Thursday, June 28, 2012

Claire Brennen, 1934 - 1977

I recently did a write-up for She-Freak and it's star, Claire Brennen, who sadly died at 43 from cancer. There's not a lot of info on Claire Brennan out there but  David Friedman said in an interview that she was very much grateful for the opportunity he gave her and was happy on the set each and every day. He didn't confirm or deny the rumors that she fell in love with her co-star, Felix Silla (and had a child with him) but as I wrote last year on TCM's main site for the article I wrote on She-Freak,
"... Shorty is the one character in the movie Jade despises the most. How delightful if true, that these two actors turned their antagonistic exploits into real life true love. And how sad that Brennen, so young and sweet and beautiful, had to leave us so early. But as long as She Freak exists, this sixties update to Freaks will keep both the spirit and beauty of Brennen alive."

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

She So Freaky

Producer David Friedman loved Freaks.  Loved it.  Loved it so damn much he wanted to make his own.  Problem is Friedman wasn't in the same league as Tod Browning and was working with a budget slightly south of the poverty line.  But if you can't use the carte blanche built up with Blood Feast to make a half-ass exploitation reimagining of Freaks, what good are you?

In 1967, David Friedman slapped together She-Freak from a lot of second unit footage, plenty of non-professional actors (including himself as the barker/talker) and a dream.  For his lead he chose Claire Brennen who, like Candace Hilligoss, wasn't beautiful enough to be a mainstream star but was just interesting enough to ride the exploitation circuit for a lead or two.  She does a fine job, maybe a good one had she had a director more attuned to an actor's needs, or just attuned to the actor's existence, period.

Anyway, Claire plays Jade, a waitress in a run-down piece of shit diner.  She hates her job, hates her boss and she tells him off.  Goddammit, she's going to get the good life, once and for all!  Her solution?  Become a waitress at the carnival.

Okay, look, no one said anything intelligent would go on with the plotting of this movie and you've probably already figured out that she hooks up with a Carny big-wig, starts running things and abusing the freaks and geeks and then they get sick of it and say, "Fuck it.  One of us."  I honestly don't think any of that qualifies as a spoiler to anyone who's seen, say, I don't know, three movies?

But here's the thing:  She-Freak is the kind of movie that's bad.  It doesn't look particularly good, the film grade is freaking (yes, intended) awful and the acting catastrophically uneven.  And I like movies like that, sometimes.  I like it because it was filmed in color in the sixties and somehow reminds me of childhood.  There's something appealing about a movie that fills at least 20 percent of its running time with second unit footage of people walking around carnivals in the sixties.  The whole movie works as a time machine much better than an actual Hollywood product because there was no money for sets or extras so everything you see is real!

And you know what?  Sometimes, that's enough.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

When Intentions Don't Matter: The Artist (2011)

It's been a long time since the release of The Artist (2011) and all talk surrounding it has dissipated which means it's the perfect time for me to jump in, right on time, seven months later.  I just have a couple of things to say so this will be quick.

For starters, I liked The Artist.  I found it quite entertaining.  A lovable lark of a movie.  Some of those that disliked it befuddled me, not because I haven't myself often disliked a movie that many others loved but because their dislike felt like concentrated hatred and anger and disgust.  So here's what I have to say.

Director Michel Hazanavicius and actor Jean Dujardin worked on a couple of parody spy thrillers named OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies (2006) and OSS 117: Lost in Rio (2009).  These were successful efforts and they thought, "Hey, let's try a silent movie parody next."

Then they did The Artist.  Hoping for another success they got more than they bargained for when the world took notice and started touting it as a great film.  Like anyone stumbling into such a situation, they shut their mouths and played the part.  But the fervent backlashing criticisms that began rolling in, entirely out of proportion with such a movie, kept backhanding it for not following all the "rules" of silent cinema (and boy did we all found out just how many people out there fancy themselves experts on silent cinema.  I had no idea there were so many goddamn scholars in my midst).

"Why no, my good man, it wasn't like a silent film at all.  You see, old sport, the proper use of the language of silent cinema precludes the use of a theme of betrayal and despair conveyed as subtext while emerging in a lighthearted context alongside the..."  

Oh, shut the fuck up!

