The Home Team / The making of the Top 100
Published 5:57 am, Thursday, May 31, 2012
I love music. I love sports. I love lists. These three things came together in a chance confluence -- which over the past couple of years turned into something of an obsession.
About two years ago I was listening to "Love Story" ("Romeo take me somewhere we can be alone"), Taylor Swift's first mega-hit, and I impulsively blurted to whomever happened to be listening, "This is definitely is one of the 100 greatest songs of all time." And then I instantly realized I was doing exactly the thing that always irks me on sports talk radio: Some know-it-all will blithely label Andre Miller of the Denver Nuggets one of the 10 best point guards in NBA history, and I'll be thinking, Oh yeah? Then let's hear your other nine. Because when you're really forced to name them, you realize that Miller may not even be in the top 50, let alone the top 10.
And that's when it hit me: I'd make a list of my 100 favorite songs of all time.
I started the way a "normal" person might start. Right off the bat, I jotted down about 10 tunes that I absolutely knew would be at or near the top. This was easy. Then over the next few weeks I continued to scribble the names of songs, as I heard them, that would also fall into that "no-brainer" category.
This is where the project got a little bogged down. Though my intent was for the universe to be all songs, I made the assumption that if I liked a cut enough to be in my top 100, then chances are I owned the CD . . . or cassette . . . or vinyl album. I'm guessing I own maybe 800 albums, each averaging about 12 songs. So I made a point of listening to part of between 9,000 and 10,000 songs -- or at least those that had even a remote chance of making the cut. I tried hard to be "strict," adding to my list only the songs I thought might ultimately be chosen. This preliminary list of "finalists" ran to about 300. Then, over a long period of time, I listened and weighed my options, even held one-on-one playoffs: "What's Love Got To Do With It?" (Tina Turner), or "Red, Red Wine" (UB-40)? "Purple Haze" (Jimi Hendrix), or "Every Breath You Take" (The Police)? This is how I arrived at my final 100, and, ultimately, how I then ordered the list, from No. 100 down to No. 1.
But there was still more to consider. Being something of a perfectionist (ya think?), I needed to consider how far back to go as a starting point. I settled on the Elvis era, though, sad to say, none of his songs made the final cut. (Two were in my top 300.) And how was I categorizing rock and roll? Is country -- or "country & western," as my friend Langdon insists on calling it -- rock and roll? I love country music, so my answer was a resounding "yes." (You don't like country? Make your own list.) For that matter, what about show tunes? Nah. I couldn't see "Wouldn't It Be Loverly" being on the same list with "Wouldn't It Be Nice."
Even with all these decisions made, it was rough sledding -- until my wife asked me a question that made everything crystal-clear. "So are you saying these are the 100 greatest rock and roll songs of all time?" she wondered. And I said, "No -- these are my 100 favorite rock and roll songs of all time." Big difference. Having made this distinction, I didn't have to include a song just because it was considered a "classic." I didn't have to include a song because once upon a time it was one of my favorites. I had to still really, really like it now. The litmus test became: How glad am I when this song comes on the radio?
I unveiled my Top 100 "publicly" over Memorial Day weekend out at the beach in Montauk. We had a full house -- family, friends, our three sons' buddies. The countdown was greeted with tremendous fanfare, and some songs -- "California Gurls" by Katy Perry at No. 78 and "Rolling In The Deep" by Adele at No. 13, to name a couple -- drew standing ovations. My guess is the biggest excitement was over the fact that, after two years, I might finally stop talking about The List.
You'll be able to see my entire Top 100 on my blog, "Beagle Man" (see URL below), later this week -- but here's the Top 10:
1. Sweet Home Alabama / Lynyrd Skynyrd (1974)
2. Dancing In The Dark / Bruce Springsteen (1984)
3. Start Me Up / Rolling Stones (1981)
4. Drink In My Hand / Eric Church (2011)
6. Wake Me Up When September Ends / Green Day (2005)
7. Money For Nothing / Dire Straits (1985)
8. Summer of '69 / Bryan Adams (1984)
9. Stop Draggin' My Heart Around / Tom Petty & Stevie Nicks (1981)
10. Goodbye To You / Scandal (1982)
So how much time did I ultimately spend on this little project? Way, way, way more than I'd ever want to admit to anyone. At one point Carol said, "You know, normal people would have just jotted down 100 songs they really like, and boom! They're done."
But that would have been far too easy.
In addition to "The Home Team," which appears every other Friday, you can also keep up with Hank's adventures with his dog, Ricky, on his blog, "Beagle Man," on the Westport News website, at: http://blog.ctnews.com/beagleman/ He can be reached at: DoubleH50@gmail.com.l