We were watching NFL Football -- Giants vs. Broncos (what else would a person be doing on a Sunday?) -- in my son Robby's room at his fraternity house. (As many of you know, I'm out on in California, smack in the middle of my third annual cross-country-road-trip-with-beagle.) Griffin, one of Robby's roommates, mentioned he'd won a ticket to an Elton John concert, of all things, in a campus lottery. Cam, another guy in the house, said his parents used to listen to Elton John, and that he knew a few of the tunes. He mentioned "Your Song" as one of them.
"Your Song!" I said. "That was my wedding song! And it's my 15th favorite song of all time!"
Cam looked at me as if I came from another planet. It was obvious what he was thinking: What kind of person can tell you what his 15th favorite song of all time is?
I told Brandon about my project. (Most of the other guys in Robby's inner circle already knew about it.) For the last couple of years, I'd been compiling a list of my favorite songs ever -- from the dawn of rock and roll right up through 2013. ("Boys 'Round Here" from Blake Shelton's current album "Based On A True Story" checks in at No. 151.) Last summer I "released" numbers 1-100. Just a few weeks ago, I went public with 101-200. Next summer I'll reveal 201-300.
Now, a funny thing happens when I tell people about my Favorite Songs Of All Time. I'm not going to lie and say everybody -- but the response from a lot of people is: Hey, I ought to do that, too.
But nobody does.
And I understand that. To embark on a project like this, you've got to really, really love to listen to music. And you've got to be obsessive to an extraordinarily high degree. And you have to have a good bit of time on your hands.
But it's been really fun hearing the reaction to my list. For one thing, people get extremely incensed when one of their favorites isn't right at the top. " `Hotel California' only number 186!!!???" I then have to explain that some 97 trillion songs have been released since the days of Elvis. No. 186 ain't bad at all!
It's also amusing when the flip-side happens, and one of my selections gets attacked. "You have `Rolling In the Deep' at No. 13!!!???"
"Are you kidding?" I answer. "It's one of the greatest songs of all time!" Which isn't really much of a defense, when you come to think of it, since it's only one of the greatest songs of all time because I've ranked it that way.
What I really don't get is the vitriol against Taylor Swift. I had three songs by T. Swift in my Top 100, and then another two in my Next 100. Of all my choices, these were by far the least popular. Why is everyone hating on Taylor so much? Why you gotta be so mean? (No. 69.)
Seriously, though, there's a huge payoff for compiling a list like this, beyond being able to say, "That's my 40th favorite song of all time" when "Sweet Child O' Mine" comes on your friend's car radio: It gives you an amazingly reliable, fool-proof, failsafe playlist.
On my annual road trip across the country, I listen to music on my iPod -- a lot. Sometimes, I dial up a group I haven't played in awhile: Yesterday I listened to the Zac Brown Band for that reason. Sometimes I'll notice something in my travels that calls to mind a song or album: I saw a guy on the boardwalk in Santa Monica wearing a T-shirt that said "Analog Is Better," which reminded me of the Joe Walsh album, "Analog Man." And sometimes the state I'm driving through pretty much dictates what should be on my iPod. How can you cruise California without dusting off the Beach Boys?
But there are other times when I have miles to go, and I've been a little short on sleep, and the weather's on the dreary side, and I feel kind of uninspired. On those days I just scroll to my Top 200.
And here's the amazing part: I love every song on that list.
Hank Herman is a Westport writer, and "The Home Team" appears every other Friday. Hank's adventures with his dog, Ricky, can be followed on his blog "Beagle Man" on the Westport News website -- http://blog.ctnews.com/beagleman/. Hank can be followed on Twitter @BeagleManHank and reached by email at DoubleH50@gmail.com.