They weren't attempting to make the perfect silent film.   They weren't intending to outdo Chaplin, Gance, Keaton, Griffith or Eisenstein.  They were making a parody of a silent movie and, for the most part, did a pretty good job.  It was a parody, an homage, a silly tribute.  Christ!  But their intentions stopped mattering because in the eyes of, oh hell, everyone they became these two interlopers who actually thought they were great silent artists!  The nerve!  And how about that use of the Vertigo music?  Why I never!  And it's not even clear by the end why the lead character refused to do sound movies.  How dare they not make that plot point airtight in this lighthearted fucking frolic!  How dare they!

Seriously, it's like taking their two spy parody films and going apeshit because they're not Foreign Correspondent.

Look, I wouldn't have given it Best Picture.  I certainly wouldn't have given it all the myriad accolades it received.  But I liked it and all that bullshit semi-importance heaped upon it by festivals and award shows wasn't its fault.  That just happened.  Don't hold that against it.  It's just a parody/tribute trying to have a good time and be a little inventive and loose with the format.  That's all.  So now that's it's out on DVD and streaming and I'm hearing all this again, I just have to ask everyone, please, keep it down... and enjoy the movie.  Or don't.  But please don't criticize for not being Sunrise.  Thank you.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Nature of the Bully: Tom Brown's School Days

It occurs to me that Tom Brown's School Days (1940, d. Robert Stevenson) is as fine a meditation on bullying as anything in the modern era (post-code, ratings system, 1968 to present).  Taking the source novel and depleting all but the bare essentials, Robert Stevenson creates a lean look at the British boarding school mentality, exemplified by the Rugby School at its center, the very real inspiration for the novel and countless boarding school tales that followed.

The separate houses of the school compete against each other in sports and academics but within each house is a main bully and a few hanger-on thugs who help out with the dirty work.  New headmaster Dr. Thomas Arnold (Cedric Hardwicke), a real life headmaster upon whom the character is drawn, wants to rid the school of bullying and makes it known.   But only the boys can get it done.

New student Tom Brown (Jimmy Lydon) stands up to the bullying and for his trouble is tormented and tortured then, when it appears he has ratted out a bully, is ostracized by his classmates.  And when Tom Brown is bullied, he isn't hit or intimidated into giving up his lunch money.  No, he's held up to a fireplace for a "roasting" in which his clothes start to smoke and he passes out from the pain, but only after sending out blood-curdling screams of anguish beforehand.

Tom Brown's School Days finds its best performances in Freddie Bartholomew as Tom's friend East who later turns his back on him and Billy Halop as Flashman, the bully who tortures Tom until finally, his punishment comes down from the headmaster with a severity and finality that not only leaves one wondering what the rest of Flashman's life might bring but whether he will indeed hold true to his threat and commit suicide.  This is left up to the viewer to decide.

Jimmy Lydon works well in the title role but doesn't have the presence to pull off the final stretch in which we are to believe the wee third former we saw at the start is now a strapping sixth former, despite the fact that there's been no change at all in appearance, voice or fortitude.   Still, the film is assured enough to withstand the sight of the boy playing the young man for a short stretch before the exit card makes its appearance.  On the whole, it's one of the best looks at dealing with bullies and growing up out there, at the very least the best from the Golden Age and certainly worth a look.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Pop Culture's Smell of Mendacity

"Yeah, I'm lying to him right now.  What?
Oh sure, he's totally buying it."
Pop culture has lied to all of us for years.  It's lies to us every day and will keep lying to us for the foreseeable future.  Pop culture needs the lies to keep going because nothing jarring ever really happens in pop culture and that's boring.  Nothing absolutely brand-spanking new ever occurs.  And like everything since the moment the Big Bang decided to blow its cosmic load all over the void, everything builds on something else.  Always has, always does, always will.

But the lies keep coming.

Foreign movies are better than American movies.  It's a lie, of course, but one that makes some people feel superior because they know something you don't.  Of course, what they never tell you, is that practically every American movie gets shown overseas while only a vanishingly few foreign movies get shown in America.  Force someone to sit through every film made in France, Germany, Japan, Korea, Italy, Iran, England and America in any given year and chances are it'd be a wash.  Once you see all the shitty movies from France that no one's showing you at the local art house, you start to realize each country's quality output is roughly the same.  But we only see what they send out to the rest of the world and they see every damn movie we make, including all the garbage.  Check out 1975 in film on Wikipedia.  It lists films released internationally.  Not every film from every country, just those given an international release.  You'll find eleven from France, just four from Germany.  U.S.A.?  I don't know, pretty much the entire rest of the list.  Type in any other year, same thing.

