Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Pitchfork's 200 Greatest Songs of the 1960s

Apparently Pitchfork is counting down the “200 Greatest Songs of the 1960s” this week. I’m not going to argue with their list, although as my friend Adam pointed out, the fact that they ranked The Byrds “Eight Miles High” at #105, behind King Crimson’s “21st Century Schizoid Man” probably says a lot about the perception of pop music within elite indie music circles these days.

Instead of nitpicking, I just want to ask a simple question: Why?

Why does anyone feel the need to decide what the greatest songs of the 1960s are in the first place? Who cares? Why do they care? Most importantly, what leads someone to believe they have the cultural authority to make such proclamations?

Why not just make a list of “200 Songs From the 1960s We Think are Swell”? Somehow having Pitchfork tell me the “greatest” songs of the 1960s strikes me as silly, especially since I’m willing to wager the majority of their staff was born well after 1970. (And this is off point, but why does Pitchfork have to give ratings with decimal points? What exactly is the difference between an album that scores a 6.3 and one that scores a 6.4?)

Beyond such quibbling, I simply don’t understand the obsessive need to make lists. I suspect it is some kind of cognitive disorder that is carried on the nerd gene (everyone I’ve ever known who feels the need to make this kind of list is a hopeless nerd).

When I lived in New York I had an acquaintance (actually he was more like a stalker) who was one of these obsessive list makers. He was the most socially awkward person I have met in my entire life. He was an incredibly smart guy, but he literally had no clue how to interact with other human beings. I made the mistake of showing him some small level of kindness, and the next thing I knew he had my schedule memorized and I couldn’t get him out of my hair. He would call me up at odd hours to tell me he was making a list of the “200 Greatest Films of All-Time Without Repeating a Single Director,” or “The 100 All-Time Greatest Pop Songs With a Theremin in Them,” or "The 50 All-Time Greatest Lists of the 50 Greatest Albums of 1967." I imagined he had hundreds of such lists squirreled away in his apartment that he was constantly editing and re-arranging. (Personally, I thought his time would be better spent working on his resume considering he was unemployed.)

Anyhow, from the little I looked at it, there appear to be some really swell songs on the Pitchfork list, and it must be an extremely popular feature because their server keeps running slow and/or crashing, so what the heck do I know? But instead of working myself into a lather over some meaningless slight to the Byrds, I’m just going to pity these poor guys for what I imagine is their complete lack of a social life.

1 comment:

Indie Clox said...

I'm pretty sure the reason they put out these lists in order is because, let's say someone doesn't know much about 60s music and wants a good place to start. They go and listen to the first ten songs, find some great artists and begin a wonderful journey. Then they keep going and eventually listen to all 200 and they then have a much more diverse range of what was amazing about he 1960s and surely have picked up some other amazing artists that were influenced by or an influence for or just contemporaries of the artists on the list.