Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Changing the world?

It's May 9th, so that's the June issue of Mojo (published by Emap plc) on the shelf of the newsagent. Headline: "100 records that changed the world":
The most influential singles and albums in history, selected, sorted and saluted by Mojo’s favourite musicians.
Wow! That's original! Or would have been if not for Q magazine (published by Emap plc) in January 2003, sporting the title: "100 songs that changed the world". Oh, and look: here's Rolling Stone doing "40 songs that changed the world".

Malcolm used to buy Mojo occasionally: it filled the torpor of lunchbreaks. He hasn't been near it for a couple of years. And doesn't feel inclined to invest in this issue.

The Q list is still on the Net. Many of those 100 songs may certainly have changed or developed the mood for popular music. A prime example is number 64: Jackie Brenston's Rocket 88 (though Ike Turner, whose band it was, pirated it from Jimmie Liggins). Malcolm suggests only isolated Q readers have actually heard that one (Malcolm keeps it on his back-up hard-drive). Even so, this product of Brentson/Turner/Sam Phillips was mainly significant in retrospect, because the combination of tenor-sax, the drummer's back beat and the fuzz-guitar indicated how and when R&B developed into Rock'n'Roll. To an extent, then, Rocket 88 is a historical marker for 1951, just as Joe Oliver inviting Louis Armstrong to Chicago had been in 1922.

Few songs on this list changed the course of the planet. Leave out the Lennon sentimentality and Malcolm would suggest only a couple even have any political content. Malcolm would note those obvious exceptions as:
One represents a brave attempt to protest against the lynch mob (one of FDR's disreputable moments). The other (particularly in its earlier form, with the edited two verses) is one of the great statements of solidarity, especially when taken along with the rest of Guthrie's work.

For Malcolm, though, the concept of such a list is intriguing. Does popular music merely reflect public mood, or can it be an agency of change? Country Joe Macdonald at Woodstock, belting out Fixin' to Die Rag (which Q scandalously ignored) represents a clear example: was that "changing" or just catching a mood? Sphere: Related Content


Andrew Brown said...

I'm a subscriber to Mojo and you're right to steer clear of this edition.

If I were Tom Verlaine I'd be slitting my wrists as we're told that without Television's Marquee Moon (97) there'd be no Echo & the Bunnymen, U2 or Razorlight. Could there be a worse indictment of your career high than you've given us Razorlight?

And then there's odd omissions as well. For example, there's no Specials where I think I could make a reasonable claim that Ghost Town, Too Much Too Young or Free Nelson Mandela helped shape or reflect the world in the early 1980s.

Malcolm Redfellow said...

Credit where it's due: the Q list did have the Specials doing Nelson Mandela at number 70. I should have included that as a third "political content" song.

"If you remember the 60s, you weren't there": I was and I do.

"If you remember the 80s, ..." you'll appreciate that the Specials were significant. You'll also recognise the sheer nastiness behind the moonface of Cameroonery and the dangers of creeping Toryism.

Thanks for the comment.

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