"Bullshit makes money! Who knew?"
Punk music saved rock and roll.  Another lie shoved down our collective throats.  First, like everything else, punk music slowly and gradually developed for years with groups like The Ramones setting the stage.  It didn't just fucking appear in 1977 and save the world.  And from what exactly did it save the world?  Had disco subverted Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen?  Had Neil Young started playing dance music?  Was Miles Davis turning in his trumpet for a synthesizer? Were the great folk, new wave, country and funk genres all collapsing under the weight of Saturday Night Fever?  No, of course not.  And did disco stop?  No, of course not again.  We just stopped calling it "disco" and started calling it "dance music" or "club"  or "rave" or whatever other label fit a song whose primary goal is to get people to move on a dance floor.  And frankly, what in the hell is so wrong with that that punk needed to save us all?  And if punk isn't commercially popular (it isn't) and isn't supposed to be (it's not because that would defeat the purpose of its underground rebellious stature) then how in the hell could it have saved any music at all?!?!  It was another barely discernible genre of rock given all kinds of self-important bullshit recognition because somebody needed to feel better than you by exclaiming, when you mentioned that Stevie Wonder song you like, "Thank God punk came along."  Save me from Stevie Wonder?  Fuck you.  And speaking of rock...

Rock and roll blasted onto the scene in 1955 with Bill Haley and Chuck Berry and Elvis.  Bullshit.  Ever listen to rhythm and blues from the late forties and early fifties?  It was already there.  Hell, even the claim that Rocket 88 from March 1951 as the first rock song is dubious.  There were a lot before it and even the jazz standard How High the Moon got a treatment from Les Paul and Mary Ford in January of 1951 that has an electric guitar that sounds one hell of a lot more like the rock and roll guitar we now all know and love than anything in Rocket 88.  I guess it just wasn't popular enough with the kinder yet.  Speaking of popular...

Jaws and Star Wars ruined the movies (because they weren't considered high art and made too much damn money).  Yeah, because movie studios were always about high art, not box office.  In the early seventies, when Hollywood was making movies like The Last Detail and The Conversation and all those other movies that brought about the renaissance of the alleged second Golden Age and, supposedly, no one was making big-budget bloated studio crap anymore, the big box office winners were Airport (grossed over $60,000,000 in its initial run and went on to gross more than $100,000,000 overall worldwide), The Poseidon Adventure, Earthquake and The Towering Inferno ($116,000,000 worldwide).  So I guess Jaws and Star Wars really pissed on the whole "Art Films About Burning Buildings" trend Hollywood had going.

"This is completely new!  No precedent whatsoever!
I'm shocked... and stunned!"
Or how about this one:  "[insert classic and beloved film title here] was hated by critics and audiences upon release."  I love this one, it crops up all the time.   It comes about because we want to make ourselves feel smarter, more insightful than those who came before us.  This one took some effort on my part to disprove when I was younger but that's just what I did, unwittingly.  When I heard decades ago from Hollywood interviewees and historians and documentaries that The Wizard of Oz was panned upon release and really not generally liked in 1939 (and aren't we so much smarter than those idiots?) I went to the library and pulled out the reference guides to Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Time, The New York Times and on and on.  I wanted to read those pans.  Boy did I have a hard time finding the ones they were talking about!  There may have been a couple of reviews that weren't crazy for the movie but for the most part, terrific reviews all around.  Also, good box office and a slew of Oscar nominations.  So, yeah, about it not being liked in 1939... shut up.  Ditto for It's a Wonderful Life.  Stop trying to make current generations seem smarter by making past generations seem like morons.

But these are just big examples, there are all kinds of small ones.  Whenever you hear anyone in music or film tell you they or their favorite director or guitarist or actor or, I don't know, manicurist did something no one had done before, they probably didn't.  When you're told something was a game changer, it probably wasn't.  When you're told something saved us or just you or me or somebody from the horrible banality of what came before, it probably couldn't because not everyone hates the same thing and wants to be saved anyway.  It's just pop culture lying because the reality is that everything gradually develops from everything else and, believe it or not, it all kind of makes sense.  And who the hell wants that when you're trying to sell the next big thing to a sucker with a dollar in his pocket?

And just who is it, exactly, responsible for spreading all these lies?  Me, actually.  And you. And the media, the studios and anyone who wants to sound not completely out of the loop at the next office birthday party ("You know, a lot of people don't know this but..." = major bullshit).  And who can blame any of us?  Persistent, gradual change is boring.  Who needs that when a sudden shock works better and it's easier to sleep at night knowing we're just a little bit smarter than those yokels that came before us?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

"Everything Dies, Baby That's a Fact..."

