On the way home from Anchorage tonight I was listening to my ZEN instead of my usual NPR and the news.
Over the last couple of days I’ve been loading up some pre-programmed playlists. Vintage stuff mostly.
One of those lists was “Greatest Rock Anthems of All Time,” those great power ballads of my teenaged years, 70’s classic rock. You know, that great music we all thought would never die.
Except, well, maybe some of those songs should die. Quietly.
Granted, there’s a serious nostalgia factor here and I’m willing to cut many of those old tunes some slack, they bring back great memories of my first car and school dances and the rumble of 33 vinyl on a belt driven turntable blasting through a tube amp.
But others? Well, let’s just say that - from the perspective that the intervening thirty years have given me - some of those songs didn’t age well. Really, not at all.
Take Kansas. In the 70’s they were everywhere, on every radio station, in every cassette player. I probably listened to Point of Know Return a million times and I still enjoy hearing it. The MTV video is pretty hysterical too, now, but I remember when those effects were cutting edge (the hair, well, that never goes out of style):
But then there’s Dust in the Wind, probably Kansas’ best known hit and one of the “Greatest Rock Anthems.”
Holy freakin’ crap what a depressing tune. God Gravy, man, don’t listen to it alone in the car, you’ll end up driving straight into a bridge abutment. I’m sure there’s a video of it somewhere out there in the bleak gray soulless desolation of the dying and lonely Internet, but I’m not linking to it here. You can go find it for yourself. I’d recommend you make sure your Xanax prescription is up to date first though. It’s a wonder any of us made it out of the 70’s alive.
Led Zeppelin, Stairway to Heaven. Hey, Zeppelin had some great tunes, but seriously folks Stairway isn’t one of them. Oh sure, I can hear your heads exploding from here (and an especially loud bang from somewhere in North Carolina). Yes, I know. Stairway was the most requested FM radio song in the 70’s, hell I’m pretty sure I was one of those callers. I know it’s considered one of the top five greatest rock tunes of all time by pretty much any compilation you can name. But damn, folks, have you listened to this song? I mean as an adult? As a sober adult. Really, check out the lyrics. They not not profound, they’re complete nonsense:
And as we wind on down the road
Our shadows taller than our soul
There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How everything still turns to gold
And if you listen very hard
The truth will come to you at last
When all are one and one is all
To be a rock and not to roll
And she's buying a stairway
What the fuck is that?
It’s gibberish, that’s what it is. Gibberish. It’s not because I’m old, it’s gibberish. The whole damned song is like that. I know, I know, but face it folks, if it only makes sense after a tab of acid and two doobies rolled from pages torn out of Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky, it’s probably really just complete crap. And speaking of gibberish – anything by The Doors. Just sayin’.
Styx’s The Grand Illusion aged pretty well I thought, Alan Parson Pyramid sure didn’t (though I still love In the Lap of the Gods, though I don’t think you could call it rock and roll).
Then there are songs I absolutely hated when they were popular.
Now they make me smile and crank up the volume until my ears bleed. AC/DC’s You Shook Me All Night Long for example.
Or Twisted Sister, We’re Not Going To Take It. This has got to be one of the best MTV rock videos ever made (of course, it helps if you’ve seen Animal House).
So anyway, here’s your question, in two parts: a) Worst Rock Anthem Ever? and b) Best Rock Anthem Ever?
Remember, the correct answer grants you access to the shelter when the zombie apocalypse comes, the wrong answer will likely result in your untimely conversion into zombiechow. Think carefully, the songs in column B will likely end up as the soundtrack within the shelter – try to pick something that goes well with machinegun fire. Imagine blasting the shambling undead to Twisted Sister. Cool huh? Fun? Yes. Now imagine facing a wall of reanimated corpses bent on murderous intent to the sounds of Dust in the Wind. See? Bring that shit into the shelter and you’re going to get sent out for a bottle of record cleaner in the middle of the night.
Think about it.