Collaboration and the Greatest Songs

October 19th, 2021 by Max Allan Collins

A great collection of Jack Kamen-drawn EC crime stories, Three for the Money, has just been published by Fantagraphics, and I wrote the intro for it. You will like this. Buy it here.

This week the major event of this update is a link to the second-to-the-last (for now) installment of my literary memoir, A Life In Crime, which this time talks about collaboration with an emphasis on the story behind my ongoing partnership with Matthew V. Clemens.

For reasons I don’t understand, the print version of The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton by Dave Thomas and me is already on sale at Amazon although the Kindle version won’t be available till Oct. 26. So all of you Baby Boomer and other physical media types can order it right now.

I think Dave and I will likely be doing some podcasts and dual interviews on blogs as such – and Dave has already done Entertainment Tonight Canada, so other bigtime appearances may be in the works…sometimes with Dave alone, since I never appeared on SCTV or teamed with Rick Moranis. Anyway, heads up, and I’ll do my best to let you know about such things and stuff right here.

* * *

Channeling Bob and Doug, the topic this week is Rolling Stone, eh, and why I feel out of step.

It’s not just a feeling – I am out of step. I have continued to subscribe to Rolling Stone and Entertainment Weekly in a sad old-man attempt to know what’s going on in popular culture. But I suspect those magazines are out of touch themselves, perhaps with reality.

Let’s look at the October 2021 issue of Rolling Stone, shall we?

The cover is of Dave Grohl, and I know who he is and I like his music. But buried in the upper lefthand corner is a small: CHARLIE WATTS 1941 – 2021. Now when the death of the drummer in the second-most-important rock band of all time, in a magazine in part named after that band, gets pushed into the corner for a musician alive and available for a subsequent cover, I have to question somebody’s sanity and, for once, not my own.

Never mind.

An article on James Bond includes the following phrase: “The movies barely had time to get going before they inspired brilliant parodies like James Coburn’s Our Man Flint and Dean Martin’s The Silencers.” That must be “brilliant” in the British sense, like how was your Macdonald’s lunch? “Brilliant!”

Let’s move on to the topic of the issue: THE GREATEST SONGS OF ALL TIME.

Now first let me express an opinion that I don’t consider at all controversial – there is a difference between a song and a recording. This list appears to be about the “greatest” recorded songs “of all time.” So we’re off to a rocky start. By the way, there’s nothing by Cole Porter or Frank Loesser or Rodgers & Hammerstein or Rodgers & Hart or Stephen Sondheim on this list…but never mind.

Number 1 is “Respect” by Aretha Franklin. Okay, great record. But few of us have ever hummed “Respect,” which makes it less than the greatest song of all time. Still, not a crazy, absurd choice.

But Number 2 is “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy. A real toe tapper; just can’t get that melody out of my head, can you? Now what I’m about to say probably is controversial: no rap or hip hop recording is a “song.” It is a performance and it can be art. It can be valid and it can achieve excellence. But can it be a song? No. Yet predictably there are plenty of these on this list. A list that has “Be My Baby” at 22 and “God Only Knows” at 11.

There are wonderful songs here – like (at 72) “Yesterday.” Before you call me racist because of what I say about “Fight the Power,” let me point out that “What’d I Say” by Ray Charles is (drum roll please) number 80, and “Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green is at 84. “In My Life” is at 98. A really great Aretha Franklin song is at 90 – “You Make Me feel Like a Natural Woman” (written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin – actual songwriters).

And while Charlie Watts didn’t get the cover, Rolling Stone is self-indulgent enough to rate “Like a Rolling Stone” at 4, which is at least a goddamn song.

Tons of good stuff on the list, though. Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” is number 3. But “Get Your Freak On” is 8. “Imagine” is 19 and “Satisfaction” has to wait till 31. Oh, good – Del Shannon’s “Runaway” is at 25…

…no, it’s not Del Shannon, it’s something by Kanye West.

If Public Enemy is number 2, then how is “Walk on By” by Dionne Warrick number 51? Hold it, there’s “One” by Three Dog Night! Great! Oh…it’s the “One” by U2.

Okay. I guess.

I need to chill out. I need to be feeling those “Good Vibrations.” At 53. 42 “greatest songs” below “Hey Ya!” by Outkast.

Look, I know these “greatest” and “best of” lists are all bullshit. But this is insulting, revisionist bullshit, from people whose sense of history is maybe last Tuesday, proving all such lists that don’t include a single song by the Zombies are invalid. Ditto for Weezer. Bobby Darin. The Association. Blondie. Elvis Costello.

Over to you.

* * *

Finally, here’s another Fancy Anders Goes to War (and more) interview by the very cool Comic Book Couples Counseling.


Tags: , , , ,

3 Responses to “Collaboration and the Greatest Songs”

  1. Thomas Zappe says:


    Did “I Got Rhythm” get even an honorable mention?

    If it wasn’t for TCM there would be no history whatsoever.

  2. Andrew Rausch says:

    I agree with you that these kinds of lists are total bullshit, but I also sense a disdain/distrust/dislike for rap/hip-hop music. I get that, but there are some genuinely good songs in the genre. Do they compare to those of Del Shannon or Sam Cooke? I suppose that would depend on the criterion by which we choose to judge them and who it is judging them, but they really are apples to oranges. And with there only being 100 songs, there are going to be glaring omissions. There have to be, right? And even the songs we like that do make the list–we are sure to disapprove of their placement. These lists can be fun, but also infuriating, which is sort of the point. I helped write a book titled THE 100 SCARIEST MOVIES EVER MADE in which we ranked the movies simply because we knew it would cause debate. But the reality is, no “best of” list like this can be complete because it is almost always the case that the person making the list has (obviously) not heard every song in existence, and it’s the same with those horror films. Anyway, just my two cents, which is worth significantly less than two pennies. Cheers, and rock on, Max!

    Btw, I just got Fancy Anders in the mail the other day. Can’t wait to finish what I’m currently reading so I can dive in. And boy, does that cover look terrific! Congrats on what is sure to be another winner.

  3. Dan says:

    Rolling Stone is a joke to young people so why they pander to them I will never know.