A musical 500 for the .1 percent who care My gift is my song and, this one’s for you.
— Elton John
I knew I was in trouble when my buddy Levine asked the simple question: “Is Chubby Checker’s ‘The Twist’ on your list?”
I hemmed, hawed and tried to divert his attention, but he would have none of it. Finally, I confessed: “Nope. Didn’t make the cut.”
Levine’s reply was succinct, no bull here.
“Then it’s not a legitimate list,” he said. “You can’t have a list of the best songs ever and not include ‘The Twist.’ ”
The decision to gather and actually publish a list of my Top 500 songs (partially in today’s Southview section and fully online at albanyherald.com) was one of those roundabout things that includes various random conversations with other people who, I discovered, are as crazy about music as I am. I had no idea how difficult a task it would be, but I found out quickly enough that I was not going to please some folks.
Levine made sure of that.
The other music lovers who inspired this monster of a quest — Mike Gebhart, Heather Strickland and Eric Calhoun — did so unwittingly. At various points, we ran into each other and talk, for whatever reason, turned to music. And the seed was planted.
It was easy enough with Gebhart (and please know, this is no suck-up to the boss ... the man knows his music) because we see each other on the days he graces these offices. When he discovered I had an extensive CD collection, he borrowed hundreds of them to ... well, I don’t know what he did with them, but I did notice when he came in from his lunchtime run by the river he’d sometimes enter his office, earbuds still in place, nodding his head and singing Jay-Z under his breath.
I ran into Strickland, who works for Gray Television Inc., on the office elevator, and I really don’t remember how our conversation started. But I do know it centered on the Jake Owen concert at the Sasser Flea Market. When it became apparent that she was one of those true musical believers and the talk turned to favorite songs, I challenged her to come up with a Top 10 list.
“I know my No. 1,” she said, “but after that there are just too many.”
(Strickland’s list, which was not included in the Southview section because of deadline conflicts, includes: 10. Billie Jean — Michael Jackson; 9. Champagne Super Nova — Oasis; 8. Journey of Your Life — Jake Owen; 7. Crazy — Aerosmith; 6. No Rain — Blind Melon; 5. Ballad of Curtis Loew — Lynyrd Skynyrd; 4. Tripping Billies — Dave Matthews Band; 3. Wish You Were Here — Pink Floyd; 2. Under the Bridge — Red Hot Chili Peppers; 1. American Pie — Don McLean. And, of course, reading her list makes me mad because I left some of these off, especially “American Pie,” which is one of my favorites! I’m telling you, this will drive you crazy.)
Calhoun came up to me while I was on an assignment, and I steeled myself for one of those “you don’t know nothin’ ‘bout writin’ no column” diatribes that have become somewhat common around these parts. But he stunned me by talking about how much he enjoyed stuff I’d written about music.
After talking with him for five minutes, I knew the guy was as big a musical nut as I am. I challenged him to come up with a Top 10, and his comments mirrored Strickland’s. I finally had to tell him to man up and get on with it. When he did, it ticked me off because he too had listed some songs that I knew should have been in my collection.
And even after Calhoun finally managed to settle on a Top 10 he felt good about, I came to work the next day and had a frantic email from him: “I can’t leave off Grand Funk Railroad’s ‘Some Kind of Wonderful,’ ” he wrote. “You can put it in at No. 4 and move everything else down a notch. If you have to take out No. 10, then so be it.”
I’ve been ridiculed by some for taking up so much time and news space on a compilation that’s really little more than a pet project. But one thing I’ve noticed about people who really love music is that while their music is very personal to them, they want to share it with others. They want friends, loved ones and acquaintances to understand why the songs matter so much to them.
That’s why it’s such a treat to find a kindred soul or two along the way. And I’ve run into plenty of them, from Martin Mosteller, who’s sent me pictures of himself and his family in front of John Lennon’s and George Harrison’s former homes, to master blogger Randy Lewis, who not only loves music as much as I but is way more intelligent and discerning in his tastes.
Elton John said in “Someone Saved My Life Tonight,” “Thank God my music’s still alive.” Amen to that, brother.
That’s why you have the “Albany music lover 500” in today’s paper. That’s why I’m glad I put hours and hours into doing it. If it’s a waste of time for 99.9 percent of The Herald’s readers, I can live with that. I did it for the other .1 percent. They understand.
Now if I can just convince Levine “The Twist” doesn’t measure up to the standards of “You Never Even Called Me By My Name.”
(If you think there are other songs I missed or you have your own Top 10, email me and let me know. I may run some of them at a later date ... even if I don’t I’ll learn something.)
Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at email@example.com.