From 1994 to 2002, I held monthly single elimination “music tournaments” to determine my favorite song. I took great pleasure in pitting some of the all-time greats, most of whom I was just discovering at the time, against each other to see which song rang most true no matter what mood I was in, no matter what time of day. Songs like “Thunder Road”, “Rock the Casbah” and “Bad”(U2) were among the repeat champions.
During college the monthly tournaments eventually came to an end, largely due to the stale music scene at Dartmouth and the collapse of Napster, but since then I have resurrected the tournaments on a number of occasions. Most notably, the volunteers of Hands on Gulf Coast participated in a mass music tournament that lasted over a month and ended with “Superstition” taking home the crown.
Rolling Stone magazine has been shedding credibility for years, but this summer’s Top 500 Songs of All-Time list put me over the edge. First of all, they had the audacity to name “Like a Rollin’ Stone” the #1 song of all-time. It’s a fine song, but for Rolling Stone magazine to coincidentally claim it as the benchmark of all rock music is just embarrassingly transparent. More importantly, the magazine’s list, purportedly made in consultation with numerous musicians, panders far too much to the early decades of rock and roll, with very few songs released after the mid-1970s. As with sports, comparing across generations is a tricky business, but no one who grew up on Nirvana and Radiohead could possibly stomach the idea that there were more great rock songs in the 1950s than 1990s.
Soon after the magazine’s list was released, VH1 put together a highly touted list of the 100 greatest artists of all-time. This list, also done in collaboration with today’s artists, who have little taste, was even more of an abomination than Rolling Stone’s Top 500! The top 20 was completely out of whack, Prince and Cheap Trick were ranked way too high, and the Grateful Dead didn’t even make the top 100. I felt like it was time for my own list. This list would be born out of a 512 song single elimination tournament.
Once I got down to picking songs, done in collaboration with legit music fans, it seemed like about 430 songs definitely belonged in the tournament. Rather than make arbitrary picks on the other 82 songs, I decided to have 164 songs do an extra “play-in” round, featuring numerous picks suggested by participants of this site. Thus, ten rounds from now, we should have the best song of all time. Any song that can survive such a gauntlet will be worthy of that title.
I say “we” because this is a democratic process- with 10 songs up for votes every day. You can judge a match-up simply by listening to both songs, back to back, at the same volume, paying equal attention to both. When you are done, note on a ten point scale which song you like better (ie, Thunder Road 9, Changes 7). Ties are ok, because other people will break the tie for you. You can judge one match-up or ten, but do it within 48 hours, after which I’ll post the next set of match-ups. Finally, these songs are all the greater ‘rock and roll’ tradition- which leaves room for some hip-hop, country, folk and soul.
Note from Guillermo: In the event of a tie once all votes are counted, tie-breaking procedures will be as follows:
1) The song whose artist had the least number of songs going into the Round in which the tie occurred (by Round, I mean the Round of 512, the Round of 256, etc.)
2) If that is the same, then the song with the smallest standard deviation of scores amongst voters (i.e., the song whose individual votes cluster closer to its actual average score)
Check in at the website or Facebook page for new match-ups and results every day, and help us live the dream.