The Bells' Toll on Rock 'n' Roll:
Merchandisers present
200-count disaster
Posted March 23, 2007

“Too much monkey business for me to be involved in…”
–Chuck Berry

Thanks to Chuck Berry, rock ‘n’ roll has an irreplaceable backbeat “any ole’ time you use it.” Yet this sweet duck-walker who defined the standard piano, bass, guitar and drums sound was seemingly left with no particular place to go following his 1986 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s first class.

After reelin’ and rockin’ the nation, his contributions were apparently reckoned unworthy, as the National Association of Recording Merchandisers and said Hall of Fame recently compiled a definitively ridiculous list of “the most influential and popular albums” in rock history, failing to even mention his name.

And he was not the only one.

Numerous rock ‘n’ roll staples were left in the dust, burned by a corporate fire.

Though many classics were acknowledged, in painfully incorrect order if you ask us, “The Definitive 200” reads like a teeny-bopper’s buying guide; skimming rock ‘n’ roll and most brutal pop mishaps rather than showcasing musical longevity or actual artistic influence.

True, most “best of” lists fail to meet our standards, but this 200-count marketing scheme even degrades musical kind, shortchanging legendary songsters and songstresses with lowly rankings and emphasizing popularity and purchasing potential over depth.

The so-called top four “definitive” albums presented “too much monkey business for us to be involved in.”

Looking at the clock it was 9:21 p.m. and we were not having fun.

Beginning on exasperatingly common ground, the list habitually places the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” at No. 1, downplaying Led Zeppelin’s piece of the rock ‘n’ roll pie. Cheated for the umpteenth time, the Swan Song four tallied in at No. 4 with “Led Zeppelin IV,” while Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” stole second place and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” took third.

“Physical Grafitti,” arguably the double-disc collection that cemented Zeppelin’s status as “greatest rock band of all time,” also weighed in at No. 93, while Janet Jackson and Linkin Park received higher marks for lesser-known projects, making us question the validity of what we could only assume was a definitively crappy list. It was the “Rolling Stone 500” all over again.

Did NARM and the Famers somehow forget Zeppelin founded heavy metal, changed the sound of rock ‘n’ roll and raised many musical standards? The band’s popularity has spanned decades, whereas Linkin Park will likely fade out in the has-been dance.

Or maybe, we are losing our worried minds.

Looking at the clock it was 9:32 p.m.: Elvis, Bob Dylan and the fathers of soul had been snubbed too.

Elvis jailhouse-rocked himself to the top of the recording industry, becoming one of the biggest selling artists of all time and further infusing rhythm and blues into the face of rock n’ roll. But, kick off your Sunday shoes, the King first breaks the “Definitive 200” in its second quarter with “Elvis at Sun” and then hits No. 147 with a self-titled release; beat out by the “Footloose” soundtrack and Enya’s “Day Without Rain.”

Kenny Loggin’s anti-society anthem may not have revolutionized music, but it did launch Kevin Bacon’s career and evidently deserves more credit.

If “the rockin’ pneumonia” struck and could only be cured with “a shot of rhythm and blues,” Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going on” and “Let’s Get it on” would have to do, as soul legends such as James Brown and Ray Charles did not make the critical cut. According to the grapevine, neither warranted enough sales in the past 40 years to be dubbed “definitive.”

Save all “hallelujahs” for another list; Dylan’s “Blonde on Blonde,” Jimi Hendrix’s “Axis: Bold as Love,” Jeff Buckley’s “Grace,” Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bookends” and Elton John’s “Madman Across the Water” were mistakenly filed under the un-definitive numbers 201 to 205.

Looking at the clock again, it was 9:43 p.m. and big chunks of the 1980s were missing.

Heaven knows we were miserable now, as whole decades’ worth of music had been categorized under “invisible.” NARM almost completely neglected the 1980s’ new wave, post-punk and Goth-rock scenes, as The Cure, Depeche Mode and the Smiths remained unseen, though the Cars’ self-titled debut and the Police’s “Synchronicity” landed No. 131 and No. 119.

Searching for the Ramones, the Buzzcocks, or other members of the early punk movement besides the Sex Pistols and the Clash? Stop looking; they were also tossed in the reject pile, though wannabe punk princess Avril Lavigne was highlighted.

Trend continually defeats substance in the non-stop hullabaloo of rock, but in what parallel reality is Avril Lavigne’s “Let Go” considered “definitive?”

Iggy Pop and the Stooges, Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground, the Verve and several other pioneering artists were also virtually erased from rock ‘n’ roll memory, or at least the crux of the list.

Looking at the clock it was 10:26 p.m. and we were going to keep on complainin’ “till we got our kicks.”

Some say music cannot be defined in words or numbers due to its completely subjective qualities, a sad theory for journalist hopefuls like us, but we tend to agree. Everyone has a miscellaneous pile of albums he or she cannot live without and lists, especially those compiled by merchandisers, are typically pointless.

Fan-fakes who follow all musical tidings, collecting every next-big-thing with gusto, may deeply appreciate this retail guide, but devotees might consider writing a Berry-style letter to the list makers, reporting the “jumpin hit” records they would rather have named today.

One thing is “definitively” certain— a circle of deception is brewing if even “fame” inductees are deciphered as a hall of strangers to the NARM folk.

These business insiders are obviously the fools we cannot trust.

Jessica Bell, a senior communications major, is arts editor of the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at jbell@ulv.edu.

Kady Bell, a senior communications major, is web editor of the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at kbell@ulv.edu.

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The Bells' Toll on Rock 'n' Roll:
Merchandisers present
200-count disaster

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