We haven’t had as much time as we’d like to devote to this countdown (yo, XPN, check our schedules next time, will ya?), but I’ve been listening the best I can, and it’s a tour de force of musical geekery, and I mean that as a huge compliment. The previous lists of songs, albums and artists must have been arduous enough to compile, but this countdown is far more high-concept and labor intensive, and Bruce Warren, Dan Reed and the XPN brain trust deserve high marks for putting together a master class in the history of pop music.
That said, this effort has a far different feeling than previous countdowns, each of which found a momentum and rolled. When the 885 greatest songs came tumbling out of the speakers, they provided an adrenaline rush. Even the occasional song I loathed sparked a reaction. But the Moments countdown is less visceral, more cerebral. These things don’t always naturally go together (often, I’ll miss the intro and not even know what the song I’m hearing is supposed to represent; that was never an issue before), requiring more effort from the listener to get the full effect. Some things are interesting in their own way – say, Brian Eno’s composition of six seconds of music for Microsoft Windows – without being particularly enjoyable. Others are just plain maudlin. Every entry on the album countdown gave opportunity for celebration. But some of these moments – the deaths of Jeff Buckley and Gene Vincent, for example – are buzz kills.
And the title to the whole thing is a bit off, but I think that’s to XPN’s credit. Many of these moments will come as complete news to even hardcore music fans, calling into doubt just how memorable they are. But I’d much rather hear a list that tempers memorable moments with ones that are important, esoteric, absurd, arcane or influential. For instance, I never knew that ? (of ? and the Mysterians) claimed to have come from Mars and lived with dinosaurs, but I know it now, and, of course, I’m the better for it. It is a fact now in search of a cocktail party.
I’m flying solo here while Trip shifts mental gears from Phillies heartbreak to Springsteen euphoria, but here are a few of my favorite moments since the first fifty.
829. Modern Lovers release their John Cale-produced debut in 1973
Despite my best efforts, this one failed to crack the 885 albums list two years ago, demonstrating the listenership’s almost complete lack of interest in it. But the Brain Trust steps in to rectify history, while simultaneously driving down ratings. My question, dear readers: Why don’t you own this indispensable album? The person who leaves the best explanation in the comments gets a free Teenage Kicks t-shirt.
827. Robert Christgau starts the Pazz & Jop Poll in 1971
Next to music itself (and pizza), mankind’s greatest invention. Bookmark this site.
817. The Third Wave Ska Revival
The fact that the second wave of ska was better than the first is astonishing. That the third wave would suffer dismally in comparison to the first two was mighty mighty predictable.
787. The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus
786. High School Musical becomes a pop-culture phenomenon
I love that these popped up back to back. The Stones are my favorite band ever, and I’ve seen Rock and Roll Circus once. I have seen HSM nine million times.
774. WKRP in Cincinnati debuts
“Oh my God, they're turkeys!! Johnny, can you get this? Oh, they're plunging to the earth right in front of our eyes! One just went through the windshield of a parked car! Oh, the humanity! The turkeys are hitting the ground like sacks of wet cement! Not since the Hindenburg tragedy has there been anything like this!”
765. Sid Vicious sings “My Way”
763. Adam Sandler releases “The Hannukah Song”
Not a Jew, but that Sid Vicious sure loved his matzos and knishes.
741. Charles Mingus releases Mingus Ah Um
Possibly my favorite jazz album ever. Buy it. Now.
715. Joey Ramone, lead singer of The Ramones, dies of lymphoma
Boy, DeeDee and Johnny are gonna be pissed if their deaths don’t rate.
660. Charles Manson hears the Beatles’ White Album
Sorry, but could we stop giving this mass-murdering attention whore, you know, attention?
651. The non-release of the Guns N Roses album Chinese Democracy
Rock’s equivalent of a tree falling in an unpopulated forest. Axl tells me it’ll be out any day now.
649. James Brown, “Say it Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud”
I was signing this at the top of my lungs with no palpable sense of irony.
640. Genya Ravan becomes the first major woman producer
629. Cole Porter writes “Night and Day”
Hearing the Dead Boys’ “Sonic Reducer” and Sinatra’s take on “Night and Day” in the same hour? Now, that’s good radio.
626. Curtis Mayfield releases his debut album
And then to follow with “If There’s a Hell Below, We’re All Gonna Go”? XPN, you complete me.