[Abby’s Road] How many lists could a list-maker list…?

I am the queen of lists. I am always making them – have been since I was a little girl. I get it honestly as my father was always jotting something down on a small, white pad of paper or penciling facts and figures on the wall of his woodshop. The inside of my purses and messenger bags are lined with defunct Post-Its of needed groceries and mini-agendas. I know what you are thinking. What about music lists, Abby? Certainly you have music lists, right?

Do you really have to ask? Seriously.

Of course, on a global scale, music lists and charts have been around since the dawn of rock and roll. Billboard, the UK Singles Chart and the tangents spinning from both have been the cornerstone of many a fledgling music collector’s foundation record purchases, after which time actual tastes for specific genres develop and the real personality of a collection begins to appear. Who can forget pop culture’s list-making sweetheart Rob Fleming and his top fives? What about NPR’s Desert Island Discs? We’ve all been exposed to the viral Facebook “15 in 15” note more than once – – where you’re asked to list your top 15 records in no particular order in 15 minutes or less. This is nearly impossible, but of course, I did it. YOU did it. Don’t lie. You know you did. So yes, I have my own, highly personal lists that change from day to day. We all do.

While standing in line at the market last weekend checking my shopping list to the items in my cart (see?!?), I turned to talk to my partner and he was nowhere to be found. I refocused and spotted him at the news counter perusing the magazines. I expected the usual issue of Wired or Macworld. He smiled, waved at me and held something up that I couldn’t quite make out until he put it onto the trolley: The Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Songs of All Time Special Collectors Edition. It was all glossy and ten-dollary, boasting an “Introduction by Jay-Z!” The last time I shelled out cash for an issue of Rolling Stone, aside from my guilty pleasure, March 3, 2010 issue containing the interview with crazypants Billy Corgan (THAT was a humdinger), was sometime in the mid-eighties. I have to be honest, this collectors edition? I looked at it with more than a raised eyebrow.

When I got home and settled in, I broke out the RS. Immediately I turned to the back page and began reading, starting with #500. At the end of it all there were some glaring problems. There is no way in hell that M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” is #236 and Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man” #242. Don’t even get me started about “Rehab” being #194. That said, however mainstream we want to call Rolling Stone, this list was/is pretty freaking well honed.

First issued back in 2004, the updated list is based on two separate polls (one in 2004 and again in 2009) of folks ranging from Stephin Merritt to Rick Rubin to Solomon Burke. The “those polled” list is quite impressive in itself. RS then broke down the top 500 information into sidebars like “longest song on list” and “number of songs on list that did not make the ‘Billboard Top 100’”. Interesting info for musicphiles, fodder for snobtastic collectors, yes, and totally worth the read. It generated a pretty musically thoughtful conversation between my partner and me. Neither his Soulwax (nor any incarnation of the Dewaele Brothers for that matter) or my My Bloody Valentine were on the list, which should have disappointed us both, respectively. Curiously enough, despite the omission of (both) our number-one-all-time-most-favorite-bands ever, it didn’t even occur to us to mention it in conversation. In retrospect, if it wasn’t for the majority of those who WERE on the list, the possibility of Kevin Shields’ genius and 2 Many DJs ridiculously amazing sets would not exist today. Sleep on that, hipsters.

Happy weekend.

[Abby’s Road is a Knox Road feature published every other Friday.]

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