years and i feel like it is just sliding downwards. it's becoming too mtv and vh1-ish, and i am seriously going to reconsider renewing my subscription when the time comes. i figure i can read all the lists in the time it takes me to drink my coffee at the local starbucks or barnes and noble (where i read the magazines i wouldn't pay money for).

Posted by: chlamygirl at November 29, 2004 09:31 AM

I was disappointed at how many songs on this list were pre-1980. I'm certain that there were more than a handful of songs that belong on that list that came out in the past 25 years. I think maybe their target audience is full of baby boomers. I've never seen Vibe or Spin. Maybe I should go to the bookstore and check those out. The only thing worth reading in RS is the "Get Your War On" strip. The rest is birdcage liner.

Posted by: Amy at November 29, 2004 10:03 AM

ok, I'm not sure of the name, but a co-worker has recently brought me some issues of a music magazine that he reads. It is great. I'll get the name for you if you'd like. (He isn't in yet, so I can't ask right now) It was very diversive, had wonderful articles and comes with a CD every month. And the CD's are excellent. It did have a list last time I read it, but what was great was the fact that each item on the list was accompanied by short detail on why it made the list.

Posted by: wlfldy at December 1, 2004 07:59 AM