The Passion of the Weiss

Sometimes I rhyme slow, sometimes I rhyme quick. But most of the time, I don't rhyme.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

It's Alright Ma, (They're Only Contrarian)

As many of you already know, Pitchfork is in the midst of its 200 Best Songs of 60's list. Now as much as everyone bitches about Pitchfork, their lists have been among the best things they've ever done. Sure, you can point out how absurd it was when they named "Low," album of the 70's or put "Daydream Nation," ahead of "The Queen is Dead," on their 80s list. But for the most part, Pitchfork's lists have been relatively on-point.

But on this one, I'm going to have to take a stand. If you go over to their website today, you'll see Bob Dylan's "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) ranked at #150. How in God's name is it possible that a song this brilliant could be ranked behind The Monkees' "I'm a Believer?" Are the Pitchfork writers taking music advice from Lloyd "The Monkees Were a Big Influence on the Beatles" Christmas? Egregious.

About 9 months ago when I started this blog, I had the bright idea of running a feature every week where I'd write about a different album that meant a lot to me. Well, that thought only got as far as "Bringing It all Back Home," and "The Queen Is Dead." However, I discuss "It's Alright Ma," the greatest song ever written, at length in that post."

The fact that this didn't crack the top 10 of the Pitchfork list is pathetic and generally illustrates why I find most music critics of the Pitchfork ilk so irritating. Just because "It's Alright Ma," is a well-regarded song, they didn't have to knock it down a few places, they did it just to be contrarian. At any rate, the list is certainly worth checking out. It's a good read even if they completely snubbed the full scope of Dylan's lyrical brilliance. I'm sure he'll have some other songs pop up a bit higher on the list, but there's just no excuse for ranking this one so low.

Listen for yourself.

Bob Dylan--"It's Alright Ma, (I'm Only Bleeding)

And while you're killing time, check out this work of excellence from The Onion entitled: My use of simile is as Bad As the River Tide

Apparently, George Bush is currently reading Camus' The Stranger. I kid you not.
He must've gotten bored reading only The Bible and books about baseball players. Way to go Dubya, broaden that intellect why dontcha?

Also check out Crock Tock's Excellent List of the 10 Greatest Wu-Tang Verses ever.

And two blogs that I've recently begun reading have some outstanding posts today:

Slack Lalane attends a Roots Concert and finds out what many of us sadly already know: Talib Kweli in 2006 really really sucks.

And This Is What We Do Now tackles a great source of pride in the Jewish community: the fact that Jewish women have very large breasts. If I had to take a guess, it's a gift from God to the men of earth, in exchange for dealing with their incessant complaining.


At 4:29 PM, Anonymous silawe said...

Jeff, Although I understand what you are saying you cannot believe that everyone loves Dylan as much as you do.
Why do you read Pitchfork when it makes you so angry? I stopped reading it 2 years ago when Wilco did not make their Top 50 of 2005. Lame. I know now that Pitchfork must be ignored or it will make me CRAZY!

At 5:08 PM, Blogger Passion of the Weiss said...

I don't know. i suppose it just bothers me that more people under 30 don't like Dylan. I just think that he's the best and he should be recognized as such. I understand people not liking "Blowing in the Wind," or "Times Must Be a Changin" those songs are really played out and I can't listen to them ever again, but I think even a non-Dylan fan could appreciate his genius a bit better than the Monkees. That's all.

That Wilco slight was absurd. Ghost Is Born has aged as well as any Wilco album. I still listen to it regularly and can't believe how neither that nor Gimme Fiction made Best New Music last year. As for keeping on reading it, What can i say, they have a good news page.

At 5:21 PM, Blogger amphimacer said...

No list can possibly reflect anything remotely like your viewpoint except a list you yourself make. You and I share an admiration for the Beatles, Dylan, and Neil Young, but if I name my favourite songs of each, I'm pretty sure we would be disagreeing about at least two, probably all three (for the record, Norwegian Wood, Subterranean Homesick Blues, and After the Gold Rush). I was once astonished to hear the Righteous Brothers' Unchained Melody as the top song on one oldies station's list. My recollection is that Satisfaction was number 2. I don't remember where I'm a Believer was, but it's worth remembering how huge a hit it was, and that it's one of Neil Diamond's first-rate pieces of popcraft; forget the Prefab Four for a moment (yes, they were called that in the sixties) and listen to the song: it's well put together. On the other hand, of course It's All Right Ma is a better song; the problem is that they just can't fill the top 50 with a half-dozen songwriters that you admire, much less Dylan's 50 best songs (which would not necessarily be wrong). Too many other people would be aggravated. There's going to have to be a place for great pop music, like Good Vibrations or My Girl, that isn't great art, but merely exhibits great craftsmanship. As a sometime songwriter, I have such admiration for the great craftsmen in the field that dismissing their work seems wrong to me.

