Like you, I am outraged over what’s going on in Ukraine and what’s going on in Nigeria and what’s going on in Gaza. And like you, I intend to… Oh look, a fox asleep on a bus! How cute is that?
(Remember how, when you were a kid, major news outlets would build a story around a photo of a cute animal you’d made copies of and distributed to friends? Me neither.)
Now, where was I? Oh yes, mortality.
I’m not sure what I want done with my body once I’m finished with it (and I’m not using it much these days), but I know two things I do not want:
I do not want to be thrown into a truck — refrigerated or not — by men whose intense love for Vladimir Putin would be downright illegal in Russia;
I do not want to end up like Casey Kasem — wherever he is.
The latter is a mystery worthy of Scooby-Doo. The man remembered by some as Shaggy and by others as the true voice of American Top 40, and by others as a humanitarian and voice for peace in the Middle East, was reportedly last seen in Montreal. Or not. As his family battles over what to do with his ashes, poor dead Casey is seemingly travelling the back 40 in a journey as jarring as coming out of an uptempo number to go straight into a goddamn death dedication.
Where’s the Mystery Machine when you need it?
But then, these are jarring times. And increasingly angry times. And dangerously tendentious times.
Hence, the disproportionate popularity this week of a poorly thought-out list of classic rock’s biggest douchebags, courtesy of someone from the LA Weekly. Full marks to the author for turning a list that is self-serving even by online-list standards into some sort of phenomenon.
Wait, let me look at that fox one more time before I continue. Awwww… that is adorable! And it’d probably kill you as soon as look at you.
So back to the list. It says here John Fogerty is a douchebag, because he obsessed over money he’d earned but not received from a shifty former manager. What a douchebag! Jerry Garcia? He did drugs, evidently. Frank Zappa, meanwhile, tops the list in part because he did not do drugs.
(And in a list chock-full of surprises, there is perhaps no greater shocker than the revelation that Mr. Zappa’s music qualifies as “classic rock” — a pronouncement that will come as news to classic-rock radio stations everywhere. Indeed, the author’s distaste for Zappa’s catalog seems to be based on the artist’s willful and persistent refusal to play classic rock. In which case, a better choice for the no. 1 position on this list might have been Johannes Brahms, Louis Armstrong or Pete Seeger.)
Dylan is here too, because he dared to bring to our attention losers like Emmett Till and Rubin Carter. You know what you are, Bob.
Lou Reed? Overrated, and therefore (it goes without saying) a douchebag. Springsteen is also a douchebag. Because he left his wife for a member of his band, you ask? Nope. Because he too is overrated. John Lennon was abusive to the women in his life and to son Julian, but makes the list because he once poured a beer over Chris “Let’s Dance” Montez‘s head. Nice sense of perspective there. Likewise, Phil Spector’s abusive and murderous ways pale in comparison to his “Wall of Sound” excess — which, apparently, “did nothing whatsoever to advance rock ‘n’ [sic] roll.”
(I know, it’s news to me too. I could have sworn thousands of musicians and producers had been inspired by Spector’s work. Now we know better. Thank you, Johnny ‘Here’s something off the top of my head’ Whiteside of LA Weekly. A job well done.)
It’s a bizarre, inconsistent and wholly irresponsible list that at times seems to be about music the author hates and at times pretends to condemn seedy personal behaviour. Yet, somehow Brian Jones, Axl Rose, Gary Glitter, Mick Jagger, Jim Gordon, Jerry Lee Lewis, John Lydon and Ted Nugent’s behaviour do not qualify them for consideration as supreme douchebags. And that contempt for overrated rockers does not extend to, say, a Jim Morrison or a Janis Joplin.
Internet lists. You gotta love ’em.
So fine, this guy wants to tell us about people he finds annoying. And he finds the late Lou Reed more annoying and pretentious than Robbie Robertson, Lars Ulrich, Chad Kroeger and Sting. Hey, man, it’s your list. And making lists is easy.
How easy? Let’s list the steps:
1) Think of a category;
2) Think of items to fill that category.
That’s about it, really. Hence, things like CBC’s latest list of the 100 greatest Canadian songs of all time, which has room for Patio Lanterns and Call Me Maybe but not for A la claire fontaine, The Huron Carol or any of the Mi’kmaq songs compiled sakmow Henri Membertou.
But people like lists. And if you can name more than one thing, you’ve got a list.
It ain’t like in Casey Kasem’s day, I tells ya. Now there was someone who knew how to make a list. A proper, hierarchical list, no less — something that all but disappeared with the arrival of David Letterman’s arbitrary top-10s.
Oh, I could count the ways in which authoritative lists were better.
But first, one more look at that fox…