The InsiderOne Daily Report

  Thursday, December 07, 2000

Pop 100 — The Untold Story

InsiderOne's Michael Goldberg writes: Now that it's safely off the stands, let's consider that jaw-dropping media collaboration, a Rolling Stone cover story headlined "Rolling Stone and MTV Present Pop 100!" with the catchy subhead "Beatles to Backstreet Boys." You might assume that if Rolling Stone were putting its name on a "100 Greatest Pop Songs" list, it would poll dozens of music critics and historians to arrive at something with some credibility -- but no. That, apparently, would be too much work. Here's what happened, according to the feature's unbylined intro: "Five Rolling Stone editors and a crew of MTV programmers, producers and researchers traded lists, opinions, barbs and everything but blows in trying to narrow down a wide range of popular music to the final 100." Meaning a supposedly definitive list that names the Beatles' "Yesterday" (!) as the best song in the history of pop music was put together by perhaps a dozen staffers at Rolling Stone and MTV. Figures. Publisher Jann Wenner and MTV Networks CEO Tom Freston should have just gotten in a room together and figured the whole thing out themselves. You can imagine the conversation:

Jann: Let's see. "I Want to Hold Your Hand," "Ticket to Ride," "She Loves You," "Paperback Writer," "Eight Days a Week," "Hey Jude," "Strawberry Fields Forever,"...

Tom: Jann, don't you think that's a few too many songs by the Beatles? We're only doing 100 songs.

Jann: Yeah, yeah, yeah. How 'bout "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," "19th Nervous Breakdown," "Ruby Tuesday," "Miss You," "Let's Spend the Night Together," "Honky Tonk Women," "Brown Sugar." Oh yeah, we gotta include "Like A Rolling Stone," "Positively Fourth Street,"...

Tom: We got a problem, Jann. You know we do a lot of market research over at MTV, and our research tells us that our audience has never heard of Bob Dylan. And they only know the Britney Spears version of "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction." And they know the Beatles 'cause their parents bought that new hits album. I think we've really got to include something by Britney. How about "... Baby One More Time." The little girls loved that one! Let's put in the Backstreet Boys' "I Want It That Way." And we gotta include 'N Sync. Probably "Bye Bye Bye," don't you think? And something by the Eagles, or my friend Don Henley will get mad at me.

Jann: Hmm. Isn't all that teen pop going to hurt our credibility?

Tom: It's just a bunch of songs. It's not important.

Of note: The soundtrack to the Cohen brothers' new film, "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" is an amazing 19-song collection of traditional-style country, blues and bluegrass songs mostly written in the '30s. The set includes classic recordings by the Stanley Brothers ("Angel Band") and James Carter & the Prisoners ("Po Lazarus") and lots of brand-new recordings by the likes of Norman Blake ("I Am A Man of Constant Sorrow") and Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch ("I'll Fly Away"). Produced by T-Bone Burnett, this is essential listening for anyone who ever dug country-rock (Uncle Tupelo and Neil Young fans will love it). The New York Times reports that legendary documentary-maker D. A. Pennebaker ("Don't Look Back") filmed last May's concert performance of the movie's music at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium; that film, titled "Down From the Mountain," may be released to art houses, The Times reports.

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Michael Goldberg is the president of He founded Addicted To Noise in 1994.

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