Sunday, July 16, 2023

What is Rock Music?

I started my journey of picking my top 500 "Rock" songs in response to the countdown that was written about on the Heath Post back on Memorial Day weekend.  I was disappointed by the lack of women in the top 45 as well as diversity in the top 45.  I have been pondering this now for almost two months and tonight I had a revelation as to why I am having such a hard time with this.  

In 1978 I spent every day of the summer listening to WKYX AM radio.  They were a rock station.  Now in a small town in KY in the 70's a rock station essentially played popular music that was not country, though they played some country as well when it was popular enough like Kenny Rogers, etc.  Still they were in my mind a rock station and they played what was popular.  So it could be Donna Summer or it could be Paul McCartney.  It could be Michael Jackson or it could be The Eagles.  All of it was rock because it was all playing on a rock station.  If you go back and watch the old WKRP episodes you'll get the idea.  They play anything on that station from funk, to blues, to mainstream rock, to classic rock, to punk, etc. because back then we defined all of it as rock.  By we I mean the people living out in the middle of the country.  Not sure what they thought in NY, or Chicago, or LA but I know in the heart of the country we pretty much saw it all as one.  If you were to take WKYX from 1978 and transport it to 2023 they would still be a rock station and be playing the top hits of Spotify, just like they were in 1978.  That means it would be Taylor Swift one minute and Bad Bunny the next.  Morgan Wallen and then Olivia Rodrigo.  

One of the things that helped me make this connection was when I sat down last night to look at who is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  There is ABBA and Public Enemy right along side The Beatles and Bob Dylan.  OK so this means that for me "Rock" isn't so limited in scope and why to me the idea of a countdown that was so limited in scope was so frustrating.  Though I would still argue that Pat Benatar and Heart both made music that is by far and away better than some of the stuff they had in the top 45 I can understand why a station today where everything musically has been so fragmented could have a list that is so narrow.  I also spent time online looking at some of the stations out there who do top 500 rock lists and I'm not kidding when I say it's essentially 20 or so groups that make up the majority of some of those lists.  

OK so what does this mean for my "Rock" list.  Well I'm changing the entire idea and just going to make my top 500 song list.  I'm still going to keep my scoring system, and only including songs I actually like, but I won't be worrying as much about genre and focusing more on the songs themselves.  Of course this also means in the end I'll likely have a list of like 2,000 songs to score, but that's OK and then I can add to it all the time.  Should be a fun project.  My goal is to rollout my top 500 songs list at the end of the year and then I can update it each year.  

My current top 10 after scoring 876 songs is:

1. What's Going On by Marvin Gaye

2. Waiting In Vain by Bob Marley

3. Riders on the Storm by The Doors

4. Just Like Heaven by The Cure

5. Moondance by Van Morrison

6. The One I Love by R.E.M.

7. Imagine by John Lennon

8. Midnight Train to Georgia by Gladys Knight

9. Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes

10. Running Up That Hill by Kate Bush


  1. I love, love, love "Midnight Train to Georgia."

  2. Me, too!

    Matthew, have you rated "In a Big Country" yet?

  3. I am so given to reconsuming the same media over and over again that I do like a big-tent (or at least other-tent) experience when it comes to something like turning on the radio for a trip around town.

    I'm looking forward to more updates on this project as it rolls on. For example, let's say your next 10 songs that you listen to are ...

    "It’s Yours to Have," Freda Payne
    "When Your Mind’s Made Up," Glen Hansard
    "Free," Florence + the Machine
    "The Answer Is Yes," Swell Season
    "Right Back Where We Started From," Maxine Nightingale
    "Winter’s Fall," David Friesen
    "Kennedy and Monroe," Hot Pink Hangover
    "Never Did Like Whiskey," Billie Jo Spears
    "Stranger," Johnny Duncan
    "Reflections," Burt Bacharach

    Well, I'd enjoy knowing where each of those songs fall in your current ranking (even without seeing the rest of the list), along with a repost of your current top 10.

    1. When Your Mind's Made Up ranks 764 currently.

  4. I'm going through my near-annual experience of listening to Lone Justice and wondering why they weren't more successful. I would bet that both Michael Stipe and Natalie Merchant could give me the answer to this question, but they probably never will.

  5. Now I've moved on to The Wreckers. I liked them, too, but apparently not enough other people did.