I wish I could publish everything I received. Alas, the accolades for my choices would alone take up a couple of columns. A tiny sample: "Moron." "Ignoramus." "Glasses-wearing geek."
Let me reprise my choices so that you, too, might marvel at my taste.
Best Debut Album: Jimi Hendrix's Are You Experienced?
Dumbest Song (by Good Musicians): "Rock the Casbah" by the Clash.
Dumbest Song Lyric (by Good Musicians): "Stairway to Heaven" by Led Zeppelin: "If there's a bustle in your hedgerow/Don't be alarmed now/It's just a spring clean for the May queen."
Best Songwriter: Chuck Berry.
Most Overrated Band/Artist: Pink Floyd.
Most Underrated Band/Artist: T-Bone Walker.
Before proceeding, a few notes: The category wasn't "Best Album." It was "Best Debut Album." And invented categories - "Best Song to Play Air Guitar To" - are fun, but you can't win if you don't play by the rules. Oh, that's right, there is no prize. Never mind.
Yes, I know I didn't choose any artists from the past 20 years. Well, neither did many of you. Very few respondents chose a song, album, or artist that appeared on the scene after 1985. But Brian Marshall did. He put forward Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse as best songwriter. A brave choice considering Marshall resides in Lubbock, Texas, hometown of songwriting immortal Buddy Holly. Brian, they've put people into witness-protection programs for less.
I tried to choose responses that were particularly well written or, most important, those I agreed with.
Without further ado, your picks. Best Debut Album: Many endorsed Are You Experienced? Cited most often as an alternative was Led Zeppelin I. A "tour de force of guitar virtuosity and blues reworked London style," says Fred Walder of Madison, Wisconsin. Also cited quite a bit: Weezer's The Blue Album. One respondent proffered Bob Dylan's self-titled (and entirely acoustic) first album. Another chose the "eponymous" self-titled Boston debut (remember "More Than A Feeling"? I know - how can we forget?).
Dumbest Song (by Good Musicians): "Convoy" by C.W. McCall, "Louie Louie" by the Kingsmen, every song on Tales from Topographic Oceans by Yes, "anything by Yes," "Savoy Truffle" by the Beatles, "Money for Nothing" by Dire Straits, "She's Goin' Bald" by the Beach Boys.
Dumbest Song Lyrics (by Good Musicians): Dan Young of San Diego suggests "Squeezebox" by the Who: "Mama's got a squeezebox, she wears on her chest/And when Daddy comes home, he never gets no rest/'cause she's playing all night, And the music's all right/Mama's got a squeezebox, Daddy never sleeps at night." What, Dan, you have something against complete inanity?
Several readers cited lapses by the most vaunted songwriting team in rock history, Lennon and McCartney. Christine Holton Cashen of Highland Village, Texas, wrote: "What about the Beatles' 'I am the Walrus?' What in the world is 'Sitting on a cornflake, waiting for the van to come/Corporation T-shirt, stupid bloody Tuesday/Man, you been a naughty boy, you let your face grow long/I am the eggman, they are the eggmen/I am the walrus, goo goo g' joob.' This is one of the world's greatest bands? Goo Goo G' Joob?"
Al Lewis of Cambridge, Massachusetts, cited this gem from the Turtles: "Eleanor, gee, I think you're swell/And you really do me well/You're my pride and joy et cetera." Asks Lewis: "Did the lyricist go on strike right before the recording session was scheduled to start?"
Others thought it was a toss up between Steve Miller and himself. Some cited "Take the Money and Run" ("Billy Mack is a detective down in Texas - clap, clap, clap, clap, clap/You know he knows just exactly what the facts is") and "The Joker," with the words: "causeI speak of the pompatus of love." As Marc H. Hollingsworth of Raleigh, North Carolina, spoke for many: "What in the world does 'pompatus' mean?"
Nonsense lyrics bugged quite a few of the respondents. They cited lyrics such as the Beatles' "Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da," Manfred Mann's "Doo Wah Diddy Diddy," the Phil Spector-produced Crystals hit "DaDoo Ron Ron," the Police's "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da," among others. I say: A wop bop a loo bop a lop bam boom. Now, them's some lyrics!
Best Songwriter: Repeated props for Joni Mitchell, David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen, Brian Wilson, and Carole King. But Lennon-McCartney were cited most often. Said John Hiner of Bay City, Michigan: "Just a spin of the Beatles' 1 CD (27 tracks!) will convince you I am right."
The little-known Marshall Crenshaw merited several mentions. Marv Meyer of Chesterfield, Missouri, said, "He's carried on in the footsteps of Buddy Holly and John Lennon, writing great tunes for 30 years, and he's hardly noticed." Anne Folan of Washington, D.C., opined that Marshall "has assimilated every brilliant hook ever to come over the radio, invented some of his own, and managed to create something absolutely fresh and irresistible."
Cara Beckenstein of Sunnyside, New York, suggested Bob Dylan. Hey, somebody had to. And several people did. But her reasoning was the best: “Think of his albums one by one, how different they all are from each other, how few tracks are clunkers, how many people have covered them, how many you know by heart today, the artistry, the poetry ... this guy is one for the ages.”
Most Overrated Band/Artist: As you’d expect, these include the biggest bands in history: U2, Rolling Stones, the Doors, the Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, Yes, Aerosmith, Chuck Berry, the Ramones, the Grateful Dead, and my favorite, as one writer noted, “Boston, or was it Kansas? Or was it Journey? Or were they all the same band?” Said a writer from Indiana about the Grateful Dead, who asked that his name not be used for what will be obvious reasons, “My opinion is based on at least 20 Dead shows … their music only makes sense if you are seriously impaired.”
Most Underrated Band/Artist: The Band, the Jam, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, the Beach Boys, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Cake, MC5, Jerry Lee Lewis, and the Ramones were some nominated. Bob Rourke of Chicago wrote about the Faces: “Sure, they didn’t have many hits or make that many albums, were drunk most of the time, and did a ton of cover tunes. But if the category is taken literally, best band — not best musician, not best songwriter, but best band — the Faces win. They were tight, passionate, and energetic.”
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is rock–and-roll.
Thank you. And good night.