Back when I was about 13, one of the local radio stations ran one of those “500 greatest songs of all time” deals over the course of a week. I was into it. For days and days I listened along, wondering why that crappy recent song beat out that good old song, or somesuch.
By the time I was 14, I wised up to what was happening. Lists like that were, among other things, a ratings ploy. Besides, best or top lists have power. The top 10 of anything always causes people to cry foul. But still, you get over it, especially when the Johnny Bubblegum’s one hit wonder song of the year is in the top 10 all time, and an enduring rock classic is #287.
(When you’re even wiser, you realize that these lists should include the caveat, “as voted upon by a bunch of 13-year-olds, or those with 13-year-old-level intellects.”)
I’d more or less put those lists out of my mind, even though one of the stations I listen to in the car has been doing a top 100 albums list, and ramping up the hype for all they were worth.
Then this week I was behind a car with a license plate and frame combo that said,
Best Song Ever
First thought is, that’s a hell of a lot of money and trouble just to publish your own top-1 list of Springsteen song(s). Or all-time-best songs … it’s hard to be clear whether it’s “Springsteen’s best song ever,” or just, “best song ever.”
Second thought is, yeah, “Jungleland” a good song, but is it so soul-moving to you that you need to devote your license plate and frame to it? (NB: I can’t take the high ground here. I have Toronto Maple Leafs license plate frames.)
Third, is the most important thing in your life, the one thing strangers would know about you from your car (other than the type and where it’s registered), the fact that “Jungleland” is your favorite Springsteen song?
Curious, I dredged up the Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (note heavy, portentous title). “Born to Run” weighs in at #21, and “Thunder Road” at #86. No Jungleland.
By the way, the list was published in 2004. Apparently no great songs have come along since.