When my friend Snow posted a Facebook entry about cleveland.com’s ranking of the 50 best albums of the ’70s, I initially resisted.
Typically, I find “top [number of your choice]” lists to be infuriating, and when a writer purports to do something like determine the “best” music of an entire decade I just can’t get beyond the sheer presumptuousness of the whole concept. And, of course, these days such stories are obvious clickbait, right up there with stories about “weird tricks” to give you more energy or updates on how each member of the cast of Taxi looks these days.
But, of course, I yielded, after Snow teased me with the information that the list put Dark Side of the Moon at number 10. Eh? If that Pink Floyd opus is only number 10, what in the world was ranked ahead of it? So I opened the list and was immediately inflamed and enraged by pretty much everything on it. Who was on the list, and how often. Who wasn’t on the list. And, of course, where albums were ranked, too.
The Stones’ Exile on Main Street as the number one album of the ’70s is a joke. Two Black Sabbath albums in the top 50? Goodbye Yellow Brick Road on the list, when it should be Honky Chateau? (If you’re going to put Goodbye Yellow Brick Road on the list, why not put on The Carpenters, or KC and the Sunshine Band while you’re at it?) How can you include Hotel California rather than On The Border? How can you include Sticky Fingers? And where’s Herbie Hancock’s Head Hunters, or Neil Young’s Tonight’s the Night (or Harvest, or Rust Never Sleeps), or the debut album of The Cars, or Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, or Band On The Run — among others? And does every top-50 list have to include nods to iconic figures like the Clash, or Miles Davis, or Bob Dylan, or the Velvet Underground, or the Sex Pistols, that all rankers seem to include as a matter of course to establish their rock critic bona fides? And for that matter, when you’re presuming to do a ranking list, are we talking about artistic influence, or are we trying to acknowledge the great music that people actually listened to and that powered the decade?
The ’70s was the time period I was in high school and college, so it’s the decade where I spent the most time listening to music, thinking about music, and reading about music. I’d go up to my room during high school and listen to albums like Deep Purple’s Machine Head (appropriately on the list, I might add), and music was always playing in my apartment when I was going to Ohio State. By reason of those life experiences, I care about this stuff — and this list really sticks in my craw.
Next time, I’m going to stick with my inclination to not read these lists in the first place.