"... but maybe everything that dies, someday comes back."

July 12, 1912 marks the hundredth anniversary of Paramount Pictures.  On that date, one hundred years ago, they released Les Amours de la reine Elisabeth, described by Wikipedia as a "short 4-reel French silent film based on the love affair between Elizabeth I of England and the Earl of Essex." It starred the legendary Sarah Bernhardt.  One hundred years later it's all but forgotten, despite a star as prominent in theatrical history as Bernhardt. The film itself receives an icon on the new Paramount Pictures 100th Anniversary poster (third row from the bottom, fifth icon from the left) but only because they had to.  It was the first and thus, couldn't be ignored. It's rather stunning how much else to which that sense of obligation did not apply.

If you follow the link above to the poster, you'll see a headline describing it as impressive. Uh-huh. What impressed me most was that there are fifteen films from the halfway point and before (1962) and eighty-five films from after. Fifteen to eighty-five. That's quite a disparity. In case you're thinking Paramount was just some two-bit mom and pop outfit before 1962, releasing nothing but 16mm educational films, take a look at their actual filmography here.

Here's the fifteen from 1962 and before that made the cut, in order of their appearance on the poster:

1960 Psycho
1934 Cleopatra
1961 Breakfast at Tiffany's
1956 The Ten Commandments
1933 Duck Soup
1958 Vertigo
1920 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
1939 Gulliver's Travels
1944 Double Indemnity
1912 Les Amours de la reine Elisabeth
1953 The War of the Worlds
1950 Sunset Boulevard
1942 Sullivan's Travels
1954 Rear Window
1927 Wings

Here are some that didn't:

The Virginian (1914), The Ghost Breaker (1914), Ruggles of Red Gap (1918), Why Change Your Wife (1920), The Ten Commandments (1923), Peter Pan (1924), The Great Gatsby (1926), Underworld (1927), The Cocoanuts (1929),The Four Feathers (1929), Morocco (1930), Animal Crackers (1930), Monkey Business (1931),The Sign of the Cross, A Farewell to Arms, Trouble in Paradise, Shanghai Express, Love Me Tonight, Horse Feathers (all 1932), Alice in Wonderland (1933), She Done Him Wrong (1933), The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935), The Plainsman (1936), The General Died at Dawn (1937) and Easy Living (1937).

That's twenty-five from the first twenty-five years alone. Coming up with twenty-five or thirty or forty from the next twenty-five years is even easier. The point is, in order to make room for well over twenty titles from after 2000, they left off Josef von Sternberg's Shanghai Express with Marlene Dietrich. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider made the cut, Sternberg and Dietrich did not.

Oh, I know, here goes the old guy again bitching and whining about all the great old movies left off the list to make room for newer movies that a younger audience might better understand and identify. But this isn't about catering to a demographic, it's about celebrating one hundred goddamn years! And if you're going to celebrate one hundred goddamn years don't you think maybe you ought to celebrate all one hundred goddamn years?!

This poster is supposed to be a tribute to a glorious past, only it's a past that barely even exists until the post-Watergate world kicks in. Is there really a cinephile out there, a young one I mean, who will only buy this because it has Justin Bieber: Never Say Never on it (Jesus, I wish that was a joke but, yes, that movie made the cut, while, say, Alfie did not).

Actually, to be fair, I can see including the Justin Bieber movie if that's they're pick for 2011 and they're also picking movies from the majority of all the other years. But they're not. It would make sense to have movies from every year and, frankly, if that's their pick for 2011, so be it (personally, I would have gone with Hugo, a perfect choice for this kind of celebration, and even if they only did international distribution, who cares, they were attached). But again, they're not picking from every year and to get back to my original question, why market this to any demographic at all? The harder it is to identify the movie, the more fun the poster is for everyone. A true cinephile as young as twelve would rather have to go figure out what that icon from 1932 is, the one with the silhouetted beauty with her hands on her hips, than see a bunch of icons from movies with which she's already familiar (if that icon were there). I was a twelve year old cinephile and I can tell you from firsthand experience, discovery's the thing. It's about looking at every movie you've never heard of and when you hear of another one, something from the forties or the thirties that you've never seen, stopping everything until you can find it, sit down and watch it.