At 5:49 PM, Blogger Nate said...

I really don't get how people our age don't appreciate Dylan either. The guy is a flat out genius...the best lyricist in American Music History...Too bad his voice is ravaged, otherwise I would love to see him perform live.

And that guy you linked to that wrote about Jewish Girls with large breasts is hilarious. The only thing is that both you and I know that is not true. I think maybe it's the case for east coast Jewish Girls. But that would just be an east coast thing in general. Why else do you think Chappelle would do that whole "You've got great New York boobs" skit?

At 10:19 AM, Anonymous The Freewheelin' Bob Zilla said...

I think Pitchfork prides itself in taking contrary viewpoints on such lists as the Top 200 of the 60s. If they didn't, they'd look like Rolling Stone and VH1 and Spin, who all put the Beatles and Stones and Dylan all over the place.

They want to list completely obscure records with no audio links. They want to piss us off by putting "It's Alright Ma" below the Monkees. To them, there's nothing cool in criticing or writing about music in a completely obvious way. Just look at the ratings they give forgettable, throw-a-way crack rap/crunk singles.

If they made comprehensive, smart, intelligent lists and reviews that reflected good taste and decent musical sensiblities, they wouldn't be doing hipsters a favor.

But we're all men and this what men do: debate about things that really aren't a big deal in the grand scheme of things. But dammit, HOW ARE YOU GONNA PUT DYLAN BELOW THE MONKEES??!?!?

At 1:10 PM, Blogger CrimeNotes said...

If this list were legit, most of the top 25 would be occupied by Dylan. All lists like this are inherently retarded. When Modern Library or the Times commissions a greatest-books list, I find them somewhat helpful because they nudge me to look into authors I otherwise wouldn't read. But when Rolling Stone or Entertainment Weekly or Pitchfork do a "100 Greatest ___ Ever" list comprised of songs or movies you know by heart, packed with controversial and contrarian choices and unspoken artistic affirmative action on behalf of weak works in the service of being edgy or populist, that list is worthless. One of the byproducts of actually knowing what you're talking about is having elitist opinions and not paying lip service to The Monkees.

Another reason that these lists are worthless is that there's never a written analysis of the selections' relative merits. If there were an essay comparing Bob and Neil, there would be a way to argue about it because some kind of evaluation would have to be done. You can't argue with an unexplained ranking. It's just there, and oh well.

Also, I don't know anyone under 30 who doesn't love Dylan, but maybe my friends aren't representative.

At 4:17 PM, Blogger Nate said...

Crime notes:

Your friends are obviously fucking cool. My friends that are into the same music as me all love Dylan. But I have a lot of people that don't feel him. They complain about his voice or something that has no merit whatsoever. What I don't get is how can any hardcore hip hop head not like Dylan. He was hip hop before hip hop. He's a lyricist...a know?

At 4:40 PM, Blogger Commish CH said...

Don't know if you've checked the Tupac Resurrection on VH1 lately, but Pac was exposed to a wide variety of music in HS, including Dylan. The quote about HipHop before HipHop is right on. Check his place in Hurricane Carter's saga as well.

At 5:37 PM, Blogger Passion of the Weiss said...

That's interesting about 2Pac and I guess that's what's so frustrating about him. He was a smart dude that dumbed himself down and bought into hateful ideas. Instead of pushing himself further as an artist he felt compelled to recycle the same throwaway linea about being a thug or being made.

Thanks for the long well-thought out comments guys. Notes and Zilla, I think that's just the case. Pitchfork can't be Rolling Stone even if Rolling Stone is right and in their adulation of the Beatles and Dylan they happen to be dead-on. Speaking of which, that P-Fork list is also conspicuously bereft of Beatles songs. I think they just do shit like this to piss people off. And it works so I guess I'm guilt of falling for it.

At 6:58 PM, Blogger Ian said...

It's an okay song, but it's no "Like a Rolling Stone".

Wait, did someone really just say "Good Vibrations" was not great art? And none of you guys have called called him or her on it? What the hell, people?

"comprehensive, smart, intelligent lists and reviews that reflected good taste and decent musical sensiblities"


"One of the byproducts of actually knowing what you're talking about is having elitist opinions and not paying lip service to The Monkees."

