From the archives, vol. 3: The unwinnable argument

I know I’m not the only person who feels like this, but when your job is to work with a computer all day, sometimes the last thing you want to do at night is work with a computer, even if your job keeps you so busy that you really ought to be spending some time at home reading blogs and otherwise taking the temperature of the Internet so you can keep up with your chosen profession, which you’re not able to do at work because you have So Much To Do.

Of course, this also makes it difficult to blog regularly. But luckily, I have a wealth of short, punchy blog material from my days at Chicagoist, just aching to be lazily re-posted here.

The following is a post I was reminded of this weekend, while I was at a wedding. I think it’s pretty obvious as to why. Notes follow.
With all the Lollapalooza hullabaloo yesterday, I missed the chance to put in my* two cents into an argument that Richard Roeper started. It’s an argument guaranteed to inflame any barroom in the city when you include just three little words: “…of all time.”

Confusing popularity with quality, Roeper argues that “Sweet Home Alabama” is the “greatest rock and roll song of all time.” His anecdotal proof: its inclusion in a NASCAR video game; its use in a concert by the Duff sisters and a recent movie trailer; and the joy it brings to drunken barroom patrons. What? No mention of its status as a top karaoke pick?

To be fair, Roeper also cites Skynyrd’s “killer” guitar work and ballsy vocals (no argument there) as well as its catchy chorus (so does this make “Since U Been Gone” the 2nd greatest rock song?**). But then it’s back to the movies with Roeper alleging the song’s cultural weight can be confirmed because it was in…Con Air! If countless appearances in the cultural zeitgeist make a song great then ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to nominate James Brown’s “I Feel Good.”

*crickets chirping*

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

We generally worship the ground Roeper walks on*** (his column this week on jerky behavior in bathrooms had guys all over Chicago nodding their heads in agreement) but I thinks he’s got it wrong here. Does “Sweet Home Alabama” kick ass? Hell yeah it does.**** Does that make it the greatest rock song of all time? Well, no. There are plenty of songs that can get a room full of drunks singing in full voice but it’s going to be a while before you see Journey***** or REO Speedwagon getting a call from the Hall of Fame.

But Roeper’s right: The Greatest Rock and Roll Song Of All Time should kick ass. It should have universality to it as well. All people should be able to rally behind its lyrics which have survived time and tide and stand apart from politics or current events. It should be perfect for any occasion be it live concert, baseball game or bar mitzvah.

And that is why AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long” is the Greatest Rock and Roll Song Of All Time.

* Chicagoist fans will note that I stripped out the collective Chicagoist “we” here. My name is Our Man In Chicago, and I approved this message.

** It doesn’t, though “Gone” would easily make my top 100.

*** This was true at the time I wrote it, but isn’t now. Between the books and his work on Ebert & Roeper, his column’s suffered for quality. But I’ve been pretty much done with him since he idiotically railed against the Dove campaign for “real beauty.” This post pretty much says it all. I’m not entirely sure which parts of it are mine, and which are Erin’s though I distinctly remember writing the Herb Tarlek line. Actually, the whole thing’s pretty ironic considering all the railing she does about the Sun-Times. Let that be a lesson, kids: insulting a potential employer can lead to $$$.

**** It does, even though it probably wouldn’t make my top 100.

***** This was true at the time I wrote it, and still is now. Every time I hear “Don’t Stop Believin'” I wonder what it is The Lovin’ Spoonful has that Journey doesn’t.

3 comments for “From the archives, vol. 3: The unwinnable argument

  1. September 7, 2007 at 2:18 am

    “Every time I hear “Don’t Stop Believin'” I wonder what it is The Lovin’ Spoonful has that Journey doesn’t.”Or the opposite. I still listen to some songs off “Raised on Radio” and cringe. Sure, Neal Schon tried to make it work, but he just couldn’t compete with a post-“Oh, Sherry” Steve Perry.

  2. September 10, 2007 at 5:15 pm

    Hmmm, Straight To Hell by The Clash or The Jam’s Bitterest Pill get my vote.

  3. September 11, 2007 at 2:27 am

    Chuck: But are they less rocking than “Do You Believe In Magic?”Bill: See, not everyone can enjoy the rocking-ness of those songs. And while the greatest rock song should not be pablum, it ought to be instantly accessible. Which is why those two songs, as awesome as they may be, cannot be the greatest.

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