Look, we're all be dead one day and in a hundred years, during their bicentennial, it will probably take a miracle to include even twenty movies from this poster for their 200th poster, no doubt filled with movies from 2100 on. No one's going to remember me or you or anyone you've ever known. Most of the biggest celebrities and world leaders will be either completely forgotten or mere answers to a trivia question, with perhaps a few seismic shakers still studied in Pop Culture 101. Perhaps. That's why it's important that the studios, holding the past in their vaults, celebrate and remind every new generation of that past. The new releases and the summer blockbusters are where the industry makes its fortune. The posters and the clip montages at the Oscars (almost completely lacking last year in films made before the sixties) should be where the industry teaches and reflects and reminds. The movies may be in the past but learning about them and seeing them brings them back to life for a new generation that discovers a past as mesmerizing and hypnotic as any present they know.

Oh, and Happy 100th Birthday, Paramount. It's been a phenomenal 100 years. Let's celebrate each one of them.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Insincerity, Insecurity and Self-Importance
The Ranking of Rock

I've done music reviews here from time to time and served as a music critic for a publication, presently on hiatus, writing reviews of soundtracks, scores and live albums.  The world of popular rock and jazz music, like the world of movies, has its periodic lists of top tens revealing "The Greatest Albums of All Time" which are usually both predictable and, to a degree, accurate, but mostly, utterly useless.  Most albums on them indeed have enough good about them that their collective genius warrants recognition.  The mix of songwriting, production, execution, craftsmanship, engineering and musical skill of the performers all came together in such a way that a consensus could be formed that says, "Yes, this album is one of the best ever." And still, the lists are cautious and insincere, afraid to commit to a style of music they claim to be promoting.

In Rolling Stone's most recent Top 500 ever, The Beatles dominate the top ten with four (The Beatles aka The White Album, Rubber Soul, Revolver and, at number one, Sgt Pepper - in fact, three of the top five are Beatles albums) and practically every other album they ever did is in the 500 somewhere.  Abbey Road is number fourteen which seems odd since it's better than Sgt. Pepper at number one but then so is Revolver and Rubber Soul.  In fact, so is A Hard Day's Night for that matter and that one is ranked way far down the list, shamefully so.  The White Album is a great listen except when it's not which is every third track or so because it's woefully uneven and feels completely emotionally disconnected from the band.   But, anyway, back to Sgt Pepper, a fine album indeed but more a phenomenon than a standout work.  Someone got it into their head several decades ago that Sgt. Pepper was the one to beat and goddamn if that son of a bitch is ever going to fall from the top spot.

After The Beatles you get The Beach Boys, Marvin Gaye, Bob Dylan, Elvis, The Clash, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Jimi Hendrix and every other band you would expect as well as several that have somehow gained respectability by staying in print long enough to seem qualified.   But there are so many albums, so many more than there are movies, that it seems almost absurd to realistically claim any list has it right even half the time.  Get past the top twenty and the list quickly has you slapping your forehead every third or fourth album, especially if you're working backwards (500 to 1) and remember that great album ranked 200 spaces behind that piece of shit album you used as a frisbee after the first listen.

To add to the problem there are a couple of jazz albums present, both Miles Davis.  They are Sketches of Spain and Kind of Blue.  By including these and naming the list the Top 500 Albums of All Time, not the Top 500 Rock Albums of All Time, the implication is that this is a blend of rock and jazz.   Well, sorry fellas, but if that's the case, kindly remove at least 300 of the rock albums on this list to make way for the collected works of Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson and a score or two more jazz artists not currently represented on the list and far better than half the shit wasting space between the two ends.  And if we're including popular standards as well (Sinatra is on the list a couple of times, too) then we better make another fifty slots or so available for Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Sara Vaughan.  Otherwise, the list is thoroughly disingenuous.  And if it's really just a rock list trying to make itself seem more important or inclusive by throwing on a Miles Davis here and a Frank Sinatra there, please remove them and have the dignity to just be a goddamn rock album list.

But this is all nitpicking because while some of the top 500 are lame (for one thing, there are several "Greatest Hits" packages - I'm sorry, what?), at least one can easily mount a semi-respectable argument that this album achieved this and that one achieved that and on and on.  The same cannot be said for the individual musicians and yet that has never stopped anyone from trying.

Their list of the greatest guitarists seems particularly pointless, and mindless.  Can we all accept that any lead guitarist of any successful, signed, produced rock act is accomplished enough to be the lead guitarist for any successful, signed, produced rock act?  In other words, in a "Devil Went Down To Georgia" style guitar-off between various six-stringers, from Jimi Hendrix to Steve Vai (himself in the Crossroads movie guitar-off and oddly enough not on the list), can we all agree they'd all pretty much play the riffs with respectable accuracy and aplomb?  We can't rank one better than the other on technical skill because not only are they all operating at close to the same level but, more importantly, if we do that, all is lost.  Seriously, the minute you start judging any artist on a technical level rather than an emotional level, you've lost sight of what art is supposed to be doing in the first place.