One of the byproducts of actually knowing what you're talking about is having discriminating (not elitist) opinions; this may or may not involve actually liking the Monkees, depending on what sort of music you like.

One of the byproducts of not knowing much at all is assuming that everyone should have the same tastes, and anyone who differs from your tastes must be just paying "lip service" to the things they claim to like.

Yes, people, there are people out there who prefer the Monkees to Dylan, who in fact prefer [given group you consider somehow illegitimate] to [given "authentic" stalking horse]. They are not lying. They are not doing it to get your goat. They just like different music than you do. Get over it.

At 7:01 PM, Blogger Ian said...

NB. I'm not convinced Pitchfork are those people; the lack of Beatles and Dylan songs may indeed be an attempt at willful contrarianism. There are also a dozen, less malicious explanations, most rooted in the ways that big mass lists actually get compiled. But, you know, hate away.

At 7:08 PM, Blogger Passion of the Weiss said...

I definitely see your pt and I will acknowledge stuff like I'm a Believer, Good Vibrations etc. as good song-craft. Im not a Beach Boys guy by any stretch of the imagination but there's no denying Brian Wilson's genius for arrangements. i think what Im trying to get at and maybe everyone else is that there are certain unqualified "rights" in music like Dylan and the Beatles. And I'm inclined to say that there are. Certain artists are open to interpretation (Tom Waits comes first to my mind...I hate him most critics feel otherwise, it's a matter of taste, you feel similarly about Dungen I imagine) At any rate Ill swear by It's Alright Ma as the best song ever written. I would argue that one for hours.

At 8:57 PM, Blogger Nate said...

I seriously love all of the comments you get on your blog (minus those man man bastards)'s becoming a little community around here...hahaha

At 10:54 PM, Blogger David said...

It was actually Lloyd Christmas, Jim Carrey's character from Dumb and Dumber and not Homer Simpson, who said that the Monkees were a huge influence on the Beatles...bitchez

At 11:14 PM, Blogger Passion of the Weiss said...

Damnit Crockett, you win again.

At 2:08 AM, Blogger CrimeNotes said...

Ian: you're right to correct my use of elitist versus discriminating. But the Pitchfork list doesn't purport to be one person's lists of *favorite* songs, where Monkees vs. Dylan (as lame a discussion as I think that is) would be open season. If you're putting out a list and being as arrogant to call it the 200 greatest songs of a given decade, you've got some kind of burden to explain your criteria and reasoning. You're talking about taste, they're talking about greatness. If it was some dude naming favorites, there are all kinds of reasons that are going to be personal and come from all kinds of sources. Greatness implies something more objective, like long-term influence and originality. It can't be reduced to a formula but it's something more than "I like it."

At 2:18 AM, Blogger BobDobbs said...

Care to explain why Talib sucks? The link to LaLane certainly didn't and he admits that it was his first ever show, so I don't really respect his opinion all that much. But he doesn't even offer reasons. What are yours?

At 12:20 PM, Blogger Ian said...


I guess where we differ, dude, is that since we're talking about music to my mind the only standard for greatness is taste. Which means, yes, these lists are even more silly in principle than you if you believe in some sort of objective greatness standard for music (and since everyone who tries to tell me there is one winds up going "I don't know what it is, but it exists, really!") - assuming you take the lists to be actual serious exercises in defining the world, rather than just big masses of Good Shit. Of course, I'm also kind of biased.

I've also never heard an argument for a particular piece of music that doesn't eventually boil down to "I like it", but them's the perils of aesthetics.

"there are certain unqualified "rights" in music like Dylan and the Beatles"

Well, that depends what you mean. If you mean there are artists around which there is broad consensus, and for the purposes of practical discussion we can treat them as if everyone loved them - sure. If you mean (and maybe you don't, but this is the insidious strain lurking below a lot of these discussions) that anyone who doesn't enjoy the Beatles or Dylan is somehow "wrong" and could be made "right" somehow.... that's where we part company.

At 4:35 PM, Blogger CrimeNotes said...

So basically it's all a matter of nihilism, but thems the perils of freshman-year lit crit.

At 9:57 PM, Blogger Ian said...

Nihilism is when people see how things really work and decide that rather than dealing with it, they're going to sulk.

You may be thinking of existentialism, but don't worry; it's a pretty common mistake to think the latter has to lead to the former.

Of course, I'm not 100% sure what you're on about, having never taken a lit crit class in my life. They sound like fun.


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