(If you wish to go directly to the ranking, click here)
In early 2009 VH1 channel broadcasted a program called “VH1 Greatest Hard Rock Songs”, where an ordinal review of this genre most outstanding musical compositions was presented. Nonetheless, despite being an ordination intended to be accepted by the viewers many of my acquaintances and many internet useres disagreed with this ranking. In fact, I disagreed too. But this is not a childish discord nor an unjustified one. It’s exactly the opposite.
On the one hand, the ranking is open to negative criticism because it is whimsical and unclear. The song picking and ordenation seem to have followed subjective criteria which little has to do with history and popular appreciation. On the other hand, the hierarchy was plagued with relatively unknown names and works to the detriment of songs which the average music lover appreciates very much.
But it is logical; every ranking will raise disagreements. In the face of any world elements array there will be those who think differently because ordination criteria are subjective.
The world is chaotic, a tangled stimuli complexity and, in order to survive in it, sentiente beings categorize them, solving this way an ill-defined problem for which there is no single solution. On the contrary, a lot of solutions -maybe infinite solutions- exist (Garnham & Oakhill, 1996). Even before 225 b.C., the year in which Philo of Byzantium compiled the list of the Seven Wonders, human beings have been trying to identify and sort the most sublime, the supreme, that which is perfect. The incessant competition for survival has forced us to identify the fastest animal, the strongest rival and the most attractive tribe member, and for this it’s essential to apply the logical transivity property according to which if a>b and b>c, then a>c (Lewis, 1999). World elements ordination according to quantifiable magnitudes is an always ongoing operation of human cognition which gave the kickoff to this ranking creation fad. To be sorting toys by size, looking for the best friend or the best plays of the week are actions that stem from this ordaining need, carved throughout millions of years of evolution and filtered through the sieve which is language usage. Since, language is a tool which allows homo sapiens sort concrete objects, it allows them to sort cultural products with aesthetic value as well, including social phenomena which draw attention, like rock music.
There are those who would like to criticize the fascination with putting up these rankings by saying that rock is a fleeting phenomenon for history or that, at the very least, it is yet to prove it can resist the test of time given that it has not even celebrated a century of life. Nonetheless, all the music we know is subject to the same questioning, including classical music (so called because, supposedly, it is equally appreciated in spite of the passing of time). If we consider that the oldest registry of a melody and which is produced regularly and unchanged today dates back from the 16th century, then we realize that mankind has listened to socially and hugely known music for less than 400 years. And for History… 400 years equals to nothing.
Rock, anthropologically speaking, can be considered as fugacious as classical music.
And while rock is a target for criticism by orthodox music historians, given its historical brevity, it has certain features which make it stand out among other genres and bestow on it properties that they lack of.
First of all, rock -being as fashionable as it is- is constantly mudable and as it changes it efficiently gathers representations and authors’ and listeners’ views, so that it suitably reflects society topics and interests. In their time protest songs by Sam Cooke and Bob Dylan narrated the growing disconformity of struggling minorities in the 60’s; Kraftwerk’s conceptual records denounced the double-binded relationship of mankind with technology; and today we have songs that include into their lyrics references about computer folders, songs that belabor Richard Nixon’s legacy in the world, and songs that speak about a car chasing sequence in a B class movie. Rock is like a sponge which absorbs everything happening in the society.
Second, it is one of the few genres which trascends idiom. Rock songs can be sung in several dialects. Evidently, due to the fact that it was born in the United States, rock songs are sung mainly in English, but there is also French-spoken, Spanish-spoken and, even, Polish-spoken rock. On the other hand, other genres are inextricably bound to specific idioms. Thus, for instance, no one would event hink of singing a tango in Portuguese y and the sole idea of an English-sung opera is aberrant. As it can be noted, the majority of other musical genres belong to specific cultures, each one with its own focus and, because of that, as social expression tools, they are more circumscribed. Geopolitically speaking, rock is much more universal.
As a corollary, this is a musical genre which, even though it cannot yet be seen as a cultural product which will have an impact on history, does have sufficient merits to be considered per se an anthropological vehicle of wide cultural impressions.
But let’s not divert from the spirit of this article, which is embodied in its title. Back to the intended theme, the worth of rock and the limited representativity which past taxonomical efforts have had made me think about creating my own ranking. If others had been capable of offering an ascending order for the 100 best rock songs in history en and if cultural products ordination is an undeniable human tendency, then I could make a ranking just like the one VH1 did, but a ranking with sense for me and for my acquaintances; but, above all, a ranking that rested upon criteria I consider valuable and useful.
This is why I embarked on the venture of building up my own ranking of the 100 best rock songs and, in the following page, I describe the method I used for this.
Go to method.