So how should we rank them?  It seems to me, a guitarist should be ranked for what they bring to a piece.  Eddie Van Halen is very proficient technically but what does he add to a piece?  What does he do that makes his part blend in perfectly with the drums, the bass and the vocals?  What does he do that makes the whole piece work?  Or do his solos just crassly and brazenly stand out as show pieces?  Do I even have to ask that question?

By this calculus, it would seem obvious that the best musicians are the sessions musicians that have made so many songs by so many disparate performers work so well that we should just rank them only, pat ourselves on the back and go home.  And yes, there are several sessions musicians on the list though I don't recall seeing Glen Campbell who started out as an accomplished sessions guitarist and long before the world knew him for such mediocre crossover fare as Rhinestone Cowboy, he was known as one damn fine guitarist.

So let's look at George Harrison at number eleven and ask why he isn't higher (I'm shocked his non-flashy style even got him ranked at all).  Harrison took most of the early Lennon/McCartney compositions and gave them a solo that followed the melody note for note.  They weren't terribly inventive and very early on, in live recordings from Hamburg for instance, they were barely competent.  But Harrison grew considerably and as his talent grew he became more confident finding his own solo, separate from the melody but so sly, so unobtrusive, that the song never suffered from an abrupt Harrison show-off moment.   For comparison, think of a song like Presence of the Lord by Blind Faith.  I've copied the YouTube clip at the moment a few seconds before the solo so you can hear (if you're not familiar with the song) the general sound and feel of the song as it goes through its refrain before getting to the Eric Clapton solo, a solo so unconcerned with complementing the song that precedes it that it may as well be a stand-alone number.  Of course, why on earth would Clapton or Hendrix or anyone else be dissuaded from such action?  Such showboating is exactly the kind of thing that impresses rock critics, not known for their undying love of subtlety and understatement (see continuous ranking of Sgt Pepper at number one above - "By God, it's got sound effects!").

Harrison often just included a guitar line or two, just enough to break the song out into different parts without going overboard.  He preferred mellow more often than not and his beautiful slide solo on Something just may be the best work he ever did, and that was his own piece.  It could be argued that maybe Lennon and McCartney were telling him not to do big solos because it was their music and they didn't want him taking the attention away from the melody.  But even on his own songs, straight through his solo career, he never went crazy with a solo.  For Harrison, a good guitarist should complete the song, not abruptly break it in two.

So what are the best albums and who are the best guitarists?  I don't think we can get an accurate picture of that until we stop listing these things by rote.  Is anyone even thinking anymore before writing in Hendrix at one and Clapton at two?  Does anyone say, "Yes, Hendrix was terrific but died so young I can't see what he would have grown into and thus, I shouldn't rank him so high since many other guitarists had greater periods of growth and development."  Ha, ha, haaaa!  That was a rhetorical question.  Of course, no one says that!   Both Hendrix and someone like Duane Allman stand out as exceptional guitarists that the world never got to see develop.  Where should they be on such a list?  I don't know because, frankly, I don't see the point of the list at all.

As I said, if you're on the list, you're good.  You know what you're doing.  As such, it all comes down to style and an artist's sensibility and, frankly, very few sound very different from the other.  So why not just stop ranking individual artists altogether and just rank the albums or the songs?  Movies are generally ranked as a whole ("The Greatest Movies Ever Made") but rarely do cinephiles sit around ranking directors or writers or cinematographers.  Oh, it happens and we can all say Orson Welles was a great director and Conrad Hall a great cinematographer and Leigh Brackett a great writer but, in the end, we're more concerned with the sum total of their work, the movie.

So let's stop ranking guitarists and bassists and drummers immediately, if at all possible.  Let's focus on the product of their talents and skills instead, the songs and albums.   And when we do that, let's call it "The Top 500 Rock Albums of All Time" because it's an insult to pretend it's not and include only two jazz or standard albums to prove its inclusiveness.   Rock critics and musicians argue for respectability and insist their style of music is just as good if not better than others but don't have the balls to go 100 percent rock when it comes down to it.  The uneasy blend of self-importance and insecurity is awkward and unbecoming and exhausting.  Christ, it's been well over fifty years now.  Can we stop pretending it's something it's not?  It's rock.  Live with it, love it, rank it.  With confidence.